Coolest working holiday jobs

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Want to get under the skin of the place and finance your onward journey at the same time? Get to work with these 10 cool jobs, taken from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences.

1. Leading tours

The best thing about leading tour groups is being paid to sightsee in a foreign country. Working every day with locals also allows you to get under a country's skin. As a tour leader you're responsible for the smooth running of the trip and the satisfaction of your group. Most operators require their leaders to speak a foreign language and to sign up for two or more seasons. You won't be doing this job for the pay, but whatever you do earn will be in addition to free accommodation, return air fare and often free meals.

Companies such as Explore Adventure Holidays regularly recruit for people to lead tours worldwide; most will let you apply online.

2. Teaching English

If you're reading this, then you already possess the prime qualification required for rewarding work overseas. The phenomenal popularity of the English language has created a huge demand for teachers. Those with formal teaching qualifications and experience can make a veritable career out of teaching, feted by foreign schools which pay airfares and look after work permits and paperwork. English teaching can also pay well: it's possible to come home with savings after a year of work in Japan or South Korea.

Most education providers require you to have completed a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course; for more information visit www.onlinetefl.com

3. Au pairing

There are few better ways to get cosy with a foreign culture than to live and work with a local family. Au pairing may not pay well, but most use it as an opportunity to master a language: fluency is priceless. Essentially, you have to love children, but most employers also prefer to employ single people with no dependants, who are aged between 17 and 27. You'll need to prove that you've spent time caring for children – a job that's not short on responsibility.

Check www.bestaupairguide.com for tips on where to find the best agencies in popular au pairing destinations worldwide.

4. Working in ski resorts

Working in a ski resort is less a job, more of a lifestyle. You'll likely end up skiing all day and partying all night. Though competition is stiff, there are loads of opportunities to work in resorts: from instructing on the slopes to working behind the scenes in a chalet. You'll need international instructor qualifications to work as an instructor, where the pay is modest but the cool factor is high. Chalet staff cook and clean, and though this work carries less kudos and cash, there is usually a great camaraderie among workers.

Top resorts like Whistler hold recruiting sessions overseas for quality staff; check your fave snow spot online and carve up an opportunity.

5. Writing

Apart from heading to some exotic destination for inspiration to write that best-selling novel, journalism is probably the best known of the 'proper jobs' in which you can ensure some money dribbles into your account. If you've got a nose for news and can write, pitch a story to the editor responsible for the relevant section of an appropriate newspaper or magazine. Essentially, you need to be contactable and have the capacity to deliver on your pitch.

Pitch your travel stories to major newspapers or magazines, as these will have a budget for freelance stories.

6. Waiting/working in a bar

Whether you're working the floor taking food orders in a bustling cafe or pulling pints in a village pub, this is people-focused work: it's not known as the hospitality industry for nothin'. Though the hours can be long and the pay a pittance, you'll likely come across a lot of locals, and tips can plump out an average earning. Most establishments require that you have some experience, particularly for working in a bar (changing kegs and mixing cocktails).

Get the skills and have a blast training at the New York Bartending School.

7. Cooking/working as a kitchen hand

If you're a maestro on the burners (and you're qualified), you could secure work as a chef in a restaurant or a hotel. Those without qualifications can still get in the kitchen: prepping food, flipping burgers or doing the washing up (affectionately known as 'dish pigging'). Working in restaurants and hotels often puts you in touch with other travellers, and offers a casual environment in which to earn a bit of cash. While washing up might not make you wealthy, it will give you soft hands.

Gumtree.com is probably the best site advertising kitchen jobs in major Western cities.

8. Farming work

If you don't mind getting your hands dirty there is loads of labour that allows you to work outdoors – improving your tan while you work. You might pick up work fruit picking or planting crops; in all cases long hours and physical exertion are involved. Farm wages are generally low, but accommodation is thrown in and you'll have few opportunities to fritter away your earnings. You don't need any particular skills, just endurance and determination.

Get inspired on where to go by browsing the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms website.

9. Volunteering

Get that warm and fuzzy feeling from doing something positive for someone or something you care about while gaining an insight into a foreign place and chalking up experience. Volunteering opportunities are many and varied, and can include professional placements, joining an expedition and administration for a non-governmental organisation. Costs to the volunteer also vary according to the activity and length of stay, but bank on contributing to food and sundry expenses.

The website www.volunteerabroad.com lists hundreds of volunteering opportunities around the world.

10. Crewing a yacht

Working for your passage can certainly put the wind in your sails. Getting on board a yacht will likely get you into nooks and crannies that most of us only dream about, particularly around the islands of the Aegean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Apart from some nifty knot tying, you need to work well in a team and under pressure. Tasks vary according to the vessel, but generally involve rigging, cleaning and maintenance. It's common for crew to contribute a small amount of cash to cover food and sundry expenses.

Plenty of websites will hook crews up with yachts and superyachts; get your feet wet at www.globalcrewnetwork.com.

This article was first published in October 2010 and was refreshed in July 2012.