Monday, February 25, 2013

Earning an Income to Support Your Travels to Nepal -Or to Another Developing Nation

Earning an Income to Support Your Travels to Nepal
Or to Another Developing Nation

I host a lot of young travelers. They seem to be so in love with the world it is reassuring to see these future leaders as works in progress. They are so amazing to spend time with. 

I get questions all the time about how to travel without using up all your savings. First of all, I need to assure you that it is not an easy thing for most people to do, but if you can find your niche it will perhaps make your savings last a bit longer. Some people have found ways to survive abroad for extended times by using a bit of cunning, discretion and hard work. Here are a few things that you might want to consider doing to this end, or perhaps they will help you to think of something else. 

Your first step needs to be to take a good look at your own skills, talents, abilities, education and interests. The days of showing up to teach English for pay or to get a work visa is not necessarily going to work in many countries. Nepal does not give priority for work visas for teaching English anymore and if you wanted to land a job like this you need serious credentials, most likely a college degree and a teaching certificate. However, there are still countries that allow English speakers to teach with a Toefl Certificate in lieu of more education, but these are becoming fewer every year. Sometimes jobs with fewer requirements can be found in international schools or religious organizations. Getting a work visa in Nepal is difficult and working on a tourist visa is a BIG deal here. I strongly recommend against it.

Teaching Certificate If you have the teaching certificate you could possibly tutor for rich people. These jobs would be not quite legal which would put you in a precarious position, possibly. If you come to a country such as Nepal you can get into plenty of problems if you work on a tourist visa. Work exchanges for room and board only are marginal, but usually not a problem.

Even if you do not have a college degree you can come to Nepal and do a work stay in a remote village as an English or possibly art teacher. Perhaps you could go on a trek and ask at some of the villages. Any of them would be proud to have you.

If you have a degree in computer science, environmental studies, political science, nursing or public health you are likely to be able to get excellent, international pay in many countries. INGOs (nonprofit agencies with an international presence) hire internationally and can pay an excellent wage. And of course there are cruise ships. 

But everyone knows these things. I have a few more tips from my own bag of tricks to get you out of the old, established parts of the world and into places like Nepal where you can be a bit more free spirited. 

Volunteer/Work Stay- I cannot believe what a scam this is for young people. Never pay to volunteer. You do not need to. You can find many places to do a work exchange. I saw one French woman on her knees doing laundry for a dozen ‘orphans’ who have one or both living parents. These ‘volunteers’ come here and actually pay to do this grunt work. In my mind, a local house cleaner/maid would be much more appropriate. There are many women who truly need to work to care for their families. Please do not pay to take her job. Agencies that have offices in the West charge $500 to 1,000 Euro per month to volunteers who take jobs from local people. 

WOOFING/ and other work-stay web sites. Many in the WOOFING community are charging tourists to come to work in Nepal. I have heard the same thing of the community. These programs can send very bad messages to the children who grow up to see tourists as no more than walking dollars/Euros. The message goes something like this: White people are different. They don't get tired when they work and they never run out of money. This message has greatly contributed to the lack of work ethic here in Nepal, as I see it. 

Offer to bring something from the West After deciding on Nepal as my end destination I began to miss a few of my most treasured possessions that I still had stored in the US. I offered a couple months of free room and board for bringing these things. Both items would have been very expensive to send, due to one being a computer that would have a huge tariff and the other was an antique. The antique could have even been confiscated or stolen via mail and surely would have had a tariff. There are many things a person could purchase in the West to bring for other expats. Posting on a message board could bring you some nice offers.

Working with local merchants to import products to your country- This can work well if you keep everything on a business level, but never pay in advance for products, deposit yes, but full pay never. There are paper companies, Thanka painting schools and shops, jewelry makers, textile and a host of other businesses you can work with if you are very careful to do things right. Many tourists have been cheated out of a lot of money in this way so you will need to take legal precautions.  Just like in the West, always follow up on ‘hand shake’ agreements with written contracts and never let them tell you an attorney is wasted money. 

Never export food products from a developing nation unless you know what you are doing. Many crates sit on the docks until they can be sent back and the investor is the one who loses. However, you can list the products for the merchant online and never make a purchase until it is sold. There are several websites that provide excellent platforms for this type of business. Amazon has a program, as does and many others. Of course you could also do auctions on Ebay and when an item sells you could take it from the store to mail it. One recent tourist bought some cloth backpacks in Bhaktapur for 300 NRs. and put them on eBay. He sold all 5 of them at around 25 euro each.

One young person I know had a high quality suit tailor-made to take back home. She had the tailor teach her how to measure and then put an ad on She goes to measure the person for the suit, puts in the order and earns enough to buy a custom tailored suit for herself or as income. She uses this money as her traveling fund. Imagine being able to tuck a little money away each month for travel.

Journalism Visa-If you are a good writer you can obtain a Journalism visa. The way you would do this would be to write a few articles for a local newspaper. Then you would create a portfolio of the articles and get a letter from the publisher that states they will publish articles from you. Be sure to check with the country’s embassy for more details. You can also check with the consulate in your country to find out how to go about this. 

Work restaurants and hotels- I knew a woman who stayed long term at guest houses in Nepal by offering to list their property online and teach them how to manage it. She did a work exchange for the stay but the food wasn’t included. This is not a good plan unless they give you deep discounts in food from the hotel’s restaurant. This needs to be ‘under the table’ and if a problem comes you will not be able to call the authorities without causing more problems for yourself. If you tell on them they will surely tell that you were working on a visitor visa. There are not only heavy fines, but often prison time, as well.

I was offered a position to just show up and play with the kids at a private school so the parents would see a native English speaker for bragging rights. If it were a free room and board exchange it would have been a safe option. In fact, if a native English speaker just wanted to stay in the country he/she could easily do a work exchange in the remote villages. 

Nanny-There are many rich people here who would love to have an English speaking nanny. Seriously, be very careful that you do not become exploited.

Meteorite hunting- Do you know how to tell if a rock is from outer space? If you do, you can go trekking and be on the lookout for meteorites. As you may know, meteor showers occur quite often. Most fragments burn up before reaching land, but at 5,000-6,000 meters high many fragments actually survive impact. Meteorites sell for $2-25 per gram, so there can be a substantial possibility for some income or sport. 

Bring something from your county- I know one young man who is establishing a Texas Hold-em night at a local guest house where he is surely staying for free. There are also garage sales/farmers' markets going on now in Kathmandu. 

Be cautious-I’ve found the police to be helpful and kind most of the time, but I am sure the horns would come out rather quickly if you were to cause anyone a problem on a questionable plan. Know that if you chose to do something that is risky you should expect to be exploited a bit, and you will not be able to complain much. I understand there are many tourists in jail in developing nations who have visa violations, get in trouble for drugs or who have run out of money. 

Always work on your plan before leaving by checking with both embassies to make sure your plan is either legal or a marginal infraction. Make connections prior to coming, but never send money to anyone before you meet them. Seriously, people in developing nations believe you can never run out of money so they do not mind taking advantage of you. They reason that they just need it more so it’s OK. 

For more suggestions take a look at this post. Although many of the suggestions will not apply to Nepal, it may help you to think of other possibilities.

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  1. One more thing I thought of is to become a personal chef. You can always get free room and board for cooking if you are good. Why not start your own favorite dishes before you begin your traveling.

  2. Thank you very much for you great information, will be visiting end of December this year, so i have to find a volunteering work to stay and travel, loved you ideas. thank you very much again!