What I’ve Learned From Slinging Pisco Sours

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Day 303: Cusco, Peru

I arrived in Cusco a few days ago and the hostel told me they were looking for people to work the bar.

Plus I couldn’t refuse the perks:

  • free room
  • free breakfast and lunch
  • one free drink a day plus 30% off the bar (crucial)
  • ridiculously cheap laundry

So besides the opportunity to perfect my pisco sour skills by adding a passion fruit and other Peru fruit pisco sours to my arsenal I’ve learned a few other things in a short time:


1) There’s a whole lotta lovin’ on the sly

Girls: sleeping with guys who work/own the hostel is like sleeping with a bartender. Sure he’s hot, fun and it’s a story to tell your girlfriends but don’t think that you’re the first or the last. He does not think you are special or different.

There will be someone else when you move on, or in all likelihood while you’re still there.

dirty tea cup

2) Backpackers are inconsiderate pigs

So this is one of the best travel jobs I’ve had. I’ve worked a few breakfast shifts where we offer hot drinks, bread and jam.  People: I do not want to unwrap the intricate tea bag web you’ve woven around your tea cup.

I also don’t want to clean up the banana peels or watermelon rind and maybe if you spill your marmite all over the table you could wipe it up yourself?

And while we’re at it, you have to walk by me before leaving, would it kill you to drop your dirty dishes at the bar like everyone else?


MAKE IT AT HOME: Boston Sour Recipe


3) Spanish in Chile and Argentina is very difficult

The hostel wanted English speakers but there are a whole lot of Argentineans and Chileans here that speak very little English.

It’s good because I’ve learned words like ash tray and matches but do I ever have a long way to go if I wanted to work in a place where English isn’t so welcomed.

Both nationalities seem to speak very quickly and while I thought I knew I lot of Spanish I now feel as though I know only a little.

Tomorrow I start Spanish tutoring.


4) It’s a great way to meet some really wonderful people

It’s not all chaos and drama, the permanent hostel staff are so nice, my boss is fantastic and I’ve met so many more people – especially the Argentineans and Chileans.

I may work here a week or two to explore Cusco and I have a feeling it will be anything but boring.


Join the Conversation

  1. So you have added bartender to your resume… And one who makes great pisco sours?! Can we be your gays / BFFs?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I thought we were ALREADY besties!

      1. The NVR Guys says:

        That was the answer I was hoping for!

  2. Nice way to save some money!

    Don’t worry about the Spanish, in need, one learns quickly, you’ll get a grasp on the accent fast enough

    (try to pay atention to the way argentineans pronounce the ‘y’ and ‘ll’ and the lack of pronouncing the ‘s’)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah Argentina seems to be a bit easier. It´s just the Chileans are so fast!

  3. Looks like a fun way to chat with other travelers and get a free stay!

  4. We talked about doing this so many times, but never pulled the trigger. Sounds like a fun and interesting experience. And boy are you right about Argentine and Chilean Spanish. It’s like another language. We crossed into Argentina after spending 2 months in Peru and Bolivia, and we thought we had a great grasp on Spanish. Our first day in Salta made us feel awful. We couldn’t understand ANYTHING! Don’t get discouraged; it really is a different style of Spanish. Taking Spanish classes in Buenos Aires seemed to sort us out, and like any language, you’ll get used to it.

  5. Cool room!

  6. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World says:

    That’s one crazy looking hostel. It definitely sounds like a great opportunity to save money, get the know the people, and learn the area.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You know oddly enough I chose this one because it´s more laid back and not the typical party place.

      But I think wherever you go you run into all 4 points – even the more chilled places.

  7. Christy - Ordinary Traveler says:

    Sounds like a fun experience! Everything except cleaning up after slobs. In a hostel environment I feel like people shouldn’t expect others to pick up after them, but I guess they feel like they are at an expensive hotel and they need to be catered to.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I don’t mind cleaning up after the stuff that we give them – bread, butter, jam, coffee, tea. It’s dealing with the fruit, vegetables and other crap they bring to breakfast.

      Oh and this morning a guy blew his nose and tried to hand the napkin to me. I just looked and him and said “really”?

      1. Steve Waiksnoris says:

        I think that’s kind of a nice perk of working at hostels…you don’t have to follow that 4star customer service routine. While I expect staff to be helpful and reasonably friendly, I think it’s great that some personality is retained and exhibited. The dirty tissue guy definitely needed to be put in his place like that. Gross!

  8. I am SO interested in doing this! I love hostel life and would so love to be a part of the insanity holding it all together. Hopefully one day sooner than later. Loved your photographs with this post too 🙂

  9. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ says:

    That’a girl! What hostel is that?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yamana, it’s a new one here, I think maybe less than a year old.

  10. What an awesome experience! Despite that downsides, it sounds like you’ll be having a very interesting and fun week.

  11. Hey honey! Sounds like a lot of fun…I have worked in various bartending/waitressing spots and can say there are slobs in all walks of life. But the social aspect of this type of work is so worth it in my opinion!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Also the free drinks – you know that is important to me.

  12. I’m not sure what it is, but for some reason people feel like when someone is waiting on them, it means they can lose all manners and self control. Pick up your own plate, dude!!!

    Love this post!

  13. Michael Hodson says:

    I not only need to work on my Spanish, but I could stand to put a few hours in at a hostel bar also. The old dude behind the bar. As long as I had the early shift. 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      My favourite shift is 4-8, you can sleep in and get out for dinner.

  14. This sounds like such a good experience, and a great way to practice your Spanish. Love the tip about not sleeping with the hostel owner – made me LOL.

  15. jamie - cloud people adventures says:

    thanks for the plug!
    i really hope you get to pour your own free drink.
    how long are you planning to stay? looking forward to some stories down the track!

  16. Despite boorish guests, this sounds like an interesting experience.

  17. I had noticed this before- some backpackers don’t pick up the shit they leave behind, and it is something I don’t understand. Not that I’ve worked in a hostel like you are!

  18. What a great gig…sounds fun! Oh- enjoy Cusco…its a wonderful place to chill for a week or two and get a real sense for it.

    And as for those pesky backpackers…ugh!

  19. I’ve been working in a hostel type environment for the last few months, and will be moving to work in another hostel fairly shortly. It’s certainly an experience that has taught me a few things about people and also about myself. Plus, I hope to be a better guest in future as a result of my experiences 🙂

  20. Yet another awesome experience to add to your belt. Working at the hostel bar.

    Oh, yeah, backpackers are slobs by nature unfortunately. But I’m always careful to tidy up after myself. Especially after befriending quite a few of the peeps who worked at a hostel I was staying at once. It really opens your eyes up to everything.

    Good luck with more Spanish tutoring. Am heavily considering taking a few Spanish courses when I get to S America too. Figure it won’t be a waste at all.

  21. AHHH, it seems so weird to me that you know how to make pisco sours! I’ve lived in Chile for seven years and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t make one if my life depended on it.

  22. Ahh! I thought about doing this…bartending from place to place. But yeah, I can see some people aren’t so great to deal with…

  23. Very cool experience! Wonder if you’ll ever do it again though??

  24. This sounds like a lot of fun (aside from being handed people’s snot rags). I’d like to try sometime too! Lol at the backpacker/hostel employee lovin’.. sounds a little icky!

  25. Migrationology says:

    I feel for your agony Ayngelina, but it really is pretty funny how quite a few people are so inconsiderate when staying at hostels.

    I had trouble fully understanding Chilean Spanish as well. I have a few friends in Santiago, they spoke so fast, I barely new it was Spanish. Then I went to Argentina for a few months where it took a while to get used to saying “po-jo” for “pollo.”

    Good luck at the hostel!

  26. I really want to try working in a hostel at some point in my travels. What a great way to meet people.

    Now that you have reported all the horrible things that backpackers do (and I’m sure they are the ones who brag about how they are doing it all right) I’ll be extra careful to clean up after myself. Although, I have a hard time leaving my trash on the tables in Europe where it’s normal to do so!

  27. You always seem so busy Ayngelina, no matter what you are up to!!

  28. This post had me lol…they definitely made you an offer you couldn’t refuse…so in regard to the whole lotta lovin on the sly…does that apply to all the countries in SA…say for example Ecuador? And as far as picking up after people who can’t seem to pick up anything after themselves, welcome to the world of mothers! I remember coats that couldn’t find a hanger or a closet.

    By the way, the colours in the room are fantastic. So eye catching….and we will be looking for Pisco when you touch land again in Nova Scotia.

    1. Yes we will be looking for Pisco but please make sure I eat dinner before hand!

  29. Claire Gibson says:

    Hmmmm…..I would have to say the perks outweigh even the inconsiderate backpacker pigs that you are encountering. When you are on a budget, you gotta do what you gotta do! (Short of getting paid for the sly lovin’ you mention in #1…ha).

  30. Sounds like a great way to enjoy your stay and get cheap drinks. That’s ALWAYS important. I should think about installing a mini-bar on my bike trailer and working as an over-priced bike touring bartender. Hmmmmm…….

  31. Todd | Todd'sWanderings says:

    Great post but now I feel so unloved after your first point! Luckily I just had pisco sours made by a chilean over the weekend. We had a nice long debate over where real pisco is from 🙂

    1. Yeah I may try to provoke Chileans by claiming it´s from Peru to see how they react.

  32. Hi Ayngelina
    You are really experience a lot down there in Chile. Maybe I should quit my day job and travel around the world like you do 🙂

  33. Jaime Evans says:

    “Intricate tea bag web” is literary genius in my opinion.

  34. You are so right about backpackers being inconsiderate pigs. I actually drafted a blog post I titled 10 Ways to be the Annoying Traveler in Your Hostel. I haven’t posted it because it was written in a state of anger and annoyance. But one day I’ll clean it up and post it.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I like angry entries, I say post it today!

  35. Ahh, always wondered how would it feel to work at a hostel. I might do it too while on the road. Not sure if I’ll be patient though… lol

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Meh it gives you something to bitch about and it´s easy work. You should definitely try it.

  36. Lauren Fritsky says:

    Good luck with the gig. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of stories that come from it.

  37. Fun! I’ve always wanted to work at a place like that and 30% drinks ain’t bad! hahahaha

  38. Some good life lessons. Sad to hear that backpackers are being piggish in South America…we hoped to get away from that heading out of NZ. We reach Chile in one week and cannot wait. Sounds like you’re having a great start to your journey south =)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You´re heading to Chile soon too? We need to keep in touch!

  39. Nice read … Love reading your posts. I always wanted to work at the bar on our trip – never found an opportunity 🙂 … Hope to do it sometime …

    Have fun …

    We are currently in Mumbai – Thinking about what to do next …

    Safe Travels,

  40. Cool gig Ayngelina…do you have to have prior bartending experience to do this or do you just have to be quick to learn?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I did have prior experience although they don´t know that. On my first night shifts my manager stuck around to show me how to make the maracuya sours, and most other people just get wine or beer.

  41. turkey's for life says:

    Well, that’s one way of funding your travels for a while. That looks like a great hostel.
    I’m sure you can put up with the lazy slobs for a while! It’s all for the greater good. 🙂

  42. I’ve wondered what that was like. (Have to go read the Cloud People article now, too.) Good info, especially since I keep telling the husband that rather than go postal at work, we can always toss everything but the laptops and start hitchhiking, if necessary. 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Despite all the bitching, I have had a really good time and would do it again.

  43. LOVE this post! hehe. Number one is soooo true. It makes me laugh every time I see a starstruck girl throwing herself at a hostel manager.

    I think I may be one of those tea bag offenders. I just don’t realize what I’m doing with the string as I sit there and drink it. I’ll try to be more conscious of this in my future dining experiences. ;o)

  44. You are such a jolly adventurer! 🙂 I love that you’re doing this job. I cracked up at your “pigs” comment. 🙂 Looking forward to more crazy stories. 🙂

  45. Oh yay! I’ve always wanted to read the perspective of someone who works in a hostel and sees the comings, goings and shenanigans from an outside POV. Sounds like a fun gig. Imagine the stories you’ll be able to tell.

  46. Agreed, backpackers are totally inconsiderate. There’s this myth going around that travelers must be amazing people because they are worldy.

    But assholes like to travel too.

  47. I speak Argentine Spanish and I’ve tutored before, I can help you! Sorry you ended up dealing with so many inconsiderate jerks, can’t say I am surprised though!

  48. Anna Pelova says:

    That really is a great idea… I would do almost anything for some travel freebies 😀 And a fun way to meet interesting people (despite the ‘dirty’ ones) :)))

  49. still, you had fun right?

  50. You’ll really appreciate having the classes. It’s amazing how far a class can take you on when you can already cope with the functional stuff — just understanding how the language works takes it to a whole new level.

  51. Haha, Spanish in Chile is a whole different beast between the speed, the accent and the slang. The good thing though is that if you can understand Chileans, you can understand just about anyone.

  52. Nomadic Chick says:

    What a gig, man. I’m envious and eager to hear some juicy hostel stories. Like come on, #1 seems like a good start (wink, wink).

  53. Yamanya! I stayed here in Cusco in December… I loved it so much, I stayed nearly two weeks… on a six week trip. So, who’s sleeping with who?!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well I´m not sleeping with any of them, that´s the most important thing to know!

  54. The brightness and colors used throughout the bar looks great. There’s a real relaxing appeal that you don’t get with American/Canadian decor.

  55. So what you are saying is after I spend the night with that cute bartender and he whispers sweet nothings in my ear, all I’ll get the next day is a fresh supply of crabs?

  56. Cheryl Howard says:

    Sounds like a lot of fun! 🙂

    About the hostel owners … I think the same can be said of tour guides.

  57. Ayngelina,
    Looks like a lot of fun. Good for you for sticking around for awhile and getting to know Cusco.

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  59. Great post! this kind of work will absolutely be a necessity for me on my big trip next year. Mostly because of financial reasons and my desire to stay in one place for a little bit. It is encouraging to see that work is available and I can tell you as a full-time waiter for the last few years the rudeness of guests never ceases to amaze me .. you aren’t alone!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The oddest part is that these people are not intentionally rude, they’ve somehow evolved that way.

      And there is lots of hostel work if you’re looking for it!

  60. Sounds like a good deal to me. I have absolutely no bartending experience but I would definitely love to learn. Do people pour their life stories to you?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well you see it all happen in front of you and more often than spill their stories they tell me what else is happening with other people!

  61. Camels & Chocolate says:

    During my backpacking days, it was my dream to work in a hostel bar. But maybe now, I prefer you doing that for me and just living vicariously through you 😉

    (Besides: I have very little patience for people–especially slobs!–these days.)

  62. Sweet deal!! The hostel looks pretty cool, by the by – love the colours in the room!

  63. Just got into this blog. I’m not sure if you’re going to Chile, or if you’ve already been but La Casa Roja in Santiago is pretty great and you can do a similar work 3 hrs per day/stay free thing 🙂

  64. DTravelsRound says:

    Fascinating!! And, agreed. Especially the first one. So, so true! Hope you are enoying!! I wish I would have had a fun hostel work experience!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes the first one definitely makes work amusing.

  65. its so easy to work in hostels in latin america. spain? not so much. i’m going soon and have emailed about 15 asking if i can do a little stint and the majority have said they need my CV and a 6 month committment!! WTF??
    it makes me miss latin america and the whole “no rules, really” attitude 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I was really surprised that they only wanted a week to week commitment. Although I have tried to contact hostels here in advance, it never works. I think it´s best to just show up and ask around.

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