“Are the people who post on Gumtree trustworthy?”
“Are there scammers?”
“I’ve heard of backpackers gone missing…”
“What can I do to make sure I’m safe if I’m travelling alone?”
Gumtree is a tool that people in Australia use to advertise anything they may be selling or looking for, a job they could be offering, a place for rent they could be leasing out, maybe a local meetup they’re trying to get the word out about etc etc.
Like Kijiji or Craigslist, you don’t need to meet any sort of criteria in order to post, all you need is an email account. A lot of farmers use Gumtree to let backpackers know they have work available. Employers do the same. As mentioned earlier, you’ll also find many rooms or flats on the site that are available for rent.
How to keep from getting scammed or kidnapped…
Not that I suggest this will be for everyone, but I went to Australia on my own and used Gumtree for everything… finding flats, organizing my farm work placement, and searching for meet ups. Here’s what you’ll do to make sure, the best you can, that you don’t find yourself in a precarious position.
1) Travel in groups
Being in a group can never assert you’ll always be making the right decisions, but it will leave you less vulnerable than if you were travelling on your own. Together you can decide which prospects seem legit and talk to each other about your best options. They’ll always be someone there to watch your back and clue you in to anything you may have missed.
2) Get referred by other backpackers
Talking to other backpackers can be an incredibly valuable resource. Chat to them in a hostel you’re staying in and share your contact info. Chances are you’ll have talked to someone who’s completed their regional work and can get you in touch with the farmer themselves. You’ll also get an honest rundown of the day-to-day so you’ll be well prepared upon arrival. Other backpackers may be renting out their room or flat temporarily (and often cheaper than regular prices), so you could luck out there as well.
3) Ask for references
If you’ve gotten in touch with a farmer over Gumtree and want more info, ask him or her for the contact info of 2 others who’ve worked on the farm and contact them. I did this for every farm I went to. This resource is as valuable as any, and backpackers are usually blunt about their experience, so if they found it unfavourable, they’ll likely tell you.
4) Identify the scams
There are heaps of scams on Gumtree targeted specifically to those new to Australia. Many of you planning your trip may want to get all your ducks in a row before arrival (ie. place to stay, work).
My opinion? Sort out a place to stay when you’re in Australia. Stay in a hostel for a week or so, chat to a few others, do your research and look around. There are some posts of beautiful rooms for rent at reasonable prices that require you to pay a bond (electronically) to secure it. Firstly, you haven’t even seen the place and let me tell you, pictures ARE deceiving. Secondly, most of the people behind these posts are planning on running with your money. Take your time and SEE the flat you’re interested in before making any commitments.
5) Use your judgment
No matter the precautions you take, you can never really know for sure. So in this case, you’ll have to use your judgment. If you’re speaking to a farmer, do they sound sincere over the phone? Are they giving you references? Do you know anyone whose been on the farm before? Really trust you gut. An by all means, if you’re still reluctant to use Gumtree, you can always do this…
6) Don’t use Gumtree!
There are plenty of legitimate agencies and companies out there offering you opportunities to attain farm work in places they can guarantee to be scam-free for a small charge. The only reason people gravitate towards Gumtree is because it’s free for all and there’s no need for a middle man. Here are a few resources to check out if you’re going the non-Gumtree route. Be sure to also check out any Facebook groups advertising farm work opportunities (of which there are many).
Are there any other resources or tips you think may be helpful? Did you use Gumtree at all? What was your experience like? Comment below! And make sure to subscribe to get all the new posts straight into your inbox. 🙂