Grab your crew and prepare for one of the most exciting experiences of your life. Volunteering abroad is the perfect excuse for a friend’s group vacation. While establishing bonds and forging new memories with the people you love, you’ll be making a huge impact by bringing your whole team to participate in a volunteer abroad project.
In this article, we’ll give you all the details on how to plan a great friend volunteer abroad trip. From where to go to what to do, and even what to pack, you’ll get info that your best buds won’t want to miss out on. Together, you’ll travel, explore new lands, and make a difference in the local communities of Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru.
Step 1: Decide on Your Destination
Maximo Nivel offers volunteer placements in three of the most beautiful countries in Latin America; Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. The volunteer opportunities vary by country and depending on how you want to contribute might help you to narrow down your destination options. But if you’re open to contributing in any way you can, here’s some advice on how to choose the best country for your gang.
If your crew is looking to be completely immersed in the rainforest surrounded by enthusiastic monkeys and apathetic sloths, you might want to consider Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. This beach town offers a long stretch of the beautiful Pacific coastline perfect for surf lessons and sunbathing. There’s an abundant expat community, so you can be sure to find other internationals to mingle with on your days off. Consider Manuel Antonio a vacation more than a travel destination.
We also offer opportunities to volunteer in Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose. San Jose is home to young professionals, students, and working families. A majority of the ‘tico’ population live in the capital city so you can be sure to become immersed in daily life. Here you can experience a more cosmopolitan lifestyle, upscale gastronomy, and an urban nightlife.
For friends that prefer a more tranquil city vibe with unobstructed views of towering volcanoes, head to Antigua, Guatemala. The colorfully quaint city maintains a rich history of Spanish colonial rule and ancient Mayan traditions. The main square is a focal meeting point surrounded by the Cathedral, the Governor’s Palace, and loads of cafes and shops. Many of the locals congregate in this area, so you can get a feel of the traditional Mayan culture. It’s also a great spot to buy handicrafts and souvenirs for those back home.
If ancient Incan trails and modern nightlife peak your friends’ interests, then Cusco, Peru might be your best bet. Sat in the heart of the Incan epicenter you’ll find preserved trails that lead to ancient ruins and temples. Energetic marketplaces sell everything you’ll ever need or want from the finest alpaca products to every single variety of potato known to man. Charming cafes and shops have been built right into the ancient stone walls, and there’s no shortage of clubs and bars.
Each country offers plenty of exciting bucket list destinations and excursions. You might decide to zipline through the jungle, swim in natural limestone pools, or set your sights on a rainbow mountain. No matter where you and your friends decide to volunteer, you can be sure there’ll be as much play as there is volunteer work.
Step 2: Choose a Volunteer Project
Step 2 is probably the most important step. Choosing a volunteer project really forces you to evaluate your own skills and strengths to determine where you can make the biggest impact. However, there are some projects that are perfect for friend groups as collaboration and chemistry work best to fill the needs of the project. Here are some top projects for a best friend volunteer abroad trip:
As long as everyone in your crew is willing to get a little dirty and have a lot of fun, a construction project can work well. Many people are needed on site at once to complete the development of needed facilities such as clinics, schools, community centers and more. While one person mixes plaster, the other might be painting walls, and still another could be installing tiles. There’s something for everyone to contribute to at a construction project and the best part about it is that you’ll leave a mark together in a place you’ll create so many memories in.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you and your friends speak English. You can all team up to create some engaging English lessons for those who are eager to learn the language. Friends tend to have a very balanced dynamic, so this project works well when it comes to having to work together. Instead of being paired with a partner you’ve never met before, you and your friend can take on the challenge of teaching English in the local community and you’ll be sure to have tons of fun doing it.
Whether you decide on a sea turtle conservation project in Costa Rica or Guatemala, or the jungle conservation project in Peru, prepare to bunk with your mates in the middle of nature. Doing patrols, maintenance, clean-up, and data tracking are all important tasks that are assigned at the projects. You’ll work together to protect the environment and its natural species.
Are your friends a pack of wild animal lovers? Animal care projects put you in direct contact with exotic species and horses in Guatemala and domestic animals in Peru. If your gang is a bunch of veterinarians in training, get some hands-on experience with The Amphibian and Reptile Rescue Center in Antigua, Guatemala. You’ll learn how to rehabilitate various species back to health so that they can be re-released into the wild. You can also choose to provide animal care to a horse rescue and rehabilitation center which rescues transport animals to ensure they are in optimum health.
Volunteer placement in Cusco, Peru might be at an alpaca farm where you care for and maintain the domestic alpacas from the region. The University Zoo might be another option for those interested in helping to care for and rehabilitate exotic animals that were rescued from being kept illegally.
And still, a last option is for those dog and cat lovers. In both Guatemala and Peru, your group can volunteer at a domestic pet shelter. Both countries have an unfortunate stray and homeless dog and cat population, and various shelters have been established to help alleviate these issues. Assist these small, independently funded shelters to maintain the pets’ health.
Step 3: Contact a Programs Advisor
If you and your crew have issues deciding on where to go or which volunteer project to enroll in, you can skip straight to step number 3. A Maximo Nivel programs advisor can help you decide the best option for you and your team by providing more information about each destination and project and guide you in the right direction.
If you’ve cohesively decided on your destination and project, schedule a call with our advisors so they can help explain the procedures and fees. They can answer any questions you may have about accommodation options, airport pickup, orientation, and everything else that is included during your volunteer trip.
Step 4: Pack Your Bags
Volunteers have some necessary items to pack before heading off to their project, so loop your friends into a group message when it’s time to start packing. You should also consider the country and region you’ll be working in and the season you’ll be traveling.
If you’re working or living in a rain forest during the rainy season, definitely pack a poncho. You might have to work in wet conditions, and you’ll want to have the proper coverage. Hiking boots are another essential for the rugged terrain and any adventures you might want to participate in.
Sweaters, rain jackets, long sleeve shirts and long pants are perfect for the cool weather of Cusco, and heavier wear might be needed during the months of May-September. From December-April in Costa Rica, you’ll find warm sunny weather with bouts of humidity in Manuel Antonio. Shorts and t-shirts are appropriate here.
Antigua, Guatemala is a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. You won’t have to think much about the weather if you’re volunteering in this city but bring a poncho or umbrella in case you encounter some showers.
Some must-pack items for all volunteers in every country include the following items:
-basic clothing you don’t mind ruining