Take a giant step back in time to the Land of the Inca and surround yourself with unparalleled cultural sites, a rich and diverse history, and so much more waiting to be discovered. Exploring the Amazon and hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are just a couple of the once in a lifetime experiences you will find in Peru. Improve your Spanish or begin learning as you work alongside the locals. Peru is the ideal place to reset, reinvigorate, and revel in the beauty of the country that surrounds you.
Know Before You Go
Upon arrival in Peru, most nationals will get an entry stamp. It will allow you to volunteer for up to 183 days. You will also need proof that you are volunteering and ticket out of the country in addition to a valid passport. Be sure that your passport is valid for six months after the end of your trip as well. Always check the Peruvian consulate for updated entry requirements and necessary documentation.
Altitude Sickness is real and can cause symptoms like headaches and fatigue. Since most of the volunteer placements are at high altitudes, it’s best to be prepared. Locals and travelers alike swear by coca tea, and you can find it everywhere you go near Cuzco. If you aren’t much of a tea drinker, the best thing to do is stay hydrated. It’s always a good idea to visit a travel doctor to discuss risks and prevention before traveling.
Numerous program options and organizations are available that can help you on your way. Before deciding on a program, here are a couple things to consider.
- Level of support- If this is your first trip abroad, you may want an organization that assists with all steps of the process providing detailed support before you leave, western-style housing, three meals a day, and orientation upon arrival to name a few.
- Cost- Programs providing high levels of support tend to cost upwards of thousands of dollars. Also factor in plane tickets and pre departure expenses like doctor visits.
- Funding- Don’t let cost be a deterrent. There are lots of crowd funding sites that cater exclusively to volunteering. Also check out scholarships or grants to help you fund your trip.
The majority of volunteer placements take place in and around the city of Cuzco. Each organization will have slightly different options. If you don’t find what you are looking for right away, keep looking. It’s out there.
Some Placement Options
Orphanages - Volunteers are in demand to help care for children of all ages. In this placement you will have a wide range of duties like helping with homework, English lessons, basic care, and organizing games.
Teaching English - You could be working with children or adults helping with school work or conversation. Because Cuzco is a draw for tourism, there is a need to learn English from native speakers. Work alongside teachers or provide one-on-one tutoring.
Conservation - This placement opportunity could take you to the Amazon working with biologists to inventory a species or maintain a trail. You may even work with local villages to assist with English.
Medical - In this placement you may shadow doctors and nurses or assist with collecting patient vitals. Be aware, however, that there is a good chance that you will not be working directly with patients unless you are a trained medical professional. Check with the volunteer organizations ahead of time to confirm exact volunteer activities and requirements.
Construction - If you like working with your hands, getting a little paint on your face, and helping to build communities, then this is the placement for you. As a construction volunteer you will help restore existing buildings and help make the community a safer place to live. Local construction experts will guide you along the way, and experience isn’t necessary.
Free Time Excursions
The list of cultural sites and destinations to explore in Peru is a traveler’s dream, and if you volunteer here, you will be immersed in all of these possibilities. Cuzco is a perfect home base, allowing for numerous weekend trips. Here are just a couple of options.
A Couple Options:
- Machu Picchu - Be aware that you have to have reservations ahead of time because only a set amount of visitors are allowed entry per day.
- Cuzco - Not only is it the historic capital of the Incan empire, it’s full of places to explore. Plaza de Armas and Mercado Central are great places to start.
- Saqsaywaman or Ollentaytambo - Experience a couple of archeological wonders here.
- Peruvian Amazon - explore the biodiversity on a boat ride down the river.
The local currency is called the nuevo sol. Keep in mind, most volunteer program fees cover the basics like housing and meals, but if you want to fit in some sightseeing or travel to other parts of the country, here’s what you can expect. The dollar can go pretty far here, and budget travelers are able to get by on about $25 per day. If you prefer hot showers and not sharing a room with ten other travelers, you can expect around $60-$100 per day. Also note that sites like Machu Picchu can be pricey whether you hike the Inca trail or take a train to get there, so budget accordingly.