Want to travel to Europe, but can’t quite afford it?
Europe is known to be one of the more expensive summer travel destinations. Yet, you can still find great low cost volunteer travel opportunities. We found ten great trips that cost less than $300 a week including accommodation and food (airfare is extra). Most of these projects run 1-2 weeks or more.
These trips help you experience a side of Europe that’s not covered by the guidebooks. One of the basic pillars of responsible traveling is giving back, making a positive, personal contribution to the people and places you are visiting. Many travelers want to visit Europe and get to know the countries from a different perspective and be able to interact with locals while dedicating some of their time to support particular projects, share skills, and address specific needs of the host countries.
Europe has ample environmental and conservation projects in need of volunteers, each offering a unique way to experience this culturally, historically, and ecologically rich land. So whether you want to spend a day or two researching mammal habitats, participating in archeological digs or weeks renovating medieval castles, there are voluntourism treks for you. Here are some of the most affordable volunteer opportunities in Western Europe!
Ecological Research and Environmental Work
SEEDS hosts international workcamps (short-term voluntary service projects) on environmental, nature, and outdoors related issues. Some of their workcamps are directly related to festivals, artistic, cultural or sports gatherings. Projects are located in every corner of Iceland. Volunteers are involved with ecological research, removing invasive growth, building walking paths or trails, cleaning up the coastline, reforestation, and erosion control works, construction or renovation of a community building, monument or community center, etc. Cost ranges from $100 – $200 (EUR 80 – 140) and includes excursions, food, and housing.
French Heritage Renovation
Union REMPART is divided into member associations, which organize more than 200 volunteer work initiatives, known as chantiers. Volunteers use various restoration or archeology techniques: drawing, excavations, masonry, stone carving, carpentry, coating, etc. Volunteers usually work 35 hours a week on restoration activities and one or two days are fully devoted to cultural and leisure activities. There are no special qualifications required but French language ability is preferred. The cost is $190, which includes excursions, food, housing, and insurance.
Discover France and French culture
Since 1952 the Club du Vieux Manoir brings together young people who want to help with the rescue and restoration work on ancient monuments and sites. On these sites there are two working goals: historic monuments and heritage are brought back to life and participants are offered a leisure activity where they learn how to use their hands and acquire basic techniques. Accommodation from spring to autumn is under tent. Camps are set up in the open air. Washing and cooking facilities are organized by volunteers – monuments are usually not suitable for fixed accommodation and facilities. Cost is $20/day for food and lodging plus a $20 membership fee.
Maintain and Improve Facilities in Camp and Museum
The Hellenic Foundation for Youth & Volunteering (HFYV) is a non-profit organization established on the island of Kefalonia (Cephalonia) in Greece in 1998. Volunteers will help to improve the facilities in the camp and the museum. This will include maintenance of already existing buildings, improving the camp, building the stable, cleaning the forest, making footpaths, painting, putting fences in the camp, building the coffee shop, repairing their boat Neptune 1, installing electric installations, etc. and anything else that needs to be done. There are a lot of other interesting projects like making a mosaic, building a Jacuzzi in stone, making a small windmill, working in the camp farm, etc. The cost is $200, which includes basic accommodation but not meals. If their basic accommodation doesn’t suit you, they can arrange for a rented room at an additional price.
Conservation of Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Katelios Group is a small organization working to protect the natural environment of Kefalonia in Greece. Focus is on the conservation of the endangered Loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta, but they are also involved in environmental education, promotion of sustainable development, and raising awareness and information about wildlife in Kefalonia. Project duration is 4 weeks. The cost of $270 covers accommodation.
Restoration of Medieval Houses
The Cultural Association A.C.L.E. own several medieval houses that are in need of restoration. Volunteers work 6 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Most of the work involve painting, landscaping, furniture restoration, cleaning, clearing rubble and general maintenance. Work tools are provided, but you need to bring working clothes. They provide accommodation which includes a bed in shared accommodation with other volunteers (mixed sexes). There’s electricity, hot and cold running water, and fully functioning bathrooms and kitchens. There is no cost — accommodation and basic food are provided for free.
Help Transform Medieval Monastery to Youth Meeting Place
CADIP promotes peace, cooperation, tolerance and understanding in international, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural surroundings. The organization also promotes patterns and examples of civil activities focused on serving others, on building social ties and strengthening communities, and on supporting civil society development. This project will take place in Granja dels Frares (“Friar’s Farm). This building housed workers of the “Sante
s Creus” monastery during the medieval ages. The municipality wants to convert it into a youth meeting place. Volunteers will clean the surroundings of the farm and will renovate the archeological site. Free time activities include visits to Tarragona, el Morell, and bicycle excursions. The program is open to American and Canadian volunteers and costs $290, which includes food and housing. This project runs from July 14 – July 27, 2009. CADIP has a number of other programs throughout Spain and other countries around the world.
Archeological Research Project in Freixo de Numao
This is a new program offered by CADIP this year. This project supports efforts to protect and promote the regional cultural patrimony of Freixo de Numão. The goal is to provide continuity to an archeological research project and to turn the archeological place into a museum. Volunteers will provide maintenance and restoration which include methodological digging; soil riddling and floating to collect different elements (coals, seeds, bones, etc.) for analysis; and materials washing and labeling. Volunteers will work about 6 hours a day. There will be free time to explore the surrounding areas and some of these activities include visits to belvederes, castles, historical villages (Marialva), Vale do Côa engraving and Douro Wine Region (UNESCO Patrimonies). There will also be a visit to the Museum of Bread in Seia and the Mountain of the Estrela. The program is open to American and Canadian volunteers and costs $290, which includes food and housing. This project runs from July 13 – July 27, 2009 and August 17-August 31, 2009. CADIP has a number of other programs throughout Portugal and other countries around the world.
GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND
National Trust Working Holidays
Britain’s National Trust cares for more wildlife, including 1,250 vulnerable species, than any other European charity. It owns more than 240,000 hectares of land and 575 miles of coastline, making it the largest private landowner in Britain. A virtual army of staff and volunteers assist in managing these habitats with 450 well-organized projects a year in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Whether you prefer carrying out a survey of moorland plants or herding goats to drystone walling or organic gardening, they will have something to suit you and all in stunning countryside or coastal locations. Some projects allow you to combine activities such as surfing, horse riding and digital photography with conservation tasks for a really varied week. Beginning in 2009, they are offering Family projects. These projects are for 2 adults and up to 3 children ages 8 through 16 years. Prices include food and accommodation. Projects last two to seven days and costs £60 a week including food and hostel-type accommodation. Currently they are not accepting volunteers who do not hold European Economic or Swiss passports due to legal reasons.
Restoration and Rebuilding of Century-Old Houses
Open Houses takes care of half-a-dozen old buildings in the eastern part of Germany. Viewing and touching these structures gives an understanding of their centuries-old history. However, decades without maintenance have left their mark on the houses. These properties are slowly being brought back to life. These properties are being used for accommodations while they are rebuilt. The goal of this organization is to allow the construction and maintenance of these buildings to enable people to get together and interact with each other and with the buildings, and to facilitate an exchange of ideas. They make all their buildings accessible and usable for everybody for any length of stay in exchange for participation in maintenance, restoration, and rebuilding. Cost is $35-$55 per week.