As the Lonely Planet describes – “Medieval castles, cobblestone villages, captivating cities, and golden beaches: the Portugal experience can be many things.” If you’ve always had the urge to set sail and explore this beautiful nation, then now is the time to let your dreams find a way.
Located on the south-western tip of Europe, bordered by Spain, Portugal offers outstanding landscape diversity, due to its North-South disposition along the western shore of the Iberian peninsula. Whether you wish to go for a hike through the lush green hills or soak in the pristine scenery and historic villages of the little-explored Beiras, or just walk down the cobbled streets in Lisbon or maybe relax on the beaches of Algarve – Portugal has it all for you! Being a volunteer in Portugal, you’ll get the opportunity to dig deeper into the social and environmental problems of the country and make a meaningful impact through your active participation.
In this Comprehensive Guidebook, we have tried to provide all the necessary information that you are probably seeking before you choose to kickstart your volunteering journey!
Before you decide to actually head off to Portugal for a life-changing volunteering trip, here are some interesting facts about the country that’ll make you drool. Check them out:
1) It’s the oldest country in Europe! Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state in Europe.
2) Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries – Over 236 million people worldwide are native Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea. Portuguese is also spoken in Goa (India), Macao, and East Timor.
3) The oldest bookstore in the world, Bertrand bookstore, established in 1732, is in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon.
4) The University of Coimbra in Portugal was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities on the European continent.
5) The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) long, making it the longest in Europe.
6) Portugal is one of the world’s top surf spots, having a coastline that spans 497 miles (800 kilometers) and known to have 365 days of surf!
7) Portugal was the first colonial power to abolish slavery, all the way back in 1761 – that’s half a century before Britain, France, Spain, or the United States.
8) The largest artificial underwater park in the world is in Portugal – or rather in the ocean just off the Algarve coast. The Ocean Revival Underwater Park has four decommissioned Portuguese navy ships nestling on the seabed, home to an ever-evolving ecosystem and major attraction for divers from all around the world.
9) The ATM system in Portugal, the Multibanco is one of the most advanced in the world. Long before online banking became the norm, you could do your banking, pay your bills and your taxes at your local Multibanco.
10) Half of the world was discovered by the Portuguese sailors! Portugal was the world’s first maritime power and birthplace to some of the world’s first explorers. It was at the forefront of European exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries: during the Age of Discovery, Ferdinand Magellan was the first person to circumnavigate the globe; Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India; Bartholomew Diaz was the first to sail around the southern tip of Africa, which he called the Cape of Good Hope; and Álvares Cabral and others discovered new lands, including Brazil, parts of Africa and the Far East – and claimed them for Portugal.
Well, this is a pretty common question and we are not really surprised that you’ve been thinking of ‘Why Volunteer in Portugal?’ – to be honest, we have the idea that a West European country would probably not need volunteers as the society is already developed and no external help would be required. But that isn’t the case!
This your chance to combine relaxation, meet interesting people, enjoy the weather and have an awesome time – experience the best with Volunteering Solutions in Portugal.
Lufthansa, Jet Airways, Emirates, British Airways, and Aeroflot are the top airlines flying to Portugal. Once you book your Program, you can seek help from us, regarding your flight bookings. We would suggest you look for the flights from Student Universe or Skyscanner for the best flight deals.
You would need a Schengen Visa to travel to Portugal, which should be applied at the respective embassy. No visa is necessary if you are a US Citizen and will be traveling to Portugal for up to 90 days. However, you will need a valid US passport for at least 3 months from the date of planned return or other travel document recognized by member states of the Schengen agreement. For more details regarding the Visa requirements, it’ll be good if you can get in touch with our Program Advisor while applying.
Once you arrive at the airport, our in-country coordinator will be there to receive you. You’ll be taken to your accommodation where you can rest before kickstarting your amazing volunteering journey.
Volunteering Solutions, in association with local Portuguese organizations, is aiming to help in solving a couple of social and environmental issues. Being a volunteer, you can choose to work for the project that suits your interests and motivates you to make a difference.
Take a look at the programs available in Portugal.
If you have just 2 weeks in hand and looking forward to traveling to Portugal, then this would definitely be the best choice for you. As a part of this voluntour, you will have the opportunity to get to know better Lisbon and Porto, and have a 2 days amazing experience at Berlengas island in Peniche.
We shall ensure that you get to work effectively and recover food, in good conditions, from local restaurants, supermarkets, and cafés and re-distribute it among families, elderly and homeless in need. This program would be a perfect choice for high school, college, and university students who are looking for a short-term volunteering program, to make the best use of their break and gain some first-hand work experience, apart from effectively contributing towards attending happiness to others’ lives.
Program Fee – You’ll have to pay $1299 to be a volunteer for this particular program, and the fee covers your Pre-departure Guide, Airport Pickup, Accommodation, Food, Weekend Travel, City tours in Lisbon & Porto, 2 Eco-dives in the Berlengas, Peniche (Including all equipment and diving instructor) etc.
Have you always dreamt of diving deep and working to protect the marine life? Now is your chance to set sail abroad and volunteer in Portugal for the Marine Conservation Program. As a part of this, you will have the opportunity to join a variety of conservation efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem in the Coastline of Portugal. Discover the underwater world and contribute towards the cleaning up of the Atlantic Ocean by bringing trash out during your dive.
It’s a perfect program for the high school and college students, as well as gap year travelers & backpackers who are keen to learn something new and contribute effectively towards social change. Observe fish of all colors, touch weird seaweeds, explore underwater caves and discover boat wrecks and much more. It’ll be an incredible opportunity for you to get closer to the Portuguese treasure unknown to many but loved by those who are brave enough to take this challenge.
Program Fee – You’ll have to pay $1199 to be a volunteer for this particular program for 1 week, and the fee covers your Pre-departure Guide, Airport Pickup, Accommodation, Food, city tour of Lisbon etc.
The Construction & Renovation Project would be a perfect choice for gap year travelers as well as college student groups, who wish to travel together and combine their efforts in making a difference. This program allows you to give better living conditions to the local communities in Porto by contributing to the renovation of houses of poor families while enjoying your international experience.
The volunteering program aims directly towards helping these families, by giving them a decent home. As a volunteer, you will rebuild and repair their houses so they have a healthier and happier place to live, in different neighborhoods across the city of Porto. The volunteers can use their skills and qualifications to help in different tasks, according to their interests and the social or environmental needs.
Program Fee – You’ll have to pay $699 to be a volunteer for this particular program for 1 week, and the fee covers your Pre-departure Guide, Airport Pickup, Accommodation, Food, city tour & local lunch on the first day in Porto, etc.
Being a volunteer for the Food Waste Management Project, you will actively contribute to fighting food waste and hunger in a structured system that feeds over 3000 people every day. You will help the local teams collecting, organizing and distributing the food excess from restaurants and cafés to fight food waste in the city. Volunteers usually support a center which recovers food, in good conditions, from local restaurants, supermarkets, and cafés and re-distribute it among families, elderly and homeless people in need. These are people who need food support to feed themselves and their families.
Volunteers can be working across the centers in Porto and their tasks will include collecting the food from local providers, assisting with packaging it, cleaning used containers, assisting with sorting and storage of any food left for the next day, distributing it to the families and clean up at the end of the shift.
Program Fee – You’ll have to pay $399 to be a volunteer for this particular program for 1 week, and the fee covers your Pre-departure Guide, Airport Pickup, Accommodation, Food, city tour & local lunch on the first day in Porto, etc.
While it’s difficult to exactly state a set of requirements for the volunteering projects in Portugal, your enthusiasm, open-mindedness, passion, and sincerity will be enough for being a part of any of the projects.
However, there are certain prerequisites that one must keep in mind before planning for a volunteering tryst.
The age of the interested candidate must be at least 18 years while applying for the project.
Participants must be ready to work hard and be devoted towards the project-work.
Every volunteer needs to have a positive approach towards the project they aim to work for.
Since there’s a lot of physical work involved (especially in the Construction & Renovation Project as well as Food Waste Management Project), it is necessary that the participant is physically healthy and capable to indulging in the work assigned.
Participants should be sensitive towards the environment and make sure to abide by their aesthetic senses.
Volunteering Solutions will ensure that you get to have a ‘home away from home experience’ while volunteering with us in Portugal. The accommodation will vary as per your program location (Lisbon or Porto) which are as follows:
Accommodation while Volunteering in Lisbon
The accommodation in Lisbon is provided at one of the best sustainable hostels in Portugal. The hostel is located at a traditional part of Lisbon, a short distance away from the Basilica of the Star. Volunteers will be required to share rooms with participants/ travelers of the same gender. The hostel can accommodate around 40 guests at one time. WiFi facilities will be provided at the hostel.
There are various common areas such as dining room, living room, fully-equipped kitchen, two balconies with sofas and hammocks and a big terrace to relax or participate in our super interesting events calendar. We have free Yoga classes three times a week!
Located in a typical Lisbon neighborhood, Estrela, the volunteers’ hostel is just 20 minutes away from the downtown. You can find local shops, traditional restaurants, the stunning Estrela garden, supermarkets, ATMs and most utilities you will need just around the corner.
The Hostel is surrounded by several connecting options to the city center, such as the historical 28-Tram (20 minutes away from the center), buses (20 minutes away from the center), and the Alcântara train station that leads you to Lisbon or Cascais.
Breakfast is generally self-made at the hostel with different supplies provided at the accommodation. Lunch and Dinner are also provided either at the placement or in the form of a packed meal.
Accommodation while Volunteering in Porto
Volunteers in Porto will be accommodated in a guest house that offers a comfortable stay. Located in Vila Nova de Gaia, just one kilometer from Porto city center, you will have a dorm with 7 beds with basic furniture and natural light. All rooms have shared bathrooms, and there is a fully equipped kitchen for use of all the guests where you can store and prepare food as you wish. There is free wifi in all the rooms. If you want, you may upgrade to a private room upon request and subject to availability (for an extra cost).
Well, there are some things that are pretty obvious – like trying Port Wine while in Portugal, so we are deliberately not adding those to this ever-growing list! But here are a few suggestions that might be of help while you are there.
Polish your Portuguese vocabulary
Don’t freak out because most of the people in Lisbon & Porto speak English, and also, our local coordinator will be there to help you. However, knowing the language always helps (although we know that Google Translate is there!) and it would be good if you learn a few basic words, like bom dia/ tarde/ noite (good morning/afternoon/night) in addition to special words like socorro (meaning help!) and ajude-me (help me).
Stay in a group at night
Portugal is famous for its nightlife and the buzz can just blow your mind! Well, we aren’t stopping you from partying but make sure you never step out alone. It’s always better to be in a group and keep your coordinator informed. Portuguese nightlife is surely spectacular, and some clubs stay hopping until the sun rises – so, go out and have fun!
Pack a pair of comfortable shoes
That’s one piece of advice you’ll thank us for, since exploring Portugal involves a lot of walking! The cobblestone streets of Lisbon & Porto may create unstable footing, and there are several roads that are slippery. Also, many coastal towns can be very windy, blowing sand onto the walkways and streets. Thus, we would suggest you to pack a pair of comfortable sneakers and slippers before you set out for Portugal.
Don’t hop on public transportation without paying
If you think that you can simply score a tram ride without paying, then you’re totally wrong! It’s the same for buses and trains as well. Not only is this practice extremely unethical but it can result in a hefty fine if you’re caught. And the police do make random checks, even stopping buses at night to ensure that everyone on board has a valid ticket.
Don’t pay a tip to anyone
Paying a tip, especially at the restaurants, is often considered as an insult. The waiters are usually pretty well paid, hence you can keep those extra bucks to yourself!
Nothing served on your table is for free!
It’s standard practice for waiters to bring you little dishes of olives, bread, cheese, and cold meats but they are not freebies unless they are part of a set menu. If you don’t want them, just politely send them back untouched and you won’t be charged.
Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen & shades!
The mornings and afternoons are usually pretty sunny, so it’s better if you apply sunscreen properly and keep your shades handy. Drink lots of water, to keep yourself hydrated, especially when you are out there for volunteer work.
Don’t miss out on football
Well, it’s needless to say that Portugal is absolutely crazy when it comes to football (Cristiano Ronaldo, after all, we guess you all know him!). If you are there in the country, join the locals for a live match or join pick up a ball for a game on the beach – it’s gonna be a worthy experience to cherish in the long run!
To say the least, Portugal is one of the friendliest countries in the world. However, knowing a little about local customs will help you feel more confident and make the journey smoother for you!
While your weekdays will be packed with actions, you can utilize the weekends and explore Portugal. If you are in Lisbon, wonder at the Torre de Belém and go for a Tram 28 ride crossing the hair-pin alleys of Escolas Gerais. You can head off to the little Alfama District and explore the tile-fronted chapels. And not to miss out, packed with al fresco cafes and international restaurants, the Bairro Alto is also the Lisbon’s top nightlife spot.
If you are in Porto, you must go for a wine tour and savor your taste-buds. Visit the museums or just chill on the beachside for a relaxing weekend.
Moreover, those who are volunteering in Lisbon can head off to Porto for the weekends, and vice-versa!
Apart from the above mentioned ones, here are a few suggestions that you can add to your travel bucket list. Take a quick look at these:
In case you wish to spend a weekend away from the crowds and experience the backcountry of cork trees, vineyards, and quaint rural areas, then head off to Alentejo. It is a vast, farm- and vineyard-covered rural region that spans roughly one-third of Portugal, but it is unfortunately often overlooked as a tourist destination. Explore Évora, a medieval town that has been marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and get amazed by visiting the gorgeous Temple to Diana (possibly constructed in the 1st century), and 16th-century Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones).
Chill at Cascais
Once a fishing village that served as a lookout for seafarers, Cascais now has become one of the most popular beach retreats in Portugal. Soak yourself in the laid-back vibes of this soothing seaside town which is only 45 minutes from Lisbon and the perfect escape on a hot summer day. Its old city center is embellished with patterned black and white stones like in Lisbon, and its streets are lined with boutiques and restaurants. You can go further from here by renting bikes to Boca do Inferno and Casa de Santa Maria.
No trip to Portugal can ever be complete without visiting Sintra. Famed for its picturesqueness and for its numerous historic palaces and castles, Sintra is located at a distance of about 30 km from Lisbon. Visit the eerily charming Quinta da Regaleira and its dark wells and caves, walk through the jaw-dropping Pena Palace, and visit the beautifully ornate Monserrate Palace. Head towards the coast to the westernmost point in continental Europe called Cabo da Roca and take a photo by its iconic lighthouse.
If you want your weekend to be all about ‘sun, surf & sand’ – then the best option is to board a train and head off to Algarve, in southernmost Portugal. If you’re searching for that quintessential crescent of Algarvian sand, make your way to Praia da Marinha in Lagoa, one of the Algarve’s most celebrated beaches. And don’t forget to binge on delicious seafood while you are here!
Hop to the islands of Azores
If you wanna leave the mainland for some island hopping, you can do that too! Mother Nature has created a land full of natural beauty, ready to be explored, in the blue immensity of the Atlantic Ocean: the Azores. With whale watching, diving, hiking, and a host of other adventure sports on offer, the Azores are a great destination for adrenaline junkies.
If you need any help while planning your weekend activities, then you can write to us at [email protected] and our Travel Expert will be more than happy to help in making your weekends amazing!
Of course, that’s a valid question to ask. After all, this is going to be one of the most eventful chapters of your life – so you need to take a proper decision about which organization you want to volunteer with.
In the last 11 years, Volunteering Solutions has hosted more than 13, 500 volunteers who worked dedicatedly to create an impact in the society.
Expert guidance & In-country Support Team: We believe in the saying, “Change begins with you” and hence, we try to provide the best facilities to our volunteers so that they can contribute in the most efficient manner. Volunteering Solutions has dedicated coordinators placed at each and every destination, who are there to help, guide, and train the volunteers to get accustomed to the norms and culture of a particular country. With proper accommodation arrangements and all facilities provided within them, VolSol makes sure of a comfortable and memorable sojourn for all of its volunteers.
A Learning Journey To Experience Inner & Outer Growth: Being a part of this meaningful journey, you not only do good to others but also undergo a process of self-growth. You’ll become a more compassionate person and learn to live a more sensible and humble. You’ll be grateful for whatever you have and realize how lucky you are – as there are many in this world who survive on barest minimum. You’ll understand the value of responsible tourism and witness the change that you can bring in, along with other volunteers.
To Meet Amazing People & Have Great Encounters: At the end of every journey, we are left with beautiful memories and some bonds worth cherishing. Similarly, while volunteering with us in Portugal, you’ll get the chance to make friends out of strangers, work and live with them, travel with them, share your thoughts and get to know their ideas – and probably, by the time your volunteering tryst comes to end, you’ll have a bunch of great friends who’ll paint your story with the most vibrant colors ever.
Travel Goals Meeting Career Benefits: You must be thinking how traveling can boost your career – well, once you complete your volunteering journey with us, you’ll be provided with a Certificate, that’ll immensely benefit you in the days ahead. And not just that, the entire work experience will be extremely enriching.
If there’s something that you think we’ve missed out, please let us know in the comment section below. If you have more queries, you can also drop us a mail at [email protected] and our Program Advisors will get back to.
In the meanwhile, you can also follow us on Instagram, and don’t forget to like our Facebook Page for more updates.
Riyanka is a traveler who is keen on exploring different parts of the world. She’s a travel blogger who’s equally passionate about photography. Her quest is to turn all her journeys into beautiful stories. Being a die-hard ‘mountain-aholic‘, her favorite destinations are all around the Himalayas! She can spend days gazing at the snow-capped mountains, binge on Maggi and lemon-honey-ginger tea, and reading Ruskin Bond books.
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