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How to Volunteer in Latin America

How can I stay and eat for free when traveling by volunteering?

It seems to me as if your question is about how to extend your travels and limiting the costs of such by volunteering and that you are not looking for information on how to save the world. Good, I can help here.

It has been my experience that work/ trade opportunities are virtually everywhere when traveling.

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How can I stay and eat for free when traveling by volunteering?


It seems to me as if your question is about how to extend your travels and limit the costs by volunteering rather than how you can save the world through being an international volunteer. Good, I can help here.

It has been my experience that work/ trade opportunities are virtually everywhere when traveling. What business would not want free employees that they only need to house and/ or feed? In point, if you trade work for a place to stay you are limiting a business’ need to hire paid staff — and businesses all over the world seem to like this. So there is an entire world of opportunity out there for the traveler who is willing to share their time, talent, and effort for the necessities they need to live and travel.

How to find work/ trade opportunities

There are a few sects of employers all around the world who tend to be willing to take in travelers in exchange for work.  The below list shows just a few examples, when traveling more will appear if you make your intentions openly known.

  1. Hostels/ Hotels– Probably the most promising chance of finding volunteer work on the road is at hostels and hotels. The staff of many hostels around Latin America are unpaid traveler, who stopped in for a night and did not leave. Often, the hostel will just provide a free bed, but sometimes they also pay a living stipend for food and other expenses.If you are adept at dealing with tourists and can speak multiple languages (in Latin America, Spanish and English are a must) then you should flourish at this line of work. You could dot your path of travel all across Latin America from hostel job to hostel job.

    To get a job at a hostel that will provide you with free accommodation just ask the owner or current staff, look for signs around the reception desk saying that they are looking for volunteers, look on Couchsurfing.org message boards, or post on CS or other popular travel message boards making your intentions known. These jobs are not difficult to get, I have taken them all over the world.

  2. Farm work- This work is usually pretty physically demanding, but it often provides both a place to sleep and food. By volunteering on farms you can easily travel through the countryside of Latin America and stashing virtually all of your funds.To find a job on a farm, register for the WOOFing program, look on traveler message boards, or get on a bike and ride through the countryside offering your services.
  3. Teaching English- Many schools in Latin America would like to have native English speaking teachers but cannot afford to pay them. Some offer volunteer opportunities and offer prospective teachers a place to stay in exchange for sharing their language skills. I would say that asking around as you are traveling or searching online is the best way to come into a volunteer English teaching job in Latin America. Also, again, make use of the traveler message boards.

The benefits of trading work for room and board when traveling

Trading work for room and board is one of the best ways to keep the costs of travel minimal when on the road. The only thing that could be better is getting paid for your work, but, as the old adage goes, “saving a dollar is often the same as making a dollar.” If you can reduce your costs of travel down to the bare minimum then you could travel virtually forever. Trading work for a room and/ or board is a truly clutch way to turn a trip into a lifestyle.

By working when traveling you are also given a closer look at the place you are moving through, you are given the plane through which to meet people, make friends, really see the underbelly of where you stand, and to break out of the tourist bubble.

As I travel, I often mix work/trade deals in with working for pay. If I can go through a day without leaking any money, if I can learn a little more about a place or a trade by exchanging my labor, then I am meeting the goals of my travels.

Links and resources for finding volunteer jobs in Latin America

  • WWOOfing program– International organic farming work/ trade database.
  • Couchsurfing message boards- Post on these message boards in the places where you stay when traveling. You could come up with something.
  • Lonely planet thorntree- I have actually gotten jobs (paying ones even) through these forums.
  • Vagabond Journey job board- Coming soon! We will soon have a job board on Vagabond Journey that specializes in pairing up travelers with employers.

In all, if you travel gregariously — talking and joking with everyone that you meet — and keep asking for work, you will find it. Work for room and board trades are common throughout Latin America, finding a place that will keep you there for your labor is not difficult to do. The world is made for vagabonding.

Walk Slow,


Original question about how to volunteer in Latin America

My friend and I have really been wanting to travel to Latin American and volunteer. We dont have much money and would like to be able to stay for free and eat for free. She has a degree in Zoology from LSU and I have an AA. And am skilled in art…artandelizabeth.com, could you help us?

Thank you,


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Filed under: Central America, Travel Help, Volunteering, Work

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

3 comments… add one

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  • joan pinegar May 20, 2011, 11:36 pm

    i have a fixed income of 1,600. is it reasonable that my 12 year old son and i could travel latin america indefinitely on this amount of cash? i was thinking i’d drive my vehicle-a full sized truck with a camper top-and possibly live in it for a good deal of the time.

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com May 21, 2011, 7:11 am

      Yeah, for sure. I lived very well with a wife and daughter for well under $800 per month in Mexico and even less in Central America. Would recommend ditching the truck and camper though, as it could prove to be a greater expense and even a hassle, not to mention a security risk if parking in undesignated locations.

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  • Catherine D June 15, 2011, 2:00 pm

    Hi there,

    Check out “WWOOFing”

    It’s a network that puts you in contact with organic and sustainable farmers who need help on a farm, garden etc and will trade housing and food for help! Some places are only looking for a few hours a day, leaving lots of time to explore.

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