Placement at a glance

Age 18+ Contact us if you will be 17 on arrival.
Volunteer options A varied schedule is organised for the volunteer group which includes playwork,outdoor games,informal English teaching and occasional manual work and assistance to local charities.
Support Pre-departure helpdesk, in-country support team (drivers, housekeeper, coordinators) and 24 hour support during your stay.
Project location Projects in and close to Varna. The volunteer apartment is centrally located close to all shops and cafes and only 5 minutes walk from the beach.
Accommodation Volunteers stay together in dorm-style apartments and shared houses in Varna.
Working hours Variable part time hours depending on the week's schedule.
Language Bulgarian. You are not expected to know any Bulgarian, many Romany children have their own language and dialect, closer to Turkish.
Getting to project Varna is the best airport or try Bourgas further down the coast (for flights visit: skyscanner.net) this is the simplest way to arrive. Some volunteers fly to Sofia then take the train to Varna, £12, 7 hours.
Minimum stay 5 days.
Project operates June - September. Limited spaces. This project has fixed start/end days. Arrival day is Sunday, departure day can be Saturday or Sunday. Volunteers arriving Saturday can be met at the airport/train station as usual and then transferred to a pre-booked hostel of their choice. Hostelbookers.com and hotels.com are popular sites to prebook rooms.
When to apply Maximum group size is 5 volunteers. Call us now to enquire and reserve on 01603 280702. Current availability left arriving on: Sun 29th May: 2 spaces, Sun 5th June: 1 space, Sun 12th June: 1 space, Sun 19th June: 2 spaces, Sun 26th June: 2 spaces, Sun 3rd July: FULLY BOOKED, Sun 10th July: 1 space, Sun 17th July: FULLY BOOKED, Sun 24th July: FULLY BOOKED, Sun 31st July: 4 spaces, Sun 7th Aug: 2 spaces, Sun 14th Aug: 4 spaces, Sun 21st Aug: 3 spaces, Sun 28th Aug: 4 spaces, Sun 4th Sep: 3 spaces, Sun 11th Sep: 2 spaces, Sun 18th Sep: 1 space, Sun 25th Sep: 2 spaces. If your preferred dates are already full, contact us now to be put on our waiting list or take a look at our other group volunteer programme in Marrakech Morocco.
Costs £125 per week covers all accommodation and full support from the local volunteer co-ordinating team. Flights/food/local transport/personal spending excluded. Flights start at £90 return to Varna.
Airport Pick-up Service Available from Varna airport/train and bus station £20. Bourgas airport £55. Payable on arrival in British pounds to driver.

Accommodation info

  • Shop 2 minutes Shop 2 minutes
  • Bars 2 minutes Bars 2 minutes
  • Chemist 2 minutes Chemist 2 minutes
  • Bus 5 minutes Bus 5 minutes
  • Taxis 2 minutes Taxis 2 minutes
  • Cash machine 5 minutes Cash machine 5 minutes
  • Bank 5 minutes Bank 5 minutes
  • Pay phone 5 minutes Pay phone 5 minutes
  • Internet access 10 mins Internet access 10 mins
  • Laundry- 5 mins + small fee Laundry- 5 mins + small fee

Basics, what to take?

  • Summer visits: Duvet cover (not duvet) or summer weight sleeping bag and pillow.

More info

Accommodation Volunteers stay together in a modern volunteer apartment in Varna city centre in shared dorm style rooms.

Apartment has modern bathroom, lounge and communal kitchen.

Support: Back-up and support during your stay available from your English speaking co-ordinator.

Meet the project team

the team in bulgaria

You could not be better looked after in Bulgaria with help and support at every step of the way.

Our Bulgaria volunteer programme benefits from a knowledgeable volunteer co-ordinator, housekeeper and wonderful drivers, Dafinka, Giorgi and ‘big’ Giorgi. They will make your stay smooth and enjoyable from day one.

Programme-specific training resources are also provided. This will include inside knowledge about local projects with things to look out for when working with children, providing valuable transferable skills.

Your English speaking volunteer co-ordinator Giorgi carries out a variety of tasks to support your volunteer group which includes : escorting the volunteer group Monday to Friday to projects, on hand at projects to translate between volunteers/children and local staff, organising the weekly schedule for the group, organising project transport between the volunteer house and the projects and planning the following day’s activities with the children.

All volunteer help in preparation is appreciated – if you have materials laying around in your bag and an idea, pop up to the office in the evening to help him out. It’s more fun the next day when it’s your own activity!

Your super friendly housekeeper Dafinca is available 5 days/nights in 7 and most weekends, normally found in the kitchen/diner area, laundry or looking after the cat she rescued. Although not totally fluent in English yet, Dafinca is keen to learn basic English phrases as her daughter lives in the USA and she visits occasionally. She is also happy to assist any volunteer wanting to practice their Bulgarian pronunciation!

The benefits of your local in-country team

What is a volunteer coordinator?

Every project has a volunteer coordinator. This is the person responsible for organising your volunteering and looking after your welfare needs during your stay and they are all English speaking.

What experience do volunteer coordinators have?

All our coordinators are local people with knowledge and experience gained over many years of supporting volunteers. They have a deep knowledge of their local community, providing an invaluable source of information.

9 in 10 coordinators at our destinations have between 5 – 7 years experience and 7 in 10 of our coordinators have supported more than a thousand volunteers each (current as of August 2013).

If they don’t know where to buy Parmesan cheese when the shops are shut, no one will!

Who are volunteer coordinators?

At some destinations the volunteer coordinator will also be the manager/director of the project you are volunteering if you are based in one location. Examples of manager/coordinator projects will be Kenya-Mombasa/Peru/Cambodia/South Africa/Argentina/Uganda/India.

Some destinations require an independent volunteer coordinator because there are many projects volunteers go to. Independent coordinators will organise a variety of placements at many different projects in the local community throughout your visit. He/she will liaise with all the projects/schools/hospitals on your behalf to organise schedules for your volunteer group. Examples of volunteer programmes are: Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador.

Thailand and Nepal offer a mix of both.

Is there only one volunteer coordinator?

Coordinators have other staff supporting them, from drivers to housekeepers, and cooks and assistant coordinators.

Support team size varies between project type and time of year. The typical size of any support team will be 5 – 7. There may also be a long stay volunteer helping out

The Uganda school project had at last count 15 local staff supporting volunteers which ranged from security to water carriers!

What do coordinators do?

Airport pick up

Your in-country coordinator will organise your pick up and make sure you get to the volunteer house as smoothly as possible. If your coordinator does not meet volunteers from the airport, their trusted regular driver will be sent to meet you.

Liaise with local projects

If you are on a mixed volunteer programme (Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador) your coordinator will be regularly liaising with the projects you will be going to today, this week and next, organising suitable times and communicating schedules to the volunteer group.

Help organise specific placements

Coordinators will also ensure that volunteers with special preferences eg. medical/building can get involved as fully as possible in their preferred area of work.

Show you around and help you to locate things

Need a Sim card? Want to buy some paintbrushes for an art session tomorrow? Speak to your coordinator – they will advise on where, how to get there and prices.

Provide an orientation on arrival

Your coordinator or their local team will provide an orientation on arrival of what’s where and how to get started. This may take the form of a more formal meeting for all new arrivals by your coordinator or through informal advice for new arrivals from staff, long stay volunteers, handouts, information on the noticeboard as per needs dictate.

This will usually include any important cultural awareness if this may affect your stay. For example bare tummies should be covered in Ghana for example otherwise the children won’t stop giggling!

Help you when things go wrong

We are often asked what happens when things go wrong. Your local team are the experts on getting you the help you need immediately. They have seen it all before (in a nice way) and are well experienced in looking after hundreds of volunteers each year with all the usual niggles from sunburn to upset tummies. Whether you need a doctor in the night for sickness or you want to try out a new project or move bedroom or volunteer house.

If you have remembered to print off your project contact details and leave them with family (these are sent before travel to all volunteers) – your family can also contact the coordinator directly. Or they can call us and we can put them in touch.

But if you need further assistance or advice we are here to help you. Contact us straightaway and we might be able to make the niggly issues go away.

For any country related crises which may occur which would require volunteers to return home, your coordinator and their team will ensure everyone is safely escorted to the airport or Embassy as per the advice provided by each volunteer’s government together with any additional support that may be required.

Help you when you feel unwell

Coordinators are the first port of call if you think you may need medical assistance. They will organise an escort to the local clinic/hospital and make sure you are well treated. They can also contact home and will be happy to speak to parents to explain how you are. If you are volunteering alone, they may also stay with you in the hospital or request that a member of their staff and a volunteer keep you company as it can be quite daunting to be in a foreign hospital, even if it is only an infected mosquito bite!

Most health problems are minor and with a day or two’s bed rest either at the volunteer house or the local hospital and plenty of water, most volunteers are back to their normal selves again.

While on the subject of hospitals – make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover local medical bills and repatriation. In developing countries and where medical care is mostly private, it is not uncommon to be admitted into a private room for something which would be treated as an out-patient back home. Without insurance, hospital fees can be as much as £200 per day.

For doctors appointments when you only need a prescription, your coordinator will help you to locate the nearest doctor/clinic. For these it is often easier to pay on the spot and not claim on the insurance. Expect to pay approx. £5 – £15 per consultation and £5 – £20 for basic medication.

Organise excursions

Your coordinator knows all the best trips and best prices which volunteers over the years have participated on and recommended. If the options are not posted on a notice board ask your coordinator what is available and how to book. Typical prices across all destinations as a very rough guide: £30 – £40 for a day’s activity, £200 – £400 for a trek/budget safari for 3 – 5 days. Most volunteers go together in a group for more fun and get discounts. Additional trip discounts for volunteers are available in Ghana and Tanzania.

Return transfer back to the airport

Your coordinator can organise the return trip back to the airport for you, simply ask a few days before your flight. This is not automatically organised as many volunteers will have made friends and may leave the project a day or two earlier to sightsee before flying home, want to go shopping right up to the last minute or forget that the transfer was booked and have already jumped in a taxi!

Placement map

Call us today on 01603 280702

Image gallery

Bulgaria placement details

Here’s everything you need to know about our volunteer programme including how it works, how to get there and how to stay safe. This unique programme only accepts 5 volunteers per week and is filling up fast for July and August. Call us now on 01603 280702 to enquire and reserve.

About the Bulgaria project


Bulgaria is in Europe, a safe country to visit and the people are quite friendly. Bulgaria’s coast is also known as the the Algarve of Eastern Europe and attracts thousands of holiday makers every summer to its beaches including increasing numbers of British holidaymakers to the holiday resorts at Sunny Beach and Golden Sands, both close to Varna where the volunteer programme is based.

The Bulgaria volunteering program is organised by a dedicated local support team which organises placements for the volunteer team that are administered by the local council and municipality. For community work, children’s ages vary between between 4 to 8 and 12 and over.

In the summer, youth volunteer projects may also available. Youth volunteering groups provide an optional opportunity to work alongside local people and youth groups from beach clean ups to local arts festival promotions which can be great fun too and an opportunity to meet and make friends with local volunteers.


What is it like working with children?

Activities are mostly play or supervision based so anyone who likes playing games or setting up art and craft activities will feel comfortable and in the summer there is always another volunteer next to you so you won’t feel you are leading anything on your own unless you want to. No experience is required. Children’s backgrounds at different projects vary from marginalised Romany children to children with varying learning difficulties.

Can I organise outdoor games and teach sport?

Absolutely, although space may be limited at some projects. But sometimes even the simplest activities indoors can be great fun such as musical chairs or heading soft balls. Ask the the local team on arrival which of the following week’s projects have space for activities so you can prepare in advance. In the summer months, most centres encourage the children and adults to be taken to the beach for fresh air and some fun.

When will I be volunteering?

Community volunteering with children takes place on a part time basis between Monday and Friday on a part time basis according the local project and community needs and the group always travel together to the projects escorted by their English speaking coordinator. Volunteers can opt in and out of the schedule as preferred. There will also be occasions to travel further afield to reach projects or villages which receive few volunteers although these trips are always on a voluntary basis but may provide a unique experience to discover more of the country.

Self-directed health placements are also available for students and qualified nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and art therapists at community projects and residential homes. Further information is provided below.

Will I have free time?

Weekends are always free and with so many activities on offer and places to visit along the coast you will not be short of things to do. And of course, not forgetting the beach on your doorstep, the main attraction for all visitors to the coast. Scroll down to the Free time section for details on places to visit.

Free time in Bulgaria

There is plenty of time to explore Varna and take a tour both at the weekend and midweek between activities. It’s best to arrange after arrival as it’s more fun in a group with new friends you have met amongst the other volunteers.


Volunteers reach the sea at the end of their kayak tour along the Kamchiya river

Kamchiya Forest Reserve

Price from just £30

40 minutes south of Varna on the coast, Kamchiya forest reserve is a UNESCO biosphere and offers marked trails, boat tours and guided kayaking trips along the Kamchiya River. Meet in Varna for a full day’s kayak tour including training, kayaking, BBQ and beach walk (the river ends at the sea). Approx £30 including life-jackets. Discounts can sometimes be organised with a large enough volunteer group if taking a tour midweek. Speak to your coordinator about how to book.

Bring drinks, snacks, suncream, a second set of clothes and a towel.


Kavarna Bay


Price £5 with snack

Kavarna’s little beach and bay is a joy to spend a day at on a lazy summer weekend. The locals are friendly and there are fewer of the large hotels found elsewhere along the coast.

Cafes, restaurants and shops close by.

Make sure you bring enough suncream, beachwear and beach towels.


Sunny Beach, Burgas

Burgas beach

Travel costs only

Burgas beach in the main town is a draw for surfers because of the waves so if you want to have a go, hire a board at Morski Klub. The best beach along this stretch of coast is Sunny Beach (pictured) which attracts thousands of holidaymakers every year from all over Europe. Take a bus, approx. 20 miles north of Burgas but worth it! The programme’s regular taxi driver will be happy to quote you for a trip to Burgas and beyond which saves the effort of public transport.


Group on free walking tour of Varna

Free city walking tour

Price Free!

Check out the Free Varna walking tours to learn more about this city’s cultural roots and recent history and to get your bearings on where everything is in town.



Aquapolis water park, just up the road from Varna

Water parks

Free city walking tour

There are two water parks. The closest to Varna is Aquapolis (pictured) and Aqua Park to the south of Varna at Sunny beach near Nessebar village.

The parks provide enough activities for an afternoon when you’ve done the beach and there are cafes for snacks and drinks inside. Popular with families on holiday in nearby hotel.


Pop in to Varna cathedral when you are in town

Varna Cathedral

Free entry

Free entry or £3 to take photos.

The exterior hides a wonderful interior of ornate orthodox icons. It is well worth a visit if you are interested in churches and local culture.

The cathedral is on the way to many projects as the usual meeting point after lunch, so it is likely that if you do not make a visit at the weekend, you can fit in a quick visit during a lunch break.


Original staircase of the monks at Aladzha cave monastery

Aladzha Cave Monastery

Entrance £2.50

2 miles inland from the Golden Sands beach resort is a good example of a Bulgarian monastery cave dates from the 12th century and it is believed to have survived until the early 1700s. To get the most out of a visit, climb the stairs around the complex. There is a good sea view from the top. The monastery is a worthwhile half day visit for anyone who enjoys history and atmosphere.

Easy to reach by bus and restaurant nearby. Or take a taxi (£2 each if shared between 4) to get there and to get back to Varna, take one of the footpaths down to the beach at Golden Sands resort and take bus from there.


Nessebar, is often called the Pearl of the Black Sea and has been compared to Dubrovnik in Croatia

Nessebar village

Bus £5

When you have visited Varna and the beaches, Nessebar makes a good half day trip further south along the coast. It is an ancient town dating back to 425 BC when it was a Greek colony and important trading centre. It was then fought over by waves of different Byzantine and Bulgarian invaders. Following capture by the Turks it’s importance lessened. The wooden houses came into fashion in the town in the 1800s and are a popular draw for day tripping tourists.

In 1983, Nessebar joined the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

More information

Can I choose what I want do?

A varied weekly schedule is organised for your volunteer group and posted on the noticeboard based on project availability and local requests for volunteers. Volunteering with children is available most day Monday to Friday, other non-children project work is occasionally available as an add on optional extra to enjoy a wider experience of the country and people.

What can you tell me about a couple of projects?

One project, Gavroche, in the city centre works with children from the Roma community on the edge of town. The children arrive by mini bus for a half day of activities and games. The Roma still live in inadequate housing, some in shacks. Occasionally volunteers are offered to ride back in the minibus when the children return home. Some children arrive with signs of physical abuse and it is not uncommon to see children with cigarette burns on their arms by their parents or guardians.

Gavroche provides a variety of different types of support not only for the Roma but for victims of child abuse and works closely with social services, also providing training and workshops. The aim for the volunteer programme at Gavroche is to work with the Roma children to help build self confidence and help them integrate better socially. Gavroche are proud to have had Prince Charles make a visit in 2003. Original Volunteers hopes with volunteer support the programme can be extended to include the most isolated children and teenagers who do not currently attend projects in Varna.

Activity sessions consist of either, art and craft around the table using the materials your volunteer group provides or supervising the children at the local playpark. Both are equally important activities for the children’s development. Many do not have space at home to play freely, in addition, some of the staff may be untrained volunteers themselves so can appear disengaged. By helping the children to play nicely and share equipment under your volunteer group’s supervision you know you will be making a huge difference to their personal development which will help them to intergrate when they are ready for school.

Another popular project is the learning disability centre in Varna in the basement of the municipal hospital. Fun and play is the main focus. You are also likely to meet other local and foreign volunteers during holiday periods. During the summer the local council prepare a programme of activities for the children to take part in outdoors.

As a volunteer it can be quite fun going around and exploring as a large group. Two established summer activities include putting on a theatrical performance and an art exhibition. Some volunteers in 2014 also helped run a fundraising stall by the seafront in the Sea Gardens.

Although basic resources from pens to felt tips and paper can be bought locally after arrival, you may want to take unusual art/craft or simple science equipment sets which can be used up in the session as storage is limited and all materials are taken to and from the projects each day. Play and fun sports equipment is always handy to take and there is also more chance of it being reused after your visit. For example, Twister, space hoppers, children’s darts set (the safe sticky version!). There may be occasions to teach English informally to older children between play activities, if you would like to know how to teach read our guide for novice TEFL teachers.


Materials and mini craft projects are always in short supply so bring what you can from home. It needn’t cost the earth – a box of finished toilet rolls could be useful to a variety of art projects.


With disabled children it is the one to one attention that is most needed. Volunteers fill a much needed gap as there is never enough funding to have a ratio of paid local staff for one to one.

Can I make use of my nursing/physio/occupational/art therapy skills? Or gain experience in a related field?

Currently there are two project centres for the elderly which offer hands on experience alongside qualified and experienced staff. These two placements are ideal for anyone interested in or already working in a health related field.

Can you tell me more about the two centres?

The first centre is in central Varna opposite the beach. A state-run institution, there are two wings, one caring for 100 elderly residents and the second for 40 disabled residents, currently aged between 50 and 97 years old. Residents stay in dorm style rooms. Each section has a broad permanent team of qualified nurses, a doctor, therapist, physio and a team of healthcare assistants. No dementia is present and the centre is exclusively run by the state with no fees charged for residents. This does however mean that conditions are basic and will not match those found in similar institutions in the UK, hence the need for volunteer assistance to come in and brighten up the residents’ experience. In the summer everyone is encouraged to get out as much as possible ideally to the beach opposite or for walks or wheelchair strolls along the promenade and gardens. The bus stop is only 200 metres away or volunteers can get off the bus sooner and walk to the centre along the beach itself.

The second centre is across town and provides a home for 107 elderly residents, 50% of which suffer from Alzheimers and dementia. It is 60% funded by the state, with the remaining 40% coming from resident’s contributions. Because of the extra funding meals are provided for volunteers. There is a great need here not only for care but group and art therapy. Similar to the beach front centre, a broad range of qualified staff are present and there is an English speaking doctor on site. As for many institutions in Bulgaria, facilities and staff may be present but there is still an air present of old fashioned institutions rather than the carpeted, cushioned homes and private bedrooms found in many care homes in the UK.

Why are volunteers needed to work with the elderly?

Both centres have been trying to encourage and promote volunteering themselves. Despite efforts and a strong volunteer force in Bulgaria working in projects for children, in 6 years there has been not one single volunteer, Bulgarian or foreign who has offered to volunteer to work with the elderly. On the first visit the OV team made, the staff’s faces lit up at the prospect of just a single volunteer, not least a student nurse. Despite some basic facilities and qualified staff, both centres still have an air of the communist institution rather than the carpeted, cushioned lounges that can be found in UK care homes. It is hoped that volunteers can help improve every day life for residents even if it is not possible to change the physical environment for the time being.

Do I need experience for working in a health or care setting?

No experience is needed but after being introduced to the staff on day one, you will need to be self-directing your experience in the same way you would volunteering in a similar setting in the UK as it is unlikely your coordinator will be able to stay with you throughout the day to translate and guide you. Few staff if any speak English so it will be useful to learn some Bulgarian greetings and phrases and take a dictionary and phrasebook with you.


The disability project located at the city hospital.


Art and craft is popular, here children at the Gavroche project.

What is a typical week’s community schedule?

The weekly schedule for the community programme is usually posted on Friday or first thing Monday, ask your co-ordinator if you can’t see it displayed.

For a typical day if starting at the Roma day centre, volunteers leave the volunteer accommodation in a group at around 09:30 in the morning with your co-ordinator on foot or by bus returning at around 3/4pm. 

Usually the volunteer group returns to the volunteer accommodation at the end of the volunteering day and heads to the beach which is a short stroll away, before freshening up and heading back into town to eat or relax at around 6/7pm. There is a kitchen at the accommodation for those preferring to cook.

Activities for the children are usually planned the day before or in the morning just before you head off. Your co-ordinator will attempt to do this for the group in the absence of assistance but coming from the UK and beyond, it is expected that volunteers will produce most of the ideas for activities! So don’t be shy and have a go at planning one or two art and craft ideas or a song with actions or outdoor team game. 

Please note that the schedule below is only an example of what the schedule was for most of 2015 and should not be taken as fixed. Like any volunteering schedule both abroad and in the UK, schedules can change depending on the requests of projects and their other commitments. This can sometimes be at the last minute with no opportunity to re-organise a new project for volunteers in time. By contrast, new projects can sometimes replace existing ones on the schedule when help is urgently needed. During 2014, volunteers took off a few days to help decorate a disabled children’s centre and with the Riding for the Disabled organisation.

Morning: Roma day centre project, 3 – 6 year olds. Afternoon: Varna children’s home.

Morning: Roma day centre project. Afternoon: Free.

Morning: Play and games at disabled children’s centre. Afternoon: Fun and games at shanty town just south of Varna.

Morning: Roma day centre project, 3- 6 year olds. Afternoon: Different group same project.

Full day: Flood clear up work in Asparovo community

Free time. Spend the weekend on the beach or explore the area. Volunteers normally get together to explore as a group. Scroll down to the Free time section for popular options.

How will I get to the projects each day?

The volunteer group travels together to each project and this is organised by the volunteer coordinator who escorts the group together from the volunteer accommodation to the project. Transport costs are shared by the volunteer group. The method of transport depends on the location of the project visited. This can be shared taxi, bus, train or on foot. Most sessions last about 2 hours, excluding travel time and your co-ordinator aims to include two activity sessions a day. Some of the projects further afield may require more travelling but the added dimension, scenery and new faces and friends can be worth a longer journey time.

£23 – £25 per week is usually enough to cover weekly transport costs in the Varna area. If travelling further afield, transport might be a pound or two more so if you would rather opt out of an activity further afield that’s fine, but the experience of seeing more of the country should make up for the extra travelling time and cost.


A competition to make the highest tower using straws at the children’s home in Varna.


For shanty children, volunteer visits are the only activity the children experience without prejudice.

Are meals provided?

This is a self-catering project. There are plenty of cafes and bars to eat out and supermarkets within easy reach to cook and prepare meals at the volunteer house if you prefer. If eating out, a generous slice of freshly baked pizza is about 70 British pence, similar for a kebab. There are plenty of vegetarian options available in Varna. If you want home comforts there is a Mcdonalds and a Costa Coffee on the main promenade in Varna town, although rarely have volunteers felt the need to visit. The biggest restaurant chain is ‘Happy’ and can be found all over Varna. Popular with volunteers for a special night out, they are clean and modern serving a mixture of fast food and healthy snacks.

What do I need to take for the children?

Unusual art and craft activities are a good safe investment but leave anything which requires careful instruction and there’s no need to spend a lot of money! The younger children will find a toilet roll, glue stick and coloured wool far more interesting to put something together following your example than a beautiful picture to colour in with glitter pens! At the Roma project, you can expect between 10 and 12 children on average. In the park at the Roma centre there is a sand pit so you may like to bring one sand play item (one should be enough or they’ll be too many brought over) for the children to play with.

What do I need to take for my stay?

Between June and August take a single duvet cover to sleep inside or a very light summer weight sleeping bag with a pillow for comfort. Although there is no malaria in the area as it is quite forested in the surrounding areas and humid it is a good idea to use insect repellent for days when there can be midges.

Clothing-wise, check the weather before you arrive and take what is comfortable. As with all volunteering, best to leave your very short shorts and cropped tops for the beach and stick to comfortable appropriate clothing when volunteering. Knee length shorts or loose trousers and t-shirts in the summer is ideal.

A daypack is essential at all times to carry equipment and a drink to projects and a money belt under a T-shirt is practical to keep money safe. You should wear your daypack on your front in crowded areas.

How will I get back to the airport?

Your co-ordinator will help organise a return transfer with the team’s regular driver to Varna airport/train station or Burgos airport. Simply ask a couple of days before your departure.

How will I pay for my project?

An invoice will be sent by email shortly after we have received your flight. Click on Pay Now to see what the invoice covers and the dates. This is the easiest way to pay. Email us if you are travelling soon and have not received an invoice. And don’t worry if you forget, if we have your flights already – we’ll send you a reminder before you go!

What happens if I book with a friend?

Let us know at the time of booking if you are travelling with others. Everyone staying at the same volunteer accommodation volunteers together, that way you can volunteer together.

What do I need to know?

You need to know that Bulgarians shake their heads from side to side when they mean yes and nod when they mean no. It can get more confusing when they swap this around for their foreign visitor to help them! Although most young people and staff in bars and restaurants understand English here are some useful words and phrases you may want to use everyday: Kak-see – How are you? Kaksee-vadush? What’s your name? Bloggo-daree-a? Thank you. Nareecebeeram – I don’t understand. Pree-at-no-mee-a – Nice to meet you. Angleeski – English.

You will hear locals say “super super” a lot, so if anything’s good or you understand something you can use “super super” too. If you see anyone rolling their eyes – they’re not bored or disinterested, they are engaged in the moment and following the conversation. So be careful you don’t over react or pull a face when someone rolls their eyes, it should not be confused with the Anglo-saxon custom.


The beach is close by wherever you are! Here volunteers at the Kamchiya Forest Park.


Volunteers take a kayak trip in the Kamchiya park.

How much free time will I have?

The volunteer schedule is part time and organised between Monday and Friday so there is plenty of time to explore and relax. There is occasionally a day or afternoon off in the week to relax or take a short tour. Because of the proximity of the beach you may find you can sometimes squeeze in the beach mid week between activities and use your weekends to explore local places of interest.

Further afield, volunteers have taken short trips to Bucharest in Romania and Istanbul which you may like to do during a weekend or after your stay on the programme. Scroll down to the Free time section for more ideas.

How will I keep in touch with family?

Unlock your phone before travel and get a new SIM on arrival. Mtel and Viacom are the most widely used by visitors. You may need to show your passport as ID to buy a SIM. There are still internet cafes in Varna to stay in touch with home. 

Do I need a visa?

European passport holders only require a valid passport to enter the country and stay for up to 90 days. European citizens staying longer register with the police and request a permit. If you hold a different passport and require a visa to enter Bulgaria, we can provide you with a supporting letter of introduction to assist your visa application. Allow an extra 2 to 3 weeks to prepare this for you.

How do I get there?

There are many ways to travel to Bulgaria, with flights starting from £90 return. The simplest way is to fly to Varna. We will organise your airport pick up and transfer to the volunteer house automatically for £20. A cheaper alternative in high season is to fly to Sofia with one of the many budget airlines including Easyjet and take the train or bus (7 hours, approx £12 each way).

A pick up can be organised from Varna train or bus station if you overland and there are regular departures from Sofia throughout the day. An alternative city to fly to is Bourgas, the next town 2 hours down the coast from Varna an airport pick from Bourgas costs £55 which can be shared by up to 3 passengers depending on luggage!

A more straightforward option of flying to Varna yet still saving the pennies is to buy a return to Sofia but add on a one way flight from Sofia to Varna for about £50 then take the coach or train back to Sofia after your stay. There is a direct coach which drops off at Sofia airport.

What happens on arrival?

Our regular driver will be there to meet you (Varna airport/Bourgas airport/Varna train station) and take you to the volunteer accommodation. They always have a sign so you won’t miss them. They will also wait if your flight or train is delayed.

What do parents need to know?

Although the programme accepts volunteers of all ages, being in Europe it is ideal for novice volunteers, or those looking for worthwhile volunteering closer to home without long flights and for those travelling around Europe who would like to include some volunteering. For worried parents, the English speaking volunteer coordinator is there almost every step of the way, supporting our volunteers to have the best time volunteering and helping with any matter which may arise, from organising free time activities or showing where the nearest supermarket or cash machine is. They are there to make the experience as smooth as possible.

What level of support is provided?

The local support team assists the volunteer group to travel to projects and is there to help you with any advice and assistance you need from volunteering to arranging a doctors appointment. The permanent support team are local people who know the area inside out and will advise on all the best places to eat, shop and explore. They will also assist you to arrange trips in your free time.

How can I look after my health?

If you are a European citizen, take a European Insurance Card (EHIC) with you which will entitle you to the same immediate medical attention available to Bulgarians. If you are in the UK, apply online through the NHS website for your EHIC card which lasts for 5 years and will cover you for all future holidays in Europe. However, as for any trip abroad, even with the EHIC card, you should also purchase travel insurance which will provide a flight home for more serious illness or accident.

Tap water is generally safe to drink although it might not taste as good as home although the frequent Cheshma (drinking fountains) offer fresh, pure water to drink. Bulgaria does suffer from a stray dog problem, although a rabies jab is not required as the risk is low and all main hospitals have specialist rabies clinics. Most stray dogs tend to stay away from people.

Although Bulgaria is not a malaria region, like Scottish forests in the summer, they do have mosquitos, so it is advisable to bring a repellent to prevent annoyance. However the most common irritation in the summer months will be over exposure to the sun if you have spent a day on the beach. In the summer, make sure you take it easy with gradual exposure, take a white T-shirt to cover up until you are used to the sun, use a high factor sun cream and drink plenty! You won’t want to miss volunteering in the week because of sunburn at the weekend!

How can I travel with other volunteers?

We will Buddy you up with another volunteer so you can fly out together, just let us know at the time of booking. Even if you do travel alone, the local team are there and you will rarely be the only volunteer as new volunteers arrive every day or two. You can also:

  • Add yourself to the Buddy List to meet other volunteers, travel together or simply find a familiar face when you arrive.
  • Join the volunteer community on Facebook and like the page to connect with other volunteers, receive recent pictures, stories and updates.

What happens after you have booked?

  • As soon as you have booked with the once-only £125 registration fee (this covers one or more projects within a year), you will receive a welcome email confirming your booking and explaining in more detail how to get organised for you trip. The Bulgaria programme is very popular for those wanting a great volunteer experience closer to home so early booking is essential. This programme has fixed dates and extremely limited spaces. Please check after booking that our confirmation email has your chosen dates before buying flights.
  • We will Buddy you up with another volunteer going to the Bulgaria volunteer programme arriving around the same time so you should have a good chance to travel together if you wish to
  • You will also receive a Welcome Pack with some useful information which will include project specific advice on what to take, how to prepare and travel health recommendations

Below is an example timeline for a volunteer travelling in July 2017.

  • As soon as possible : After registering and you have received confirmation by email, get flights to Bulgaria. Flights cost £90 to £120 return if booked in advance with the budget airlines. The simplest way to fly is to Varna if this is your first time volunteering/travelling abroad. If you are travelling overland by train or coach from elsewhere, shortly before you travel we will put you in touch with your in-country volunteer coordinator to organise a train station pick up.
  • Add yourself to the Buddy List to meet other volunteers, travel together or simply find a familiar face when you arrive.
  • Join the volunteer community on Facebook to see recent pictures from projects and other interesting stories and updates
  • May : send us a copy of your CRB, or if you do not have a recent CRB, please apply for a Police Check – we will send you more information on how to do this after booking. You will also require a medical certificate, allow plenty of time for this as some doctors are either reluctant or can take their time to prepare one for you.
  • June : Purchase travel insurance and apply for a medical certificate from your doctor (this is required for all volunteers in Bulgaria regardless of the volunteer organisation you book though) See our travel health section for more information on jabs.
  • No visa is required before travel to Bulgaria for European passport holders for stays up to 90 days. If you require a tourist visa to enter the country – contact us if you require letters of introduction which we can prepare for you
  • As soon as you have flights to Bulgaria: Email us your flight so we can prepare the local team for your arrival and pick up. Volunteers flying to Sofia airport will still need to send us flights to confirm their place on the team and approximate arrival in Bulgaria. Let us know which train or coach you intend to take and allow plenty of extra time between arrival at the airport, transferring to the train/bus station and purchasing tickets.
  • At anytime : pay for your volunteer programme – we will send you an invoice by email to pay online – don’t worry we will send you a reminder if you forget as long as we have your flights or dates already!
  • We will organise your pick up and transfer when you arrive.

Bulgaria at a glance

Bulgaria is a great option if you’re looking for a programme which offers you a beach location with volunteering. Alternatively you may be on a tight budget as flights to Bulgaria start at around £90 return if bought in advance.

Bulgaria is a modern, easy going nation of 7.36 million with a social culture, despite its geographical position, more similar to Northern Europe than it’s Mediterranean cousins. Since the fall of communism in 1989, the people have embraced democracy and a market-free economy. Bulgaria has increasingly become a tourist destination for visitors from Western Europe both at the beaches in the summer and at its winter ski resorts.

In the summer Varna effectively become the summer capital drawing everyone to the beach from the family to the in crowd from the capital and wealthy tourist from Eastern Europe. The summer holiday season lasts from June to September and the temperature in the region turns sub-tropical with the sea water averaging 23 – 27 degrees Celcius. The weather is generally warm or mild until the end of October and occasionally into the first week of November. Temperatures in the winter however can plummet to a staggering minus 25 Celcius so do pack your warmest winter clothes if visiting between December and March prepared for snow with super padded jackets, extra thermal underclothes and snowboots or wellington boots. In April and May it can start to be milder but expect frequent showers so bring a jumper and anorak and umbrella with you to be on the safe side.

Bulgaria specific questions

Do I need experience?
No experience is required to be successful on the volunteer programme. Whether you work on the health care programme or the teaching and play work programme, everyone is welcomed to come and have a go.

When do I choose what I will be doing?
For volunteers on the health care programme it is expected that there will be some pre-agreed hours and that for the purpose of getting into a routine and the benefit of patient care that no more than 2 centres are visited during your stay. It might be possible commitment permitting to add on the occasional non-health project between times.

For teaching/playwork a schedule is organized each week according to the request of the local projects. The aim is to provide as varied a schedule as possible which will be of benefit to the children/adults attending and to volunteers.

How do the health care placements work?
To get the most out of your visit, a minimum of 2 weeks is preferred to allow for a period of settling in although many volunteers will only stay one. Two weeks are recommended for health volunteers in case of delays and schedule changes by the institutions they are volunteering at. In the event of any changes, health volunteers are invited to participate on the community programme. On arrival it is expected that volunteers will shadow staff for between 1 and 2 days and help with non-medical/health aspects, for example at meal times or taking a patient/resident outside in their wheelchair for some fresh air. Following supervision and assessment by the senior nurse and doctor in charge, a more active role in all aspects may be encouraged according to your skill set and confidence.

How can I prepare for volunteering?
It is a really good idea to learn some basic phrases, buy a phrasebook and perhaps a guidebook for the area to familiarize yourself.

What should I be aware of?
There can be pickpocketing in the summer months so be careful to keep your bag on your front in crowds.

The architecture can be strange for British visitors, still reminiscent of the Communist/Russian style with long streets of grey concrete tower blocks and the odd Communist statue here and there. Hopefully the location of the volunteer house in a better part of town close to the holiday resorts, the volunteering itself, Varna shopping area and beach in the summer will make up for the tower blocks on the other side of the city!

I would like to fundraise for the projects specifically – what do they need?
One of the projects is raising money for a visual-stimuli room, their target is £2000 pounds.

Will I be met on arrival?
All volunteers are met at the airport or train station in Varna on arrival, or Bourgas airport further down the coast.

What do I need to take?
Do bring conservative clothes for volunteering with children – a T-shirt (not strappy vests) and jeans or knee length shorts are acceptable in the summer months. For health placements bring your own uniform if you have one from home or use an Original Volunteers T-shirt so you are easily identifiable.

Where will I be staying?
Volunteers on both placements share the volunteer apartment together in Varna city centre.

Is Bulgaria safe?
Very. There is nothing that will happen or could occur any differently than would occur in England. One volunteer described Varna like Brighton if it had a sandy tree lined beach, hot weather and warm sea.

Do I need a visa?
Bulgaria is now part of the European Union. European passport holders do not require a visa to enter.

Are there fixed arrival dates?
The Bulgaria programme has fixed start days and limited spaces (max 5) so early booking is essential. The programme runs from June to September. Start days are Sunday (or Saturday), departing Saturday or Sunday.

I am worried about travelling on my own – can I buddy up with someone?
Yes we can buddy you up, just let us know at the time of booking. But if you are travelling alone, don’t panic, most volunteers travel alone and this will be their first experience of volunteering abroad.

Will I need any jabs?
Only the usual boosters you would need from time to time in the UK. There isn’t any malaria in Bulgaria but they still have mozzies/midges from the surrounding forests so it is essential to get a good strong repellent in case you need it.

How will I get back to the airport?
Your support team will organise a taxi back, or with the driver if he is picking someone else up. Alternatively the journey back to Varna airport can be made easily by taxi direct from the volunteer house for about £15.

Latest reviews

Average Review Rating: from 2 reviews.

Angela Coren – Bulgaria

Here's my review of my time in Bulgaria. Bulgaria was a surprise, I wanted to do something in Europe then found the project on the OV website and booked straight away. I learnt a lot during my stay especially about the suffering of the Roma gypsy people, not just in Bulgaria but in the region as a whole. It has defi...

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Leah Maxwell – Review

Why did you want to volunteer? To travel and put something back by helping others. Do you feel you made a difference, how? I think we helped every project, it was a great team and we did lots of interesting activities with the children. What did you do for fun? Nights out in Varna centrum and the beach front b...

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