Volunteer in the heart of Ecuador helping young and vulnerable children to thrive. Choose from two exciting and rewarding projects based in the stunning sub-tropical mountain city of Quito.
(i) Volunteer with children in a busy state-run nursery helping with activities and general daycare for under 5s
(ii) Volunteering with disabled children and young adults with cerebral palsy whose low-income families cannot afford private treatments. Help with playtimes, planning art and craft activities, meal times, physiotherapy and more.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to get organised for a placement in Ecuador, including visa information and what you can do in your free time.
What’s it like to volunteer in Ecuador?
Offering vibrant cultures amidst breathtaking volcanic landscapes, Ecuador will give you plenty to see and do. Most volunteers start at a friendly day care nursery in the country’s capital. Helping with the everyday running of the centre, including running after the little children, helping with table top activities or in the kitchen, this is a great way to let this incredibly friendly country and it’s people get under your skin.
The day care centre provides a day time shelter, education and nutritional food for local children who may come from low-income households or those who for various reasons cannot care for their children. The staff also work with parents to improve the quality of life for families in the area through health and social care initiatives.
Volunteers with experience or an interest in special needs education or physiotherapy can help at a day centre for children and young people with cerebral palsy aged 2 to 25.
There are more projects available throughout Ecuador for volunteers who have got used to being in their Spanish speaking environment. After a month and perhaps some Spanish lessons you may be ready for a conservation or community project on the coast or in the tropical forests. The local team will help you prepare should you decide to move on to a second adventure.
How safe is Ecuador?
Ecuador is a fabulously friendly country which welcomes the visitor warmly. Visitors to Ecuador generally report no problems.
What do I need to take?
Clothes: Quito has changeable weather between 10 and 20 Celsius, so check the weather forecast before travelling. You will usually need clothes for all seasons. Most volunteers in Quito find jeans, trainers, T-shirt and a fleece/hoodie with anorak practical as a minimum for both volunteering and free time.
For work at the nursery: Art and craft materials suitable for under 5s can be useful. The most usual activities carried out most of the year will be drawing, colouring in and sticking shapes onto paper, so anything which is slightly unusual could be appreciated. One volunteer took a playdough recipe and interesting shape cutters, buying the flour and food colouring in Quito. This was something the children hadn’t seen before.
For work with disabled children: Art and craft ideas for all ages welcomed! Painting, sticking and colouring-in will be the most typical activities offered throughout the year. It will be fantastic to provide more interesting and unusual activities. For example, why colour when a packet of drinking straws and masking tape can be turned into towers, with children working together in pairs or competitively in teams to try to reach the ceiling first? A quick search on You Tube for art and craft ideas and team games will produce thousands of results, many videos created these days by children so no excuses for not feeling confident or artistic enough!
Volunteers may like to make a donation of a useful aid specifically designed for children and young adults with cerebral palsy although you are not expected to but many volunteers ask about bringing something useful.
Will I be safe in Quito?
You will be perfectly safe in Quito. All volunteers start their stay, usually up to the first 4 weeks, with a host family. This will help your experience feel more homely, with a ready-made family around you. You will also have the services of the volunteer programme director and his team who will introduce you to your chosen area of work and provide any advice you require during your stay in Ecuador.
The local volunteer support team have been supporting many hundreds of volunteers before you so you will be in a great position. The host families used have all been checked and verified by the support team to ensure your comfort and support.
Other volunteer opportunities
Longer stay volunteers over 4 weeks or with a basic grasp of Spanish can add on conservation projects in the jungle and mountains and cultural exchange projects and beach clean up work in coastal villages. There are even projects on the Galapagos islands working with children and in conservation.
Because these additional projects are often only Spanish-speaking, if you do not have a basic grasp of Spanish, lessons can be arranged in Quito beforehand to help prepare you. Allow £5 – £7 per hour for classes depending on frequency and group size, your support team will advise and arrange for you.
Do I need a visa?
British passport holders do not require a visa to enter Ecuador for stays up to 90 days. Other nationalities should check with their nearest Ecuadorian Embassy/Consulate.
What happens on arrival?
Since the new airport being opened 1.5 hours outside the city it is now more practical and affordable for all visitors to board the airport shuttle bus that heads into the city, popular with all international travellers.
Tickets can be bought at the airport or online from www.aeroservicios.com.ec approx $8 US Dollars (approx £5). Aeroservicio buses depart every 30 minutes 24 hours a day.
Cheaper buses also run to the bus terminal in Quito for $2 US Dollars but will stop regularly at every street corner along the way which will be an experience albeit longer.
At the main bus terminal, one of the support team can meet you personally (we will put you in touch with them before travel) or if you don’t want to hang around can give directions to a taxi driver to take you to the main office and meeting point.
We consider this project ideal if you…
Are considering a long stay but are unsure about committing before departure.
Want to try learning Spanish for the first time or want a total immersion experience.
Want to make use of your experience or interest in nursery education or working with disabled children.
Want the opportunity to try out different projects to get the most out of your stay.
Free time in Ecuador
Most volunteers only work Monday to Friday and take time out at the weekend to relax and explore. Community life in Ecuador is vibrant and full of life and many festivals are held throughout the year that volunteers can experience. Participation on scenic tours in the area and further afield in the rainforest are also available and your volunteer co-ordinator, along with the local tourist office can help you with setting them up.
On the zip wire in Banos.
Price £1 - £51
Visit Banos, Ecuador’s principal location for adventure sports. and gateway to the Amazon jungle. There is so much to do and see in the mountains which hug the town that you will probably need at least 3 days to do the essentials.
Don’t miss the hot mineral baths, £1, paragliding, £40, devil’s waterfall and zipline, £10.
Unusual art gallery above the city.
La Capilla de Hombre
If you want a great view of the city take a look at the art work of a famous Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamin.
Take a taxi from the centre for £2.70, entrance £4. Tours are available in English.
The jungle provides a dramatic contrast to the Andes mountains.
Jungle trips from Quito
Take an overnight bus from Quito to Lago Agrio (although it is possible to fly) to meet pre-booked guides and head into the jungle into the Cuyabeno National Park.
Your in-country team will help you to organise.
Allow £130 a day for minimum stays of 3 to 4 days stay at a comfortable jungle lodge.
Cotopaxi volcano, possibly the world’s highest active volcano.
Price from £30
Make a day trip from Quito with one of many tour companies for approximately £30. This includes transport, guide and usually lunch. It is possible to take the bus and then hire a guide with 4WD there for about £13 per person.
It takes about 4 hours but photo moments may require longer. Best to take your own lunch as the restaurant can be pricey.
Montanita, considered ‘the’ coastal beach to be seen at!
Montanita is the latest beach hot spot for both Ecuadorians and backpackers. Every weekend the town is flooded with young people and it is on the surfing map.
To get to Montanita, head to Guayaquil, on the coast and take a bus or taxi from there.
Allow a day’s travelling each way from Quito so probably best for longer weekend or at end of stay.
If your budget stretches – the Galapagos islands are a must!
The Galapagos islands are in the top 10 of the most remote islands on the planet, which has led to the flora and fauna developing in a unique way, like no other.
Packages can be expensive starting at £800 from Quito, although it is to make an independent trip, booking day tours after arrival and using public transport for half that. Recommended.
OV volunteers in the weekend market El Eljido in Quito. Better prices than more famous Otavalo village out of town. Open until 6pm.
One of the volunteer hostels sometimes used by volunteers.
Volunteers staying with a local family in their home are provided with meals.
Quito has all the usual facilities of any large modern city that are needed, including banks, doctors, shopping malls, cafes and other amenities.
Is there anything I need to know about staying healthy?
Quito is high up in the mountains so the good news is there is no need for anti-malarials and few diseases that you would encounter in the rainforest. However, there is a doctor close by and a hospital should you need the use of one, the co-ordinators (or your host family) will help you with your transfer there straightaway if you need medical attention.
Independence square in the historical district of Quito. The main hub and meeting point for tourists.
Poorer Quito children carry their younger siblings if their parents are busy working in the markets
How can I book?
It is quick and easy to book with Original Volunteers. You can book online or call us now on 01603 280702 and book over the phone. See related video ‘How to book’.
It costs £125 to book. Once booked you can go to as many placements as you want within a year without having to pay the booking fee of £125 again.
The booking fee instantly books and reserves your place for any month you choose. We are very flexible. Just let us know if your plans change and spaces permitting we will put you on another list.
What money should I take?
Ecuador is unusual that they changed their currency, from the Sucre to the US Dollar in 2000. Bring smaller notes if you can as larger notes can rouse suspicion and be harder to change. Money can be changed easily at the airport on arrival or in Quito. There are ATMs in Quito and a VISA card is the most widely accepted.
How much do I need each week?
£20 – £30 per week will be enough to cover local transport to Quito projects and all meals.
OV volunteer with children at rural project outside Quito. Not all projects are in Quito, transfers can be made when you are ready. The local team will help you organise
Rooftops in Quito with mountains in distance. Walking tours in the mountains close to Quito can be organised for you by the local team. Allow approx £180 for a 2 to 3 day guided trek
Most volunteers stay in a hostel, which is organised for you and is a great way to meet other volunteers. A home stay is an alternative for anyone wanting to experience the Ecuadorian way of life and improve or practice their Spanish.
How will I travel around?
Buses and taxis are the most used transport used in getting around Quito and buses to elsewhere in Ecuador. All local transport is easy and affordable. Most volunteers travel together during their free time to explore.
Will there be other volunteers on my project?
Because volunteers arrive on flexible dates and half of all volunteers speak Spanish and travel to projects away from Quito, it is not always possible to guarantee that at the time of your visit another volunteer’s visit will coincide. However, from our experience, being the only volunteer at the community project in Quito can have its advantages. You increase your chances of making more friends with locals you work with, other guests in the hostel and with the support staff. In addition you will probably pick up or improve your Spanish quicker. If you would like to travel with others add yourself to the Travel Buddy List early. We can also put you in touch with other volunteers hopefully before they buy their flights! If you would like a busier project take a look at our Peru project where volunteers are all live and work at the same project.
When to pay for this project?
The support contribution for the local support team in Ecuador is paid before you travel. The latest in which to do this is about two weeks before your departure. An invoice will be emailed before travel, this is the easiest way to pay. Transfers, if applicable is paid on arrival. Accommodation is paid after arrival as you may find you move between projects or hostels and home stays in the first weeks. This helps keep things flexible when your plans change.
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.
We will Buddy you up with another volunteer going to the Ecuador 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 2018
At anytime : get flights to Quito airport before 4pm any day to allow plenty of time to get the shuttle bus into Quito to meet the team. If you are travelling overland from elsewhere in South America, shortly before you travel we will put you in touch with your volunteer coordinator.
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
April: contact your travel nurse or travel clinic to make appointments for jabs and boosters (for more information on what is typically recommended please refer to the NHS website fitfortravel). Malaria tablets are not required for Quito due to the altitude but if you are travelling into the jungle or to the coast in your free time or after volunteering they will be essential and need to be taken before travel to the affected region (http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations/south-america–antarctica/ecuador/ecuador-malaria-map.aspx)
June :Arrange suitable travel insurance – further advice can be found in our travel health section
No visa is required before travel for British passport holders. Other passport holders will need to check with their nearest Ecuador Embassy.
Arrange suitable travel insurance – further advice is provided in your emailed welcome pack.
As soon as you have flights to Quito : Email us your flight to Quito as soon as you have bought one. If you are travelling from elsewhere in Ecuador simply pop us an email confirming with your approximate date of arrival in Quito and we will put you in touch with the local team.
At anytime : pay for your volunteer support contribution – we will send you an invoice by email to pay online – don’t worry we will send you a reminder if you forget!
Ecuador at a glance
As its name indicates, Ecuador sits astride the equator in South America. It’s relatively tiny size belies its staggering geographical diversity-from the heights of the snow-capped Andean peaks down to the remote Amazon rainforest. The landscape is complemented by the colourful textiles and traditional costume still worn by rainforest Indians and highlanders alike.
Ecuador is compact and easy to get around. While not all roads are paved, they are almost invariably scenic and interesting…
Ecuador, which literally means, Republic of the equator, is a representative democratic republic in South America. From the north it is bordered by Colombia, Peru on the east and south and from the west the Pacific Ocean. The capital city of Ecuador is Quito. Ecuador is a presidential republic and gained its independence in 1830.
Ecuador has a varied climate. The average summer temperature in the capital city of Quito is 18 Celsius. The night-time low is 9 Celsius so it will never be too hot or too cold.
Want to know more?
If you have any questions big or small on any aspect of the Ecuador programme or would like to check available dates please contact us at the earliest opportunity as this programme fills quickly with volunteers from around the world.Alternatively complete an easy enquiry form with your contact details and we’ll be in touch asap!
Placement at a glance
18yrs+ on arrival
Varied. Non Spanish speaking volunteers usually start on community projects in Quito and take Spanish lessons. Longer stay volunteers with basic Spanish can move on to projects on the coast and in the jungle.
Pre-departure helpdesk, in-country coordinating team and 24hr emergency support
The capital city of Quito. Additional project locations from conservation to teaching are available in the jungle and on the coast for volunteers with conservational Spanish but most volunteers start their stay volunteering in Quito first.
All volunteers start with a homestay. Meals are provided.
Variable Mon to Fri for Quito projects
For some projects volunteers without conversational Spanish will require lessons on arrival (these will be arranged for you)
3 weeks, longer stays possible if you would like to try out more remote project locations in the jungle and on the coast.
All year round but spaces can be limited at peak holiday periods. Early reservation recommended.
When to apply
At least 3 weeks before intended arrival, longer if arriving between June and September
After registering with Original Volunteers (£125) The Ecuador programme is £125 per week including homestay with local family and meals. A local one-off contribution of £40 is payable on arrival which covers pick-up and local organisation of chosen placements
Airport Pick-up Service
Most volunteers make their own way on the airport shuttle bus and are met on arrival or make their way to the volunteer coordinating team's office.
Shop in village
Bars on-site & in town
Chemist in town
Bus 5 minutes
Taxis 10 minutes
Cash machine in town
Bank in town
Pay phone in town
Internet access in town
Laundry 30 mins + small fee
Basics, what to take?
Volunteers start with a local family in organised home stays. This is the best way to start your experience. After you are settled in and feeling more independent, long stay volunteers might like to move on to other projects or source their own accommodation.
The local team are experienced in supporting volunteers from all over the world on a variety of placements throughout Ecuador. After arrival they will provide you with an orientation, discuss the option to learn Spanish and go through the details of your placement and discuss other available projects which might be available at the time of your visit.
Most volunteers without Spanish start at the day nursery and the team will guide you on how to get there, what to expect and assist you with any free time activities you would like to book. For home stays, they will introduce you to a family too.
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 November 2017).
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.
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 tour for 3 – 5 days. Most volunteers go together in a group for more fun and get discounts. Additional trip discounts for volunteers are sometimes available.
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!
Is experience needed? No experience or language skills are needed to work in day nursery care and community centres in Quito. Other projects further afield do require some Spanish ability. The local team will help you to organise Spanish lessons if you need some.
Where will I be staying? The local team organise homestays for all volunteers which provides a great experience to improve or learn Spanish and experience more that Ecuador has to offer amongst local people.
How much is the homestay? $25 US Dollars per night which is approximately £125 per week in British Pounds. Homestays include meals.
Are visas required for Ecuador? Visas are not required for UK/European passport holders on visits for less than 90 days.
What are the start dates? There are no start dates for Ecuador, volunteers can arrive any day. Most Quito projects where volunteers start, are open Monday to Friday so it can be a good idea to arrive earlier in the week to settle in, do some volunteering before a weekend break to explore the city and relax.
Can I stay with my friend? Everyone travelling together is placed in the same accommodation and same project.
I am worried about travelling on my own – can I buddy up with someone? Use our Buddy List or pop us a message on the main Facebook Group and we’ll add you to our weekly round up of travel buddies.
Will I need any jabs? Malaria tablets are not generally advised unless you are planning on a trip in your free time to the jungle. We recommend checking with your local GP/travel health clinic and visiting the fitfortravel NHS website.
Will I have any free time? Weekends are completely free. The local team and hostel will help you to organise day trips into the mountains and national parks. Allow approx £40 for a whole day’s organised tour and £300 – £400 for an organised trek.
Do I need to bring anything for the children? There is no need to bring anything specifically for the nursery work in Quito. Although some colouring books and more unusual art and craft activities for one session for a small group of older children might be a nice interesting gift. All the basics (colours, paper) can be bought locally for considerably less than at home.
Should I bring anything for me? Bring clothing for all seasons, although Ecuador is on the equator, the capital Quito is high up in the mountains so bring a couple of jumpers, jeans and anorak together with some T-shirts for warm weather.
How can I keep in touch with home? Signal is good so bring an unlocked phone from home and buy a sim card on arrival. Internet cafes through the city.
Contact us for specific questions
We are always happy to answer any questions you may have. We pride ourselves in the vast knowledge of our projects and are always willing to share. Give us a call for a quick chat on 01603 280702 or email [email protected] to get the answers you need!
Why did you want to volunteer?
I wanted to include some volunteering as part of my trip around South America and liked the look of the programme on the website. I wanted something which wasn’t too touristy and a chance to learn Spanish for the rest of my trip.Do you feel you made a difference, how?
I’m not su...
For my first trip with OV I chose Ecuador as it fitted in nicely with my travel plans from Ecuador to Peru then Argentina, Brazil and home.It was a country which has aways interested me since I read about a local man who went round the country on motorbike for charity. It seemed to be a small country with everythin...