Volunteer in the steamy colonial city of Merida, close to Caribbean beaches and Mayan ruins. Enjoy a mixed variety of projects from teaching English, arts and crafts activities to hospital work, there is plenty to try when helping in Mexico. Placements can be chosen on arrival, according to your preferences, after chatting with the local volunteer co-ordinator, who is there to support you during your stay.
Volunteers travel and volunteer together in groups or pairs, so you will never be short for company whilst volunteering. Helping in Merida is a great experience as you get the chance to live in the stunning Yucatan peninsula, a culturally unique part of Mexico and a must-see region for any tourist. If you have any questions on any aspect of the programmme or would like to check available dates please contact us at the earliest opportunity.
The quiet city of Merida which sits on the Yucatan peninsular and sticks out into the Caribbean is considered by Mexicans the sleepy side of Mexico. The area rarely if ever features in Mexican news other than for tourism.
Little-populated and laid back, it is a great part of Mexico to leave all your worries behind!
What level of support is provided?
An English – speaking support team will help you to settle in and introduce you to projects. If your chosen area of work is teaching, you will be introduced to some basic teaching methods if you have not taught before. Check out our easy guide on How to Teach English for beginners which will be useful.
The local team will help with any advice or assistance you need during your stay from visiting a doctor to organising free time activities. Scroll down page for details and prices.
How can I keep myself healthy?
Anti-malarials are not needed in the Yucatan unless you are travelling into Central America after your volunteering. The biggest annoyance for summer volunteers (May to August) is the humidity, but this is not something which will affect just the visitor, local people will talk about the heat too!
Make sure you drink plenty, get enough sleep and avoid drinking in the evening which may cause you to dehydrate the next day when volunteering in the sun. You may like to bring flavoured re-hydrate sachets from home to keep yourself topped up.
Free time in Mexico Merida
There is plenty of time to explore between volunteer activities and all weekends are free. For any free time trip, if you let us know before travel on your final form, this will help the coordinator to organise a group trip for volunteers, this is definitely more fun and could also save the pennies if travelling in a group. There is no obligation if you change your mind after you arrive in Merida and no payment is required before travel.
Volunteers at Chichen Itza Mayan pyramid
PRICE FROM JUST £25
Price from just £25 – £30. One of the pre-Columbian cities built by the Maya civilization, it receives around 1.2 million visitors a year and is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. In the UK it recently featured in the off beat travel series Idiot Abroad by Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington.
Chichen Itza is open 365 days of the year between 9am and 5pm.
Easily reached from Merida by public bus, 1-2 hours. Approx 70 Pesos one way (£3) and 111 Pesos entrance to the site (approx £5).
For an escorted tour from Merida allow £25 – £30 for the day.
The cavernous pools are a major tourist attraction in the Yucatan.
Price from just £35
The Yucatan is famous for its sink holes, these underground caverns are without a doubt a unique magical experience. Swim, dive, snorkel or float for an afternoon away from the heat in caverns and the labyrinth of underwater tunnels.
Although you can get there independently it is more fun to join an organised tour for the day from 9am to 5pm including a traditional meal at a farmstead for approx £35. Underwater camera recommended.
The top Cenotes in order are: Il Kil, Cuzama, Zaci, Centonillo, Xlacah, Dzitnup and Kakirixche.
Volunteers on El Progreso beach, the closest to Merida.
White sand beaches
Taxi to beach from £10
Visit the white sand Caribbean beaches on the north coast of Yucatan. Take the bus or a taxi. Take plenty of sun cream and a light large T-shirt though as there is little shade and the sun can be very strong. Enjoy!
If not for a show, worth visiting on a hot day to cool down.
Teatro Peón Contreras
The Teatro is the city’s grand opera house opened in 1908. Even if opera is not your thing the building is worth a visit, especially on a hot day. There are often performances here for low cost, £4, or free and should not be missed.
Visit a yellow town and get close to Mayan descendants.
Izamal, a Yellow Town
Visit the Mayan village of Izamal where the locals still speak Maya!
About 50 miles east from Merida visit this sleepy little town with Mayan ruins you can still climb over. £7 bus.
Swimming in a sink hole at a working ranch.
Hacienda Sotuta de Peon
Visit a real working hacienda, or ranch. Ride a cart, enjoy a buffet lunch, explore the grounds and swim in a stunning cenote, one of the famous stunning sink holes in the region. A waterproof camera might be a good investment.
Guided tours pick up from the grand plaza in Merida for £35.
What to take
What do I need to take with me?
A volunteer with small group of children at St Vincent De Paul charity.
The international language of smiles and pointing at the Police kindergarten
Art and craft materials are always useful. Bring enough that children in sitting at tables in groups of 4 – 5 can share and work with. Building games could be a great addition, especially for the boys who may feel they have seen enough glitter and love heart stickers! Perhaps you could bring or ask a local toy shop to donate a couple of technical Lego or Meccano sets for a two team competition. You could give them a photo each of the finished work and a little prize for the fastest team. All the basic stationary, felt tips and stickers can be bought cheaply in Merida.
Merida has all the local facilities that are needed within a 20 – 25 minute walk to the city centre, including banks, doctors, cafes and other amenities.
Are meals provided?
Merida is a self-catering project. There are plenty of shops in the city where you can buy food to take back to the kitchen at the volunteer house and prepare. There is also a French cafe not far from the volunteer house which is recommended by volunteers as a cheap place to eat, called Bistro Cultural. See Accommodation tab above for more.
A day after arrival, the co-ordinator will usually if not too busy, arrange a tour of the city and the area. On this tour you will be shown the facilities, shops, and where best to get buses etc. Merida was designed in a grid system, although it is only 20 – 25 minutes to the city centre it can feel longer when walking in the heat so it can be easier to hire a taxi or grab a bus if there are a few of you going into town on a hot day.
Travelling with other volunteers
Can I fly with another volunteer?
We can Buddy you up with another volunteer so you can travel together, just let us know at the time of booking. Even if you do travel alone, and more than half do, it is unlikely you will be on your own on this popular project. You can also check out the travel buddy list and our main Facebook page too leaving a post with your project and month of arrival.
Can I be placed with a friend?
Yes you can apply with a friend. Let us know at the time of booking so we can request you are placed in the same room at the volunteer house.
Will I have free time?
All volunteers are free at the weekend to explore or relax. And during the week, volunteers often spend their evenings at the volunteer house relaxing or strolling in the colonial heart of the city. Merida is well known for its street café culture, especially in the evenings with live bands and a typically Latin party fiesta feel. With weekends free to explore and some of Mexico’s tourist highlights to see this placement in Merida is the perfect volunteer holiday.
Merida is known for its archaeological sites; Chichen Itza is the most popular, easily reached on a day’s visit. Almost all volunteers will climb the Chichen Itza ruins and often report this is one of the highlights of their Merida volunteering experience. Volunteers also like to visit the Mayan city, Dzibilchaltun, which is only nine miles from Merida. Dzibilchaltun is a great historical site and an amazing experience. Another great day out especially on a hot day is a trip to the underground caverns where you can swim in the azure warm water amidst the stalactites. All activities and excursions can be easily organised through one of the many tourist agencies in Merida. Just ask your co-ordinator for advice on what to see during your visit. Scroll down for more.
Two girls at the San Antonio primary school with their new colours kindly donated by volunteers.
OV volunteers at the boys rescue centre. Staffed by one cook and a security guard only, the boys welcome the activities arranged by volunteers
What are the costs after I have registered and booked my space in Mexico?
After you have booked your space and registered with us, (registered volunteers travelling within 12 months of their first project abroad do not need to pay the registration fee again) the weekly project costs for the Merida programme are £125 per week, this includes accommodation and organisation of the placements by your dedicated volunteer coordinator. All volunteers need to purchase a return flight to Mexico; Cancun is the preferred airport. If you fly to Cancun a transfer is made by coach to Merida with the ADO coach company, this takes approx. 2.5 hours and £15 each way.
For Merida airport arrivals, a pick up is available for £15. Travel insurance is required and we strongly recommend all volunteers obtain one which covers medical bills. You can expect to pay between £20 and £40 for travel insurance for a short visit. A visa is not needed if you have a British/European passport. You should allow about £10 to £15 a day for meals (usually eating out in cafes together) and buses and taxis to get to projects. For day trips to the Cenotes (sink holes) and other day trips, allow about £40. Take as much as you can extra as for any holiday.
What do I need to know?
You will often see Mexican money displayed on signs and in websites with the same symbol as US dollars, so 100 Pesos would be written $100. If in doubt – assume it is Pesos. Merida has ATMs. The exchange rate hovers around 10 Pesos to the US Dollar. Travellers cheques are not easily exchanged, most travellers these days arrive with cash and a visa card and find this sufficient. Mastercard is not always accepted. If you overspend, money can be wired in minutes from home with Western Union easily.
Getting to projects
How will I get to my projects?
Most projects are on the other side of the city or in hard to reach suburbs and villages outside Merida. Volunteers travel together in pairs or small groups by bus or taxi to their project. As volunteers can be going to different projects each day as per the schedule and preferences, volunteers are either escorted by their volunteer co-ordinator or a volunteer who already knows the way from previous visits. Journey time can vary between 30 and 60 minutes depending on project location, but the experience of travelling amongst local people on mostly public transport and seeing the environment should more than make up for any irritation spent travelling. Merida can be one of the steamiest places in Mexico, summer volunteers (April to September) are advised to dress for the heat in loose cotton and make sure you take a water bottle straight from the freezer in the morning if you can!
Travel with others
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, and the majority of volunteers travel alone, it will be unusual to be on your own as volunteers arrive every week. To travel with another volunteer you can:
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
Volunteers give the dogs a refreshing bath on a hot day.
Volunteers made good use of the splash pool after a hot day’s work.
How and when do I need to pay for my project?
An invoice for the weekly project costs and airport pick up if you are flying to Merida, will be sent by email shortly after we have received your flight. If you are flying to Cancun, please email us your expected dates that you will be in Merida as soon as you know and we will adjust the invoice accordingly.
What types of things will I be doing?
For community volunteers the schedule is varied and can change each week following requests by local projects and charities. The local support team and your co-ordinator organises this for you. The volunteer group normally travels together or if large, divides up into pairs and smaller groups to visit projects.
If you particularly enjoyed an activity, schedules permitting, it may be possible to make an extra visit or two if you would like to be more involved. The cat and dog sanctuary welcomes extra hands on almost any day of the week. A children’s home or community centre may appreciate more volunteer visits during school holidays to keep the children occupied.
What’s it like to work with young children?
Police Kindergarten : Volunteers usually leave at 8am by taxi or bus for the Kindergarten Monday to Friday. Volunteers arrive at 9am and stay with the children aged from birth to 6 years old until midday.
Volunteers work alongside the local staff in a supporting role from watching, showing flashcards, singing songs, colouring and art activities. Volunteers also help out in the kitchen and help wash mucky hands. Female volunteers only sorry!
Can I work with disabled children?
Volunteers can help at an orphanage for disabled boys. Volunteers leave the volunteer house at 9am by taxi on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a 2 hour session between 10 and 12. No Spanish is required but it can be useful to know a few basic phrases like what’s your name? My name is… etc Everyone is welcome to come and help.
Physical therapists and student nurses may find they can put their skills and knowledge to good use here. Volunteers push the children in their wheelchairs, blow bubbles and help them to play instruments. Help at mealtimes may also be needed.
Most teaching is relaxed and in small groups so do not worry if you have never taught before
Taking the dogs from the sanctuary for a walk.
Can I teach English?
Volunteers leave at 8am by pre-booked taxi to the bus station and then take a 35 minute bus to the village project at San Antonio Tehuitz. Volunteers help with activities between 9 and 11/12:30, then lunch, then with the children again between 2:30 and 4pm. Some Spanish is useful but not essential.
Activities are mostly pre-planned by your volunteer coordinator so you will not be at a loss for what to do. The emphasis is on English teaching but art and craft activities can be included. An ideal placement for anyone wanting to gain teaching experience and sport and games organisors.
Volunteers can also teach at the local state academy and help with student’s pronunciation. Sessions usually run on Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 5 and 7pm although exact days can vary sometimes.
The great thing with this placement is that it is within walking distance of the volunteer house. Spanish is not needed and English is encouraged to help the students gain the most they can.
OV volunteers on the white sand beach at Progreso on the Caribbean coast, a 30 min taxi from Merida
Volunteers enjoy a typical Mexican night out with compulsory sombreros!
Can I work with animals?
Anyone who loves dogs from veterinary students to dog lovers! Volunteers leave the volunteer house at 7am by pre-booked taxi to the bus station and then it is a 30 minute bus ride. Volunteers help out between 8am and midday between Monday and Friday although the need for volunteers varies, for example the shelter may need volunteers for one or two days only a week if they are doing other things or have vets visiting.
For this reason, most volunteers working at the shelter mix up their week with community volunteering or exploring the area. Whilst at the shelter, volunteers bath and walk the dogs, help the vets when they visit, groom, preparing food.Basic Spanish or a phrasebook and dictionary may come in useful for the staff.
Can I work in a hospital or clinic?
Healthcare volunteers usually work in one of the hospitals in or city clinics. Depending on experience and qualifications, schedules vary depending on whether supervision is available to provide support during your placement. Most healthcare volunteers will combine a clinical placement with community volunteering when full time hours are not available.
Basic Spanish is required for healthcare placements in order to get the most out of the experience although it may be possible to shadow or play with the children at the clinics on a casual basis. For undergrad nurses and medics, closed shoes, clean smart clothes and a lab coat or white shirt/blouse should be worn.
How and when do I need to choose my project?
The local team and your volunteer co-ordinator organise the schedule according to the needs of the local schools, projects, community centres, homes and hospital. Schedules are organised for the group as this can be easier to adapt rather than a choose and try which can also take up time discussing and organising. If you would like to pick and choose your preferred projects from those available be aware this may restrict your opportunities. If you would like to change project speak to your volunteer coordinator who is often on hand to help you settle in.
If there is an area of work you are particularly interested in and you are not staying for long, it may be useful for us to know before travel however many charities and schools or shelters may not be able to plan for your arrival in advance as their focus will be to their children/young adults in there care so a degree of patience will be required even if we and your volunteer manager knew in advance, they can often change schedules without notice. For this reason it can be more practical to stay two weeks to enable yourself plenty of time to get into a routine. If there are free days during the week these can easily be filled with a day trip at short notice to a place of interest.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
No Spanish is needed to be a successful volunteer in Merida but most volunteers find it helps at the hospitals and when on their own at the dog sanctuary. For community volunteering and in the nurseries, it is preferable not to speak Spanish with the children so they can get used to spoken English and learn or improve even if this feels frustrating.
A volunteer was heard in one lesson saying the word hola which he had just learnt in Spanish (hello) and said it over thirty times to the children. It is easy to think you need Spanish but once you get used to only speaking in English and using sign language and visual demonstrations you will get used to it and it will quite natural.
Another way round this is to try to remember when you were 7 years old. Did you enjoy having an adult conversation with adults around you? It is rarely the case, most children follow by adults gesturing and showing around them, not by the spoken language and carefully worded instructions.
For getting around and eating and shopping, a phrasebook is sufficient for most visitors to Merida and the volunteer group normally spends all their free time together in town or touring.
If you will be using your volunteer experience to improve your Spanish your first point of contact between volunteering activities should be to speak with local staff at the projects, charities and schools you are volunteering at. From cleaners, kitchen staff to teachers and charity support workers, they will be impressed with any attempt you make as so few volunteers and not so many American tourists visiting the region, speak any Spanish. With adults you will gain a greater vocabulary and more natural conversation than you would with shy children. And of course you may not want to ask vulnerable children about their families as this may cause anxiety if they have suffered distress or neglect at home.
Why not start by asking local staff about their families followed by their interests before moving on to specific topics. Although you may want to stay clear of religion or politics!
What opportunities are there to learn or improve my Spanish?
Spanish classes can be organised easily, and some volunteers take a few classes during their stay. Your volunteer coordinator often organises Spanish classes as part of the training programme for your volunteer project. Where not included, allow £5 – £7 per hour depending on group size and frequency.
Do I need a visa?
British (and most European) passport holders do not require a visa for stays up to 30 days. Other nationalities should check with their nearest Mexican Embassy or Consulate for requirements. Supporting letters can be provided if required.
What happens on arrival?
Most volunteers fly into Cancun as flights can sometimes be as much as £100 – £200 less than Merida depending on the time of year. There are regular buses from Cancun airport to the bus terminal in Merida.
Coach tickets from Cancun to Merida cost approx. £15 for the 2.5 hour journey. You will need to get off at Fiesta Americana. On arrival, jump in a taxi and call the local team for directions to the volunteer house so the driver can take you straight there (approx 50 Pesos) this saves waiting or the volunteer driver waiting if your bus is delayed.
If you prefer, the local team can meet you but it’s not too far to the volunteer house. An airport pick up and transfer is available for all volunteers arriving at Merida airport or take an airport taxi (approx 150 Pesos).
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 Merida 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 Merida airport at anytime (automatic pick up provided) or early in the morning/lunchtime for Cancun airport to allow for the coach journey to Merida. The journey is approx 2.5 hours and costs approx £15 each way with ADO coach company. If you are travelling overland from elsewhere in South America, shortly before you travel we will put you in touch with your volunteer coordinator to arrange a suitable meeting point/pick up point.
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: 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). Anti- malarials not generally advised in the Merida/Yucatan region.
June : Arrange suitable travel insurance – make sure your policy covers medical bills and repatriation
No visa is required before travel for Mexico for UK passport holders for short visits. If you require a visa – contact us if you require letters of introduction which we can prepare for you.
As soon as you have flights to Merida/Cancun: Email us your flight to confirm your arrival (airport pick up for Merida airport arrivals only)
At anytime : pay for your project – we will send you an invoice by email to pay online – don’t worry we will send you a reminder if you forget! We will organise your pick up and transfer from the airport (Merida arrivals only) automatically when we receive your flights.
Mexico – Merida at a glance
Mexico is a land of contrasts, a developing country yet one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Other attractions away from the beach resorts include ancient Aztec and Mayan cities, Spanish colonial architecture, the Copper Canyon railway and bustling markets selling local handicrafts. Local must-sees include the Loltun Caves, Los Cenotes (underground caverns), a boat tour of the coastal mangrove swamps and Mayan ruins. Weekend excursions can be booked easily in Merida through one of many tour operators for as little as £20 for a full day including plenty of time to explore, swim , take photos and relax.
Merida is the largest city of the Mexican State of Yucatan. Yucatan Peninsula is now known for having the largest group of modern Maya. The Maya’s were first found by Europeans in 1511 when a group of Spanish shipwreck survivors arrived in Yucatan. The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilisation. It is most known for its fully developed written language of the pre-Colombian Americas. Merida is most popular for its Maya architecture. A spectacle to see, architecture that spans from thousands of years, the Mayan style is unique, and an amazing experience for the tourist. For those interested, Mel Gibson’s 2006 film, Apocalypto depicts the last days of the Mayan civilisation. Cancun, only a short bus ride away from Merida, has the world’s second longest coral reef. A popular tourist visit in Cancun is The Hotel Zone of Cancun. It shaped like a 7, with bridges on each end that connect to the mainland. This zone has beautiful beaches on the short end where locals go to surf and relax.
The Climate in Merida is tropical and warm. In Yucatan the average highest temperature is 28 Celsius. The hottest months are June to August but the region is generally warm all year round making it a great winter getaway.
Want to know more?
If you have any questions big or small on any aspect of the Mexico programme or would like to check available dates please contact us at the earliest opportunity as we only have 12 spaces maximum on the programme.
Alternatively complete an easy enquiry form with your contact details and we’ll be in touch asap!
Placement at a glance
18yrs+ on arrival
Volunteer in Mexico and help at a variety of projects throughout Merida from English teaching, playwork, carework and outdoor activities.
Pre-departure helpdesk, in-country coordinating team and 24hr emergency support
Merida, in the Yucatan Peninsular, close to Mayan ruins and Caribbean beaches.
Volunteer accommodation provided
Variable, usually half a day five days a week.
Spanish not needed but some basic phrases will be useful for getting around.
Getting to project
Flight to Merida and pick-up or coach from Cancun.
All year round (closed 20 Dec - 5 Jan)
When and how to apply
Our sunny volunteer bungalow only has 12 spaces! Complete a Reserve Now form and we will contact you straightaway to confirm availability and advise what to do next!
£125 per week for accommodation and support team & £125 (Registration to join OV which provides a year of volunteering without registering again)
Airport Pick-up Service
From Merida airport £15. Cancun arrivals travel by coach to Merida.
Want to find out more?
Visit the Trip Info page for more on the projects and how they spend their free time : pyramids, underground swimming caves and Caribbean beaches!
Shop 10 minutes
Bars 10 minutes
Chemist 30 minutes
Bus 5 minutes
Taxis 5 minutes
Cash machine 20 minutes
Bank 30 minutes
Pay phone 10 minutes
Internet access 10 minutes
Laundry on-site + small fee
Basics, what to take?
Volunteers in Mexico stay together in a comfortable volunteer house within Merida in shared dorm style rooms sleeping 4 – 6. Overflow accommodation is available close by and with the volunteer co-ordinator’s family. Linen is provided and there are mosquito nets on the doors.
Volunteer house offers lounge, modern bathroom, communal kitchen and garden splash pool
Shops, bars and cafes within walking distance.
Support:Back-up and support during your stay available.
You could not be better supported whilst volunteering in Mexico with an experienced team ready and waiting for you. Our programme director and volunteer coordinator Tila (pronounced Tilla) and her local team have organised community, healthcare and animal care placements for hundreds of volunteers since 2007 coming from a wide range of backgrounds.
Tila and her team will provide extra training and support during your stay and if you would like to learn some Spanish, lessons can be organised easily for you. If you would like to take more advantage of what Merida has to offer in the evenings, do ask too about the possibility of salsa lessons!
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.
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!
Many of our returning Mexico – Merida volunteers send us photos and videos of their positive experiences in Americas. Click on the images and films below to get an idea of what to expect volunteering at this project.
Is experience needed? No experience is required for any of the projects volunteers are involved with. Weekly training workshops are provided for all volunteers wanting to give teaching English a go and are thoroughly recommended even if you decide to volunteer in other projects. Although you will not need Spanish for most projects and working with children it is a good idea to learn these simple phrases to break the ice: What’s your name? My name’s…. How old are you? It’s good. (Written here as the words sound: Komo tee yammas? Me yammo…Kwantos anios te-ennes? Ess bwenno). The reason not to speak Spanish to the children is to provide them with as much experience listening to English as possible. Even when local staff understand or speak English they will rarely use it with the children, as it will be easier for them to speak in Spanish to the children. Another way to think about it is if you were teaching Mongolian to children in a classroom at home, wouldn’t it be easier to speak in English all the time and only say the new words for apple, orange or ball in Mongolian. That’s why in state schools abroad children rarely have a great grasp of English as they only hear a few words each lesson whilst families who can afford to send their children to bi-lingual schools or where the English teacher does not speak the local language and where the whole of the lesson is taught in English, are almost fluent by 12 years old. And where the children are not fluent because they have not had a chance to practise, they certainly have a better ear and understand English to a good level.
Where will I be staying? The volunteer accommodation is a comfortable homely bungalow with splash pool in Merida. See accommodation tab above for more.
Are visas required for Mexico? Visas are not required for UK/European passport holders on short visits.
What are the start dates? There are no start dates for Merida, volunteers can arrive any day. Monday to Wednesday are the best days to arrive to allow time to get over your journey, settle in to your volunteering, make friends and plan for your first free weekend. All volunteers arriving at Merida airport are met on arrival regardless of time. Volunteers arriving by coach from Cancun can be met at the bus terminal although most volunteers simply jump in a taxi at the bus station and head straight to the volunteer house.
Can I stay with my friend? Everyone is placed together in the same accommodation and at the same chosen projects.
I am worried about travelling on my own – can I buddy up with someone? We can help you find someone to travel together – 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 for this part of Mexico although you may need some boosters forother basic jabs. We advise to consult your trained travel health nurse a few weeks before travel for up to date advice (we take our advice from the UK nhs website fitfortravel).
Will I have any free time? Weekends are free and depending on your chosen volunteer projects there may also be days or half days off in the week too. Volunteers normally include a couple of organised at some point during their stay to the ruins of Chichen Itza, a swim in the sink holes (Cenotes) or head for the beaches. Your coordinator can organise any trip you would like to do, simply speak to the team after arrival about options and prices. Starting price for a day trip to swim in a sink hole approx. £30.
Do I need to bring anything for the children? Because volunteers often visit a few different projects, it is a good idea to have a ‘one of each’ approach for things for the children. Perhaps Connect Four, a jigsaw, and a picture science pop up book. For English teaching, materials can all be purchased or borrowed in Merida.
Should I bring anything for me? Merida is hot and humid nearly all year round and the people are fairly relaxed about what people wear because of it. You will get through a lot of summer clothes! Having a wide variety of clothes with you will open up opportunities, with projects changing often throughout the year and each having their own dress codes. Shorts and T-shirts are fine for some projects whilst loose trousers or a skirt might be more suitable for others. You may want to bring a couple of smart casual outfits for the odd project which requests you dress more modestly or for a special day. Everything can be bought easily in the city if you need anything. Merida’s evening café culture is strong so evening wear a must and obviously don’t forget to bring beachwear as the white beaches are only an hour away.
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. Calls from home are free. 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 use our Contact Us form to get the answers you need!
I chose Mexico because it was always on my list of places to visit and my friends had already done a tour there and recommended it. It took a few months to organise with the help of my friends and family I managed to fundraise and got the whole trip within a tight £1000 budget, flights included.On arrival in Merid...
LIFEGUARD DESCRIBES MEXICAN PEOPLE AS ‘THE NICEST I HAVE EVER MET’
A Lifeguard from Swindon who thought that Mexico might potentially be a ‘rough’ place to volunteer in said that the people of Mexico were ‘the nicest people that I have ever met’.Jason Wines volunteered at an Orphanage in Puerto Vallart...