Peru Volunteer – A typical schedule
Here’s how you could spend a two week visit based on previous volunteers suggestions and their experiences although be warned – no one will drag you out of bed each day and tell you what to do, you will be expected to pop in and put yourself forward and make friends with the children naturally. This is to avoid -over-organising the children just for the sake of keeping volunteers occupied. Might benefit you but not the children. In addition, each one of us has different interests and different ways of connecting with the children so each volunteer’s input and experience will be at least slightly or incredibly different.
Monday, morning head over to the boy’s home to play football or supervise them doing homework. In the afternoon, head into town to check out a Museum or enjoy a surreal experience at an Irish pub, but don’t drink more than one or you might start to feel the effects of the altitude!
Tuesday, lazy morning, then in afternoon arrange tickets for a weekend trip with other volunteers to the Machu Pichu ruins.
Wednesday, morning, spend some time with the staff around the girl’s home and help prepare the lunchtime meal. Staff really enjoy volunteers helping out and it’s a great opportunity to pick up or improve Spanish when you are working alongside them. Find out about how to get to the mountain village Poroy for outreach work with the children. Wednesday afternoon when the girls get back from school, get out the art and craft resources you have brought from home (or bought in Cuzco) followed by being taught Peruvian dances by the girls (they love dancing), a true cultural exchange!
Thursday, head up to Poroy to have fun and games for a whole day with the children who are at risk of becoming street kids. Many of the very poorest children outside of Cuzco who suffer neglect will often come in Cuzco to beg. Give them some happy memories they won’t forget and will want to stay in their village for.
Friday, take the train to Aguas Calientes for a weekend visit to the Machu Pichu ruins.
Monday, ask if you and another volunteer can take a small group to the municipal swimming pool or a museum. You may need to offer to cover entrances if the home cannot cover the costs though but it won’t break the bank. Afternoon, teach the girls some phrases in English they can practice with volunteers (some ideas may include what’s your name? Where are you from? Have you been to …yet? Check on arrival because by the time you arrive they may know these already if a volunteer has spotted this and taught them before!)
It is worth pointing out that a good lesson plan is essential and is the best way to encourage interest in English. It’s not that they are not interested but they have seen their fair share of numbers, alphabet and colours taught over the years. Check out the Headway TEFL series for ideas for content (no need to buy the books – as they can be expensive and getting the right book for the right level can be tricky but they can be useful to have a look at to get the general feel). For an idiot-proof way to teach new phrases if you have never taught before check out our guide.
Tuesday morning, head over to the boy’s home to teach the same lesson building on what you learnt teaching the girls then back to the girl’s home to help with lunch and supervise their after school homework.
Wednesday, make a visit to the Sacsayhuaman ruins above the city, almost as spectacular as Machu Pichu. They were added to the UNSECO World Heritage List in 1983. After the ruins, buy some gifts for family at home and perhaps something for the home or the children in Poroy now that you know what everyone is in need of. You might want to pick up a classic Llama wool jumper, perfect for snuggling up in over a UK winter if you are coming from the UK!
Thursday, make a second visit to Poroy to check up on the children and perhaps take a newly arrived volunteer with you to introduce and who will hopefully take over after you have left. Friday, football morning with the boys and afternoon with the girls going over the English taught. Get an early night before you fly home tomorrow!
This placement has it all – you just need to have the confidence to plan carefully to take full advantage of everything that is on offer! Obviously you can stay longer than 2 weeks, the above is here just to give you an idea of how you may decide to spend your time in Cuzco over a 2 week period to maximise your experience.
Inca trail trekking – more information for budding trekkers
Most volunteers at some stage of their visit will make a trek on one of the many Inca trails in the region. These can be organised with local trekking agencies after arrival and a basic no frills-carry-your-own-rucksack-type with trek guides will cost in the region of £180. If you can’t stretch to an organised trek or don’t have time, there are plenty of cobblestone Inca trails surrounding the city which can be explored easily. In fact any cobblestone path built by the Incas in the Andes is an Inca trail. For those not into trekking and camping, did you know that Macchu Picchu (the ruins up on the green hill) can be visited without the need to trek for days, just take the tourist bus up from the little town of Aguas Calientes!
Inca trails are everywhere in the Andes. They are cobbled paths which were built by the Incas. You can walk on inca trails just outside the city easily without a guide at a no cost. The ‘classic’ inca trail trek typically refers to the 4 day trail which ends at the deserted mountain-top city of Machu Picchu, although there are a few great treks on other mountains nearby. If you want to visit the Machu Picchu ruins without the trek, this can be done easily on a day’s visit. Take the train from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes (translates Hot Waters) early or the day before and take the tourist bus up to the entrance.
If you would like to trek the classic trail and prefer to book this in advance with an agency outside of Peru you need to be aware of the following: The local Peruvian authorities provide the permits for the classic trek on a monthly first come first serve basis to keep visitor numbers manageable and help prevent erosion on the historical route. Foreign tour agencies are not given preferential consideration for their pre-booked tours. And neither is there preference given to Cuzco-based agencies. If you are booking from outside Peru, check what alternative trek is offered if the classic trek is not available at the time of your visit. The usual two alternatives, just as good are the Choquequirao trek and the Salcantay trek.
Volunteer organises after school activity at the boys home
The children love to go swimming.
Is Peru safe?
With super-friendly people who love their foreign visitors you could not be in a safer more humbling location. Cuzco is a very popular tourist destination so do leave your important bits and pieces tucked away safely at the accommodation and wear a money belt for larger amounts of money. The most common annoyance is leaving your bag at a cafe with everything in it rather than actual pick pocketing.
Do be careful when taking the busy train up to visit Machu Pichu, take the smallest day bag you can even if staying overnight in Aguas Calientes. That way you can have your bag on you at all times. There are reports of bags going missing on trains although this tends to affect backpackers and locals who have to leave their larger rucksacks on the overhead racks whilst they sleep or pop to the toilet.
What level of support is provided?
9 in 10 volunteers stay at the self-contained volunteer accommodation next to the girl’s home. This places you in a good position for support you may need from the staff as they are only a stones throw away. Other accommodation owned by the home is also used at busy times, but you are never more than a walk away from the children’s homes if you need anything.
The English speaking manager used to work in tourism before working in social care and will be more than happy to help you organise all the tours and treks for you at the best prices. It is also a good idea to learn a few Spanish phrases in case he is not around and take advantage of the Spanish speaking staff to help you improve or learn conversational Spanish!
It can be surprising how much you can learn when you are in a non-English speaking environment. However, many of the older children are used to English speaking volunteers and will know basic phrases.
We consider this project ideal if you…
Are looking for a small and friendly family-run project where you can live-in.
Would like an opportunity to get some dental practice experience (dentistry students only – optional).
Want to learn or improve your Spanish by working alongside Spanish speaking staff.
Are travelling alone and want to make new friends amongst the other volunteers and perhaps travel together afterwards around Peru or Bolivia.
Spending time with the children
Colourful national costumes.
Will I have free time?
Volunteers normally spend Monday to Friday at the children’s homes but equally you can hang out at the weekends and take trips to explore during the week.
What can I do?
Known as the backpacking Mecca of South America, Cuzco offers the visitor plenty to see and do. From the Machu Picchu ruins, Urpicha Park to taking a dip in the hot springs at Aguas Calientes. Plenty of museums, shops, cafes and bars including a growing number of Irish Pubs, but remember to take it easy with the altitude! A popular break is an Inca trail trek and the volunteer co-ordinator will help arrange a trip or trek for you after arrival.
What local facilities are there?
Cuzco is a large city and has all the local facilities that are needed and most are within walking distance, including shops, supermarkets, banks, doctors, cafes and other amenities.
What to take
What do I need to take with me?
Once you have applied and registered with Original Volunteers, you will receive an Information Pack via email that will have further details on the project in Peru; in this email there will be a list of items to take. In the meantime, although the sun is strong at this altitude, once the sun drops behind the mountains, the temperature can drop suddenly too.
Bring layered clothing; jumpers, scarfs, hat and fleece and anorak to keep out the wind. Bring swimwear if you want to enjoy the hot springs at Aguas Calientes or take the children swimming, a popular activity. You will also need to bring a travel adaptor, as sockets are the two pronged type found in the US, 220 volts.
Communication with home
How can I keep in touch with family?
Most visitors take an old unlocked mobile and buy a SIM on arrival which costs £2. If you need to use the Internet, the closest cyber cafe/phone booth is next to the girls home and charges 1 Sole per hour (20p). There is also public phone in the shop at the end of the alley that usually charges about 50 Cents a minute for International calls.
Children, volunteers and staff on day trip
Lunch time with the children
Can I travel with other volunteers?
Although some volunteers travel with friends, the bigger majority travel alone. We will Buddy you up with others travelling around the same time and if you are travelling in the same month, are flexible and have not bought flights yet you should be able to fly out with another volunteer without any difficulty.
In addition, create a profile on the Travel Buddy List for other volunteers to find you and post a message on the main Facebook page.
If there is a gap between departing and arriving volunteers, simply hang out with the staff, the best way to make friends. You’ll probably be taken under their wing and have unique experiences you might not have had you been staying within a larger volunteer group!
How will I get around?
Cuzco, although called a city, is not large and you can walk from one side to the other in an hour. With the steep cobbled streets most volunteers take a taxi to and from the main square (Plaza de Armas). Taxis are 40p during the day and around 60p although the main square can be walked in about 20 minutes.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
With the children it is preferred that volunteers only speak English to provide an additional skill for the children even if you are not teaching English and are only spending time with them. With the staff and when out and about most volunteers without Spanish manage well with a Spanish phrasebook.
If you feel under pressure before travelling to speak Spanish think of it this way – children want to play and have fun, especially the younger ones. From our experience, even if you did speak fluent Spanish, they would rather you play and organise an activity that discuss the details of your family or theirs or what’s going on in your home country!
You will be pleased to know the Spanish spoken in Peru and Bolivia is a simplified version of that spoken in Spain and many visitors find it easier to pick up. It is not uncommon to feel fairly fluent in the basics within 2 or 3 weeks.
Spanish lessons can be organised if you would like to learn more formally. Allow £5 to £7 per hour depending on group size and frequency of classes. Let us know if you would like lessons to be organised for when you arrive.
How to apply
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.
How and when do I need to pay for my project?
An invoice for the weekly project costs and airport pick up will be sent by email shortly after we have received your flight to Peru. We calculate project costs for the volunteer programme based on your flights 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!
Will I need a visa before travel?
British passport holders do not require a visa before travel and you can stay for up to 6 months. Other nationalities should check with their nearest Peruvian Embassy/Consulate for requirements.
What happens on arrival?
The nearest airport to the project is Cuzco. As soon as you land there will be someone waiting to take you to the volunteer accommodation. Half of all volunteers buy separate flights to Cuzco, the first flight from their home country as far as Lima, then a short internal flight from Lima to Cuzco. This can, depending on the time of year save a third off the total flights cost. Preferred airlines from Lima and Cuzco are lan.com and taca.com. It is possible to get the onward flight to Cuzco after landing in Lima but this can be more expensive. It is recommended to buy online as early as possible for the best price. Do make sure you allow enough time between flights to allow your luggage to come off the Lima flight and be moved to the next. Pack all your essentials in your hand luggage just in case it’s delayed!
Are meals provided?
Peru is a self-catering project, there are many cafes nearby and a kitchen in the volunteer apartment if you prefer to cook. The average cost of a meal at a local cafe is £1.50, a beer 60p to £2 depending on the brand and bar. A popular tourist supermarket is Gatos on the Plaza de Armas. There is also a chain of supermarkets called Mega, the largest of which is on Avenida Culture (5 minutes by taxi). Closer to the accommodation and childrens homes you will find the Ttio market selling vegetables,eggs,bread and meat.
OV volunteer enjoys a birthday party with one of the girls
Volunteer Andrea puts her nursing skills to good use performing health checks.
What happens if I get ill?
There is a doctor close by and a hospital should you need the use of one, the co-ordinators will help you with your transfer there.
What do I need to be aware of?
The altitude! You should take the first few days easy to acclimatise and avoid alcohol on an empty stomach as the effects of altitude can be triple that at sea level. However it is quite normal whatever precautions you take for anyone to experience some symptoms of altitude regardless of your level of fitness before travel. A couple of days bed rest usually helps. Machu Pichu is at lower altitude and some volunteers find a short trip helps ease symptoms when they return to Cuzco slowly by train.
Anti-malarials are not needed in Cuzco. It is too high for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. If you plan to take a trip to the rainforest anti-malarials are needed and must be taken before, during and after any trip to ensure protection.
What is the money in Peru?
The currency in Peru is the Nuevo Sol. It is divided into 100 centimos (cents). You can obtain Nuevo Sol before travel from a bank, bureau de change or in the UK from a Post Office. You may need to order in advance. Cuzco airport has a money exchange if you prefer to change money on arrival.
Where can I change money during my visit?
Cuzco has ATMs which accept major cards. If you run out of money or lose your bank card there are plenty of Western Union agents where you can collect cash in minutes from family at home. Simply take your passport and the reference code from family.
After my placement
What do people do when they backpack around afterwards?
Bolivia is not far away and is a popular backpacking destination. It is considered the jewel in the crown alongside Peru. The popular route to explore is to La Paz slowly via Puno, the reed villages and Copacabana at Lake Titicaca. From Bolivia’s capital La Paz choose either the jungle route down (if you can manage the sheer drops on the winding roads) or stay up on the high plains and head to the silver mine at Potosi and the famous Salt lake of Uyuni. You can leave everything you don’t want to take round Bolivia with you, in Cuzco. This makes it easier to travel lightly and simply pick everything up on your way back.
You should allow about £300 for backpacking around Bolivia for 2 – 3 weeks including coaches, basic hostels and meals. A guided tour for about the same can be arranged in Cuzco, this way you can travel in a group which is more fun!
OV volunteers at the famous 12 sided Hatunrumiyoc stone in Cuzco
View across Cuzco rooftops from the children’s home.
What are the costs after I have registered and booked my space?
After you have booked your space and registered with us, (volunteers travelling within 12 months of their first project abroad with us do not need to pay the registration fee again) the weekly project costs for Peru are £95pw for weeks 1 and 2 and £85 pw from week 3 onwards. The weekly costs include accommodation and support from the staff at the children’s home.
The airport pick up is £10 and is organised for you before arrival. All volunteers purchase a return flight to Cuzco (skyscanner is the preferred comparison site to find flights) and travel insurance. Travel insurance is required and should cover medical bills and repatriation. A visa is not needed if you have a British/European passport.
For eating out or shopping and cooking at the volunteer apartment allow between £30 and £50 a week. We recommend taking extra should you decide to go trekking, £250 – £350 should cover a trek and one other activity, although as with any holiday it is always a good idea to take as much as you can extra. There are lots of backpackers bars and cafes where prices can be higher than local ones and you probably won’t want to miss out!
At the football match.
Guided cycle tour in Andes mountains.
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. For Peru there is limited availability in the volunteer accommodation so please book early to ensure your name is on an arrival list so your space can be held for you. We do not need exact dates and you can stay into the following month, we only need the month you plan to arrive in at the time of booking. You can confirm your exact dates with us later closer to travel or when you send your flights to us.
- We will Buddy you up with another volunteer going to the Peru 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.
- We will handle all your documentation sent to us, forward this to your project and ensure your airport pick up is organised for you by the local team.
- We are available for any pre trip advice you may have on 01603 280702 or by email: [email protected]
- An invoice will be sent by email to pay for your project which can be paid easily online.
- We will provide comprehensive contact details of your local team before travel
Below is an example timeline for a volunteer travelling in August 2018
- At anytime : After you are registered with us and received confirmation by email, get flights to Cuzco airport, this will often require a change of planes in Lima airport as there are few direct flights to Cuzco from the UK, but is straightforward, simply follow the ‘transit passengers’ signs when you get off the plane in Lima. Remember that flight prices for a two week return and a two month return will be roughly the same so if you have the time, you may want to stay longer in Peru. Many volunteers regret not staying longer and even if you do not want to spend all your time at the children’s home you can always leave your gear there and travel further afield with new friends you’ve made, getting a longer stay ticket just gives you a few more options. For most volunteers they say 3 to 4 weeks is ideal with a week or two’s travelling before returning home. There are no fixed start dates or preferred times to arrive, the local team can meet flights regardless of time of arrival. When tickets are expensive many volunteers buy one return as far as Lima then buy an internal flight separately between Lima and Cuzco with taca.com or lan.com Make sure you leave enough time between landing in Lima and catching the second flight, if you have two unconnected flights bought from different agents you may need to come out completely, collect your luggage from the carousel and then check in again for your second flight. 4 hours should be more than enough time to allow for delays to your first flight, immigration and collecting baggage if you need to check in again.
- 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. You may want to take some tablets to help with the altitude, but taking it easy for the first few days can usually help with this and not everyone is affected. If you will be travelling to the jungle for an extended period in your free time you may want to take some malaria tablets. Visit our travel health section for more.
- June : Arrange suitable travel insurance – further advice is provided in your emailed welcome pack. Make sure your policy includes repatriation and medical bills. 1 in 15 volunteers require an overnight stay in a clinic (usually at Clinica O2) for acclimatisation or for stomach upsets and private treatment in Peru is not cheap, good insurance will mean less worry and cover the bills but before you check in make sure you call the telephone numbers on your policy details if you need medical attention as they will be able to advise which hospital you need to go to in Cuzco, as different insurers have different arrangements. See our travel health section for more detailed information.
- No visa is required before travel to Peru for UK passport holders and most nationalities. 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 Peru Cuzco: Email us your flight to organise your pick up.
- 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! We will organise your pick up and transfer from Cuzco airport automatically when we receive your flight
The ruins of Machu Pichu, discovered in 1911 are visited by all volunteers on day and weekend trips by train from Cuzco
Peru at a glance
Peru is in western South America. It is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia from the north, Brazil from the east, Chile from the south and the Pacific Ocean from the west. Peru is divided into 25 regions. Peru is multiethnic and its population is an average of 29 million. The earliest sign of human presence in Peru dates back to approximately 10,560 BC. Peru is a presidential representative democratic republic. Under this constitution, the president is head of state and government.
Peru has more than its fair share of wildlife, history, landscapes and culture which means there is something for everyone in this ancient land. From ice blue lakes and glaciers in the sierras to tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin Peru has it all and every imaginable habitat in between. In Cuzco there are plenty of museums, shops, cafes and bars including a growing number of Irish pubs. Not to be missed before leaving are Machu Pichu, Inca Trail, Nazca Lines, Chan Chan, The Cordillera Blanca and Lake Titicaca.
Festivals: Inti Raymi, 24 June, Candelaria, February, Senor de los Milagros, October
Time difference from UK: GMT -5hrs
Peru’s climate is very diverse from subtropical on the coast to the Equatorial climate present in the eastern lowlands.
The rainy season is from November- April and the average higest day time temperature in Cuzco is 21 Clesius between October and March.
If you have any questions big or small on any aspect of our most popular project in South America or would like to check dates please contact us at the earliest opportunity.Alternatively complete an easy enquiry form with your contact details and we’ll be in touch! On a budget? If you like the sound of Peru but might not be able to stretch your budget to long haul flights this time round, take a look at our Morocco programme where flights from the UK and Europe start at as little as £50 return with Easyjet and Ryanair.