Volunteer in Costa Rica with Plan My Gap Year, an award-winning, international volunteer abroad organisation. PMGY provides safe, meaningful, affordable projects overseas with a wide range of volunteer projects in Costa Rica including Childcare and English Teaching opportunities.
“I have volunteered across the world and the experience in Costa Rica has been the best yet! I was so excited to join the nursery project playing with little children in the mornings and then join the group for different activities. If you want to know how coffee is harvested be sure to go on the coffee tour, especially if you love a good cappuccino!” TAYLOR PRICE | UNITED KINGDOM
PMGY provide a sociable structured meaningful experience across need driven community projects in Africa, Asia and South America. Each year, we have thousands of volunteers working across a range of our projects from teaching and childcare to wildlife, medical and more. Our volunteer reviews are testament to the extensive pre-departure support and legacy our team provides to match the unbelievable in-country experience our volunteers engage in.
We are transparent and affordable with our fees, committed to long-term sustainable community development, all our local programmes are fully vetted and offer some great travelling and cultural opportunities to ensure that your time with us overseas is the best it can be.
A combination of all these reasons and more are why so many of our volunteers choose to come back to us and volunteer year after year with PMGY!
Book your flights as early as possible after confirming your place on the programme to ensure you get the lowest airfare possible.
You should book your flights to Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. The airport code SJO.
PMGY work with various partners in the aviation industry to offer our volunteers competitively priced flights. If you would like any assistance in booking your flight, you can request an optional flight quote during the online application or feel free to call us or drop us an email.
PMGY have an ATOL Licence to ensure any flights booked through us are financially secured by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Travel Insurance really is a travel essential. It is mandatory for all of our participants to have adequate travel insurance in place across all their trip dates incase anything goes wrong when overseas.
PMGY have teamed up with the insurance company Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive optional travel insurance policy specifically designed to insure PMGY volunteers for all their travel essentials. The policy is available to anyone up to the age of 75 and covers you for any PMGY destination and any onward travel you may arrange (excluding the US and Canada).
Plan My Gap Year Ltd is an appointed representative of Endsleigh Insurance Services Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
If you’d like to purchase Plan My Gap Year Travel Insurance, you can add this option on during your online application.
Before you begin your programme, we provide extensive pre-departure support on the build up to your volunteer project with us whether it is a month or a year away. This all begins from an online chat or a telephone call that develops into a regular email chain of next step communications to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip with us.
Further to this we provide a forty page plus Volunteer Handbook that provides all you need to know once you confirm your place on the programme with us; from visa guidance and how to get a background check to what to pack and more information on the culture and preparing for your project.
For all our destinations we have Facebook groups made up of our local teams, past, present and future volunteers that provides a great forum for volunteers to network and to also share project updates and community updates across the year.
We have also generated a range of informative and action packed videos to bring some tangibility on what volunteers can expect when travel volunteering with us. This can be accessed on our PMGY Vimeo channel.
Our pre-departure and programme preparation webinars are not to be missed either. They run on selected Tuesdays at 1pm (GMT) and will provide you with some invaluable advice on your upcoming trip. The first webinar covers all the essential pre-departure information you need to know and things you need to do before you go and the second webinar is more programme specific with advice and information for whilst you’re on your placement.
For those looking to go one step further, we introduced a 60 hour online TEFL course to really strengthen volunteers project preparation. This really is the perfect introductory course to teaching English abroad and enable you to acquire some key skills along the way as well as an internationally accredited certificate.
PMGY participants are based in Coronado. This is a very popular suburb of San Jose and home to nearly 60,000 residents! It’s a small tico town with a very typical way of life. The city is set at the foot of Braulio Carrillo National Park, a virtually untouched location home to over 150 different species of animals. Coronado offers visitors an opportune ability to encounter both the city life and natural wonders of Costa Rica!
Coronado is famous for its neo-Gothic architecture. Right in the centre of the city lies the most beautiful cathedrals in Costa Rica, San Isidro de Coronado. Aside from the beauty of this location you can find yourself at a prime spot to take a boat tour through the rain forest, hike to the Locos por el Bosque cloudforest reserve, eat at Kaffa Café and visit the La Paz Waterfalls Gardens.
Our participants are situated in a great location to explore the local sites, from both the hip and historic cultural attractions and natural wonders, but also travel further afield with ease.
The city has all the amenities you could require such as banks, hospitals, nightlife and shops. It is also the transportation hub where you can get on a cheap bus to take you to the many different regions of beautiful Costa Rica.
This suburb is located 10km from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Take off after your morning Spanish lessons to visit for a cappuccino or fresh juice at the local cafe, hope on a local bus to San Jose for a movie at the cinema or even join a tour to Irazú Volcano.
Our programmes in Coronado run from 1-12 weeks beginning on the first and third Sunday of each month.
PMGY’s programme in Costa Rica is ran by our dedicated and experienced in-country local team who have been fully vetted by our UK team.
Such a committed local staff network provides the structure for your stay with us when working on our Costa Rica project. The support structure includes providing accommodation, airport pick up and drop off, afternoon activities, in-country orientation and 24/7 emergency support.
So, whether you are teaching in schools, working at the orphanage or cutting up some papaya for the spider monkeys, our local team will provide a great framework for you to enjoy a unique cultural experience with us in Costa Rica.
After a good first night rest in Coronado, it’s now time to begin your induction into life in Costa Rica. The start of your day will include a placement testing to identify what level your Spanish is. You will also learn about the Spanish school and your classes whether you have signed up or wish to do so while volunteering! There is a new student introduction and then you will meet the team and travel around Coronado.
Our local team will teach you about life in Costa Rica, the do’s and don’ts, the local culture and religion. Your orientation will continue with an introduction to the transport system, safety advice and all the projects we support in the community. There are lots of activities like salsa dancing, cooking classes or even trips to nearby waterfalls for a low-cost! If you wish to get involved feel free to ask about the weekly schedules.
Following the introduction, our local coordinator will take you to see some important spots in Coronado, including the local supermarket, the gym & spa and restaurants as well as the ATMs and places change money.
Please arrive Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose (SJO) on Sunday.
Day 1 (Sunday) – Arrival
Welcome to Costa Rica! You will be met at San Jose airport by a member of our local team who will be holding a name sign. The journey to the accommodation will take around 45 minutes, depending on traffic. You will have the rest of the day to relax and settle in. If you wish to go to venture in the local area you can request a time to meet a team member or join fellow volunteers.
Day 1 (Monday) – Orientation
After a good first night rest in Coronado, it’s now time to begin your induction into life in Costa Rica. The orientation will be a mix of theory, culture and visits to local points of interest.
Day 3-6 (Tuesday-Friday) – Language & Immersion Week
While the time in class will be around 4 hours in the morning there are also activities to get involved in during the afternoon. It is very important to PMGY Costa Rica that volunteers learn Spanish and the culture of their beautiful country. Activities include salsa classes, Costa Rican fruit tasting, hiking in the Coronado cloudforest, trips to nearby volcanos or even a coffee tasting at the local Kaffa Cafe!
Day 7-8 (Saturday-Sunday) – Weekend
Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend surfing by the beach, a mesmerizing visit to the cloudforest, some adventure activities in the jungles of Monteverde or Arenal or a more cultural experience locally – Costa Rica has it all. Why not check out our Something For The Weekend guide to find out what you can be getting up to in your free time!
Day 9 (Monday) – Volunteering Begins
You will start your volunteer work on Monday morning. Should you need anything whilst at the project, remember our local team are only a phone call away. You will see Costa Rica coordinators throughout the day at the Spanish School which is in the same compound of the Volunteer House. They are always happy to help.
The following weeks
Your next week(s) will follow a similar pattern, as you will be volunteering from Monday to Friday. Time will fly so make sure you make the most of it. Our local team are there to support you throughout your stay. Whether you’ve lost your passport, want some advice for weekend travel plans or just need someone to talk to, they are there for you.
Last day (Saturday)
Saturday is your last day with PMGY. If you are heading home then we can help you arrange your return airport drop off. Please note that this is included in your Programme Fee so we just ask that you speak to the coordinators at the Spanish school about your departure time.
If you have not travelled much before, it is really hard to know what to expect and many volunteers (and their loved ones) are concerned for their safety and security.
Although we can never fully guarantee your safety, we do everything in our power to ensure your volunteering programme is as careful, safe and secure as possible. Every programme that PMGY offers has been personally inspected and selected by a Director of Plan My Gap Year. We have lived in the accommodation, experienced the orientation, worked on the projects and built strong trusting relationships with our local staff.
In the unlikely event that something was to happen, volunteers have various layers of support that they can go through (and people who will help them in the case of an accident).
1. In-Country Project Coordinators & Support Staff
2. Project Staff
3. PMGY UK Team
Projects are monitored on an on-going basis to gauge volunteers’ experiences and we are continually improving our placements and projects through this feedback. Security and safety of our programmes is constantly being reviewed and if you have any concerns we encourage you to discuss these with the local staff at your orientation. During orientation, project staff will also provide guidance in the area of safety and security.
Listed below are some general safety tips.
• Be modest with the amount of jewellery you wear in public.
• Do not drink tap water.
• Be cautious of beggars or crowds. Incidents of theft often occur when there are crowds and confusion to distract you.
• Be cautious about removing money in public.
• Always try to know where you are going before you attempt long journeys. Be especially careful at night.
• Use reputable taxi firms only. Our local staff will recommend some specific companies during orientation. If you are unsure – ask local staff who to use.
• Try to keep in groups at night and never walk alone along dark, empty streets. If possible use transport from door to door after dark.
• The recognised tourist areas can be considered potentially high risk areas for pickpockets and thieves.
• Leave your valuables behind before a night out in the town.
• For traffic safety, always keep looking to the left and right and walk slowly when crossing the road.
• Do not accept drinks or food from strangers.
Like most tropical destinations, Costa Rica has a dry season and a wet season. Due to the various climates across this small country the seasons will affect each region differently. The coastal regions will have long rainy periods with high humidity and very hot weather year-round, while the highlands are generally much colder and have a mist that forms a cloud like appearance much of the year. Mid-elevations like San José and Coronado (Central Valley of Costa Rica) is in general cooler than the coast.
No matter the area of country, visitors find Costa Rica to be a warm country with beautiful weather year-round! In Coronado you can expect the weather to be quite humid with sunny days and chilly nights. The weather May to November is a bit unpredictable depending on the region. You can expect rainfall during some part of the days, sometimes this would be heavy and short, others lighter and longer. July and August tend to be drier due to the “Veranillo de San Juan” phenomenon, but it’s still possible to experience some rain. December to April is the summer season with mostly dry weather. But it’s the tropics! So remember always to bring something for the hot weather, something for the cold weather and something for the rainy one.
During your time with PMGY in Costa Rica you will live in our Volunteer House located in Coronado, a suburb of San Jose. You will find restaurants, convenience stores, cafés, pubs and ATMs all within walking distance. You’ll be living with other volunteers from around the world, so you’ll make plenty of friends along the way.
The accommodation is comfortable with free Wi-Fi. Each room has single or bunk beds with up to 3 people per room in same-sex rooms. Volunteers are provided with cupboard space and bed linens. Bathrooms are shared, but have a hot shower and western style toilet.
The house has a communal area for volunteers to hang out. We encourage you to bring some small padlocks store any valuables in your own bags, but there is a safe in each room for shared storage. There will also be fridge space available for volunteers to store any items they need to keep chilled in the kitchen. The Volunteer House has a laundry room on site to do all your own washing equipped with washers and dryers!
Volunteers are a short walk from the centre of Coronado meaning that restaurants, supermarkets, cafes and projects are close by! The house is in a compound with 24-hour security and a digital keypad to open and close the front gates. This is to ensure that volunteers are safe. Meals are not provided so there are fully equipped kitchens to prepare all of your food within the house. This accommodation setup offers volunteers the unique experience of living with lots of other volunteers as well as an independent environment in this Latin American country.
During our busiest months (June to September) you may be placed at alternative accommodation. This could be a nearby guesthouse or one of our summer Volunteer Houses.
Local supermarkets are within walking distance. Average meal purchased outside will be £5.00 in a local restaurant. Foreign restaurants will be closer to £10.00. On the weekends, there is a local farmers market that volunteers love to visit just a few blocks from the Volunteer House. If everyone prepares meals together and chips in for meals please plan to spend around £25.00 per week on food.
Transport to project will be by local bus routes or walking. The local team will educate volunteers on the proper directions and schedules to get to their project. One trip on the local bus costs 50p.
PMGY welcome volunteers of all nationalities and backgrounds. The minimum age to join the programme is 17 and there is no upper age limit. All volunteers need to have a good level of English, although it does NOT need to be your first language.
For our programmes in Latin America, we recommend that you speak basic to intermediate Spanish. While the programmes only require you to speak a basic level of Spanish, we find that the ability to speak a good level of Spanish will greatly enhance your overall experience. English is generally not widely spoken so if you do not speak a reasonable level of Spanish then you will find it difficult to communicate and thus may have a frustrating experience.
We require a clean background check from all our participants in advance of volunteering with us abroad.
In general no formal experience or qualifications are required for the projects, just lots of energy, enthusiasm and preparation. Medical and healthcare projects usually require additional documentation before participation begins in country.
Registration Fees must be paid within 7 days of the application being successful to confirm your place and Programme Fees are due at least 60 days before the programme start date.