Volunteer in Portugal
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 5 meaningful project options
- Projects based in Lisbon and Mafra
- Accommodation in dormitory style hostels or homes on-site
- Between 5 and 20 volunteers start in Portugal each month
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals (depending on your project) and 24/7 in-country support
- Program fees from US$375 for 1 week (approximately CA$475)
- Affordable Portuguese language lessons available
- Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organization in Portugal to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Portugal will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
- Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
- Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
- Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organizations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
- New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Portugal with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ Portugal Program is located in Lisbon, the capital and largest city in Portugal. Volunteers are required to fly into Lisbon Airport (LIS), which is a 7 to 10 hour flight from most major airports in Canada. Volunteer placements are located throughout the wider city area of Lisbon with Wolf Conservation volunteers based in Mafra. Volunteers travel to their placements from the volunteer accommodation via public transport or by foot.
The program begins on the first and third Monday of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 12 weeks.
Construction and Renovation
The Construction and Renovation project aims to directly assist people living in poverty through repairing and rehabilitating houses and community associations. Volunteer tasks can include stripping and preparing walls prior to repairing, painting and decorating, installing bathrooms, installing water and electricity supply, as well as repairing roofs, floors and ceilings. Volunteers on this project are also encouraged to get to know and build relationships with the individuals who are benefiting from the work as many of them also help to contribute and assist in the work. The results of the work completed on the Construction and Renovation project are tangible and meaningful from day one, but the smiles on the faces of the people and communities you are assisting is also incredibly rewarding.
The location of the Construction and Renovation project can vary regularly according to the work required at the time, and volunteers should expect to work in a variety of locations throughout wider Lisbon. Volunteers on the Construction and Renovation project can choose between a morning shift (9:00 AM - 1:00 PM) and an afternoon shift (1:00 PM - 5:00 PM). More ambitious volunteers also have the option of participating on both shifts.
Please note, the Construction and Renovation project incurs a one-off surcharge of US$300 (approximately CA$380) to cover resources, supplies and additional supervision. This will be quoted in your program fees when you apply for the program.
Environmental Scuba Diving
Reducing underwater pollution and conserving marine life is largely an issue overlooked in Portugal. Volunteers on the Environmental Scuba Diving project have the opportunity to help with underwater clean-up efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem on the coast of Portugal in Cascais. Volunteers work with a local diving school that has an emphasis on local environmental protection. Volunteer tasks can include cleaning rubbish on the sea floor and logging information on items collected, learning more about the marine ecosystem and how to protect it, observing and identifying fish, collecting data on fish numbers, and more. Volunteers will always be supervised by an experienced dive instructor and will receive on-site training.
As part of the Environmental Scuba Diving project volunteers complete internationally recognized SSI (Scuba Schools International) diving certifications. The certifications that volunteers will complete depends on their current diving experience as well as their chosen program duration. The courses range from Open Water Diver through Advanced Adventurer, and specialties such as Buoyancy, Marine Ecology, Fish ID are also available for volunteers who have completed the Open Water and Advanced certification courses. The program fee covers the cost of the required SSI online and in person training, full scuba equipment, and volunteers supervision from an experienced dive instructor. The program is open to beginners without any diving experience, however volunteers will have to learn the fundamentals and safety measures before engaging in any type of conservation activities.
Please note in your application when you apply for the program if you have any existing dive certifications. If you do have certifications already, you will need to send a copy of these through to our local team in Portugal prior to your program, with your diving log book. All volunteers are also required to provide a medical certificate which clears them for diving.
The Food Rescue project provides volunteers with the opportunity to join the efforts of a community movement aiming to eliminate food waste and end hunger. Volunteers support a network of centers to recover food, in good condition, from local restaurants and supermarkets and then re-distribute the food among families, elderly and homeless in need. The Food Rescue project works across over 20 centers in Lisbon with the largest serving meals to around 300 people every day.
Volunteer tasks include collecting food from local providers, assisting with packaging of food to be collected by those in need, the distribution of food, assisting with sorting and storage of any food and clean up at the end of the shift. Volunteers can expect work to begin around 6:30 PM and to last for about 4 hours each evening, with the days free to explore Lisbon and surrounding areas.
There are many underfunded organizations within Lisbon that aim to provide youth with a safe place to go after school, where they can come together, interact and take part in various activities. Many of the youth in this project come from underprivileged backgrounds and a key role for volunteers is to simply spend time with them, being a positive role model and having an interest in them and their future as this is something that many of them have never experienced before. Volunteers can expect to work with youth who mainly vary in age from 11 to 18 years, depending on your placement, alongside the organization staff and other volunteers. Volunteers on the Youth Support project help by assisting with homework, teaching English, computer training, helping with craft and art, and assisting with any other work that needs to be done at the organization. There is also the opportunity on this project to work with underprivileged and teenage mothers who volunteers assist by teaching English or by taking care of their babies while they are studying or working. During the school holidays, volunteers may also help with outside activities including trips to the beach, games and other activities.
2018 School Holidays:
- Easter - March 26th - April 6th
- Carnaval - February 12th - February 14th
- Summer - June 23rd - 8th September
Volunteers on the Wolf Conservation project work in a conservation center focusing on wolf conservation, education and also preserving the environment for wolves. The wolves which live at the conservation center arrive from zoos, illegal trapping or illegal captivity, and are not able to be released into the wild. The wolves are housed within large enclosures with the aim of providing a life as similar as possible to what the wolves would experience in the wild.
Volunteers can participate in a wide range of tasks at the center including; assisting with animal feeding, checking water, maintenance of the center, fire prevention, cleaning, observing wolf behavior and movement, assisting with visiting school groups, clearing Eucalyptus trees, reforestation, and monitoring of visitors.
The Wolf Conservation project is located about 45 minutes outside of Lisbon. Volunteers will be accommodated at the center and local staff will guide volunteers in their daily work. Work takes place at different times of day, depending on the season and weather, and the necessary tasks taking place at the time. Volunteers on this project should be aware that they will not have any direct contact with the wolves and that work hours can be up to a full day, depending on tasks occurring within the conservation center at the time. The Wolf Conservation project is self-catering with volunteers required to purchase and prepare their own meals for the duration of their stay. Volunteers will be provided with transport once or twice a week to the nearest town to obtain supplies. Volunteers can cook together or individually.
Please also note that volunteers on the Wolf Conservation project can participate for 2 - 4 weeks, most of the year. However, due to capacity limitations and limited work during the summer months, we are only able to offer a 2 week duration from May through September. This project is also not available over the month of January or the month of December, as the conservation center is closed to the public during this period.
The program orientation begins on the first and third Monday of every month, and volunteers need to arrive in Lisbon on the Sunday before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Lisbon Airport (LIS). Canadian travelers are eligible to gain a 90 day tourist stamp on arrival into Portugal. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in either Lisbon or Cascais (location will depend on proximity to your specific placement). Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.
If you are traveling in Portugal prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up from a prearranged location in Lisbon on the day before your program orientation.
Orientation is hosted by our Portugal team at the accommodation in Cascais. It begins the morning of your chosen start date and lasts for a full day. The orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Portugal – Introduction to Portugal, Culture and Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities, Introduction to Project and Placement as well as a tour of the local area. The orientation will also give you a chance to sign up for Portuguese language lessons, if you’re on a Lisbon based project, and to meet other volunteers with whom you can swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.
Weekdays: After the initial orientation, you will have afternoon or evening shift at your placement and will work for approximately 3 to 5 hours per day. Please note that start times and daily workload depends on the project that you are participating on. A typical morning schedule is as follows:
7:00 AM Breakfast begins at the volunteer apartment, available until 9 AM
8.30 AM Travel to placement to join local placement staff and begin work on your project. Please note that start times and daily workload depends on the project that you are participating on - some placements run in the afternoon and volunteers on these placements will have the morning free to use as they wish or to attend Portuguese language lessons.
12:00-2:00 PM Lunch is served at the accommodation or at your placement. After lunch, you will continue your volunteer work (where applicable).
2:30 PM Volunteers with afternoon or evening shifts travel to placement to join local placement staff and begin work on their project. Please note that start times and daily workload depends on the project that you are participating on.
7:00-9:00 PM Dinner at the volunteer accommodation. After dinner you will have the remainder of the evening free to relax and use as you wish.
Please note this schedule will vary depending on the needs of your particular project.
Volunteers on most projects are accommodated in a dormitory-style hostel located in Lisbon. The hostel can accommodate up to 42 guests and you can expect to share a room with 4, 8 or 10 other volunteers of the same gender. During the busier months, a secondary accommodation is also used, which is a dormitory style hostel located on the coast in Cascais, just outside of Lisbon. This hostel can accommodate up to 70 guests and volunteers can expect to share a room with up to 11 other volunteers of the same gender. The hostels also cater to independent travelers who book rooms from time to time for varying lengths of stay.
All accommodation options have shared western bathrooms, and bedding and towels are provided. There are staff who clean the accommodation throughout the week, however volunteers are required to keep their rooms tidy.
WiFi is available at the volunteer accommodation, as well as many cafes and restaurants in the area. To keep connected, the local team will provide you with a free local SIM card that you can activate to purchase mobile data for an unlocked mobile phone.
Volunteers on the Wolf Conservation project will be accommodated in houses on-site in Mafra. As the houses on the Wolf Conservation project have limited rooms, volunteers are not able to be separated by gender and volunteers should expect to share rooms with up to 4 other volunteers, male and female. These houses have fully-equipped kitchens and comfortable living space for volunteer use.
Private single, twin or double rooms in the hostels, with use of the communal bathrooms, can be arranged at an additional cost of €100 per week (about CA$150), and payment can be made in cash directly to the local team upon arrival. Private twin or double rooms for Wolf Conservation volunteers can also be arranged at an additional cost of €210 (about CA$290) per week. All accommodation upgrades are subject to availability.
Please note, the local team will require a deposit of €10 from each volunteer for the apartment key, and this will be returned to you on your final day provided you have returned your key.
Portuguese food is delicious and during your time in Portugal, you will be sure to receive some incredible treats. Most volunteers are provided with three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Breakfast is self-serve at the accommodation and generally includes tea, coffee, rolls, cheese, ham, spreads, cereal and fruit. Lunch and Dinner will include local staples such as fish and chicken, as well as rice, pasta, vegetables, potatoes and salad. If your placement requires you to be away from the accommodation during lunch or dinner, lunch or dinner these will either be provided at your placement or you will take a packed meal. Tap water is fine to drink in Portugal, however bottled water is readily available if you prefer and you should budget approximately CA$12 per week for this.
Volunteers on the Environmental Scuba Diving project will be provided with 2 meals per day, breakfast and lunch, breakfast is self-service at the accommodation and generally includes bread with butter or jam, milk, cereals, coffee/tea and lunch will be a packed lunch for volunteers to take to their project. Volunteers must provide their own dinner and volunteers can prepare their own meals at the accommodation or there are a variety of local restaurants and we recommend volunteers budget about CA$190 per week for this.
The Wolf Conservation project is self-catering with volunteers required to purchase and prepare their own meals for the duration of their stay. Volunteers will be provided with transport once or twice a week to the nearest town to obtain supplies. Volunteers can cook together or individually.
“Volunteering in Portugal has re-energised me. I have new enthusiasm for my teaching job in England. I feel more confident when speaking Portuguese. At times I was out of my comfort zone, but I managed the situations better than I thought I would, therefore I am ready to push myself more when I return to work in England. The accommodation staff were great, they have lots of energy and were very happy to help me. My favorite moment from the volunteering experience was interacting with the kids at the youth club - they taught me more Portuguese in 4 days than I had learnt in 6 months! I was given the opportunity to develop my own sessions and the staff at the youth club had a lot of trust in me. The flexibility at the youth club was great so I could experience different parts of Lisbon too. It is a shame that I could only stay for one week, I was starting to build some good relationships with the kids and staff, and I will definitely return in the future.” – Andrew Britton (Youth Support in Portugal)
Volunteers have the weekends free and Portugal is a hub for history, art, culture, cuisine and natural beauty, so there is absolutely no shortage of things to see and do while in Lisbon or further afield in Portugal! Volunteers can fill their free time visiting the many historical sites and attractions, dining on the amazing cuisine, sipping espresso in the many café bars or simply exploring parts of Lisbon by wandering through the beautiful streets and alleys or taking a tuk tuk tour. Volunteers can make travel arrangements once in Lisbon, with the advice and guidance of our local staff.
See our Portugal Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Portugal!
Weather and climate: Lisbon has a Mediterranean climate with dry hot summers and mild winters. Winter (December to February) temperatures are mild and vary from 8°C to 14°C (46°F to 57°F). Summer (June to September) is dry and hot with temperatures ranging between 18°C and 29°C (64°F and 84°F). Rainfall is heaviest in December/January and driest in July/August.
Volunteers must be over 18 years of age at the beginning of the program. Volunteers must speak fluent English. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a recent criminal background check and a copy of their passport to IVHQ’s partner organization staff at least 2 weeks before their arrival in Lisbon.
Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.
Volunteer Language Lessons
Portuguese language lessons are available for volunteers, regardless of their ability. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to take advantage of these lessons to allow them to work and communicate more effectively during their program. The language lessons are organized upon arrival in Portugal during the program orientation. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Portuguese and are taught by a professional Portuguese teacher. Classes run Monday through Friday, the cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers. Portuguese lessons must be paid for once in Portugal to our local team.
- Small group lessons (15 hour course, 5 student minimum): 90€ (approximately CA$135)
- Private lessons (10 hour course with a flexible schedule): 200€ (approximately CA$310)
Please note, Portuguese lessons are held at the Lisbon accommodation and are not available to volunteers on the Wolf Conservation project as this project is not based in Lisbon.