Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Portugal
Portugal is a hostel work exchange hotspot. When compiling our list of worldwide hostel work exchanges we found at least a dozen hostels in this small country offering to give up a bed and food to travellers willing to help their businesses, though few put any formal information on their websites. We gave up after a while to get on with our lives but I’m sure could have found lots more had we been willing to trawl through the listings on help exchange websites.
Grassroots Volunteering in Portugal
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
It’s been a few years since they last advertised in the Jobs Abroad Bulletin but it appears this small non profit, created to provide a centre for information about products and services in the Algarve region that are considered to be working towards a sustainable future, continues to advance its goals. Currently they are in the second phase of their CdC project, aimed at creating a multi purpose venue for activities connected with the principle of sustainable living. With the help of volunteers from all parts of the world a lot of ideas and skills have been exchanged. They have refurbished the residential buildings to create accommodation and improve the efficiency of environmental systems, including water management and energy conversion. The second phase of the CdC project is focusing on the commercial area, which amongst other things will house a cafe and marketplace, as well as a venue for music, presentations and exhibitions. Builders, landscapers, management and admin are amongst their current volunteer needs. Volunteers should be serious about living sustainably.
Where: The Algarve.
Accommodation & Costs: In exchange for your services they offer accommodation and a reasonable living wage.
Hostel Work Exchanges
Many hostels use help exchange networks (see below) to find volunteer staff but the following either advertise on their websites or are particularly noted for taking on volunteers:
You may be able to stay for free in Portugal with Oasis Hostels, who have a couple of lodgings in and nearby Lisbon. Along with a place to stay, breakfast and internet, a discount on the daily dinners at the hostel and in the bar, is provided in exchange for work. EU ID is a must.
Destination will offer free accommodation in one of their Lisbon hostels. Volunteers are expected to work 20 hours per week, following the same rules as all staff members and to perform their duties promptly and consistently.
Peniche’s windswept coastline makes it an ideal surf spot and backpackers here can make their travels cheaper by doing some night shifts.
More Hostel Work Exchanges
Clink is another hostel group with a jobs page, though at the time of writing their Lisbon hostel is marked as coming soon. The Lisbon Chillout Hostel might also be open to work exchange staff able to lend a hand in housekeeping, reception or entertainment. Also try LxCorner, Sunset Destination Hostel and Johnies Place, the latter preferring Portuguese or Spanish speakers (along with English).
About 20 miles west of Lisbon is Cascais, a former fishing village that grew into a resort once popular with Portugal’s royal family, where Ljmonade Hostel & Suites may be willing to take on volunteers for a month or so. A bunk, breakfast and some groceries too are the rewards for working in Alma Porto Hostel. The role mostly involves working on the front desk and cleaning for six hours a day with two days off a week.
Faro’s Hostel 33 sometimes looks for people who want to help in various positions and be part of their family. They provide breakfast and accommodation, plus dinner. Also ask at Casa d’Alagoa to see if they have need of someone to entertain guests, work on reception, cook, clean, make beds or go out onto the streets to entice other people in.
Other Opportunities to Volunteer in Portugal
Founded in 1985, Grupo Lobo works toward the conservation of the wolf and the wolves’ habitat in Portugal. They used to have a full listing on this page but on last checking their website their volunteer information consists of the words ‘Become a volunteer’ but nothing else. (Update: The website now has a Voluntariado page with actual information on it but, like the rest of the site, is in Portuguese). A few years ago now, when being a little less reticent they told us volunteers help with many tasks including helping with the feeding of the wolves, infrastructure maintenance, cleaning, fire prevention and admin at the Iberian Wolf Recovery Centre near Mafra. The volunteering fees at this time were at the limits of our cheapness criteria, beginning at €17 per night for a bunk in a rustic wood house, but made it in thanks to working with wolves being pretty high up on our awesomeness tests.
Kirsty Henderson – a pioneering digital nomad who published her income reports in her Nerdy Nomad blog, before moving to Africa to publish street maps – details her experiences on several Portuguese volunteering projects in Portugal From Scratch, another of her many websites and blogs. Currently attempting to build a home on a plot of land in the country, Kirsty’s volunteering choices are slanted towards permaculture and natural building. As well as projects found through word of mouth and the work exchange networks, she volunteered with Keela Yoga Farm and Mount of Oaks.
Help Exchange Networks in Portugal
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Portugal
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free Airbnb credit from us here.
Helping on a Campsite in Rural Portugal – In a secluded corner of Portugal Els cleans showers and toilets in the morning and helps with dinner preparations and the dishes later on.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Image courtesy Rodrigo Gómez Sanz