Ever fancied visiting a tropical paradise?
In Costa Rica, as in most countries in the world, it’s the rural areas that need help and assistance the most; outside the cities resources tend to dry up and children are left with far less opportunities. Luckily for you, rural Costa Rica is also home to some of the most inspiring scenery this side of the National Geographic channel and these schools in particular provide a stunning backdrop to your time here. They are located in and around the small village of La Fortuna in the Central Valley, right by the stunning Arenal Volcano, although not too close! You will be working as an English teaching assistant alongside the local teachers in the schools during the English lessons schedule and you will be a welcome resource appreciated by children and staff alike.
Fancy learning some Spanish to give you a good start in country? Why not add on two weeks Spanish Language school before you start your volunteering. Call us now to find out more.
- Being part of the community in the stunning Costa Rican countryside
- Helping develop the language skills of your students
- Help out the local English teachers and learn about real life in rural Costa Rica
- Learning (practising?!) your Spanish - much more fun than in a classroom back home!
What's not included
Day 1 (Sunday) – Arrival into San Jose airport (airport code SJO)
You will met at the airport by a member of our friendly i-to-i Costa Rica team, and taken to the Alajuela Backpackers hostel, where you’ll be spending your first 2 nights in Costa Rica. If you arrive before 6:30pm a tasty welcome dinner is provided, and the rest of your time is yours to spend as you chose – exploring Alajuela’s bars and shops, getting to know your fellow volunteers or catching up on some sleep!
If you are on a flight departing Mexico on Saturday evening that arrives into San Jose at 10 minutes past midnight on Sunday morning your airport pick up will be included however you will need to pay for an additional night’s accommodation - please arrange this with our office in advance.
As volunteers are not able to check into their rooms before 2pm on the arrival day, anyone arriving earlier than 12 midday that would like to have a room available for them will need to pay for an additional nights fee for accommodation - please arrange this with our office in advance.
Day 2 (Monday) – Orientation and overnight in Alajuela
At 8:30am a member of the in-country team will pick you up from the hostel and take you to the i-to-i office for orientation. This will give you a good insight into Costa Rica - the culture, things to do and see, what to do in case of an emergency and much more! It can also be a good way to meet other i-to-i travellers and ask any questions you may have. You’ll then be given some lunch and will have the afternoon free to explore or relax. A tasty dinner will be served in the offices in the evening!
Day 3 (Tuesday) – Let’s get to La Fortuna!
You’ll transfer to La Fortuna early in the morning. An i-to-i representative will take you to the bus stop, and make sure you get on your way! Your family will be waiting for you at the other end. We like to get you to La Fortuna today; instead of straight after the orientation as it is a long journey and we don’t want you to arrive at the project after dark (you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!). The transfer to La Fortuna takes around 4 hours by public transport.
Day 4 (Wednesday) – An apple for the teacher – that’s you
Today you’ll start your first day of teaching near La Fortuna. You will meet all the kids at the school so don’t worry if you don’t take in everyone’s name on the first day! You’ll be taken to the project on your first day by your home stay family and introduced to the staff and children. You can work out a schedule together with your class teachers and get stuck in – there’s no time like the present!
Days 6 and 7 (Saturday to Sunday) – Free time
Yahoo it’s the weekend! So what you do want to do? Oh I don’t know… you could choose between a tree top zip wire tour, or hike around the Arenal volcano, trek through a tropical forest, swim around a waterfall, or have a disco in the Baldi hot springs – Costa Rica is cool man!
Build an unbreakable bond with the children and staff of your school as you become more and more involved in the school and community of this close community. Whether you’re here for four weeks or four months, you’ll find it equally hard to leave and return to your everyday life.
Some schools teach from 7.00am through to 5.30pm with a break for lunch – but you’re not expected to be there all that time though! You’ll tend to follow your English teacher’s schedule which is discussed on your arrival. Depending on which school you are placed at you could work from 4 to 8 hours per day. The Schedule will be discussed with you in more detail during orientation.
Your Last Day (Sunday)
Your last night will be back at the Alajuela backpackers hostel which is just 4km from the airport for your onward or homeward bound flights on Sunday. Alajuela Backpackers offers transfers back to the airport depending on departure time.
What does the project do?
We work with several schools in the La Fortuna area. These are schools run by the government of Costa Rica, the Ministry of Education. You will be working as teaching assistant alongside the English teachers in the schools and during the English lessons schedule. As well as spending time teaching, you might also spend time helping to plan and prepare lessons for all age groups (from first to 6th grade).
Student population varies from school to school; ranging from 150 to nearly 800 students. Kids are aged from 4 years to 12 years.
There is a need for English language education as the community is gearing up to be the future eco-tourist guides for the area and English is an essential skill for such a role.
What’s the project like?
Either of the schools that you’ll be working at is in a scenic, rural location that has quite a tourist trail running through it, to learn English for these kids is extremely important in order to better their chances at employment in later life. Depending on the school, there are one or three teachers who work full time but need plenty of assistance in the form of volunteers to improve their English and give the children the best education possible!
Why does the project need volunteers?
The schools appreciates volunteers because there is a need for English language education as the community is gearing up to be the future eco-tourist guides for the area and English is an essential skill for such a role. Plus, you won’t just be helping the children; you’ll be helping the teachers and the community too! Phew!
An important key for being a successful volunteer is the flexibility. Starting with your work schedule, it will probably be disrupted at some point. The English teachers have to follow a syllabus given by the Ministry of Education, do not expect this to be changed. Also, you need to be a creative, self-motivated and self-starter person who enjoys working with children. Perseverance and tolerance of working in a new environment is a plus; however, the student's genuine need for tuition and conversational English practice make this project really rewarding. Have patience and go with the flow!
Activities and schedule
Your assistance is needed from Monday to Friday anytime between the hours of 7am and 5.30pm as this is when lessons take place. However, you’ll be working out a schedule with the teachers when you arrive, so be prepared to get stuck in and working long rewarding days!
Project resources and advice
Please note that there are several cultural considerations to note when working at the schools. We ask you to cover any visible tattoos, piercings and ‘outrageous’ hairdo’s (we love them, don’t get us wrong, but they don’t tend to fit in with rural areas overseas as much…). Any resources that you bring with you will come in useful - but dont forget you can buy many things locally!
What type of accommodation will I be in?
During your time near La Fortuna you will be staying with a Costa Rican family. These families provide not only breakfast, lunch, dinner and a bed for those lodging with them, but also an interesting insight into Costa Rican culture.
All the families chosen provide clean and safe accommodation; we also know them to be good and friendly people who will not only welcome you into their home, but also their family.
We let the home-stay families know in advance if you have special dietary needs, but please also remind them on your arrival. Rice and beans is going to be your main diet, it is often eaten 3 times a day here- you will learn to love it!
You can drink water directly from the tap in most of Costa Rica including in smaller villages. Your family will make juices and drinks using this water. Should you wish to have bottled water it is available in the supermarkets
Your families will also wash your clothes once a week.
Set in a scenic area, La Fortuna is a stunning small town (on the backpacker and tourist trail) and connects the Volcan Arenal area with the cloud forests of Monteverde and Santa Elena with the northern lowlands of the country. Costa Rica’s most active volcano (Arenal), around 30kms away, can be seen quite clearly and offers some spectacular views - particularly on a clear night when you can see it glowing away. The volcano is one of the country’s top rated tourist attractions and regularly spews out it's smoke and ash. La Fortuna itself is around 150kms north of San Jose with the journey taking around 3-4 hours by bus.
You will be staying in a home stay accommodation near to your project, which will be in the La Fortuna area. You'll stay with a local family of at least two generations and a few animals too, giving you a great cultural experience and real opportunity to understand and get to enjoy the Costa Rican way of life - remember, Costa Rica was recently found to be the happiest country in the world and you'll soon see why.
You’ll be placed in a shared room in a local home stay. The rooms are usually on a two person shared basis (where possible) and we’ll do our best to place couples together but this cannot always be guaranteed. You’ll be sharing a living space and bathroom with the family you are living with and they’ll take you under their expert wing to make sure you feel settled and welcome in to the family.
All of our home stays are within a short distance of the others so you can meet up in the evenings and socialise together. They all have good facilities with running water (probably not hot water but you won’t need it!), bedding, electricity and lots of delicious food for you! you won’t need a mosquito net in La Fortuna unless you particularly want to bring one with you to protect your bed from the creepies!
Where is the accommodation?
The home stay accommodation is based around a 5-10 minutes walk from your school. Ah it’s not a bad life there, walking around in the sun, making friends, eating rice and beans three times a day…we defy you to want to leave anytime before you absolutely have to!
La Fortuna (which could be a bus ride away from where you are staying) is a strange and wonderful place, plenty of tourist attractions around to keep you occupied and all in love with Costa Rica, but still nice and rural enough and far enough away from reality to really get away from it all.
How far is it from my project?
The total time from your project to your accommodation is around a 5-10 minute walk away! There’s a lovely walk in scenic surroundings to wake you up at the start of your day!
What you get
What exactly do i to i Volunteering provide?
It may seem like a strange concept to pay for your volunteer experience. You'd be right if you think you shouldn't and the truth is you actually don't! Your placement is free; it's the benefits around it that you pay for. It's important to note that i to i Volunteering is a travel company and not a charity. We provide a professional travel service. We are responsible for finding and assessing worthwhile projects across the world, preparing you for the volunteering experience and supporting you whilst you're there.
Project sourcing and assessment
We work with hundreds of locally run partner projects around the world and are constantly sourcing new opportunities. We visit all projects to check that they are worthwhile and legitimate and we also conduct a thorough safety assessment before we'll send volunteers there.
Almost everyone who works for i to i Volunteering has traveled extensively or worked overseas. This means we're a goldmine of information; we're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you book on to a project you'll receive an online account that contains loads of general information about volunteering, about your chosen country and how to have fun and stay safe. We'll also give you advice on visas and inoculations.
It can be pretty daunting arriving in a different country for the first time - especially after a long flight! If you arrive on your project start date, there'll be a welcoming face at the airport to pick you up and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you will attend a thorough orientation with our in-country team. This is to cover important safety and security information. You'll also get some tips about sight-seeing options for your time off and maybe even learn some of the local lingo!
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are even included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard.
Local in-country coordinators
Your in-country team will arrange a pick-up for you at the airport and will conduct your orientation upon arrival. All coordination teams are English speaking and are locals of your destination country. They won't be at your project every day, but will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need them.
24/7 emergency support
Aside from the local support from your in-country team you'll be given access to a 24/7 emergency phone line manned by our response team in case any problem should arise while you're overseas. We also hire crisis management professionals to be on hand in case of a situation that requires additional expert support.
The safety and security of our volunteers is paramount. For this reason we provide ongoing crisis management and emergency response training to our local teams around the world. We also fly in our in-country coordinators to the UK regularly for thorough training to help them offer the best safety to the thousands of volunteers they support each year.
Supporting our projects
We don't fund our projects directly from the project fee that you pay us. Instead we choose to support a number of projects through our Helping Hands Foundation to provide resources to those projects that really need it.
Recruiting people like you
We make no secrets of the fact that part of your placement fee is reinvested in to recruiting volunteers just like you! The volunteers recruited in one week will typically deliver over 2000 man-days of service. The difference this makes to projects overseas is immeasurable. Many of our overseas projects rely on assistance from international volunteers, so it's necessary for us to put together brochures and websites to find the people who can support them. This recruitment process is vital to ensure programs have a constant stream of reliable volunteers.
Please note: You may be the only volunteer at your chosen project at any one time. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us.
What we will do after you've booked:
- Once booked on you will instantly receive a welcome email confirming your booking with access to your online account
- Community Development and Teaching customers will be requested to complete a police check (where relevant)
- We will contact you if we require anything else e.g. CV/resume for some projects, doctors note for medical conditions etc.
- We will prepare for your trip and you will receive all information required to prepare yourself in your online account
- We will ask you to complete personal information and pay your final balance if they are still due when required
- We are available for any questions you may have on firstname.lastname@example.org
What you need to do after booking your place with us:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Fill out your personal details through your online account
- Complete your police check if requested
- Make final payment at least 90 days before you go
- Make sure you have a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Read all details and prepare as much as you can for your trip
- Take contact details of the in country team and where you're going in your hand luggage - just in case!
- Get on the plane!
Flights & insurance
It's important that you get adequate travel insurance for your i to i Volunteering experience and as many of you will be working this often means standard policies won’t work. The good news is that no matter where you're coming from we have already found a policy to suit you.
The best time to get your insurance is when you book your project as this means you can get a fully tailored policy exclusive to i to i Volunteering, just ask your consultant for further details at the time of booking.
For prices, policies and key facts click here
As with insurance we advise you get these booked as early as possible to avoid high prices and to make sure you arrive on the right day. The i to i Volunteering team is right up to date with the best deals no matter where you’re flying from; their insider knowledge could save you some time and money.