Volunteer in France
Home > Western Europe > France | Written by Shay Gleeson | Last updated on 11th Jan, 2023.
France is one of those countries you should visit at least once in your lifetime. European travel is starting to resume to more normal levels, making now the right time to start planning your trip to be a volunteer in France.
Steps to volunteering in France
Where to volunteer in France?
Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world with some of the best museums and attractions. However, work exchange opportunities in Paris are few and far between. Additionally, living costs are high so it’s best avoided except for weekend visits.
The bulk of the volunteering and work exchange opportunities are to be found in the regions of France, outside of Paris and the other big cities.
Jobs in France with accommodation
You’ll be happy to hear that all the opportunities that HelpStay lists include accommodation. Actually we can go one step further by stating that most include both free board and lodgings -- that means free grub too.
This way you can reduce your travel costs big time. When travelling in France, your biggest outlay will always be your accommodation costs. By undertaking a work exchange, you can reduce this cost considerably, simply by offering a few hours of honest help in exchange for accommodation.
France is easy to get around. France boasts one of the best train networks in the world and is home to the famous TVG. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) is France's intercity high-speed rail service, operated by SNCF.
Backpacker jobs in France
Opportunities featured on HelpStay are ideal jobs for backpackers. Backpackers like to travel off piste, tend to travel for longer periods of time, and usually travel on a tight budget.
In exchange for a few hours of honest help, backpackers can receive free board and lodgings. This way they can save on their accommodation and eating costs, stretch their travel fund and travel for a longer period of time.
How to live in France for free
We can’t help with travel costs like airfare or neither can your host. It’s up to you -- the helper, to fund and make your own travel arrangements.
However, once there, a HelpStay membership means that you will pretty much live in France for free if you can convince a host to accept you on their project.
A good profile and a strong application will ensure that you sell the best version of yourself and help get you accepted. We share some tips further down on how you can write a stellar application and get accepted on that project.
Farm work and renovation projects
Farm work along with building and renovation projects are popular in France. Hosts who run farms and who are undertaking building and renovation projects love to hear from those helpers with experience. Seasoned farmers and skilled craftspeople are in high demand. If you’ve an expertise in any of these areas -- you’ll be extra welcome.
Can we volunteer with kids as a family?
A lot of the hosts welcome families with children, especially if they have children themselves. You can find all kid-friendly hosts by using our search filter and ticking the filter box labelled 'For families with kids'.
Within any host listing, you’ll find it stated under the ‘What Else’ section of their listing. If not explicitly stated on their profile, ask them, at the very least they will say no. Always read the host profile carefully, and if in doubt, ask the host the question.
As a rule, we always recommend to check with the host first and if you've young children, who need a lot of your attention, please discuss this with your host. Projects such as farms can be dangerous places, and accommodation can be limited. As a parent, you'll need to take total responsibility for the safety of your children.
If all is set and planned, there can be nothing better than to spend a working holiday together with your kids on a HelpStay!
Older volunteers are welcome too
You'll be happy to hear that a big percentage of our members are in the 50 + bracket. Hosts love to hear from older volunteers as they tend to have more real-world work experience.
Every host has different requirements. All the information on each project and what is offered is clearly stated and accessible to read by non-members.
The fee and membership allow you to message and communicate with the host directly and start arranging your stay. You only need to become a member once you have read all the information and are ready to move to the next stage of planning your stay.
Volunteer in France to learn French
According to Wikipedia, French is an official language in 29 countries across multiple continents. French is estimated to have about 76 million native speakers; about 235 million daily, fluent speakers and another 77–110 million secondary speakers who speak it as a second language to varying degrees of proficiency, mainly in Africa.
It’s the second most popular foreign language (after Spanish) studied as a second language in schools, colleges and universities in North America, United Kingdom and Ireland.
If you’ve a good ear for languages and have learnt the basics of French in school/college, a 3-4 month work exchange experience in rural France living alongside native speakers will pretty much guarantee your fluency.
What visa do I need to volunteer in France?
If you’re a citizen of the European Union, you do not need a visa. If you’re NOT a citizen of the European Union, you can perform HelpStay activities as a tourist, usually up to 90 days.
Depending on your country of citizenship you may be required to obtain a Schengen tourist visa (see list here). It is your responsibility to determine and obtain the appropriate visa for your stay. Neither HelpStay nor hosts can help you obtain a visa. It may be best to secure your visa before becoming a member of HelpStay.
Keep in mind that HelpStay is not paid work nor a paid volunteer program. HelpStay is an educational and cultural experience, and helpers are the guests of their host. The European Union and France have strict labour and immigration laws prohibiting foreigners (non-EU) to "work" without a proper visa. If you say you are coming to ‘do volunteer work’ and you do not have a work visa, immigration officers will likely not let you in.
Also, note that when you enter the European Union, you cannot enter as a ‘Helper’ since this term could be misunderstood by immigration officials. So be aware of this important distinction: as a helper, you are a tourist, not a worker nor a volunteer. HelpStay is not responsible for any problems you may encounter with immigration.
Currently, travellers with a valid U.S. passport can visit Schengen countries and stay for up to 90 days without issue. However, starting in January 2022, there may be an additional requirement put in place.
Health, Safety and Covid-19 in France
Generally speaking, France is considered a safe place to visit. As with travel to any new destination, you need to have your wits about you.
In France, they drive on the right so if you come from a country that drives on the left -- make sure to look both ways before crossing the road.
Popular tourist cities like Paris and Marseille are known for pickpocketing. To avoid becoming a victim of a pickpocket, the best course of action is not to carry unnecessary valuables on your person, and if you have to carry items like a phone make sure to conceal them.
Covid-19 will continue to be with us for some time and will affect our ability to travel freely. You can find the latest travel-related information in relation to France and Covid-19 at this link.
We do advise that you have appropriate travel and health insurance when travelling to France. Our motto is -- it's better to be safe than sorry. Any travel insurer should be able to provide you with the correct cover. Our preferred insurance partner is SafetyWing.
Writing a message to a host that gets you accepted
When sending a host a message, base the content of your message on what you read in their profile. Introduce yourself and explain why you're interested in their profile.
Tell the host what you can bring to their table — i.e. what skills you have and how you can help their project.
Making a good first impression
When first contacting a host, remember that the host has little idea of what you are like, your message is their first impression of you. The importance of your first message to a host cannot be underestimated, the way you write this will have a large bearing on whether a host feels that you will be a suitable helper at their place.
Write a good message and there is a much higher chance of getting a positive reply. If you write an inadequate email that is rushed or shows no enthusiasm it’s far more likely to get a ‘no thanks’ in reply or no response at all.
Generally, hosts like people that are self-reliant, able to be independent, make good decisions, polite, honest and helpful. It’s important then to consider how to relay this in your first contact message.
Explore available opportunities