Volunteer in Spain
Home > Southern Europe > Spain | Written by Shay Gleeson and Adam Fraiel | Last updated 11th Jan, 2023.
Choosing to volunteer in Spain is a great choice. Spain is popular and one of the top 4 places where our helpers choose to volunteer abroad.
We understand the travel industry is pretty fragile at the minute. Not everywhere is open and not everyone is free to move around. But you can certainly start planning! A great project doesn’t just happen overnight. You’ve got to create an awesome profile, craft a compelling application and then prepare for your trip.
We're with you a 100% of the way. Below, we show you how to get those foundations in place so you can start applying with confidence.
Steps to volunteering in Spain
Why volunteer abroad?
Here's 5 reasons why we think you should choose to volunteer in Spain.
Spain offers a big choice of opportunities ranging from working in backpacker hostels, teaching English to volunteering at animal shelters. There is something for everyone. All listed opportunities in Spain include free board and lodgings.
Spain is easy to get to and from - all major airlines fly to Spain. Once there, it's easy to get around with one of the best train and road networks in Europe.
Cost of living in Spain is one of the lowest in Western Europe -- even in the cities.
The famous Spanish sunshine you get for free. Some regions in southern Spain see more than 320 sunny days a year.
In Spain, you can be yourself, no one minds what you get up to as long as it's within the law. Spain has been recognised as one of the most culturally liberal and LGBT-friendly countries in the world.
Types of volunteering opportunities
Volunteering opportunities in Spain can be broken into 6 categories. Here’s a breakdown of the opportunities types that fall under these categories.
Animals & Environment - Opportunities include volunteering at dog refuges and helping at animal rescue shelters.
Backpacker Hostels & Hospitality - Opportunities include helping in backpacker hostels, activities centers, guest houses, bed and breakfast businesses, yoga centres, holistic and spa centres, and hotels.
Building & Restoration Projects - Opportunities include restoring fincas and country houses, renovating old buildings, painting and decorating, creating sanctuaries and artistic centres, working with digital startups, and converting spaces into guest accommodation and work hubs.
Farming & Homesteads - Opportunities include living off grid, working on organic and non organic farms, working on olive farms and vineyards, House sitting, helping with animal care, working with horses and riding horses on ranches.
Teaching & Language - Opportunities include au pairing, helping in summer camps, language exchanging with a family, teaching English, assisting in schools and kindergartens, and language school teaching.
Internships Abroad - Opportunities include learning farming and permaculture practices, horse riding, assisting in schools, and working within the hospitality sector.
Who should volunteer in Spain?
Volunteering in Spain is open to all age groups. You just need to be fit and able. Whether you’re young or old -- you’re welcome.
If you’re an older volunteer -- we say even better. Hosts love to hear from older volunteers as they tend to have more real world work experience.
What about volunteering for teenagers? If you’re a native English speaker aged between 13 to 17, then you should check out this opportunity.
What about adults traveling with children? Many hosts welcome families -- 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.
If you are travelling as a family unit, you will then need to choose the family membership option.
Volunteer skills in demand in Spain
Most projects don't require any specific skill, except a willingness to learn and an eagerness to help about the place. A good application that shows an honest work ethic will get you accepted on most projects.
That said, renovation and building projects are popular in Spain. Hosts that run these projects love to hear from skilled craftspeople. Skills such as carpentry, masonry, gardening, and anything electrical related are in high demand. If you’ve an expertise in any of these areas -- you’ll be extra welcome.
Is it expensive to volunteer in Spain?
Not only is volunteering in Spain a wonderful way to see the country, learn new skills, help others, and experience the local lifestyle -- it's a great way to reduce accommodation costs.
How can I volunteer abroad for free?
There are no fees for any projects that we list in Spain.
All work exchange opportunities that we list in Spain include free board and lodgings. This means that hosts provide comfortable and secure accommodation and healthy grub in exchange for your volunteer help.
Some hosts provide additional perks. Perks such as the use of a bicycle or car to explore the area in your free time, a voucher to gain access to a local amenity or a local excursion to a spot that is off the beaten tourist path.
Health, Safety and Covid-19 in Spain
Generally speaking, Spain is considered a safe place to visit. As with travel to any new destination, you need to have your wits about you.
In Spain, 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 Barcelona 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 Spain and Covid-19 at this link.
We do advise that you have appropriate travel and health insurance when travelling to Spain. 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.
When to start planning
As with any endeavour it's all in the planning. In the words of Benjamin Franklin - 'If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail'.
We suggest you start planning your volunteer stay 3-4 months before travelling, as that will give you plenty of time to contact a few suitable hosts, get to know them a little, agree on the finer details of your stay, book your flights and put a backup plan in place.
Do I need a visa to volunteer in Spain?
This depends on your nationality. Many nationalities enjoy visa-free travel to Spain for stays of up to 90 days.
If your passport does not meet the eligibility requirements, not to worry. Online sites like Byevisa can help you out with this by offering a one-stop-shop for your visa needs.
All our opportunities in Spain fall under the category of a tourist visa.
Please keep in mind that HelpStay is NOT paid work or volunteering. You share your skills and time in exchange for a place to sleep. No money is exchanged or is this a job. HelpStay is purely a shared hospitality arrangement and members are guests of their hosts.
Applying to volunteer in Spain
As a non-member, you can read all the available details about any given work exchange opportunity in Spain. 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.
The membership fee allows you to message and communicate with the host directly using our secure messaging system.
Building your profile
Once a member, you start by completing the ‘About You’ section in your dashboard. Your profile should include:
Where you would like to go.
When you’re planning on travelling.
The project types that interest you.
Information about you - this is where you sell yourself so make sure that you put your best foot forward :)
Once you populate all these fields, you can message hosts.
Writing your volunteer application
Contacting a host and receiving a favourable response depends on the message you write - you need to make a good impression. Your message should be courteous and polite, and address the host in a polite manner. Remember, good manners cost nothing.
When messaging a host, your message should reflect the following:
Show that you’ve read the host listing and are aware of what is required.
Indicate how long you want to stay. State the dates that you’re thinking of and if you’re flexible around these dates.
Outline why you wish to volunteer with the host - why their project.
Indicate the kind of things you are interested in doing whilst you’re in the host country, whilst not volunteering with them.
Mention any specific talents you have and/or ideas about activities you might like to do - projects you might work on.
Mention any special dietary requirements.
Getting there and backup plans
When you’ve agreed terms of your stay with a host, you can then book your flight to Spain. If you're travelling long haul -- we’d recommend FlightFox (no affiliation, we used them).
As outlined in our volunteering abroad guide, it's important to have a back up plan. This way, in case things go wrong, you have a plan that’s doable -- logistically and financially.
Be sure to have a plan B that works for you. Imagine what you would do if something went wrong -- Go back home? Stay somewhere else? Get another volunteering opportunity in Spain? Take another flight? In essence, you need to be well prepared.
Volunteering opportunities in Spain