Real South America Encounter

founded in 2011
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Coordinator | Josh
Coordinator | Josh
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.


Combine adventure travel with community volunteering!
Contribute to the lives of children with learning difficulties.
Enhance your Spanish skills through interactive Spanish classes!
Witness unique wildlife on the Galapagos Islands, go to Mindo for a bit of rafting, surf in Salinas or visit the colourful markets in Otavalo!
Relax at the sandy beaches of Costa Rica, walk the equatorial line in Ecuador, and learn some Quechua phrases in Peru!
Travel through Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru and volunteer while encountering beautiful mountain views, various wildlife species, and delicous South American cuisine! This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+

PMGY’s Real South America Encounter takes you to Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru. We seriously can’t think of a more sublime combination of mysterious, picturesque and charming countries to volunteer in, over a mind blowing 6-12 weeks. In South America, you will encounter countless views of the Sierra Madre and Andes mountains, wildlife species including leatherback sea turtles, 2-toed sloths and spider monkeys along with lasting tastes of the delicious Peruvian Ceviche or Costa Rican Dados de Queso! South America’s various climates and infinite sights will leave you wishing you never had to leave.

Your first stop will be in beautiful Costa Rica which has been an explorer’s dream for decades. In the ‘world’s happiest country’ you will be sure to feel those cheek muscles becoming sore from the infinite amount of smiles you receive and give! Its landscape is diverse with crystal blue waters, dense rainforest and over 60 volcanoes waiting for you to explore. Be sure to get comfortable with a bit of close interaction because each person you greet will be up for a kiss on the cheek. You will no doubt remember the blissful memories of Costa Rica after your time visiting this amazing country.

Combine adventure travel with community volunteering as well as ticking off all the ‘must-do’s’ on Costa Rica’s list. You will spend your first-week learning or enhancing the beautiful Spanish language with the remainder of your time in Costa Rica volunteering in either a childcare setting or teaching English to children of all ages. While Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, the use of English isn’t as often as one would think. Many of the local people are still unable to communicate properly in English and with your time interacting with them, we are sure they will improve!

Your next stop is Ecuador. Get ready for another adventure because your next 2-4 weeks will be spent in the mesmerising city of Quito. Considered the “middle of the world,” Quito, Ecuador, offers travellers a unique opportunity to walk the equatorial line and immerse themselves in amazing cultures while reaching staggering heights. The capital’s historic district, considered the largest and best preserved in South America, was declared a World Heritage site. Across the city, you’ll find spots such as La Compañía de Jesús, the Baroque masterpiece of America and La Plaza Grande, the centre of Quito’s historic achievements, which narrates the history of the city. From this well-cultured city, you will find yourself in the prime location to visit the Galapagos Islands to witness unique wildlife, Mindo for a bit of rafting, Salinas if you like surf or Otavalo home to one of the most colourful markets in the Andes.

Your volunteering choices are very varied. Contribute to the lives of children with learning difficulties; teach English to help children reach their full potential within an indigenous setting; gain practical medical experience and insight on elective programmes; provide encouragement and compassion to children whom suffered from domestic violence and abandonment.

Your last stop will be Peru – the home of Machu Picchu, the empire of the Incans. The ancient Inca ruins are considered to be some of the most beautiful and mysterious sites in the world and you won’t just encounter visiting this glorious city; they are all over Peru! The real gem of your time in this country will be the people. Peruvians are an interesting bunch of extremely polite, hardworking, peaceful and cultured. Be sure to ask of their Quechua roots, they may even teach you a phrase or two! Be ready for bright colours, warm smiles, stone streets, snow-capped mountains, unexplained Nazca symbols, temple ruins and meals that will leave your taste buds pleased.

You will spend time in the heart of Peru, meeting breath-taking views and delectable cuisine as well as make a positive difference volunteering at local projects. PMGY’s development work in Cusco runs throughout the year and you will have a choice at teaching indigenous children the English language, enhance your medical knowledge by being advise by clinical nurses & physicians and provide insight to the world at the feet of the less fortunate in the childcare programmes provided for the working street children, domestically abused and abandoned.

You can choose any standard volunteering programme during the online application process but please be advised they are subject to availability and there may be an additional cost associated with some project options.

Spanish Lessons

All PMGY volunteers in Costa Rica will participate on the Language Immersion Programme for the first week of their experience. This provides you with 20 hours-per-week of group Spanish lessons and a number of different social activities. The aim of this week it to try and improve your level of Spanish before you start volunteering in week 2.

PMGY also offer Online Spanish Lessons that you can take before your trip. These are priced at $225 for 20-hours and this provides you with the opportunity to receive one-on-one classes from a trained Spanish teacher. Classes are held via Skype and can be worked around your schedule back in your home country.

Itinerary (for 6 weeks)

Day 1 (Sunday) – Arrival

Day 2 (Monday) – Orientation

Day 3-6 (Tuesday-Friday) – Language Immersion Week

Day 7-8 (Saturday-Sunday) – Weekend

Day 9-14 (Monday-Saturday) – Volunteering

Day 15 (Sunday) Goodbye Costa Rica – Hello Ecuador!

Day 16 (Monday) Orientation

Day 17-28 (Tuesday-Saturday) Volunteering

Day 29 (Sunday) Goodbye Ecuador – Hello Peru!

Day 30 (Monday) Orientation

Day 31-41 (Tuesday-Friday) Volunteering Begins

Day 42 (Saturday) Your Last Day

Typical day

The typical day of a volunteer varies and depends on the programs they choose to participate in. Here are a few examples:

English Teaching in Costa Rica:
Volunteers can plan to join the programme from 8am to 2pm assisting the teachers, engagement in physical education, helping with homework and preparing lessons for English classes. Class sizes are 20-30 students meaning that volunteer assistance is greatly appreciated! If you have creative ideas whether working in a nursery, primary or secondary education PMGY Costa Rica would love to have you!

Medical Program in Ecuador:
Volunteers will join the programme Monday – Friday. The project will begin at 7:30am each day to ensure you get a busy morning. The average time on the project will be 5 hours finishing in the early afternoon or time of requested completion. An example of a day on the paediatric ward could be as follows:

7:30am – 8:30am Report to paediatric ward. Observe inpatient rounds with a nurse for medication, consultation and viewing
9am – 9:30am Observe injections for children in need of updated vaccine charting
9:30am – 10:30am Assist care provider by engaging children in games or play while they provide necessary treatment for external wounds, infections or therapy due to disabilities.
10:30am – 11am Break time
11am – 12pm Shadow doctor during rounds providing consultation and admission to the hospital
12pm – 12:30pm Assist care providers with counsel and care planning with family for patient discharge plan

Childcare in Peru:

The children are 3 to 5 years old in one combined class. The working hours for this project are 9am to 12:30 pm assisting the ‘mother’ with different tasks including lesson planning, playing with the children, organising workshops for the network of teachers to improve care of children in this programme across Cusco and assisting in areas such as nutrition by preparing meals and hygiene like brushing teeth, washing hands and bathing. This programme provides volunteers with the ability to create their own day on the project getting involved in whichever areas they find interest with the children.

Free-time activities

Costa Rica:
Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend surfing by the beach, a mesmerizing visit to the cloudforest, some adventure activities in the jungles of Monteverde or Arenal or a more cultural experience locally – Costa Rica has it all.
During your Language Immersion Week, you will get to be involved in different activities across some of the afternoons, such as

Salsa classes, Costa Rican fruit tasting, visits to museums, hiking in the Coronado cloud forest, trips to nearby volcanos or even a coffee tasting at the local Kaffa Cafe!

Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend by the beach, some adventure activities in the Amazon, a long weekend in the Galapagos Islands or a more cultural experience locally – Ecuador has it all.

There are also lots of weekly activities like salsa dancing, cooking classes or even Latin-inspired cocktail hour! If you wish to get involved feel free to ask about the weekly schedules. (Such activities usually run a few times each week after the project time has finished and can change on a weekly basis. )

Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend by the beach, some adventure activities visiting Rainbow Mountain, a long weekend trekking the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu or a more cultural experience locally – Peru has it all.
Every Thursday, there is also weekly social activity for volunteers to come together and enjoy. You can learn about these activities during the orientation and how to partake and such examples of evening activities are salsa dancing, cooking classes or even afternoons visiting nearby ancient ruins!
Water Sports


In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level) or Spanish (basic level)
Criminal Background Check
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
- an intermediate level of Spanish is recommended
- physically fit
- if you have any medical/mental health conditions that may affect your participation overseas then these must be declared to us during your online application.
- medical experience (for some of the medical programs)
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

What's Included

Services by Plan My Gap Year

Your programme fee includes:

  • one week of Spanish lessons,
  • accommodation, 
  • Peru meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner),
  • airport pickups (24 hours),
  • Ecuador airport drop off (24 hours)
  • in-country orientations,
  • PMGY T-shirt
  • 24 hour in-country support.
Your registration fee for PMGY includes:
  • 24 hour UK based support, 
  • comprehensive volunteer handbook, 
  • live pre-departure webinars, 
  • regular programme inspection
  • international certificate of completion.

Airport Pickup at Juan Santamaria International Airport
You should arrive into Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose (SJO) on the selected Sunday start date. You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.

Costa Rica & Ecuador

During your time with PMGY in Costa Rica you will live in our Volunteer Residence located in Coronado, a suburb of San Jose. In Ecuador you will live in our Volunteer Apartment located in central Quito, the country’s capital.

In both places, you will find restaurants, convenience stores, cafés, pubs and ATMs all within walking distance. This accommodation setup offers volunteers the unique experience of living with lots of other volunteers as well as an independent environment in this Latin American country.

The accommodation is comfortable with free Wi-Fi. Each room has single beds with up to 3 people per room in same-sex rooms. Volunteers are provided with cupboard space and bed linens. Bathrooms are shared, but have a hot shower and western style toilet. The house/apartment has a communal area for volunteers to hang out. Meals are not provided in the programme so there are fully equipped kitchens to prepare all of your food. Both locations have fridge space available. The house /apartment block will have a security guard on-site to ensure that volunteers are safe.

During our busiest months (June to September) you may be placed at alternative accommodation. This could be a nearby guesthouse or one of our summer Volunteer Houses.


During your time in Peru you will live in our homestay(s). The accommodation is basic but comfortable. You’ll be living with local families whom will guide you in Cusco and help to improve your knowledge of the Spanish Language! The homestay families usually have very limited English.

The homestays are located just outside of central Cusco all within 30 minutes bus of your chosen project and usually walking distance from the local teams offices. Each room has single beds, up to 3 people per room (same-sex rooms only). Volunteers are provided with bed linen and cupboard space to store clothes and accessories. All volunteers will have their own keys for the front of the building, apartment and their bedroom.

Bathrooms are shared. Each bathroom has a shower and western style toilet. The water is usually warm (although can be victim to power cuts) to ensure you keep warm in the chilly nights of Cusco! The house has Wi-Fi and a communal area for volunteers to hang out with their host families. There is also a kitchen with a refrigerator to store any items you need to keep chilled; just ask the host family for some fridge space out of respect in advance, The host families will prepare all meals across your time on the project with us (including a packed lunch if you wish).

Guest Family Guesthouse
Food & Beverages
Meals are only provided in Peru.
Volunteers will be provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner every day during their time with PMGY Peru. Breakfast and dinner are served at the homestay, whereas for lunch we provide you with a packed lunch (upon request). With notice, the local team can even precook a meal for you and you can venture to the local team school headquarters and warm the meal up if you wish for your lunch.

Boiled and filtered water is also available at the homestay(s) for volunteers.

Most meals are traditional Peruvian dishes that can be carb heavy traditionally. Peruvian cuisine consists of a lot of rice or quinoa and the meat is mainly chicken. Most meals will incorporate lots of carbs and vegetables compared to the UK so please be open-minded around this! Due to the altitude, you will notice that your breakfast and dinner meals are quite small and lunch is very big. Going to sleep with a full stomach is hard on the body and at such an altitude it is difficult to digest large quantities of food. It may take you a few days for your body to accustom to this as well.

The main meats are chicken, fish and alpaca. There are a number of western restaurants around a 10-minute drive from the accommodation should you fancy picking up some home comforts. There are also some Vegan and Indian restaurants in Cusco. Our local team will tell you all about the options available to you during your in-country orientation.

In Costa Rica, there is a food truck that comes to the compound Monday-Friday (around $6 per meal), cuisine nights in the Spanish school on some evenings (around $4 for ingredients), and local restaurants ($7.50 per meal).

In Ecuador, volunteers tend to put their heads together and discuss certain nights they will cook together and then chip in to buy the food items.
Usually on a weekly basis, the local team will also host cuisine nights that you are able to attend and learn. If you want to eat the well prepared Ecuadorian meal just bring $3 to cover the costs of the ingredients!

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. We assist you to find cheap flights to Costa Rica.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Costa Rica provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Costa Rica you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Costa Rica.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

You should arrive into Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose (SJO) on the selected Sunday start date. You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.

The programme ends on the Saturday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
6 - 12 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
6 weeks (min. stay)
9 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees
$325 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated. Plan My Gap Year will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Plan My Gap Year during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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Real South America Encounter

Travel through Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru and volunteer while encountering beautiful mountain views, various wildlife species, and delicous South American cuisine!


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