Work and Travel in Colombia
VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN COLOMBIA FOR TRAVELLERS
Colombia has become one of the ‘it’ destinations for backpackers. As a result, you’ll find hundreds of work and travel opportunities in Colombia. As one of the thirty biggest countries in the world, there’s an array of options in this diverse country.
Colombia may be associated with less savoury things, but the volunteer and paid work opportunities in Colombia will make you see things differently. Travel guides for Colombia (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/colombia) reveal it to have one of the most diverse animal and plant populations on a planet.
It’s also a great place to improve your Spanish and get a taste of Latin American culture. These are some of the volunteer opportunities in Colombia on offer now.
1. Work in a Hostel
The boom in tourism means that both locals and foreigners alike are opening up hostels throughout the country to meet demand. Volunteer in Colombia and you’ll not only be able to take on basic reception and cleaning work in Bogota and Cartagena, but you’ll be able to plunge into the Amazon and sleep in a hammock under the stars.
If you volunteer in Colombia hostels the work can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
2. Conserving the Rainforest
A significant part of Colombia, which borders Brazil, is covered by the vast Amazon rainforest. Join a conservation programme and you can be applying specialist skills surrounded by plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Most of these programmes will require some prior experience, however, so be aware of that.
But due to the fact that you can be involved in highly skilled work there’s the potential to get paid. Before applying to one of these programmes, you should be aware of the vaccinations you may need when entering the Amazon.
3. Volunteer on a Coffee Plantation in Colombia
Colombia is only one of two major coffee growing countries in the world where there’s more than one coffee harvest. The main harvest is from September to January and from March to June. This means volunteering on a coffee plantation is an option throughout the vast majority of the year.
You could be supporting workers or actively helping with the picking in the Sierra Nevada region of Colombia. It’s ideal if you have a good level of Spanish as the majority of workers on coffee plantations hail from impoverished areas, where the education system is poor.
VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR COLOMBIA
Most Westerners are able to enter Colombians for 90 days without a visa, including all EU countries, Russia, as well as other South Americans, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. South Africans, though, will require a visa even to visit as a tourist. However, visa-free entry doesn’t entitle you to officially work or volunteer in Colombia (http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/en/content/special-temporary-visa-cooperator-or-volunteer-non-profit-entity-or-non-government-organiz-0). It should be noted, though, that many jobs like teaching English do hire foreigners even without the visa. Enforcement is extremely lax here.
But we recommend that you apply for the visa. The visa you need is the TP-6 visa (http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/en/procedures_services/visas/categories/temporary/tp6) for volunteering or working in the country. If you work for an NGO then your employer will supply the majority of the paperwork.
You need the relevant documentation from the organisation explaining your role. You must also submit a legal representation document (http://iquitos.consulado.gov.co/en/services/visas/temporary/special/volunteer), essentially proving that the NGO is genuine. It can be time-consuming to get these forms together, regardless of your nationality.
This is typically only possible with major NGOs in the country. For everything else, you will need to do most of the legwork yourself.
But it should be noted that the visa system is why most volunteering opportunities in Colombia are strictly unofficial.
SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN COLOMBIA
There is no seasonal work specific to spring time in Colombia.
Work and travel in Colombia during the summer yields little more than year-round opportunities and tourism work. This is actually the rainy season but also the second tourist season as it’s when Westerners typically travel to this part of the world.
Some farms may require an extra hand if they’re in particular areas where damage occurs. These farms tend to be in the more isolated, mountainous areas of the country.
Autumn is the time of year when most private academies are hiring English teachers on long-term contracts. If you feel like you want to teach English in Colombia, there’s no shortage of places. Colombia is very much like the rest of Latin America in that many young people want to learn English so they can succeed in the world. Most programmes won’t require anything except fluent English. However, better jobs are guaranteed if you possess the TEFL qualification or an equivalent.
Winter actually represents the hottest months of the year in Latin America. December, January, and February is traditionally when people from other parts of Latin America fill the most common tourist destinations. Cartagena, for example, will always have short-term work during the tourist season.
Tourist work could be handing out leaflets, getting people into clubs in Bogota, or just running hostels during the high season. It all depends what you can do.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN COLOMBIA
Colombia is a country that has become used to tourists over the years. The infrastructure has improved and it’s no longer uncommon to see a Westerner wandering around the country. You’ll find plenty of foreigners, so you won’t feel too out of place in any of the major cities or tourist destinations.
Bear in mind that certain parts of Colombia are not welcoming to foreigners. The UK Foreign Office, for example, cautions against travel to the border regions with Venezuela (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/colombia), as of summer 2017, due to high levels of kidnapping there.
But despite the negative press that has accompanied Colombia in the last few years, many of the armed conflicts are restricted to small areas and have little effect on tourists. In general, Colombia is perfectly open to tourists and you won’t experience any problems.
Do you want to work in Colombia on your next trip?