14 independent reviews for Volunteering with bears in Romania4 star rating

These full and frank independent reviews are from travellers who have booked directly through responsibletravel.com. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travellers below.

Amanda Hathway review 12 Nov 20135 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


There are so many things I can list here but the top would be watching the bears play in the water, eat, and just enjoying the fact that they now lead a happy life thanks to those that have rescued them and look after them.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared for any weather, learn some of the basic language (which I did not do but it would have helped!) and be prepared to just jump in and help with whatever needs doing! Some of the work is not glorious but needs to be done and by having volunteers it frees up the people at the sanctuary to do the other things they need to do.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I do feel that the holiday supported conservation and at the sanctuary they try to somehow reuse any containers food is brought in etc. As far as benefitting the local people, I think we certainly contributed to the economy by eating out, doing tourist trips, and shopping. Also by sharing my volunteer stories with some of the Romainians/tourists/friends I met outside the sanctuary they also became a bit more knowledgeable on what was being done.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Fantastic and didn't want to leave. Definitely would like to go back again and stay longer! Everyone was wonderful including the support from the tour company .

Chloe Grable review 11 Jan 20135 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Everything. I loved every moment of it! As an animal lover, just being able to see so many bears interacting with each other and living freely in such a fantastic sanctuary was an experience I won't ever forget!

Romania is such a beautiful country and every morning waking up there was just amazing as the last. I also met so many amazing people and other volunteers in my 5 weeks over there that I am now still in contact with.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


At only 18, I was very anxious about going to Brasov by myself for 5 weeks, but it was easily the best experience I have had and 5 weeks was not long enough! My advice would be to go into everything with an open mind and put your all into everything that you do.

I would make sure that you bring plenty of old clothes/clothes that you wouldn't mind getting ruined for working at the sanctuary, as it can get very messy (but definitely worth it!!). There are also a number of bars, restaurants and clubs, and so I would avise bringing some nicer clothes if you wanted to go out in the evening.

I would also say to learn a bit of romanian - the local people will appreciate it!

Also, you can never take enough photos!

Oh and if you have a laptop, definitely bring it as the flat has wifi and you can skype back home! :)

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Working at the sanctuary definitely benifited the full time staff as it allowed them time to work on the more important things going on there! A donation was also given to the sanctuary which helps support their work.

I spent money in the local area on shopping and eating out and so could also have benefited the people in the area that way.

I was also lucky enough to be at the sanctuary when the WSPA team visited and being able to meet them and hear how thankful they were to have me there, after supporting their work for years, was fantastic.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Overall it was an amazing experience that I can never stop talking about! I can't wait to visit again.

Linda Gardiner review 18 Nov 20134 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Spending time in a beautiful place in the mountains of Romania, surrounded by bears!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Expect to get grubby. Learning a little Romanian is appreciated by the sanctuary staff and helps day-to-day communication. Use your (quite generous) spare time to visit beautiful nearby towns like Sibiu, Sinaia, Sighisoara.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, especially supporting conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A really unique experience! Romania is a beautiful country and it was great to be able to spend several weeks there and get to know one part of it.

Lynda Beard review 31 May 20134 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?



Getting to watch the bears, and spending time with the friendly dogs at the bear sanctuary. There is also a dog sanctuary in Brasov that is worth visiting (you get to walk rescue dogs and keep them company).

Brasov town (and most of the surrounding area) looks like a postcard :)

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?



You need to be fairly physically fit- the lift to the sanctuary takes you to the gates but there are some short but steep hills to climb up/down. Also, there is gardening work.

You'll need to take: waterproof jacket, hiking boots, gardening gloves, rubber gloves, sunhat and sunscreen.

Research the area around Brasov so you utilise your time there properly- there is lots to see in the town like The Black Church, the cable car/or hike to the viewpoint (2hr roundtrip) plus Bran castle nearby and Rasnov fortress. The very pretty town Sighisoara is 2/3 hrs away by train and well worth the visit.

When coming home, the taxi is a bit expensive (300 lei) so it may be worth getting a train to Bucharest, spending the night in a hotel and then getting a shuttle to the airport the next day.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?



Preparing large quantities of food for the bears would have freed up the sanctuary staff to do other things.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?



Really enjoyable, if you're an animal/nature lover you'll love it. :)

Kate Shedden review 8 Feb 20134 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Spending time with the bears up on bear mountain was a great experience. I was lucky enough to be around when three new bears were rescued. Watching them explore their new home was unforgettable.
Whilst not on bear mountain, I very much enjoyed exploring Brasov and the surrounding country side of Romania.
Rasvan, the volunteer coordinator was super helpful with showing us around his home town and the countless other attractions.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be sure to make the most of the weekends off. Romania has loads of things to see and do. Personally cruising the alpine highway was my favourite... The views spectacular!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


To some extent. Whilst preparing food is an important in order to feed the bears I felt that raising awareness about the problem of bear cruelty was probably more beneficial.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I absolutely loved my trip to Romania. This hidden gem of Europe has it all, beautiful mountainous countryside, historical buildings and friendly locals. Escaping to the tranquil bear mountain everyday to hang out with our four legged friends (bears and the dogs) was a pleasure.

Alexandra Comino review 25 Jan 20134 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Simply hanging out with the bears everyday was an incredible experience/privilege. Watching them play and forage as happy, free bears is indescribable.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


It's a very organised and easy program- perfect for first time volunteers who are a bit nervous about the process.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Somewhat. The sanctuary is essentially a retirement home for old/abused bears, not a convervation program. I feel my efforts helped the full-time staff save time so they could do more complicated tasks/have an easier day here and there.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Pretty great. I had a wonderful time, both with the other volunteers and by myself. I was hoping to be a bit more involved in conservation activities and was a little disappointed that this was not at all a rehabilitation centre but solely a sanctuary. I realised this when reading through the information before I arrived of course, but I was hoping it would be more rehabilitation focused considering it was listed under "Conservation" on the Oyster website as well as "Animal Welfare".

Jacqueline Bell review 7 Jan 20134 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Being able to work so close to the bears. it was wonderful to be able to spend time just watching them in a natural environment. Everyday they would do something different from climbing trees to playing in the water, and they even spent time watching us as we went about our work.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Just take the proper clothing and be willing to do whatever is needed to help the sanctuary. The work really was not hard at all it was just a bit messy sorting the food.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I felt that by doing some of the routine work it left the people at the sanctuary free to do the more important work of trying to rescue more bears.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I felt the holiday was wonderful. It was the first time I had done anything like this and I found the support given was fantastic as there was always someone I could contact if I had any queries.

Hans Berents review 1 Aug 20125 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Every day was even more exciting than the last, because each day meant something new to learn and love. But I must say, getting to sit in silence with the bears on a daily basis is not just a memory I will cherish forever, it was an honour. Bears. Bears. Bears. Bears.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Throw yourself into it, the more you put in the more you get out. Some aspects are a little messy but embrace them because your time there is never long enough, and is something you will yearn for when you get home. Interact with the Romanian people, they are lovely and love you for loving their precious country and animals. Noroc!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes it benefited local people on a purely economic level as I spent lots of money in the local area, but I meet many wonderful people and made them smile just as much as they made me laugh during these economic transactions so the bond is a little thicker than cash. The environment and it's inhabitants where at the centre of my choice to go to Romania, and everything I did was for the bears, dogs, wolves and people of this wonderful country, so I feel that my holiday didn't just support conservation it enabled it.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


******* amazing! It was something very special that completely reinvigorated my soul and made me feel apart of something bigger and better than the daily grind. I am starting to save for my next journey back there soon.

Wulfric Willis review 20 Apr 20124 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The bears! What more memorable a thing could have happened?! It was great, seeing the bears everyday, just watching them in a natural state, interacting with one another, and taking photos of them. It was brilliant.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared for all weathers and don't trust the weather forecasts! I went at the end of winter and beginning of spring, so sometimes there was rain, snow and a burning hot sun in the same week.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Definitely, maybe not on a huge scale but helping out at the sanctuary obviously supported the workers so that they could get other work done. The holiday benefited the local people through shopping and eating out. Environmental impacts? There was quite a lot of driving involved, especially to and from the sanctuary so that's an iffy one.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was great. I went for three weeks and loved it there. I could have done so much more in terms of visiting the area but failed to capitalise on the opportunity. Suppose that is a reason to go back.

Read the operator's response here:

We are delighted that Wulfric enjoyed his experience, and made such a valuable contribution to the general running of the sanctuary. The sanctuary really relies on the help of the volunteers, especially with so many more bears to be rescued.

In terms of environmental impact, the necessity of driving to the sanctuary and for collecting food is unavoidable. The sanctuary is located in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains- relatively far from human inhabitation, in an area which is ideal for the bears. Unfortunately this does mean that there is driving involved to get volunteers out there, but we do this on a group basis to reduce the carbon footprint. Trees and vegetation are planted at the sanctuary in an attempt to offset this, and we do work constantly to reduce our impact to a minimum.

Once again, thank you to Wulfric for a great review and to supporting this worthy project.

Jack Dunstan review 18 Nov 20114 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Living in beautiful Brasov, watching the bears every day.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Bring warm clothes for winter - and expect them to get dirty. Be prepared to handle a lot of food - some of it less than appealing! Take the time to wander slowly around the sanctuary and just watch the bears . . .

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes - I feel as though I contributed to the work at the sanctuary, even if it meant that I was relieving the full-time staff to work on more important things.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Had a great time - 2 weeks perfect amount of time. Will miss the bears and the staff. Thanks.

Martin Sausins review 1 Nov 20114 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Meeting the bears.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Keep an open mind about the work you will be doing. Learn some Romanian would be helpful.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes if you take into account that we spent money in restaurants etc - hopefully contributed to the local economy. I think the work we carried out released others to do other valuable work in the sanctuary and hopefully the bears benefited.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A great experience meeting and working with majestic animals in some beautiful countryside.

Lynn Stephenson review 20 Sep 20114 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Getting to spend time every day with 58 bears was just incredible, to watch how they behave, how intelligent they are and how like humans in their expressions and actions.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Learn a little Romanian before you go, the locals really appreciate the effort.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes in lots of ways, a donation went to the bear sanctuary which is an amazing place. We ate in local restaurants and put in money through tourism. It's eco tourism at its best , helping animals and the environment and the locals.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I had an amazing time and would consider going back.

Cathy Bisset review 9 Oct 20105 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Romania is a beautiful spectacular country, so from the moment I was travelling from Bucharest to Brasov I knew that I had come to a really excellent destination. I was very impressed by the people who run the sanctuary on a daily basis particularly Laci & Emi and Mateusz our driver! Also Razvan the guide from the operator who was around to show us (myself and another volunteer) some sites like Dracula's castle!

The bears were fantastic to see, so many and all different, there were also about 20 rescue dogs who were really friendly and brightened up the daily tasks, also a little stray cat Shim was doing her bit by visiting the volunteer flat! Brasov is a nice city to be in a complete contrast to Edinburgh which always seemed hectic or stressed, this was laid back with lots of cafes and restaurants and most people spoke English, the weather was fine, the views were fantastic, there was plenty to see as we travelled around, birds of prey, interesting architecture and people!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


I had no preconceived ideas about the trip, but I had done some research into the history of Romania and the bear sanctuary which helped to prepare me, I packed away a couple of pairs of washing up gloves! My main tips would be the money is in lei not Euros! Bring some clothes to wear to go to places in the evening. Its important to realise that you are at someone else's place of work and be prepared to do what is required, I would say having experience of conservation work would be an advantage but not a necessity but you have to go with the flow, which could include collecting boxes of food, sorting out meat and fruit for the bears and feeding the bears, I was only there for 2 weeks, although I am glad I went I think if its possible 1 month or more would be worth doing. I do want to go back maybe next year or the year after.

Anything you may need you can buy in Brasov. Get in touch with EHIC before you go! All the other volunteers I met from USA and Australia had expensive rabies injections, but EHIC told me they were not necessary and they sent me a card in case I needed medical help with anything.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I think that any project that brings people to Brasov is beneficial because Romania does seem to have a bad reputation and when people visit they can make up there own mind and maybe recommend Romania to other people. Although I wouldn’t say as an individual you make an impact on the economy but as a project it probably makes some difference.

The fact that the volunteers are helping take food that otherwise would be disgarded to the bears where it is used is reducing waste. I would like to think that the volunteers help the local people who work at the sanctuary by giving them more time to work away on sanctuary projects and thus improving the sanctuary.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I would say it was a fantastic holiday and I am definitely feeling now that I am back home in Edinburgh that I would like to go back, sure there isn't a Tescos, but you can't have everything! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to experience this type of holiday, its not too faraway from Britain and I didn’t feel that I was in a really foreign country, the food is very nice, you can eat quite well from the supermarket or go to restaurants and you get very good service and food.

Emily Barclay review 9 Apr 20085 star rating

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


I wouldn't call it a holiday, more an amazing 3 months working abroad. Because it was 3 months I can't name one most memorable or exciting part.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


If you go in winter take warm clothes. Whenever you go make sure you have a fair level of fitness. Be prepared to try anything once.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I was working in a brown bear sanctuary, so I don't know that i benefited local people, but I did help the bears. So much nicer than people!!!

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I had the most amazing 3 months. I love the bears, I met some wonderful, kind, funny people, I stayed in a beautiful city, I tried some great food and wine. Basically, I loved it!

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