Volunteering holidays let you get your hands dirty and learn new skills while working on a project that will have a lasting and positive impact, whether that be on marine habitats or people living rough on city streets. Monitoring dolphin populations, tracking brown bears, working in animal sanctuaries.. Our top volunteering holidays will inspire you to head out and make a difference.

1. Volunteering with bears in Romania

If you want to work closely with bears, then a trip to volunteer at Romania’s largest bear sanctuary, just outside the medieval city of Brasov, could be just the ticket. You’ll help with feeding and monitoring, and it’s a family friendly option, so you can bring the kids, too.
When to go: Year round
Our top selling trip: Volunteering with bears in Romania
Read more: Romania Travel Guide and Volunteering with Animals

2. Whale and dolphin research in Italy

The Ligurian Sea, between the Italian Riviera and Corsica, is a popular spot for watching whales and dolphins, but you can go one step further by joining a research team as they collect vital data on these magnificent marine mammals. Full training is given, and you’ll also muck in and help with cleaning and food prep on the boat.

When to go: May to September
Our top selling trip: Whale and dolphin research in Ligurian Sea Italy
Read more:Marine Conservation Travel Guide

3. Fight food waste in Portugal

Around 2000kg of food is wasted each day in Portugal, and you could be making sure that some of this goes towards feeding the hundreds of homeless people in the capital city, by collecting food from local restaurants, bars, cafes and schools for redistribution. During your stay, you’ll live in one of Lisbon’s most eco-friendly guest houses.

When to go: June to September
Our top selling trip: Volunteering in Portugal: fight food waste
See all our trips: Volunteering in Europe
Read more: Volunteering in Europe and Portugal travel guide

4. Lynx conservation in Montenegro

Prokletije National Park and the Haila Mountains are rich in animal and plant life. Join a research expedition in this remote region and you’ll be taught scientific monitoring methods, learn about Montenegrin culture and get the chance to spot a multitude of beasts, hopefully including the elusive Balkan lynx.

When to go: May to August
Our top selling trip: Balkan lynx wildlife conservation holiday in Montenegro
Read more: Montenegro travel guide and Wildlife conservation travel guide

5. Whale conservation in the Azores

Failal Island in the Azores is an excellent place for seeing whales in their natural habitat, and you can spend time working with a research centre collecting data on sperm, blue and sei whales, learning how to ID whales and even helping to educate other tourists about whales and dolphins.

When to go: May to September
Our top selling trip: Whale conservation holiday in the Azores
Read more: Marine conservation travel guide and Azores travel guide

Our top trip

Whale & dolphin research in Ligurian Sea, Italy

Whale & dolphin research in Ligurian Sea, Italy

Whale and dolphin conservation trip

From €740 6 days ex flights
Small group travel:
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Volunteering in Europe or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.


Finding the right trip

Anne Smellie, from our specialist volunteer travel supplier, Oyster Worldwide, shares her advice on doing thorough research:
“Book your trip with an organisation that you trust, that has a good reputation and that – very importantly – has been out on the trips that they champion. The animal welfare and wildlife conservation world is sadly peppered with opportunists trying to pull the wool over volunteers’ eyes as to what it is they’re actually helping to achieve on a conservation project, but it is very difficult to pull the wool over someone’s eyes who has actually been there firsthand and has experienced everything that happens there.”

Volunteering in Europe

Anne Smellie, from our supplier, Oyster Worldwide:

“The great thing about volunteering in Europe is that it’s close to home, so it’s easy to go for a shorter period, the climate is more manageable and there’s always the option to return home quickly if things don’t work out. And it’s not only far flung countries that need volunteers. While much of Europe is developed, there are still pockets where help is very much needed, particularly when it comes to animal welfare. For example, we work with Romania’s largest bear sanctuary. The animals there have been rescued from zoos or forced work as street performers.”

Why volunteer organisations charge fees

Anne Smellie, from our specialist volunteer travel supplier, Oyster Worldwide:

“People often say, ‘why have I got to pay for this?’ And that’s the nub of it – hopefully you’re never going to need the support that you’re paying for, but it is there just in case. We have representatives or project coordinators in each of the destinations that we send people to, and it is their job to liaise with us and be there as a friend for the participants. Particularly for the younger ones, it’s about balancing that level of support and independence. Quite often it’s their first time travelling but they’re adults, they’re 18, so we try and let them be as independent as possible. However, they can be safe in the knowledge that there is a support network in place should they need any help and advice, and if anything really does go wrong, then we’re there.”

Adjusting to new cultures

Anne Smellie, from our specialist volunteer travel supplier, Oyster Worldwide:

“Have a bit of a grasp of the basics of local language, because you are always going to be working with local people. So, just having the ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘that was delicious’ if your food is being prepared for you, is brilliant.”


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful volunteering in Europe tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
Don't expect to find bears, just treat it as highlight if you do.
– Liz Pitt, Brown bear tracking in Northern Greece
“Take every opportunity you can to make the most of this experience, it’s a beautiful country with lovely people. Go on every trip; excursion, walk you can fit in.” – Angela Nunn, volunteering with bears in Romania

“Bring old clothes and shoes that you can throw away at the end of the experience as you get quite dirty after assisting in the food preparation area.... If you toss them out you have more room for souvenirs. ” – Ferida Reid, volunteering with bears in Romania

“The most memorable [bit] probably listening to the sperm whales underwater and how through the codas that they emit you could always tell when they were about to surface. The most exciting, the sighting of the fin whale. All in all the whole trip was an amazing experience with lovely crew/researchers and guests.” – Tania Fernandez, whale and dolphin research in Ligurian Sea, Italy

“Bring a dependable alarm clock, as the starts are early. The food is great, but watch your waistline. Bring a mask and snorkel for swimming, especially at Valtaki Beach.” – Louise Shaw, Peloponnese turtle conservation holiday in Greece

“Be prepared to do plenty of walking over rough and rocky ground, possibly in high temperatures. Enjoy the local people, food, culture and scenery as much as possible. Don't expect to find bears, just treat it as highlight if you do.” – Liz Pitt, Brown bear tracking in Northern Greece
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Kim] [Bear sanctuary: Oyster Worldwide] [Dolphin conservation: bm.iphone] [Wolves: Oyster Worldwide] [Bear: Oyster Worldwide]