Volunteer Abroad in Cartagena

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A Guide to Volunteering Abroad in Cartagena

Cartagena is the perfect Caribbean destination you’ve never heard of: surrounded by ancient ramparts, dotted with white sand beaches, and filled with large plazas and cobbled alleys, this Colombian city will make you wonder why it’s not already on the cover of every travel magazine. That said, Cartagena is also home to nearly one million colombianos, and its residents can and do experience real challenges. Volunteering abroad in Cartagena is a great way to assist locals while also learning about the Colombian way of life.

Life in Cartagena for Volunteers

Cartagena is no small beachside town, and life in the city isn’t always relaxing. But on the days you can’t escape to the beach, there are winding streets, tucked-away cafes, and colonial remnants just waiting to be explored. 

Grab a carimañola de queso (cheese-filled fritter) and follow the path along the stone-walled ramparts that surround the old town or check out the tunnels underneath the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. For a fun night out with your fellow volunteers, head to Getsemani for ceviche, mojitos, and dancing. On the weekend, you can try out snorkeling in the nearby coral reefs of Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo. 

The cost of living while volunteering in Cartagena makes it an affordable destination for volunteers. Those who budget wisely and arrive with some savings should be able to stay for several months to complete projects. While food and lodging costs are relatively low, keep in mind that imported products, such as electronics and clothing, can be more expensive that what you’re used to.

GoAbroad Insider Tips

Once you’ve decided to volunteer in Colombia and you’ve found the perfect volunteer opportunity, it’s important to think about visas (paperwork may be boring, but it is also essential!). Depending on how long you’ll be in the country and what project you’re working on, you may need to apply for a volunteer visa before departing your home country. In other cases, traveling on a tourist visa might be an option, but you may need to extend it in Cartagena once you’ve arrived. Visas can be complicated, so it’s important to touch base with your volunteer organization to make sure you’ve checked all the boxes. 

After dealing with visa requirements, finding a place to sleep should be much easier. You’ll probably receive assistance finding housing from your volunteer organization, and in some cases, housing is even included in the volunteer agreement. In these cases, you’ll most often live with fellow volunteers in a shared house or with a host family. While you may not have all of the comforts of home, like wifi or cable TV, your lodging should be comfortable and allow you to get to know other volunteers and locals as you work on your volunteer projects. 

Cartagena can feel like a fairy tale, with its flowery balconies, leisurely boat rides to mangrove-lined beaches, and extensive tapas menus. Volunteering abroad in Cartagena will show you this side of the city, but it will also expose you to the challenges locals face in everyday life. Use this information to reflect on how you’ll move forward once your volunteer experience has finished. What will you do with the knowledge you’ve gained, and how will you ensure that you continue to travel meaningfully

Feeling mucho inspired? Read our comprehensive guide on volunteering abroad in Colombia for even more programs and info.

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A Guide To
Volunteering Abroad in Cartagena

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