Do I need to get a visa?
All applicants should contact their relevant embassy to revise their visa requirements before applying to Volunteer San Blas. Take a quick look here; https://panama.visahq.co.uk/
What should I bring?
● Light, comfortable clothes
● Trainers/walking boots
● Waterproof jacket
● Lots of suncream!
● A flashlight (preferably with a red light option)
● Medicine, in case you need an specific one.
How much spending money should I bring?
This is really up to you! Once you are in the community, your 3 meals a day are included, as are all of your sustainability workshops, and activities. Therefore the amount you will need will generally depend on the excursions and travel plans you have for your time off! You could also factor in extra money if you intend to buy local handicrafts from the Kuna people, and extra drinks and snacks from the community shop.
Can I travel at the weekends? What are my options?
Absolutely! There are a wealth of travel opportunities in the area, and we recommend that volunteers use their free time to enjoy and explore. Armila is enviably positioned close to the Panama/Colombia border and the airports of Puerto Obaldia, Capurgana, and Acandi, opening up a multitude of destinations to choose from.
The stunning beach towns of La Miel (Panama), Capurgana and Sapsurro (Colombia), are all a short boat ride away (around 30 minutes) where you can get back to civilisation (sort of!) and enjoy amazing hiking, waterfalls, natural springs, and coco locos!
Buzzing Panama city can be easily reached within 1 hour flight from Puerto Obaldia (20 minutes boat ride from Armila), while the vibrant Medellin is just 1 hour flight from Capurgana or Acandi.
Of course there are also all the other destinations in the San Blas Archipelago to explore in your time off (the closest islands are around 2 hours by boat from Armila), not to mention options for river trips in indigenous canoes, bird watching, jungle trekking, and horse riding in Armila itself!
What support will I receive?
From the time you place your application, to the moment you leave the community, the Volunteer San Blas team will be there to support and guide you. We will take care of all the logistics and organisational aspects of your trip, so you can focus on your volunteer project and having an unforgettable experience! Our local teams in Panama City will be on hand for you to contact about any queries you may have, and you will always have the help and guidance of our team in the community itself for anything you may need.
Are there any age restrictions?
The minimum age to join the project is 18 years of age, and there is no upper age limit as long as you are in good physical condition.
Do I need to be physically fit?
A reasonable level of physical condition is required of volunteers. You must be able to walk the 5km of beach on soft sand, carry bags of recycling, and be generally comfortable in a remote village setting. We regret that the conditions mean we cannot currently accept wheelchair users at this time. If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What vaccinations do I need?
As we are not medical experts we cannot, unfortunately, tell you exactly what vaccinations you’ll need to obtain, so it is vital you consult your local GP or travel clinic before you intend to volunteer. Your local doctor/nurse will advise you as to what vaccinations and malaria prevention is needed.
Additional information can be found on the NHS Fit For Travel website. Usually, for entering Panama, they might ask you for you Yellow Fever vaccination proof.
Do I need to speak the local language?
The language is a dialect called ‘Kuna’ but nearly all of the locals speak Spanish too. It is essential for team leaders to have at least an upper intermediate level of Spanish, and while team members don’t necessarily need it as a requirement, we have found that some language level can greatly enhance your experience as a volunteer.
What if I get sick?
The community has a medical centre with all the trained staff and medical necessities you’d expect in any western style centre. The nearest hospital is an hour’s plane ride away in Panama city. All volunteers are expected to have full comprehensive travel insurance as a prerequisite to join the programme.
What is the weather like?
The area enjoys a tropical maritime climate with high temperatures and often-humid days. The average temperature is around 28 degress celcius, so we recommend bringing loose light clothes, and lots of suncream! It can sometimes get chilly at night, so a few long sleeved options and a waterproof jacket are a good idea too.
Can I extend my stay while I’m at the project?
This can definitely be an option, but does depend on numbers and availability. Please talk to a staff member in the community or a member of our online team to discuss your options!
Can I fundraise?
Absolutely! Fundraising is a great way to generate money for your volunteer experience and spread the word about our cause. Once accepted, Volunteer San Blas is also able to provide a letter of support to any potential donor; we can verify your participation on the programme and provide more information about the work you’ll be undertaking.
Is it safe?
Yes. The community is warm and open with barely any crime! You have the same day to day risks as in any occupation, but the team from Volunteer San Blas will always be on hand to make sure you’re OK and being well looked after.