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Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Panama

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Free or Cheap Volunteer Work in Panama


We have a grassroots community organisation to investigate further but for the moment hostel work exchanges seem to be the way to go in Panama.


Hostel Work Exchanges

Many hostels use help exchange networks (see below) to find volunteer staff but the following either advertise on their websites or are particularly noted for taking on volunteers:

Purple House

New Yorker Andrea travelled for one and a half years as a backpacker including some time spent working in Backpacker Hostels. Now she owns her own, in David, she offers a free bed in exchange for helping out around the place. In exchange for a free dorm bed and rice and beans, volunteers are required to work five to six hours a day washing the sheets, sweeping and mopping the floors, meeting and greeting guests, answering phones, and any of the many other jobs that need doing in a busy hostel. Minimum one week stay required. Volunteers must be able to speak an intermediate level of Spanish for longer term positions.

Volunteering in Panama


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Lost and Found Eco Resort

This backpackers hostel and adventure centre in the cloud forest between Bocas del Toro and Boquete takes on volunteer staff already in the country. Options for volunteers include customer relations, project leadership and helping to drive forward their business. All volunteers first come to The Lost and Found as regular paying guests for three days to get a feel for the place and learn more about the surrounding area. After that, you stay for free. Volunteers do not get paid but on occasion the owners will work out profit sharing options with proactive volunteers. Volunteers can also take on extra responsibilities or sell something they´ve made; sometimes they can earn money for cooking or cleaning when the cleaning lady isn´t here. Minimum stay is two weeks.

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Miami Mike's Backpackers Hostel

Mike's, in Chitré, Herrera Province, occasionally needs volunteers for various duties. In exchange for a dorm bed, with breakfast included, volunteers work for four hours. Discount of 30% off for days not worked. Spanish is helpful but not necessary.


Help Exchange Networks in Panama

Workaway -
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HelpX -


More Volunteering in Panama Resources

How to Cruise the Panama Canal for Free - Panamanian law dictates that every boat, no matter how small, must have four line handlers when it makes a crossing of the Panama Canal. Since professional line handlers can cost up to US$100 per transit, many captains are prepared to give fellow travellers a free passage in exchange for working aboard.


Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Panama

Stay for free in return for caring for local residents' homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free $25 Airbnb credit from us here..


Volunteer Experiences*

Sailing the Panama Canal - Kyle Mateo worked his passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean by taking a volunteer job on the sailboat of an 80 year old Frenchman. Previously he had subsidised his journey from Honduras by scrubbing the hull, sanding and staining wood and being the night watch while his boat sailed to Colon.


* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations

Image courtesy FutureExpat