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Costa Rica is a first-time traveler's paradise - home to beautiful beaches, tropical rainforests, zip lining and some of the friendliest people on earth, not to mention the vast array of volunteer opportunities available from working in education, animal rescue or sea turtle conservancy. Volunteering in this tropical country offers the experience of a lifetime by immersing you in local culture and customs and learning the true meaning of Pura Vida.
Costa Rica offers an excellent introduction to Latin America while also providing a diversity of places to visit for a nature lover with a strong democratic tradition. After Costa Rica's civil war, the army was abolished by the president in 1948. While Costa Rica is often considered one of the wealthier countries in the region, there are still numerous development problems such as deforestation, economic and gender inequalities and youth development issues as increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants from Nicaragua and other neighboring countries now call Costa Rica home.
Environmental Conservation & Working with Wildlife: While Costa Rica is famous for conservation of vast parts of the country as national parks and a focus on ecotourism, there is a constant need for volunteers in the numerous sea turtle conservancy projects on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Volunteers work to protect sea turtle eggs from poachers and environmental threats.
Youth Development: Many children of immigrants live in difficult conditions in dangerous neighborhoods of San Jose where crime is rampant and children often lack support systems at home. Volunteer to support the many underprivileged children in Costa Rica.
Gender Equality: Unknown to many, sex trade has dramatically increased in Costa Rica. Victims need your help in recovering their lives.
Teaching English: Costa Ricans value English as a second language and native teachers are in high demand. Teaching positions vary and no experience is necessary.
Work with Wildlife: Exotic animals are commonly removed from their natural habitat and sold as pets, to circuses or smugglers. Work in one of the many animal rescue centers to protect these animals and work to help them return to the wild.
No immunizations are required to go to Costa Rica. It is also safe to drink the water, one of the few Latin American countries where this is the case. Costa Rica is known to be one of the safer countries in Central America but you should never let your guard down, always secure your belongings and be aware of surroundings, especially in bus stations and in markets. Remember, as a foreigner you always stand out.
Costa Rican tourist visas are not required for citizens of the United States for a stay of up to 90 days. For more information visit Visa HQ.
Eliza Wethey studied Latin American Studies and Anthropology at Tulane University and holds a Masters in Anthropology and Development from the London School of Economics. She has a passion for travelling and Latin America having lived for four and half years in Peru and six months in Costa Rica. Follow her adventures on her Blog.
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