Oyster Worldwide
91% Rating
(45 Reviews)

Oyster Worldwide

Oyster Worldwide is a respected gap year and responsible travel organisation. Since 2000, we have been sending volunteers and workers overseas on our exciting projects. Our friendly team is dedicated to providing a personal service, offering support through every step of your journey.

Our projects are located in 22 destinations and range from paid work in Canadian ski resorts to teaching English in Chile, from animal and welfare conservation in South Africa to working in the Australian Outback. Oyster can help you plan all of the details for the most exciting break away - we can even book flights for you! Our projects vary from just one week to up to a full year, so no matter what you are looking for, we are sure to have something to meet your needs.

Most Recent Program Reviews

Default avatar
Will

Oyster Coyhaique 2017

2/10

The disorganisation of Oyster's administration was apparent from the start when two of the volunteers were left at Balmaceda Airport without an address to go to or anyone to pick them up, we were also told by Oyster ahead of going out that we could fly into two airports in Coyhaique, when in fact one of those is a local light aircraft airport.
As soon as we arrived we were sold the 4 day Marble Caves excursion for what was retrospectively way over the normal price (you can see this from the amount of local companies offering the same package).
Before the excursion we had what had been sold to us as '5 days of intensive Spanish lessons' (also incidentally described on gooverseas.com as a '10 day language course') which turned out to be receiving some grammar sheets and playing a few games, receiving less than 7 hours in total.

When I arrived at my host family (they had hosted last year), it became clear that the situation had changed a lot since the last time. When trying to arrange a new host family, the Oyster office in England offered very little help/ support, and it ended up being sorted out by one of the other host parents. I felt undermined and as though I was making a fuss out of nothing, when in fact it was evident that the familial situation was not only very different to the other volunteers' but also very different from last year's. I did have a good time at my new host family but the whole situation could have been easily avoided.
We were also told to bring smart clothes and shoes for teaching, which we didn't need as even the Chilean teachers didn't dress as formally as suggested In the kitlist.

Although I would say that the Oyster member 'on the ground' did what she could to help, the support and communication offered by the Oyster office in England certainly does not reflect the price charged for the trip.

Whilst I did have an enjoyable time in Coyhaique and my Spanish improved a lot, I think the whole experience could be improved a lot with a change in Oyster's complacency. I would suggest doing a course similar to this one but elsewhere.

How can this program be improved?

A better description of Coyhaique's situation prior to going out.
A level of support and communication offered to reflect the price charged.
Review of the kitlist.

Response from Oyster Worldwide

Hi Will

Thank you for your feedback. We are really pleased to hear that overall you felt that your experience was positive and that your Spanish improved.

We are always very grateful to everyone who provides us with feedback. Over the past 10 years, we have been able to develop and improve this programme based on volunteer feedback and we will always continue to do this.

We would like to thank you for pointing out that the GoOverseas listing was still mentioning the 10 day course. As you know, when you signed up for the programme the course was originally going to be 10 days long but changed a few months before your departure. We have now updated the information so it is current.

We are really glad that you raised your points with us whilst you were still in Chile so that we were able to address them immediately for you. If there is anything that you would like to discuss with us further then please do get in touch with your Destination Manager.

Best wishes
Oyster Worldwide team

Default avatar
Saskia
Female
20 years old
United Kingdom
University of Bristol

My Time in Coyhaique

10/10

For me, the best part of this program was the opportunity to get whatever you want out of it. The way the trip is organised means you are provided with all the resources you need including in-country support, connections with the local schools and universities and local knowledge of all Patagonia has to offer, and it is then up to you to decide how you want to shape your 3 months.

Of course, the highlight of the trip has to be the unique opportunity to be able to live with a local family and become completely immersed in their day to day lives, my family were amazing and I felt immediately at home. Living with people who don't speak any English also forced me to massively improve my very weak Spanish and allowed me to really understand how different life was on the other side of the world. Admittedly one of the things that we all had to get used to was the somewhat disorganised Chilean culture, but again this was part of the experience and I certainly didn't fly half way across the world to live the same life I live at home! The host families really are something that sets the Oyster project apart, there is no way that you could set up the links with these people and the town on your own and I think it's safe to say that not many people my age have ever heard of Coyhaique or visited this area of Chile and for me that was a really exciting prospect.

I also really enjoyed exploring the area during my time in Chile, and my group and I definitely made use of all our weekends to get to know the area. We spent a week trekking in Torres del Paine which was amazing (particularly as a geography student) and went rafting, glacier walking, horse riding, cycling and mountain climbing at the weekends. Some of the other reviews have spoken quite negatively about the trip offered to Laguna San Rafael which I can't really relate to as I thought the trip was a definite highlight of my 3 months away. The glacier is amazing and is so far in the middle of nowhere that I really don't think it's something that could've been organised without Ian's help, and the marble caves too were beautiful. Whilst it was expensive I would advise anyone who can to take the opportunity, though it is in no way compulsory, because I think I definitely would have regretted not going and do believe that it was good value for money.

Finally, I think it's safe to say that I have made some amazing friends from my time in Chile, and we are still very close. It's an experience that much to my friend's dismay I never shut up about and probably won't for a long time yet!

I have made a YouTube video from my time away that for me sums it up nicely and will attach it below.

Default avatar
Anna
Female
21 years old
Bend, OR
Middlebury College

New experiences and cultural integration

10/10

During my time off from school I was looking for a program that would help me better my Spanish and allow me to immerse myself in another culture, and I can confidently say that Oyster provided exactly that. What I really loved about this program was the freedom and independence it allowed for. The Oyster correspondents were all helpful and were always happy to answer questions and concerns and provide a schedule of events, but the program structure was flexible enough that it allowed me to adjust for trips I wanted to take.
My favorite part of this experience was living with a host family. I think I was the first person to be dropped off at the respective host families' houses, and at first, I won't lie, I was terrified and thought I had made a horrible mistake. I was alone with a foreign family in a foreign country and had no one around me speaking English. The Chilean Spanish, if you didn't already know, might be one of the most difficult dialects to understand. I came in thinking I was semi-fluent and would have no problem conversing intellectually, but when my host mom asked if I wanted any tea, all I could answer was "que?". There was a lot of hand motioning and "sorry?" in the beginning, but don't let the language be a barrier because I ended up doing just fine.
The families don't see you as just a person staying in an extra room, but really want to integrate you into their family. I had a host brother to show me around and teach me the chilean slang. At the end of the three months I really felt like part of the family.
As far as the packing list went, it could be hit and miss depending on the school you were paired with. At my school I was fine in jeans and sneakers, but at some of the other schools the dress code was more strict and I would have needed a dress or skirt and tights.
The school I taught at had a bit of a "go with the flow" style - I think this might be a common cultural mentality. At first it was stressful for me not to have a concrete job or schedule, but once I accepted the organized chaos I felt much more relaxed and enjoyed my time with the kids. The teachers were all very welcoming and even threw a party for us at the end of my time there. Because many of the kids had never heard a native English speaker, I felt like I could really add to their education.
Traveling around the Patagonia region wasn't required of the volunteers, but I think most of us wanted to explore the natural beauty of the area. There was a trip to Laguna San Rafael that was offered through a separate program which was amazing and fully worth the money. The other trips I went on were either with my host family, or organized by myself and some of the other volunteers. Oyster offered connections to different trips, but also gave us the freedom to plan trips ourselves which is what we ended up doing most of the time.
By the end of the program I had tried an assortment of traditional Chilean meals, become part of a Chilean family both at home and at my school, integrated into the culture, learned to converse in coherent Spanish, and explored the rest of the Aysén region. It was an incredible experience that was greatly beneficial not only to my Spanish, but also to my ability to adapt to new environments and appreciate cultural differences.

How can this program be improved?

When pairing students with schools, look to see what previous volunteers have had to say about the dress code at that particular school - maybe this can avoid packing unneeded clothes.
More clear role at schools

Default avatar
Oliver
Male
19 years old
London
University College London

Coyhaique and Oyster

3/10

I was part of the same trip as Tom, one of the previous reviewers, and on the whole I would say that he has summed up well the issues with this program. On the whole, I entirely recommend doing a program similar to this, but not in Coyhaique, and not with Oyster.

Whilst of course Patagonia is stunning, this natural beauty is in my opinion more than offset by the dangerous levels of pollution in Coyhaique itself; indeed, by the end of our stay in May, almost every other day was a city wide state of environmental emergency. This meant that we were simply not allowed to exercise, and even walking to the schools was a challenge. Since one of our group was an asthma sufferer, not to warn us about this was somewhat irresponsible from Oyster.

My Spanish did undoubtedly improve, and the experience of living with host families, whilst challenging at times, was fantastic. Whilst of course Oyster did provide the link to these families, I feel that merely putting us in contact with a family was not worth the sum paid for the trip. Furthermore, the support offered by Oyster was minimal to say the least, and whilst I personally preferred this hands off approach, I feel the amount charged by Oyster for what is limited support is unjustified. Not only this, but as Tom has explained the initial Spanish lessons were almost entirely pointless. Again both of these facts make me question why we paid so much to Oyster.

The initial trip to Laguna San Rafael was also something of an annoyance. The trip itself was fantastic, but I think I speak for all of us on the trip when I say that we felt very taken advantage of. It subsequently became clear once we arrived with host families that the amount we paid for the trip was more than was necessary, and was perhaps a cost that could have been avoided had the trip been done even a week later, since we would have had greater knowledge of the available options. However, since we were pretty much straight off the plane we felt we had little option but to immediately commit to this trip. I am not saying this was a deliberate attempt to deceive us by Oyster, but I feel it could have been done in a way that didn’t pressure us or seemingly take advantage of our lack of knowledge.

Essentially, the program was good, but Oyster had very little to do with this on the ground. For me the costs of the trip and Oysters value added simply do not match up. Therefore, I would strongly recommend doing a program similar to this but not in Coyhaique (there are plenty of far more interesting places in both Chile and Argentina), and not with Oyster, unless the costs of the trip are reduced to a level that corresponds with their value added.

How can this program be improved?

Charge in line with the support offered. Delay the Laguna San Rafael trip by a week. Warn about the pollution.

Response from Oyster Worldwide

Hi Oliver

Thank you for your feedback. We appreciate you taking the time to give us your thoughts. Whilst we are sorry to hear that there were some things that you didn’t feel went to plan, we are very pleased to hear that overall you felt that the programme was good, that your Spanish improved and that you enjoyed the scenery.

We are pleased to have been able to address all of your concerns whilst you were still in Chile, as you raised these points with us early. If there is anything that you would like to discuss with us further, please do get in touch with your Destination Manager. We always want volunteers to feel that their point of view has been listened to and carefully considered.

Best wishes
Oyster Worldwide team

Tom
Male

Coyhaique review

2/10

The general impression that I received from Oyster throughout the trip was one of disorganisation. In fact that was also the very first impression that I received on landing in Chile, because I had been given the wrong information on who was going to pick us up from the airport. This lead to my first few hours in Coyhaique being stuck in a local airport with no idea what to do and no internet, the rep in England hadn’t even given me the address of the hostel in Coyhaique. My only option was to call to England to sort the situation out, where it turned out that the rep had gotten the day of my arrival wrong.

Oyster also provided a packing list for the trip which was quite simply wrong. About half of the things on the list are not needed, at all. The list included 5 smart shirts and smart shoes for school, but not even the other teachers wore shirts and I was never asked to wear anything other than jeans and T-shirts. In total I ended bringing about 4 kilos of clothes for no reason thanks to Oyster. In fact the packing list was so unhelpful I have a hard time believing that whoever wrote it has ever even been to Coyhaique.

Once in Coyhaique, we were presented with the opportunity to go on a 3-day camping trip for near on £500. According to the guide we were getting a ‘deal’. I can’t say for certain but I am pretty sure that myself and the rest of the group were basically ripped off on a trip which didn’t even include part of what was claimed to be in it, (we didn’t go to Cerro Castillo). Whilst this trip might be advertised as some kind of bonding experiences, in reality it is just a way for associates of Oyster to glean yet more money out of you. The reason for not going to Cerro Castillo was because it apparently didn’t quite work out with the bus times, but it seems more likely that the the Guide knew that he could get away with it because, it being our second day, how were we to know any better ? When we mentioned this to Oyster they said that the trip is not affiliated with the organisation. Even though the guide who runs the trip is married to the Oyster rep in Coyhaquie.

The trip itself, whether we were overcharged or not, is a complete waste of time. You can do part of it by yourself for much cheaper and the key attraction, the Laguna San Rafael glacier, is hardly impressive compared to the myriad of other glaciers which are accessible from places close to Coyhaquie.

We also had 4 days of ‘intensive’ Spanish lessons. I would take issue with calling them lessons at all. All the rep did was hand out a grammar sheet and then do quizzes,which merely confirmed what everyone knew before they had arrived. So by the end of the 4 days no one had learnt anything. Yet again, a complete waste of time.

I will say that once I was settled in with my family and at school things went much better, mainly because when they say that it is a hands off experience they really mean it. It was roughly two months between are ‘catch-up’ sessions. They couldn’t even get me from the airport to the city of Coyhaique on my first day. The information they provide is misleading at best and at worst completely false. A great example being that they do not mention on the website that Coyhaique happens to be the most polluted city in the whole of South America, and near the top of the most polluted cities in the world.

To summarise, don’t waste your money. I would absolutely recommend doing something similar to what Oyster offer, just not with Oyster.

How can this program be improved?

Change the packing list. Schedule the trip for later in the stay. Don't mess up simple things like when 2 of the 5 volunteers are actually arriving. Improve the lessons or at the very least don't advertise them as intensive.

Response from Oyster Worldwide

Hi Tom

Thank you for your feedback. We always value hearing from volunteers about their experience. We are really pleased to hear that overall you were happy with the experience that you had and we hope that you look back on your time in Chile with fond memories.

Having carefully read through your feedback it seems that we have already spoken to you about all of your concerns, as you raised them with us whilst you were still in Chile. We appreciate you bringing your concerns to our attention and will certainly be taking your points on board.

If you would like to discuss your experience with us further then please do get in touch with your destination manager, we always want volunteers to feel like their feedback has been taken seriously.

Best wishes
Oyster Worldwide team

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