Faqs

  • What makes Oyster unique?

    Oyster is a family owned business that specialises in arranging voluntary work and paid work for individuals from around the world.  We are committed to giving our participants passion, care and commitment, and work hard to make sure that you have an amazing time through us. One of the things that is most important to us is to offer excellent support throughout, both before, during and after the placement.  We are one of the longest running organisations of our kind and, we believe, one of the most experienced. We are all passionate travellers both for our work and in our free time- and this combination of experience and passion means that we are well placed and excited to get you on an overseas adventure.

    Read more about why you should choose Oyster.

  • How long have you been going?

    We have been sending participants overseas since 1999. We changed our name to Oyster Worldwide in 2006, continuing to work with the projects that we set up originally and also reaching out to grow our projects and our reach.

  • How do I know Oyster is a responsible organisation?

    Oyster is proud to be leading the way in responsible and safe travel. Through visiting all of our projects and establishing close relationships with them, we understand what the project needs and what you need. We check our projects thoroughly against our policies, visiting them personally before deciding whether to work with them. We also speak with each participant before signing them up on our projects, to make sure that this project is right for the individual as well as the placement.

  • Can I really make a difference as a volunteer?

    Oyster will only send volunteers to places where you are really needed. We visit our projects before formally setting up with them, and will assess the need in that area. Whilst we don’t expect our volunteers to feel that they have changed the world overnight, we are proud that our volunteers can come back from their projects feeling that they have made a genuine contribution to a great cause.

  • There is so much to choose from! How do I know what is right for me?

    In part, this is where we come in. We love to speak with our participants to find out what makes them tick, and where their passions lie. It is important to think about what you enjoy, what you are passionate about and where in the world you could imagine yourself being! If there are a range of things that you are considering, do think about your budget and your time scale.

    Do give us a call on 00 (0) 1892 770 771 and we can discuss your options with you- and hopefully give you some great suggestions on where to start!

  • Do I need previous experience to volunteer or work abroad on one of your programmes?

    This really does depend on each programme. For many of our animal welfare programmes all you need is a love for animals, a willingness to muck in and just get thoroughly immersed in the programme.

    For placements with children, we do require some level of experience of having worked with children in a prior capacity before.

    For paid work, work experience really does help, although do look at the individual paid work opportunities to find out what requirements there are for each.

  • How safe is my money?

    We have been operating successfully since 1999. Being a small organisation means we keep a close eye on our costs and make sure that we are financially stable.

    We have an ATOL which allows us to book flights. It also gives people financial protection should we go out of business. This scheme is backed up by the UK government and can only be used if Oyster has booked your flights.

    Check out our financial policy for more.

  • Where does my money go?

    Each project that we run is very different, however here is a general break down of where your money will go:

    • Funds the cost to the project of accommodating you, training and supporting you while you are there.
    • Meet other expenses for your trip, such as your airport meet-up, transfer, orientation and any standard excursions.
    • Providing you with our experienced team, who have all done Oyster’s projects. They will be on hand to advise you, monitor the project and respond to any issues and emergencies.
    • Maintaining a close relationship with the project through liaising with the local representative, monitoring feedback, and occasional visits by Oyster’s Destination Managers.
    • Ongoing work to review and improve our service and procedures to ensure your trip is well planned, safe and meets all your expectations.
    • Administration, insurance and marketing costs.
    • Work to research and develop future projects.
  • I don’t live in the UK, can I still participate?

    YES! We take bookings from people from all around the world. In the past 12 months, we’ve sent many Australians, Americans, Canadians, Russians, Africans, Asians and Europeans on our volunteer programmes.

    There are some restrictions on our paid work programmes and these are due to the Work Permits required for Canada and Australia.

    For Canada, we can take bookings from most Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders (as well as Canadians themselves!).

    For Australia, we can take applications from most Europeans, Americans and Canadians.

  • Can I speak to a former participant?

    We’ll happily put you in touch with a former participant, preferably one from the project you’re interested in (but we can’t guarantee this). You can also find Oyster on Facebook, we have a really popular page that a lot of our past and present participants are members of.

  • Is Oyster a member of the Year Out Group?

    Yes, we are full members. All of our procedures have been fully assessed.

  • Does Oyster adhere to the requirements of BS8848?

    Yes, we have been through the British Standard and have ensured that our policies and procedures are up to date and in line with the expectations of BS8848. You can see our commitment to BS8848 in our Meeting BS8848 policy.

  • Is there a minimum or maximum age for participants?

    Nearly all of our projects require participants to be aged at least 18 before departure. The only exceptions are our monkey rehabilitation project in South Africa, our turtle conservation project in Costa Rica and our bear project in Romania where we can take 17 year olds with parental consent.

    We also send families away on our projects which is absolutely fine – under 18′s can be accompanied by parents.

    For all volunteer projects there is no upper age limit so if you are on a gap year, career break, holiday or retirement, you are most welcome!

    For our paid work programmes in Canada and Australia, you need to be aged 18-30 at the time your work permit application is received by the visa offices.

  • When do I need to apply?

    This can really depend on the project! For our Canada work placements you need to apply as soon as you know that you want to do it- places can usually fill up to 6 months before departure.

    The summer periods are usually very popular and so we would recommend booking your summer placement in November – February to get your guaranteed best dates. We can take late bookings too, but you might need to be more flexible on your departure dates.

    Last minute options are often available, so do ask!

  • Do I need to learn a language?

    Any language skills you already have will be really useful, particularly Spanish for our Chile programme, Portuguese for Brazil and French for Tremblant. You don’t need to speak another language already, but we really encourage you to learn out there. Most participants find it one of the most rewarding bits of their time away. Don’t worry; there’s basic teaching on arrival.

    Many volunteers in Tanzania and Romania, for example, find it useful to learn the basics before they start their trip.

  • Do I travel on my own?

    Most of our destinations operate on a group departure system. Groups vary in size but you are certain to make friends with some or all of your group-mates; many travel together after the placement. If you’d prefer to go on your own, that’s fine, just give us a ring. We can be flexible with departure dates so let us know if our set dates do not work for you.
    Lots of our short term animal welfare programmes attract people who are happy to travel to the project on their own. With these you can go at anytime of the year so we don’t group you up together. You will be sure to meet a great group of other volunteers on arrival though and make friends with people from around the world.

  • Can friends go together?

    Yes! Whilst most of our participants do come to us as an independent traveler, we do welcome friends as well!

  • Can I do more than one project?

    Yes. Many participants like to combine a bit of hedonism with feeling good about themselves, so do a voluntary and a paid placement.

    On our South Africa projects, if you combine more than one on the same trip, we’ll give you a £50 discount.

  • Can I use my time abroad towards my Duke of Edinburgh?

    You certainly can do. We are happy to sign off your achievements on the programme as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. We do encourage that you write a blog for us about your time away so that we can know precisely what you were doing as part of the greater project too.

  • What’s the deal with flights?

    We have an ATOL (number 9598). This allows us to book flights on your behalf and gives you financial protection. Many of our programmes include flights in the price (see our Pricelist for details).

    If you want to arrange your own flights for any of our projects, that’s fine, just let us know and we’ll reduce your project price accordingly.
    Remember that you may miss out on travelling with your group and, more importantly, you will not be protected by our ATOL.

    On our short term animal welfare programmes we do not automatically include flights. Instead we recommend that you contact one of our flights partners:

    Just let either partner know the Oyster project you are going on and the date you need to arrive and they will do the rest. They are open Mon-Fri 9am-7pm so feel free to ask them any flight related questions you might have.

    If you would rather not organise flights yourself, we can organise them for you. We would charge you exactly what we get charged, plus £30 for our time and cover through our ATOL.

  • How do I book?

    Just click on the ‘Book’ button at the top of every page. From there you can see our price list and read ‘Our Booking Process Explained’ page before completing one of our Booking Forms (there’s a separate one for each project).

  • Why do you need to speak to me?

    By far the best way of getting the right project for the right person is to speak with you either over the phone or face to face. That way you make the most of your time abroad and our projects get the right participants. It also lets you check us out!

    For our short term animal welfare projects, this takes the form of an informal chat just to find out more about you, tell you about the project and answer any questions you might have.

    For our longer term placements and paid work opportunities, this will take the form of an interview.

  • Can I have a telephone interview?

    Yes. In fact, with the power of technology, we are now able to interview and brief people over the phone or Skype and show you photos of your project as if you were in the office with us. This has really helped us to attract lots of volunteers and participants to our programmes from around the world.

    Of course if you are in the UK, we do always prefer to meet you in person if at all possible at our office in Sussex. We can send you directions coming by car and public transport.

  • What happens at the interview?

    The interview itself lasts for approximately 20 minutes and takes the form of an informal chat with the Destination Manager – the person who will be planning your trip for you. We want to know about your life experience, motivation and expectations and will brief you on your potential placement.

    For our short term animal welfare projects, this takes the form of an informal chat just to find out more about you, tell you about the project and answer any questions you might have.

  • What is a pre-departure briefing?

    Once you accept you will receive plenty of advice to help you plan your trip (eg: getting a visa, insurance, vaccinations & flights). You can contact us at any time if you have queries or concerns. Then, a month or so before departure we will provide pre-departure briefing including an information pack and extended telephone conversation. For our longer group placements, we run a special one or two day course at or near to our office in East Sussex. For people from outside of the UK, we can run these briefings over Skype.

  • When do I pay?

    With the exception of our programmes in the Australian Outback, you do not need to pay anything to apply for one of our programmes (the Outback programme requires a £50 deposit at time of application).

    For all other programmes, we will ask you to make your first payment of £180 one week after we offer you a place (after the initial interview). This payment is followed by a payment of £450 six months before departure and the balance 90 days before departure.

  • How do I raise the money?

    Most people work, but we can give you plenty of fund-raising ideas. Just contact us for inspiration!

  • Can you recommend a travel insurance policy?

    We have looked at a number of the better policies; particularly those aimed at independent travelers, and have asked Global Travel Insurance Services Limited to design a policy that suits the needs of Oyster Worldwide participants.

    It has several unique features that other policies will not have for example.

    ● Cancellation cover for the FULL AMOUNT of your placement (up to £5000).

    ● Travel disruption cover, should your journey be disrupted due to Foreign Office travel restrictions following riots, war etc.

    ● Unrestricted winter sports cover for Canadian placements (other policies have time restrictions).

    ● No excess on medical or hospital claims.

    ● Cover is provided for all work to be undertaken as part of the placement (other policies will not cover work of any kind).

  • What vaccinations might I need?

    This really does depend on where you are going in the world and how long for. We would always recommend speaking with your doctor or travel nurse about this. We also suggest looking at our travel health partner, Interhealth, for more information on vaccines and health considerations in the countries that you might be considering.

The friendship I've made with other volunteers are far stronger than I imagined

Amy Russell, 2005.