Over 50s volunteering in Romania

Volunteering in Romania is a perfect introduction to this large and often overlooked country. Lush, mountainous and peppered with beautiful medieval towns, it’s a destination in its own right, but volunteering here is a brilliant way to get in amongst it. Living and working here gives you a local’s eye view of Romania, and you’ll have the chance to contribute more than just a few tourist bucks to the country. By volunteering your time, energy and enthusiasm, you can support its wildlife, too.
Volunteering in Romania means one thing – bears! The bad news is, bears have had appalling treatment at the hands of humans in Romania’s recent history. Chained up outside restaurants to entice tourists in, made to dance in the street or perform in the circus, or simply kept in cramped and filthy cages in zoos, bears have routinely been abused. The good news is, a sanctuary established near the medieval town of Brasov in 2007, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, rights these wrongs. It takes in bears and gives them a happy life, that’s as close to what they’d enjoy in the wild as possible.
This is where volunteering comes in. This sanctuary relies on the eager help of volunteers to take care of its 100 or so bears. Volunteers work alongside the sanctuary’s full time members of staff, helping with food preparation, going on feeding rounds and doing routine maintenance work. There are numerous other animals living happily here, too, that also need care – dogs, horses, goats and even the odd wolf. Helping out with sanctuary tours is an important part of the role, too, to share with people the importance of animal welfare and conservation.

Our top Over 50s volunteering Vacation

Volunteering with bears in Romania

Volunteering with bears in Romania

Volunteer at an inspiring bear sanctuary in Transylvania

From £1145 7 days ex flights
Tailor made:
Flexible departures available throughout the year, minimum stay 1 week
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Over 50s volunteering or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Ideal for mature travelers

This volunteering break is hugely popular with mature travelers, for a number of reasons. Location is one; for many volunteers, Romania is a short haul flight away that won’t break the bank. Although fascinating, culturally Romania is not that far away either, so volunteers of all ages find they can slot in quickly and really hit the ground running, with no energy needed on cultural interpretation. The work itself is not physically demanding, and the staff really understand that you are there to enjoy the bears. So, once you have completed your jobs, you’re free to roam the site and simply enjoy watching the bears splashing in pool, climbing trees, playing or snoozing – it’s an insight into their lives that regular visitors to the sanctuary just don’t get.
Volunteers are welcome to join for just a week, too, as compared to the two week commitment that some volunteering trips suitable for the over 50s request. This reduces the feeling of risk – in the unlikely event of you not loving the experience, it’s not such a problem as you’re only there for six days – and means this is a great entry level option. Many older volunteers first dip their toe in with a week here, find they love the experience, and go on to try other volunteering trips further afield (or simply come back here year on year).
There’s plenty of local, cultural life to enjoy while volunteering with bears in Romania, which is another trump card. Unlike on a wildlife conservation project in the African bush or on a remote island, while in Romania you live in the heart of the 12th century Saxon town of Brasov, in a warm and comfortable flat shared with two or three other volunteers. There’s the option to stay in a hotel, too, if you prefer a little more privacy. Once you’ve finished your day’s work at the sanctuary, you can enjoy exploring Brasov, which has lots of lovely restaurants, bars and cafes, so there’s a degree of independence and freedom. This isn’t available on volunteering trips that operate out of a project base, in a remote location, where you eat and sleep there. You can shop in the local market, or enjoy folk dancing in the square or a trip to the opera. Weekend visits to local highlights, including Dracula’s castle, are also included.
Here’s what one of our travelers, Rowena Dark, said about her volunteering vacation in Romania:
“Transylvania far exceeded my expectations. I was truly overwhelmed by the whole experience. It really did feel like a vacation even though I was working at the bear sanctuary, which is a most beautiful place to be. I felt sad leaving it each day. Brasov is full of streets for you to just meander and take in at a leisurely pace. The walks up the hillsides to see the spectacular views are a must. The cafes are so different and you will just want to try them all. The people are so friendly and food exceptionally good value. Sighisoara is a gem. I took a guided tour around the area and again it was faultless. The citadels at the tops of the hills in Transylvania just dotted about are a must see. There’s so much more I want to see I plan on going back next September to work at the bear sanctuary.”

Best time to volunteer in Romania

Volunteering with bears in a Romanian sanctuary is work that takes place all year round. Unlike bears that live in the wild, the sanctuary bears have lost the ability to hibernate. Many have been tortured so that they lost hibernation instincts (what good is a performing bear that sleeps through the winter?) and others were just forced not to (those that were kept in zoos, for example). Bears need to hibernate in dens, and prepare for the long winter by eating huge amounts first, but those kept in captivity were not allowed to do that. At the sanctuary, the staff do build dens for any bears that seem to want to hibernate and some bears manage to sleep for a few weeks at a time – one even managed a whole month. On the whole though, caring for bears is a year-round activity, and they need plenty of food to keep warm in winter.
Romania in December, January, February and March is cold, dropping to sub zero temperatures and particularly cold at night, with snow in the depths of winter. In April the weather begins to warm up (average 15°C) and trees and meadows are dotted with blossom and wild flowers. May can be wet, but June is lovely. It can reach the high 20°Cs in July and August, so volunteer work now is more arduous, although there is a lot of shade in the sanctuary. September is pleasant, with the first autumn colours appearing, and October is cooling down, but temperatures remain in the teens and it’s not as cold and dark as November.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nicolas Vollmer] [Brown bear climbing tree: NH53] [Volunteering: Oyster Worldwide] [Picture with bear: Oyster Worldwide]