• Bhutan: honouring & preserving cultural heritage, traditional architecture and native knowledge
• Northeast India: Experiencing amazing natural wonders & cultural diversity between Myanmar & Tibet
Are you looking for a special experience in another culture? Are you interested to contribute with your skills in return for food and lodging? Then volunteering might be the right option for you.
We run the Bamboo Retreat Hotel (www.bambooretreat.in) in the Sikkim Himalayas, India and the travel & trekking agencies Terralaya Travels (www.terralaya.com & www.sikkim.ch) and Yetilaya Travels (www.yetilaya.com). We are also associated with NGOs involved in school projects for disadvantaged children and serve by referring qualified and committed teachers to them.
Nestled among terraced rice-fields, forest, gardens and streams, Bamboo Retreat is located on three acres of land on the slopes across the valley from the city of Gangtok. Depending on traffic it takes 30 to 40 minutes to reach the capital Gangtok from Bamboo Retreat.
In our gardens we cultivate a variety of local and common varieties of vegetables, flowers, medicinal plants and herbs organically. With Permaculture techniques we want the foster biodiversity of our garden and continue to improve the fertility of our soil. Our goal is to convert the 0.5 hectares of terraced land into a thriving garden for the purpose of setting an example.
Our team of seven permanent staff looks forward to collaborating with you and your support and knowledge. A contribution as a volunteer is a rewarding opportunity for social service and interaction with the local people.
What we are looking for at Bamboo Retreat:
Interested people with experience and/or training in several or at least one of the following areas:
- Tourism, tour guide (German and/or English)
- Hotel & Restaurant: Assistance in training waiters/assistant cooks/helpers.
- Administration/Reception & Accounting
- Journalism and/or Graphic Design
- Marketing and/or Web-Marketing
- Permaculture, Organic Farming , Gardening, Landscaping , Botany Permaculture Volunteers
- Wellness / Massage Therapy
- Talented artisans
- Do you have experience and/or professional background enabling you to independently provide useful trainings/courses or workshops for the benefit of the local population?
- …or let us know your idea about how you could contribute
What kinds of workshops/courses/trainings we are looking for:
In collaboration with qualified volunteers we have successfully completed courses for local participants in first aid, organic farming and classic massage therapy.
Sikkim is known for its numerous Buddhist monasteries as well as for its biodiversity and world of gigantic mountains. Would you like to learn more about any of these topics? We are open for your ideas. Below is a list of ideas for useful courses & workshops:
- First Aid course, for example for guides (first aid doll is available)
- Course in Massage Therapy or Reflexology
- Intensive Language Courses: English / German / French / Italian
- Workshops on Nutrition / Healthy & Easy Cooking
- Course on Feng Shui
- Creative workshops for local children
- Workshop on Natural cosmetics, Herbology
- Class on Buddhism & Hinduism for guides
- …or let us know your ideas…
What we can offer
For contributions at Bamboo Retreat:
- Accommodation in a standard- or eco-hotel-room
- Meals while at the hotel
- Wifi Internet
- An unforgettable, cross-cultural experience
- travel advice
For contributions through a course/training/workshop for the local population:
- We help with the organization of the workshop (venue/local announcement, etc)
For contributions through an NGO:
- we can help by referring you to an appropriate NGO involved in education (for example English medium primary schools that are looking for support in teaching or teaching methods)
Whether you are interested in contributing with your skills at our hotel, you want to run a course or workshop for the benefit of local participants or if you are looking to contribute to the services provided by another organization get in touch with us by sending us an email with the below mentioned info to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Name, address, phone nr., Email address, Skype contact (if any), nationality
- Let us know your motivation
- Describe your professional background and your experience
- Desired /probable duration during what time of the year
Questions & Answers
Where are volunteers accommodated?
Volunteers at Bamboo Retreat are being provided a standard or eco-room. The standard rooms are equipped with bathroom and toilet.
What food can you expect?
Meals for volunteers at Bamboo Retreat are in line with the meals prepared for our team and consist mostly of a combination of rice, vegetables and lentils. There is also a tea- and coffee-bar in the first floor and filtered, boiled water is always available.
Who runs the Bamboo Retreat?
The Bamboo Retreat is managed by an Indian-Swiss team.
Can I come in the winter?
Yes, from December to February is dry season and winter. You need warm winter clothing since there is no central heating. Temperatures will be between +5 ° C (night) and + 15 ° C (daytime). For those of you who are not concerned about the colder temperatures during the winter months this is a quiet and nice time to come – and ideally suited for holding trainings & workshops.
How to reach Sikkim?
There are several flights a day throughout the year to Bagdogra (IXB) in West Bengal either from Delhi, Kolkota or Guwahati. From Bagdogra Aiprort to Bamboo Retreat it takes about 4.5 hrs by privately booked car.
Alternatively, it is also possible to travel by train to New Jalpaiguri (NJP). From the train station NJP it takes also about 4.5 hours in a private taxi to Bamboo Retreat Hotel in Sikkim. Volunteers are expected to pay for their own travel arrangements.
How to reach the Bamboo Retreat Hotel?
The easiest way is by way of privately booked car from Bagdogra Airport. Alternatively you can travel by shared taxi or bus from Siliguri to Ranipool or Gangtok. You can also fly by helicopter in 35 min. from Bagdogra to Gangtok. We will assist you with your travel planning.
What kind of visa foreign volunteers require?
You will require an employment visa. For more information please go to:
There is no visa for India for the specific purpose of volunteering available. Depending on the type of arrangement you may also apply for a tourist visa. When applying for your India-visa pay attention to both sides of the application and mention that you request for a 15-days permit for Sikkim as well. The 15-days Sikkim permit may then be stamped on to your India-visa. But if you cannot obtain the Sikkim-permit that way, never mind: we can obtain it at the border-town of Rangpo the day you reach Sikkim. Just make sure to carry in your hand-luggage 4 x passport-fotos and 2 x Visa- and PP-copies for smooth and efficient processing of the same on the spot.
If your intended stay is longer than 15 days, we can apply for extension at Gangtok. Normally an extension of up to 60 days possible without any problems.
What should I bring along?
In Gangtok you can buy almost anything you might require (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, sunscreen, medicines, batteries, books, clothes, etc.). We recommended to travel lightly and to bring along only what is really necessary and easy to pack. At Bamboo Retreat we also have a small library with a selection on books on Sikkim, Buddhism, Permaculture, Medicinal plants, etc.
Avoid bringing along any waste-items that are not recycable.
What clothes should I bring along?
- In winter, from November to end of February you should also pack warm clothes suitable for temperatures from + 5 to + 15 ° C
- In March the weather is clear but a bit hazy. You will need warm clothes in early mornings and evenings.
- From May through October bring along a raincoat.
- From April to May temperatures are pleasant with hot sun and breezes and occasional thunder storms and showers. You will require mostly summer wear and a light jacket.
- From June to September is Monsoon: Balmy weather, lots of rain, and strong breezes . You will need cottons and rain wear.
- October is Autumn: Lovely pleasant weather with occasional clouds and rains. You will need cottons with light woolens in the evenings. And rain wear.
- For more information on temperatures and perspiration please check under www.sikkim.ch under “Sikkim”
Can I use my own electrical devices in Sikkim?
The Bamboo Retreat Hotel as well as in the rest of India has 220 V AC. All rooms are equipped with electrical outlets. If your device works in Europe, it should work here too.
But take along with you an adapter for India.
Can I smoke at Bamboo Retreat?
Inside, smoking throughout the building is not permitted. We encourage no smoking. The best way to smoke without disturbing in-house guests is by smoking while doing a walk.
I heard there is lots of rain and fog in Sikkim…
During the monsoon season from July to September it rains almost daily and it is of foggy. Continuous rains are not uncommon during this time. Even from March to June, it may rain frequently and in the afternoon it often gets hazy. From mid-October the rains are less frequent and the direst months are November and December.
Do you have special advise for women?
Many women find travelling in this region much less annoying than in other parts of India. Of course, no place in the world is completely free of harassment. As everywhere in India, it is advisable not to dress in a provocative manner to avoid harassment and disturbing of local sentiments. As in the rest of India, it is advisable also in Sikkim to keep the shoulders, abdomen and legs covered and to avoid western style skirts and dresses. Long pants and a top that covers the shoulders is especially suitable for women. Or you can go for a local dress that can be tailored for you at Gangtok.
Are there ATM in Sikkim?
There are meanwhile many ATM 's along the road between Ranipool and Gangtok, most also accept Visa and Master Card. It is advisable to bring cash too (CHF, USD or EURO) that you can exchange for INR on site.
Can I use the Internet?
Yes , we have WiFi Internet and as a volunteer, you have free access to it. It is best to bring your own lab-top, the hotel computers are often occupied by our employees. Also notice that WiFi service gets interrupted from time to time due to bad weather (thunderstorms) or power cuts.
Even though we have a generator and back-up USB internet connections – this too cannot always be counted on. In addition please note that internet can be very slow and calls by Skype are not always possible. You may not be able to download large files due to the sometimes slow connection. Better bring along with you any voluminous software, data or music that you require. You can normally send out emails without any problem – but please avoid trying to download or send large files.
Can I receive calls at Bamboo Retreat and can I use my mobile phone in Sikkim ?
Yes, you can receive calls from our landline number (+91 3592 252516). But you cannot make international calls from our landline. Also please note that landlines are now and then interrupted and not working. It is therefore best to use a mobile phone. International mobile phones as well as Indian ones with providers such as BSNL, Airtel and Vodafone work better or worse depending on different areas of Sikkim. If your phone works in your country, you can also use it in Sikkim or you can buy a local SIM card for the time of your stay. The number of subscribers has grown much faster than the quality of service so that the network often ends up in "busy"-mode. Callers are sometimes misinformed by voice message that your phone is switched off or outside the service area when in fact the provider’s capacity is simply at its limit. In such cases it is advisable to simply try calling again after 10 minutes to an hour.
Please make sure that you are covered by necessary/recommended insurances.
For your commitment as a volunteer your health should be in top condition.
Please inform yourself at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to your travel about required vaccinations. We recommend that you consult with a specialist in travel medicine.
Doctors, Hospitals and pharmacies are available at Gangtok. Siliguri has specialized medical facilities.