Volunteering abroad is still one of the best ways to get to know a country and to make memories that you will never forget. You get to work with the locals, see places that tourists never get to see, and have a much more wholesome experience. If you approach it with the right learning mindset, you might be in for a life-altering experience.
Due to Covid-19, volunteering abroad in 2021 will have a whole new set of challenges. Travel has been the first thing to be restricted in the last year, so in the coming months you still have to keep your eyes open for new developments. While compiling our list of best places to volunteer abroad in 2021, we have taken this into account and this is why you see so many new countries on our list, as these nations have looser travel restrictions.
This does not mean that last year’s leaders of the list do not have anything to offer anymore – they are just not quite ready to accept many visitors yet. Of course, we have also taken the availability of quality programs into account to compile our list. So here we go with the 10 best places to volunteer abroad in 2021.
|Country||Rank (2021)||Previous Rank (2020)||Change|
1. Costa Rica
Costa Rica finds itself at the top of the list this year. The country is considered one of the most sustainable countries in the world and offers amazing volunteer abroad opportunities in different sectors. It has fared fairly well during the Covid-19 crisis and is inviting visitors for 2021.
In Costa Rica, nature lovers will find their paradise. There are many volunteer abroad opportunities to get immersed in the one of a kind nature of the country. You can work to help to rehabilitate wildlife in their natural habitat, save sea turtles or help researchers gather more information about the ecosystem. All of this while you also get to know the people and learn to love the way of life in Costa Rica--Pura Vida! In many volunteer programs you can also teach at schools or get involved with the health system. There are also options to support virtually.
Popular volunteer programs in Costa Rica:
Kenya is a country in Eastern Africa that has made a surprise entry to the list. Most African countries have done quite well during the last months dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and are open for tourism with some precautions. Kenya has been attracting young people to volunteer abroad for a long time with its breathtaking nature and interesting community projects.
Kenya has a considerable part of its territory dedicated to wildlife habitats and is known for the spectacular annual migration of the blue wildebeest. In its national parks you can also find lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinos and elephants – the big five. Volunteering in a wildlife conservation project will give you insights and experiences that a mere safari can never give you. If you are more interested in the culture and getting to know the people, there are plenty of teaching and community development projects to volunteer with in 2021.
Popular volunteer programs in Kenya:
3. New Zealand
New Zealand is also a newcomer on the list of best places to volunteer abroad in 2021. The country has strict travel requirements but is hoping to open its borders to foreigners soon. The island nation has long attracted tourists for its natural beauty and diversity.
Most projects here center around conservation as the wildlife on these amazing islands is in need of a lot of protection. There are projects cleaning the beaches, working with endemic birds, and planting endemic trees to support the local flora and fauna. Many programs also offer farm work. So, if you are an outdoor loving person and do not mind getting your hands dirty while discovering the breathtaking natural beauty of New Zealand, this might be the best volunteer abroad option for you.
Popular volunteer programs in New Zealand
Uganda is an East African country that borders Lake Victoria. The country is home to some of the last mountain gorillas and has beautiful forests which are protected. As the percentage of young people in this country is very high, education and specifically primary education has been an issue in the last years. Many projects address both of these problems and you can find plenty of opportunities here.
Popular volunteer programs in Uganda:
Australia is new on the list of best places to volunteer abroad in 2021. Although it is a very developed country, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer here with the amazing wildlife. Due to its geographical separation from other continents, the wildlife in Australia has developed very differently and many species are endemic to the country. With humans encroaching on their territory and invasive species being introduced by early settlers, many species are endangered.
You can work in projects to support rehabilitation of wildlife, take care of injured koalas, or do research in bio marine conservation projects. Volunteers are in particularly high demand following the mass destruction caused by the forest fires in 2019. All of this with the backdrop of the beauty of the Australian continent and the security a highly developed country gives you – particularly in times like these.
Popular volunteer programs in Australia:
Mexico should be on your list of countries to check out if you want to volunteer abroad in 2021. The country does not only have amazing beaches but also a rich cultural background and fascinating forests. Many projects also still need support from volunteers to work in community development and education, as the country still struggles with poverty.
You can work with turtle conservation projects and spend your days volunteering abroad at the beach, support a school and teach English in rural villages, or work on local farms, learning about Mexican culture and the Spanish language at the same time. Mexico is open for tourists and depends on tourism as an important part of the economy, so you will support the entire country with your visit.
Popular volunteer programs in Mexico:
7. South Africa
South Africa is one of the countries that was able to keep a spot on the list since last year. While Covid-19 cases here were also high, the country imposed a strict lockdown early and wants to open for tourists again as soon as possible.
Volunteering opportunities here are very diverse. If you like to work in conservation, education, rural development, or youth development – you will find your perfect project-match in South Africa. In the national parks you work with all kinds of wildlife from big cats to birds and marine wildlife. In the rural areas there are plenty of opportunities to work with children in education and development.
Popular volunteer programs in South Africa
Thailand has made it on the list this year as a destination that has a lot to offer. Most people only think of the beach and the small islands when they hear Thailand, but actually the mountain forests and the rich cultural background of the country are just as interesting. Thailand has imposed a strict lockdown very early and has fared quite well during the Covid-19 crisis. As it depends on tourists, it is planning to open soon with strict health requirements.
In Thailand you also have many different opportunities to get involved with projects. You can teach children in rural areas, work with elephants in the forests, or with marine wildlife along the long coastline. Many projects are looking for support from volunteers to get back on track after the hiatus due to Covid-19.
Popular volunteer programs in Thailand:
Mozambique is also a newcomer on the list of best places to volunteer abroad in 2021. The country has a good grip on the Covid-19 situation and seems to be able to manage it well. Tourism is becoming more and more important in its economy, but it’s still not a very common destination, making it all the more fascinating. As many areas – specifically in rural parts of the country – are not very well developed yet, volunteers can support with different kinds of contributions.
Along the coastline, marine conservation projects offer the opportunity to help to protect the beaches and to dive with whale sharks. Also working with children and teaching at local schools are among the things volunteers can do in Mozambique.
Popular volunteer programs in Mozambique
Bali is an island in the Indian Ocean that belongs to Indonesia. It has become a tourism hotspot in the last years due to its natural beauty, its pristine beaches, and its amazing temples. Nevertheless, there is a lot of need for support in many projects working in wildlife protection as well as development. Bali will be an amazing destination to volunteer abroad in 2021 as it will see less tourists and you will get the opportunity to get to see the island less crowded and support the local economy.
If you are looking to get immersed in Balinese culture, there are volunteering projects where you can stay with local families and work with children. If you are more of a nature-lover, you will also find many projects where you can help to save the fascinating wildlife on the island or work in bio marine conservation.
Popular volunteer programs in Indonesia:
Volunteering abroad is sure to look different in 2021, but as the vaccine for Covid-19 starts to materialize, we’re sure to see international travel pick up again. Plan ahead and choose your dream volunteer abroad program in advance so that when that time comes, you’ll be all set to jet off!
This post is updated annually, and it was most recently revised in December 2020.