The 10 Best Places to Volunteer Abroad in 2023
From the lush rainforests of Costa Rica to the Himalayan villages of Nepal, read on for the 10 best (and most popular!) places to volunteer abroad in 2023.
Volunteering abroad is one of the best ways to get to know a country and make a difference. You'll get to connect with local residents, embracing the country's culture and customs while contributing to projects that could positively benefit communities and the planet. If you approach volunteering with an open mind, you'll definitely be in for an exciting and gratifying experience.
Whether you’re interested in empowering refugees and trafficking victims in Thailand or conserving wildlife in South Africa, we’ve identified the best countries to volunteer in 2023.
How did we pick these locations?
Lastly, we used our own industry knowledge to ensure we're recommending locations that are vetted both by you, the community members, and us, the experts, so that we feel confident the locations included are the best of the best!
Best for working in health: India
Popular cities for volunteering: Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata
📌 Popular volunteer projects in India:
- Bandage wounds for patients in busy clinics in low-income areas
- Join a mobile health clinic delivering care to rural communities
For volunteers passionate about healthcare and looking to share their skillset, India could be a destination worth exploring. Though the country has experienced rapid economic growth, many communities still do not have access to clean water, proper housing, or basic medical care. India has a population of nearly 1.4 billion people so there are numerous opportunities to help.
Flexibility is key as clinics and hospitals may be underresourced -- it can be hard to work with limited supplies but the local medical professionals will be there to guide you. Some programs require volunteers to be healthcare students or licensed healthcare workers but whether you have a lot or a little experience, there is likely to be a place for you to contribute.
Medical and dental volunteers are needed to help assist in clinics and hospitals, as well as spread public health awareness to promote the basics of health and topics like COVID-19, infectious disease, global health programming, and more.
Best for wildlife conservation: South Africa
Popular cities for volunteering: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg
📌 Popular volunteer projects in South Africa:
- Research lion behavior on a private nature reserve
- Document the health of endangered wildlife in and around Kruger National Park
Wildlife volunteer opportunities in South Africa are diverse. The country is home to 22 national parks with over 95,000 species.
In the national parks, you may work with all kinds of wildlife, from big cats to birds to endangered animals like black rhinos. Volunteers can help research efforts by observing and collecting data on health status, behavior, and the number of animals in the area. If conversation education is more your thing, there are opportunities to train as a park guide to help spread awareness about at-risk and endangered wildlife.
Best for community development: Nepal
Popular cities for volunteering: Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan
📌 Popular volunteer projects in Nepal:
- Build a local library and support literacy projects for children and adults
- Teach computer classes in rural villages with limited access to technology
Home to the magnificent Himalayan mountains and the densely forested Chitwan jungle, Nepal is a nation of immense diversity packed with adventure. Volunteers are drawn to Nepal's inclusive culture and friendly people who welcome visitors in the country.
Volunteers can lend a hand in infrastructure projects, such as helping with earthquake recovery efforts or constructing classrooms in local villages. There are also programs for teaching skills to adults that will empower them to succeed as local business owners. Projects generally aim to promote social and community cohesion by focusing on human rights and a people-centered approach.
Best for environmental conservation: Peru
Popular cities for volunteering: Lima, Cusco, Huancayo
📌 Popular volunteer projects in Peru:
- Advocate for indigenous communities in the face of oil company operations
- Conduct research in the Amazon by identifying and cataloging native bird species
Peru has always been a popular destination for visitors interested in environmental conservation, thanks to its gorgeous mountains, pristine beaches, and celebrated cultural heritage. From the Andes to the Amazon, Peru has it all.
Volunteers can find projects ranging in a large variety of environmental focuses. Whether you are interested in promoting sustainable and responsible ecotourism through education or researching biodiversity and native flora, you will find a meaningful project waiting for you in Peru.
Best for teaching: Ghana
Popular cities for volunteering: Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast
📌 Popular volunteer projects in Ghana:
- Teach English to children living in rural and remote areas
- Assist local classroom teachers in kindergartens and preschools
Located along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa, Ghana is becoming an increasingly popular volunteer destination. It's a welcoming nation with a stable democracy and has an array of education and youth development opportunities, especially for volunteers interested in helping teach children.
Volunteers can contribute to the local education systems by helping to teach math and language in preschools, elementary schools, and high schools. Although English is one of the official languages in Ghana, many children in rural areas primarily speak regional indigenous languages.
Best for youth development: Ecuador
Popular places for volunteering: Quito, Galapagos Islands, the Amazon
📌 Popular volunteer projects in Ecuador:
- Run a fitness clinic for local kids and teens
- Set up a community library specializing in books for children and teens
Ecuador is home to the country's stunning and world-famous Galapagos Islands. Environmental and wildlife conservation are major projects in Ecuador. However, youth development and empowerment are other important focuses for prospective volunteers.
Due to a lack of educational and vocational resources, The World Bank estimated that around 14% of youths aged between 15-24 were unemployed in 2021. Volunteers can help teach young people skills they can use in further education or in the workplace. Help teens and young adults prepare for a successful future!
Best for climate change research: Kenya
Popular cities for volunteering: Nairobi, Mobasa, Kisumu
➡️Popular volunteer projects in Kenya:
- Contribute to water conservation and tree planting projects
- Observe and document animals in their natural habitats to help drive research into how climate change affects local ecosystems
For volunteers interested in climate change research and mitigation, Kenya is a great place to lend your time and skills.
According to Concern Worldwide, Kenya is one of the top ten countries most affected by climate change. Currently, the drought affecting the Horn of Africa is one of the worst in 40 years and is bringing significant hardships to areas of northwestern Kenya.
Although the world's largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions are high-income nations, climate change disproportionately affects lower-income countries. Although climate change needs to be tackled on a large scale, there are things individuals can do to help those negatively impacted by it on the ground.
Best for marine conservation: Costa Rica
Popular cities for volunteering: San José, Puerto Jimenez, Puerto Limón
📌 Popular volunteer projects in Costa Rica:
- Guard turtle nests on the beach at night to protect them from poachers and predators
- Replant mangroves and clean up trash and plastic at local beaches
Costa Rica is typically at the top of every volunteer or traveler's bucket list, and for good reason. The country is considered one of the most sustainable countries in the world and offers amazing volunteer abroad opportunities in different sectors.
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 marine ecosystem. All of this while you also get to know the people and learn to love the chill way of life in Costa Rica -- Pura Vida!
Best for human rights advocacy: Thailand
Popular cities for volunteering: Chiang Mai, Phuket, Bangkok
📌 Popular volunteer projects in Thailand:
- Teach English to women rescued from human trafficking
- Support refugees through job training
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 history of the country are just as interesting.
In Thailand, you also have many different opportunities to get involved with projects. Volunteers interested in human rights advocacy will find several ways to get involved. With 3.9 million migrant workers as of 2019, 100,000 of whom were also refugees or asylum seekers, Thailand faces unique challenges. Women and children are especially vulnerable to exploitation and could benefit from programs protecting and supporting them.
Best for construction and building projects: Tanzania
Popular places for volunteering: Arusha, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro area
📌 Popular volunteer projects in Tanzania:
- Lend a hand building schools in rural areas
- Install water and sanitation systems in under-resourced areas
If you're handy with a hammer or simply looking for hands-on, labor-intensive volunteering, then Tanzania has building projects that could use your enthusiasm and skills. In 2021, the Tanzanian government pledged to build 1,000 high schools across the country, focusing especially in rural areas.
In small towns and villages across Tanzania, school buildings may be in disrepair, if they even exist at all. Join teams that help build new schools or renovate old ones, promoting positive learning environments for local children. Although prior construction experience is helpful, there are volunteer projects in Tanzania for every skill level!
Ready to plan your dream volunteer trip in 2023?
Volunteering abroad is an unforgettable experience that can expand your worldview while allowing you to do some good for others. You can't go wrong with any of the above countries -- prepare to change your life in one of the best places to volunteer abroad in 2023!
Read more about volunteering abroad to help plan your trip: