India is an exciting and highly rewarding travel and volunteer destination. If you are willing and able to donate your time, there are almost endless ways you can volunteer for a worthy cause in India.
With a sea of options available, it can be hard to identify reputable and effective volunteer opportunities in India. For that reason, we’ve compiled this list of the best volunteer programs in India based on past participants' glowing reviews. These include all kinds of experiences and programs, from rural development and animal rescue to women’s empowerment and children’s projects.
Do I need a visa for volunteering in India?
All travelers need a visa to enter India, except citizens of neighboring countries Nepal and Bhutan. The good news is, getting a visa to volunteer in India is relatively easy and can be done online, too.
Citizens of 165 countries can apply for an electronic visa valid for up to one month, one year, or five years; so whether you’re planning on volunteering in India for two weeks or giving back for a year, there’s definitely an e-Tourist visa that matches your agenda. A regular ten-year tourist visa is also available for citizens of the US and Canada.
If you’re planning to engage in long-term volunteer work with a registered NGO, you might need an employment visa, which you’ll have to apply for in person. Volunteer organizations in India recognized by the government can supply a contract or invitation letter to support your application.
What are common volunteering opportunities in India?
There are a plethora of exciting and challenging volunteering opportunities in India. Popular programs include caring for elephants, teaching English to children, and working with women to develop sustainable enterprises. Those with medical experience can get involved with major hospitals and local clinics by providing medical assistance, and working with people affected by HIV.
Volunteer organizations in India accept program participants all year round. Short and long-term placements are also available, so whether you’re seeking a two-week opportunity or an ultra immersive year-long experience, there will definitely be a project that can suit your schedule and goals.
Can I volunteer for free in India?
Most volunteer programs in India charge a program fee for participation. By volunteering in India as a paying volunteer, your financial contributions support local organizations and guarantee the continuity of their developmental projects
Additionally, many volunteer projects include food and lodging in their fees and may provide other perks such as weekend trips, transportation to and from the project, and in-country assistance. The fees you pay have as much impact on local communities as your on-ground efforts.
That said, it’s definitely possible to volunteer for free.
There are plenty of platforms that match enthusiastic hosts with travelers seeking volunteer opportunities abroad at no cost. You can also apply for volunteer abroad scholarships and grants to fund your volunteer experience in India. They’re open to anyone across the globe who’s committed to contributing to worthwhile causes while having a life-changing and world-changing adventure.
1. Volunteering Solutions
Best for budget programs
Program length: 1-24 weeks
Price point: $
What's included: accommodation in volunteer house, 3 meals a day/6 days a week, airport pickup, yoga class once a week, tours and activities, pre-departure support
- Past volunteers were impressed by how organized their programs were.
- Volunteer housing is comfortable and fully equipped with everything you need.
- Start dates are only once a month on select days.
- You will need to budget additional money for meals on the one day of the week that food is not provided.
Volunteer Solutions brings together more than 10 volunteer and internship programs offering affordable programs in India so travelers can find the best program to suit their interests and budget.
The organizations that Volunteer Solutions works with are based in Delhi and Palampur, a town in the hills of Himachal Pradesh. In Delhi, volunteers can work with street children, teach in a slum school, or intern in a healthcare center, so there are great opportunities for getting professional work experience. In Palampur, programs revolve around yoga and meditation, so provide a totally different kind of experience from those offered in Delhi.
If you’re a dental or nursing student, a great thing about Volunteer Solutions is that they have specific internship programs, especially for healthcare. You can get some real-world work experience and put your hard-earned skills and knowledge to good use.
"It was the first time in my life that I volunteered away from home! It was a wonderful and very enriching experience. My goal was to teach children in need but they are the ones who taught me a lot."
2. Volunteering With India
Best for women's rights
Program length: 1-12 weeks
Price point: $
What's included: host family accommodation, 3 meals a day, pre-departure support, airport pickup, transport to volunteer site, 24/7 support
- Past volunteers felt supported and cared for by local staff members.
- Depending on your volunteer dates, you can participate in local and national holidays and festivals with VWI.
- If you aren't comfortable with a homestay, you'll need to arrange separate hotel accommodation.
By volunteering with Indian women’s groups through the Volunteering With India organization, you’ll give women the chance to learn marketable skills that will empower them for the future.
These programs run in rural areas around Jaipur, so volunteers will get the chance to explore the beautiful riches of the Rajasthani capital, as well as better understand life in rural India. Volunteers will be involved in teaching English and math to the women associated with the projects, thus increasing their communication and numeracy skills and their self-esteem.
Past volunteers have enjoyed being able to see how their work directly contributes to breaking the cycle of poverty. They also enjoyed seeing the women’s confidence flourish as they learned new skills.
3. Plan My Gap Year
Best for medical volunteering
Program length: 2-24 weeks
Price point: $
What's included: shared room in the volunteer house, 3 meals a day, airport pickup, orientation, transport to and from project, 24/7 support
- Local coordinators stay in touch with volunteers and offer support for things like culture shock.
- Past participants found clinical rotations to be very hands-on and beneficial.
- Wifi at the volunteer house can be spotty at times.
- Excursions need to be booked separately.
Plan My Gap Year's medical programs are oriented toward students but there are no official requirements if you want to dip your toes into the world of healthcare.
There are two elective tracks, one for aspiring doctors and one for nurse hopefuls, where you can shadow professionals and learn about your future career. Whatever you choose, you'll be sure to gain experience through rotations that take you to major hospitals and local clinics, giving you insight into the healthcare system in India.
Past participants felt the program was well organized and gave them opportunities to get involved and feel like they made a difference. Of course, your scope of volunteering is limited to your clinical education but even those with no experience or schooling in medicine will find useful tasks to do.
"I completed the 3 week medical volunteering program in India. Over the 3 weeks I learned so much from clinical skills to Indian culture. You truly get a first hand experience of India’s healthcare system while simultaneously being immersed in their amazing culture."
4. Volunteering with India
Best for work with animals
Program length: 1-4 weeks
Price point: $
What's included: host family accommodation, three meals a day, airport pickup, pre-departure support, weekend excursions, in-country transportation
- Start and end dates are flexible.
- Volunteers, especially solo travelers, felt safe and supported by staff.
- Early morning wake-up times may be hard for some volunteers.
- Staying with a host family might not be for everyone -- hotel accommodation must be booked separately, though.
Travelers who want to work with animals can do so with Volunteering with India in the beautiful Elephant Village outside of Jaipur.
You’ll work at a sanctuary, helping with tasks such as preparing food and feeding, bathing, and walking the elephants. The sanctuary, known as Elephant Village, covers 30 hectares of land that support both the rescued animals and local residents. Volunteers are expected to work 3-4 hours, Monday through Friday.
And of course, when you’re not hard at work with the elephants, you'll go on weekend excursions to explore the beauty of India. Some destinations include iconic cultural sites like the Taj Mahal and Amber Palace as well as a tour of the Golden Triangle which is comprised of the cities of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.
"It’s was a wonderful experience to be in such close contact of such a big animal having no previous experience under the supervision of the staff, Rohit and the mahouts. I never felt unsafe, as a woman, as the only volunteer in a village."
Best for rural volunteering
Program length: 1-24 weeks
Price point: $
What's included: accommodation in volunteer house, 3 meals a day, airport pickup, in-country transportation, teaching materials, tours and activities, visa support, 24/7 assistance
- The volunteer house has wifi and hot showers and you will be provided with three healthy meals a day (including filtered water).
- Current or aspiring teachers will gain lots of experience in lesson planning and delivery.
- Your day is long, with constant activity from 8 am to 4:30 pm (with breaks for meals, though!).
- Most popular excursions must be booked separately.
If you love kids and have an interest in teaching, iSPiiCE offers the opportunity to teach English to children living in the foothills of the Himalayas. Dharamsala has breathtaking mountain views and captivating natural beauty making it an amazing location to volunteer.
Volunteer teachers don't need a TEFL certificate or experience but will be expected to come with enthusiasm and ideas to use in the classroom. Students are aged between 6-12 years old and village schools have smaller class sizes meaning you'll have more 1 to 1 time with individual kids.
Outside of your daily classroom duties, you'll have evenings and weekends free to enjoy time with other participants at the comfortable volunteer house or trekking around the local area. For additional fees, tours can be arranged to places like the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple.
"I had the best time in India with ispiice, While teaching for the first time was challenging, there were supports both from other volunteers and programme leaders to make sure you were coping ok. I would do it again in heartbeat."
Best for long-term volunteering
Program length: 1-24 weeks
Price point: $
What's included: accommodation, all meals, orientation, pre-departure support, 24/7 support
- IVHQ is happy to accommodate a range of dietary needs.
- Participants have plenty of time outside of volunteer work to socialize and explore the local area.
- Your participation in some healthcare volunteer programs may be limited based on your education and/or experience.
- Some volunteers experienced a language barrier at their project sites.
International Volunteer HQ is a leading provider of volunteer experiences around the world, and offers four different types of programs in Delhi. You can choose from childcare, health work, slum teaching, and teaching.
Unlike many organizations that offer shorter programs (which may perfectly suit your plans, of course), International Volunteer HQ provides programs from one to 24 weeks. Volunteering for a more extended period is often more beneficial to you and the people you’re working with, as you will have time to put your skills to good use. You’ll have the time to work past any initial culture shock and move beyond superficial engagement with the people you’re working with to really make a difference.
"The moments and bonds you develop from volunteering are hard to compare to anything else. Traveling as a Volunteer, you get the opportunity to travel and experience a country in a way you never would as simply a tourist. Meeting people, you normally wouldn't meet, and getting to know them on a personal and intimate level. Being surrounded with like minded individuals, really enhances any trip."
Best for variety of volunteer experiences
Program length: 7 weeks
Price point: $$$
What's included: accommodation, all meals, in-country travel, 24/7 support, all activities and excursions, predeparture support, airport pickup, Whatsapp group for participants
- All of your major expenses are covered in the program fee.
- Volunteer experiences are immersive: you'll work alongside local residents in the community.
- You will need a good level of fitness for hiking, trekking, and swimming and will need to be prepared to be on your feet for around 6 hours a day.
- You will be constantly on the go with this program so if you're looking for significant, independent downtime, this may not be for you.
Get ready for an exhilarating experience in India and Nepal with Gapforce. Over 7 weeks you’ll travel, volunteer, and be culturally immersed in the two countries.
You’ll travel with other like-minded people, spending weeks 2 and 4 volunteering at worthwhile community-led service projects like working with Tibetan refugees or teaching children at a local monastery. The rest of the time you'll be jetting off on outdoor and cultural adventures like visiting the famous Golden Circle and enjoying the beaches of Goa.
According to past volunteers, Gapforce puts together a varied and exciting program. They felt welcomed and encouraged to embrace new and different experiences.
"Few other trips will enable you to experience such a breadth and array of cultures, sights and experiences as this one, allowing me to safely recommend this trip to anyone interested in visiting these two amazing countries; as you'll truly experience these places for greater value and detail than if you were travelling alone. Outstanding and professional expedition leaders, as well an extremely thorough and packed itinerary mean there is constantly activities, sights and experiences to be had, both adventurous and cultural."
8. The Tarzan Way
Best for adventure travel & volunteering
Program length: 1-6 weeks
Price point: $
What's included: accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, excursions, 24/7 support
- For all the benefits you get, this program is very affordable.
- The activities and excursions are extremely varied and include things like temple visits, trekking, and Bollywood dance classes.
- The program focuses more on travel so if you're looking for intensive volunteering this may not be the best fit.
- This program isn't for those seeking ample downtime -- you'll be on the go every day of your trip!
If you love the idea of volunteering and being immersed in local culture but also want to get out and explore as much of India as you can in a short time, this Social Travel experience by The Tarzan Way is a great option.
Over six weeks, you’ll travel across North India with a group of other like-minded volunteers, spending time in 16 cities, including Agra, Jaipur, and Rishikesh. As well as seeing some of India’s most beautiful highlights, you’ll get involved in immersive activities and volunteer work. These may include working with animals or children, as well as getting involved in photography and other workshops.
Travelers who participated in this experience enjoyed the sheer variety of sights and destinations and the professionalism and support of the staff. Make new friends and explore India with The Tarzan Way!
"I loved my experience of volunteering with The Tarzan Way. I am not much of a traveler but I for the first time travelled to so many different cities in a new country with so many new people. This experience really changed me as a person."
Lend a hand in India in 2024
Whatever your skills, experience, and travel goals, one of these great programs for volunteering in India is likely to suit your needs. For a truly rewarding experience, go into a volunteer program in India with a humble and open mind, be willing to get outside your comfort zone and work hard, and be prepared to learn as much as you contribute. Have fun!