Thailand is one of the most popular countries in the world for volunteers and backpackers seeking a bit of nature, food, and culture, all while saving money. But with such high tourist foot traffic (and not always the most ethical and environmentally-friendly footprints), it's no wonder why there is a high demand for volunteers and service programs.
From rehabilitating wildlife and assisting with sustainable agriculture projects, to supporting the youth through teaching, there are many ways to help give back and empower the local communities of Thailand.
Wondering how to pick which program is best for you? To help you with your research, we've gathered up the best (and most loved by community members!) volunteer programs in Thailand.
How did we pick these programs?
Lastly, we used our own industry knowledge to ensure we're recommending programs that are vetted both by you, the community members, and us, the experts, so that we feel confident the programs included are the best of the best!
Best for adventure: GIVE Volunteers
Thailand lives up to its nickname as the land of smiles with a community that welcomes you with open arms. From towns on the coast to small villages in the mountains and bustling cities, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
GIVE Volunteers’ 4-week Thailand program maps out the best ways to help out hill-tribe communities and truly immerse yourself in Thai culture.
Choose from projects in English education, sustainable agriculture, and reforestation. Then enjoy fun activities like elephant trekking through the jungle, bamboo rafting, taste testing amazing Thai cuisine and more, all while enjoying a safe, supportive environment led by GIVE Volunteers' staff.
Read these review highlights to see why the Go Overseas community ranks it as the best program for volunteering abroad in Thailand:
- “I think about this trip every single day. Perfect combination of cultural learning and immersion, volunteering, excursions, and vacation! I fell head over heels in love with Thailand and all of the people.” -- Kate
- “There is not a day that goes by where I don't think about my GIVE trip! From day one, GIVE was clear and informative of everything from expenses, to safety, and their mission. The guides provide materials to prepare volunteers for their trip well in advance and are supportive throughout the entire process.” -- Allie
Best for safety and support: Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)
If you want to experience all that Thailand has to offer, consider the Thailand Summer Travel and Volunteer Programs for Teens from Global Leadership Adventures. This program has several amazing experiences, including elephant conservation, service learning, and cultural immersion.
Alumni who've done this GLA program rave about it across the board -- but the program really shines in providing both safety and support, and in offering great housing options. Read some of the reviews left by alumni to see why they say this program is one of the best volunteer opportunities in Thailand:
- "From their staff to their housing, everything is so well done! I got to experience life on the other side of the world and come home to apply what I learned into my daily routine." -- Olivia
- "I never once felt unsafe, which was very nice. It was definitely clear that safety was the number one priority. The support we received from our mentors was amazing; they were always there for us to talk about missing family, to being scared of an activity, to personal struggles affecting you on the trip. The mentors really help to make you feel welcomed." -- Maxton
Best for community empowerment: Carpe Diem Education
Prospective gappers seeking an hands-on, life-changing experience will love participating in Carpe Diem Education's Southeast Asia Semester: Human Rights & Cultural Exchange program.
With Carpe Diem Education, you'll experience what it's like to live firsthand in a Northern Thai village, study Thai language, and participate in traditional Thai customs. You'll also work with a small group on community empowerment projects, designed to help support child poverty issues in Thailand.
According to reviews, past participants loved learning about human rights and cultural exchange, outside of a traditional classroom setting. They also praised Carpe Diem for providing a safe space for participants to gain new leadership and life skills!
Read highlights from some of our favorite reviews:
- “Carpe Diem truly does give you the ability to have such an unique and amazing experience, and there is also such a good balance of volunteer work, weeks in homestays, and life off the beaten path, to city days for self care and relaxation.” -- Audrey
- “I got to experience life away from home and gained independence to be able to eat alone, be in strange places, and experience foods that I have never had before. I enjoyed that throughout the travel, each student was assigned a specific “role” each week. We gained skills and knowledge on how to budget, book hostels, and how to get bus/plane tickets.” -- Dominique
Best for sustainable volunteering: GVI
If you want to spend your summer volunteering in Thailand but can’t decide on the type of volunteer projects to join, consider signing up for a program that specializes in a few options.
GVI's volunteer programs in Thailand, for example, include volunteering with elephants, coastal and marine conservation, healthcare, and teaching English. Depending on the type of project you choose, you may be working with Buddhist Monks, rescue elephants, community centers, or small villages.
Read some of these review snippets to see how immersive and impressionable GVI’s programs are:
- “The beauty in the program was really the opportunity to interact so closely with these intelligent animals, getting to know each one personally.” -- Lauren
- “The programme involved teaching orphans at a kindergarten, teaching healthcare to Burmese children and working with kids with disabilities. From start to finish, the support from GVI was incredible, and any nerves I had about the programme quickly disappeared.” -- Shannon
Best for cultural immersion and affordability: IVHQ
Get to know Thailand on a deeper level through community driven projects with International Volunteer HQ-IVHQ's Thailand programs.
Participants can work on projects in different focuses, such as teaching english, to children and adults from local villages, assisting in childcare centers, or volunteering with outdoor work with hill tribes.
In addition to rewarding volunteer projects, participants will get to explore Chiang Rai and Hua Hin, form new friendships, and experience fun activities like hiking through bamboo forests or shopping in Thailand's markets.
Read these review highlights for a better idea about what participants thought about their experience:
- "I got the opportunity to learn some of their language and to interact with the local children at the school teaching English and playing games. All the volunteers were super friendly and I met people from all over the globe." -- Jamie
- "It was a great experience teaching kids English, and learning Thai from them at the same time. I enjoyed how to program is designed for many other things (i.e. hiking activities, going to the local market), and not only teaching. It was a very enjoyable experience getting to know other volunteers from around the world and getting to learn tons of the things about Thai culture, and Karen tribe culture as well." -- Saquer
What kind of volunteer adventure will you embark on in Thailand?
Whether you are interested in animal and marine conservation, teaching, art therapy, agriculture, and farming, or working directly with rural communities or women in need, volunteering in Thailand is an enriching experience that everyone can benefit from. It may not offer immediate solutions, but it will continue to promote change within the country and its local communities, while leaving you with cultural awareness and lifelong lessons.