Israel is an amazing place to volunteer. From picking fruit in kibbutzim orchards to helping out with the Red Sea marine conservation projects, there are so many ways to get involved. When you’re planning a volunteering trip, there are also costs to factor in.
I volunteered on a kibbutz in the north of Israel for an autumn. My accommodation, food, and drink were included so I really didn’t end up spending much money. Weekend trips to the big cities also didn’t break the budget. Hummus is cheap, and buses in Israel are much cheaper than in Western Europe or in the States, and they run practically everywhere.
If you're trying to budget for a volunteer trip to Israel, here's a breakdown of the typical costs and how much you can expect to pay as a volunteer in Israel.
The Average Costs to Volunteer in Israel
It’s always wise to pay a bit extra for a really well-organized volunteer program. If you fancy the sound of getting involved in coral reef conservation in Eilat, creating safe spaces for at-risk youth in Jerusalem, or helping in a desert eco-village in the south -- two weeks of volunteering will cost somewhere between $950 and $1,610. Ten weeks will cost around $3,500 unless it’s working in a desert eco-village and piques your fancy (it costs $1,610 for 10 weeks).
Typically you’ll get accommodation in a shared dorm, domestic transfers from the airport to the location your volunteering in, health insurance, and, crucially, a local in-country team and 24-hour emergency support.
Some volunteering programs include breakfast and lunch. For others, you’ll be figuring out how to buy some of the world’s best falafel for your elevenses on your own. Luckily, street food is cheap in Israel (see the section below on Costs of Living for more info).
Costs to Volunteer on a Kibbutz
Kibbutzim are rural communes that are unique to Israel. 23 are open to volunteers, and you can only apply to volunteer at one through the Kibbutz Program Center (KPC) which is headquartered in Tel Aviv.
Here’s a breakdown of the main costs of volunteering on a kibbutz:
- $40 processing fee to KPC. You’ll transfer the fee at the end of the online registration procedure
- 1300 NIS (about $362) fee to be paid to KPC once you’ve been assigned a kibbutz in person at the Tel Aviv office. This cost covers medical insurance, a registration fee, and the cost of a three-month volunteer visa.
- Around a $100 deposit at the kibbutz. You’ll be refunded if you stay for more than two months. KPC also recommends that you bring about $300 for weekend trips and the like.
If you're curious to learn more about this type of volunteer experience in Israel, here's everything you need to know about volunteering on a Kibbutz.
Average Visa & Travel Costs for Volunteering in Israel
Nationals of certain countries can visit Israel for up to 90 days without a visa. Find out if your country of citizenship is one of them on the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. If it’s there, you can get your B/4 volunteer visa after entering the country by reporting to a Ministry of Interior bureau within 30 days of entry.
Otherwise, you’ll need to secure your volunteer visa from your nearest Israeli consulate before touching down at Tel Aviv airport. The B/4 visa can be issued for up to six months, and it’s the Israeli volunteer organization who you’ll be working with who files the visa application for you. Many programs cover the cost of the visa as part of the application fee, but you’ll want to check with the host.
Whatever the volunteer program, it’s highly likely that you’ll be paying your own way to and from Israel. You’ll be getting a good deal if you pay about $950 for return flights between New York City and Tel Aviv. If you want to fly direct, expect to pay more.
Various budget airlines fly between Europe and Israel. A direct return between London and Tel Aviv is typically in the range of $200-$300. Also, note that high season is around July, and flight prices can hike up by about 20%.
The Average Cost of Living while Volunteering in Israel
As accommodation and breakfast is typically included in most volunteering programs, you’ll likely only be paying for lunch, dinner, and drinks on the regular. Street food is wonderfully cheap in Israel, and you could get the best falafel wrap of your life for $1.75 from a hole-in-the-wall joint in Jerusalem. A 1.5-liter bottle of water costs about $1.
Supermarket food costs about the same as in Europe or the US, but if there’s a market in the nearest town and you’re good at haggling, expect to pay less for food than you would at home. Occasional treats, like a cappuccino, might set you back about $3.50. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant could be about $15, but if you’re into the kind of place where there are no menus and the rule is to devour your food and get out, expect to pay less than $5 for a clatter of dishes that could include falafel, eggplant, mushrooms, hummus, and pitas.
If you’re volunteering in Tel Aviv and you like a good night out, you’ll want to budget for it. A beer starts at about $6.50 in a typical bar.
Weekend Travel Costs While Volunteering in Israel
From hanging out on Mediterranean beaches to walking the labyrinthine streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, most of your experiences will be free. And you don’t have to go to a fancy spa to enjoy the Dead Sea. You can bathe for free and pay a few shekels to use an open-air shower by the beach (you’ll want that shower. Salt stings!).
There are hostels in every city, and the price of a nice-enough dorm room in a popular city like Jerusalem costs about $20. Otherwise, Couchsurfing is huge in Israel. And it’s free!
Israel’s bus system is extensive, clean and safe. There are 8 different bus companies across the country, but Egged is easily the largest, with over 1,000 routes across the country, and its website is in English if you’d like to work out different routes. For an idea of costs, the price of a one-way ticket for the one-hour journey from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem costs $4.50.
Now you know the costs associated with volunteering in Israel, you can figure out the length of program you'd prefer and how much you'll need to save before setting off. L'chaim!