Volunteer Abroad

How Much Does It Cost to Volunteer Abroad?

Anna Pedersen

Anna is a freelance writer and editor, currently based in Portland, Oregon. She has traveled to 40+ countries, lived on four continents, and called the United Arab Emirates home for over two years.

If you've spent any time perusing programs on Go Overseas, I'm sure you know that virtually all volunteer abroad programs cost money. Whether its an application fee, a program fee, or simply the costs of flights, any international trip will have associated costs.

But since sticking to a budget is important for all of us, it's a good idea to have a sense of common fees you might encounter and average costs of different aspects of your volunteer experience. We've chosen 5 popular destinations for overseas volunteer trips to give you a sense of how much you can expect to spend. While these numbers are averages, they should give you a ballpark figure to base your own travels on. And if the destination that you're looking at isn't included in this article, consider basing your own budget off of the items we're listed for each location.

So let's get down to it! Below are the expected costs of volunteer trips in Peru, Costa Rica, India, South Africa, and Nepal.

Calculating the Costs

To calculate costs, I took several criteria into account:

  • Program fees: All program fees are based on two-week stays, though some programs may have shorter or longer options available.
  • Flights: In order to standardize flight costs for the sake of comparison, I searched round trip flights on Student Universe. It’s best to apply for volunteer programs several months before your estimated travel date, so the first two weeks of June were used for these examples. As each placement varies geographically -- and in fact, some organizations have several programs working throughout the same country -- capital cities were used as destination points. Checked baggage and other fees were not included.
  • Passport: One American adult passport book totals $110. This number is not added into the final fees, as it only applies to individuals currently without passports, but you should consider this if you need a first-time passport or need a renewal. If you are not a US citizen and do not hold a passport from your home country, you should consider looking into how much your passport will cost and factor that into your final expenses.
  • Visa: Visas are hard to standardize since they vary based on your passport. For the sake of comparison, these calculations factor in the cost of a tourist visa for US citizens (where needed). If you are not a US passport holder, you'll need to look at visa requirements for each individual country based on your country of citizenship.

And finally, it’s important to consider vaccinations, travel insurance, and spending money. Because these costs are highly variable depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, a numeric value is not included for them.

Got it? All right -- let’s see how much it costs to volunteer abroad!

Volunteering in Peru

International Volunteer HQ's program in Peru starts at $370 for two weeks. You'll be paying for in-country support and supervision, airport pickup, accommodation and meals, and other administrative costs. Volunteers can be placed in a variety of projects, ranging from childcare, construction, and English teaching to environmental conservation and healthcare.

Maximo Nivel's program in Peru starts at $915 for two weeks. This covers in-country support, accommodation and meals, and many extras. Placement areas include childcare, education, conservation, and construction.

Projects Abroad's program starts at $2,100 for 2 weeks. The placement fee covers airport transfer, support, accommodation, and meals. Projects encompass education, community development, healthcare, archeology, midwifery, animal welfare, and conservation.

Flights and Visa Requirements
  • From San Francisco to Lima: $533
  • From Chicago to Lima: $362
  • From New York City to Lima: $482
  • Visa: Not required for US citizens
The Results

So, for a two-week volunteer stint in Peru, it will cost $732 on the lower end of the spectrum, and $2,633 on the higher end.

Volunteering in Costa Rica

GVI’s volunteer placements start at $2,440 for 2 weeks. This includes orientation and training, food, in-country support, and program expenses. Volunteers can join projects on everything from sea turtle conservation to wildlife photography to women's empowerment.

Cross-Cultural Solutions places volunteers in Costa Rica starting from $2,750 for two weeks. Costs cover training and support, airport pick-up, accommodation and meals, Spanish lessons, cultural activities and excursions, medical insurance, and program operation expenses. Project areas include education and health.

Vida Volunteer's Costa Rica projects start from $1,940 for two weeks, plus a $200 registration fee. This includes airport pick-up and drop-off, orientation and training, housing and meals, and administrative costs. Programs focus on three fields: medical, dental, or veterinary.

Flights and Visa Requirements
  • From San Francisco to San Jose: $481
  • From Chicago to San Jose: $365
  • From New York City to San Jose: $364
  • Visa: Not required for US citizens
The Results

So, for a two-week volunteer stint in Costa Rica, it will cost $2,504 on the lower end, and $3,231 on the higher end.

Volunteering in India

Volunteering Solutions offers programs in India starting at $390 for 2 weeks. Program fees cover a pre-departure orientation, airport pickup, orientation, meals and accommodation, and in-country support. Volunteers assist with projects in childcare, elephant care, healthcare, and community development.

iSpiice's programs in India start at $300 for 2 weeks. This pays for orientation, accommodation and food, support, cultural activities, and even yoga classes. Volunteers can work in education, childcare, development, and women's empowerment, among other projects.

Love Volunteers has programs starting at $549 for 2 weeks. These fees cover airport pickup, accommodation and meals, orientation, and support. Volunteers can choose from projects in women's empowerment, education, and childcare, as well as programs that combine volunteering with traveling or other cultural experiences.

Flights and Visa Requirements
  • From San Francisco to New Delhi: $825
  • From Chicago to New Delhi: $650
  • From New York City to New Delhi: $884
  • Visa: $25 for an e-visa (for US citizens)
The Results

So, for a two-week volunteer stint in India, it will cost $975 on the lower end, and $1,458 on the higher end.

Volunteering in South Africa

DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage offers programs starting at $1,167 for two weeks. Fees cover meals and accommodation, airport pickup, local transportation, laundry, and wifi. Any money left over will be reinvested in the community, supporting children and wildlife. Volunteers work in environmental education, wildlife care and rehabilitation, or community development..

Oyster Worldwide's volunteer programs in South Africa start at $1,303 for two weeks. This cost covers accommodation and two meals per day, orientation and support, airport transfers, local transport, and all materials needed to complete program work. Volunteers work in animal conservation, specifically caring for monkeys and baboons by playing with them, bathing them, cleaning their enclosures, etc.

Loop Abroad hosts two week volunteer programs for $3,950, plus they ask that you join their group flight which will cost $1,610. This program is geared towards students who are interested in becoming veterinarians, and offers first-hand experience working with large animals, including cheetahs. The program fee is all inclusive and covers accommodation, training and equipment, support, activities, and transport.

Flights and Visa Requirements
  • From San Francisco to Cape Town: $1,087
  • From Chicago to Cape Town: $834
  • From New York City to Cape Town: $1,707
  • Visa: Not required for US citizens
The Results

So, for a two-week volunteer stint in South Africa, it will cost $2,001 on the lower end, and $5,657 on the higher end.

Nepal

GIVE Volunteers offers a two-week program in Nepal starting at $1,995. The program combines volunteering in community development with cultural immersion activities and adventure expeditions, so the program fees cover all activities, as well as accommodation and meals, support, and local transportation.

Volunteers Initiative Nepal has two-week volunteer programs beginning at $454. This pays for accommodations and meals, orientation and training, local transportation, and project expenses. Volunteers can select projects in women's empowerment, healthcare, childcare, conservation, and more.

Insight Nepal’s volunteer program costs $450 for two weeks. This fee covers training, meals and accommodation, local transport, and airport transfers. Volunteers receive customized placements based on their interests, so you can work in anything from education to community development.

Flights and Visa Requirements
  • From San Francisco to Kathmandu: $976
  • From Chicago to Kathmandu: $1,287
  • From New York City to Kathmandu: $868
  • Visa: Not required for US citizens
The Results

So, for a two-week volunteer stint in Nepal, it will cost $1,318 on the lower end, and $3,282 on the higher end.

The Rundown

To sum up, Peru ($732) and India ($975) had the lowest costs to volunteer for two weeks. On the other hand, if you're looking at volunteering in the higher end of the spectrum, South Africa ($5,657) and Nepal ($3,282) had the highest potential costs to volunteer, whereas India ($1,458) was the cheapest destination on a high-end budget.

As you can see, volunteering abroad is not exactly cheap, so make sure to carefully research and read reviews of each of these programs before you spend too much money on a bad program. If you're looking for funding consult this list of volunteer scholarships and grants to see if you might qualify for any and be sure to investigate free and low-cost volunteer options.

This post was originally published in June 2011, and it was updated in August 2020.