It’s never too soon to start thinking about plans for next summer. If making a difference, seeing more of the world, and having life-changing experiences sounds like your idea of a great summer, volunteering abroad is for you.
Though some sweat and elbow grease might be required, volunteer work can be incredibly rewarding as you go beyond the tourist sites and meet the beautiful people and cultures of other countries firsthand.
To help you get started on your summer plans, we’ve put together a list of the top summer volunteer programs and what each program has to offer! Keep reading and compare the top options to find your perfect fit.
How did we pick these programs?
We read the reviews left by community members and check to see what they love, what they hate, and everything in between! The more positive, highly-rated reviews there are, the more confident we feel to give our stamp of approval!
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!
Planning for your summer volunteer abroad program
Picking your perfect program is one step of many to bring your experience together. You'll need to consider the length of time you'd like to volunteer and how much you can spend in addition to planning the nitty-gritty like flights and what to pack. Check out our tips to help shed some light on the specifics of volunteering abroad in the summertime.
How much do summer volunteer abroad programs cost?
Costs are generally dependent on the amount of time you spend abroad. That said, costs for our programs below range from as low as $180 per week up to $3000 for 3 months. You'll also need to budget extra for things not included in the program fee. For example, not all programs provide all three meals a day.
Read more: How Much Does It Cost to Volunteer Abroad?
How long do summer programs usually last?
Most programs run from one week up to the entire summer, although these seasonal experiences tend to be tailored to those who are looking for shorter commitments. Some volunteer organizations recommend minimum time limits (usually two weeks or more) for certain projects to ensure maximum impact.
When should I buy my plane ticket?
According to USA Today's Travel Tips, you can find the best deal for international travel 4-5 months before your departure date. Some sites may tell you you can score last-minute deals right before your travel date although this isn't recommended unless you want to be frazzled in the days leading up to your trip! Skyscanner is a helpful website to locate the best prices if your schedule is flexible. You might even want to see when tickets are the cheapest and plan your volunteer experience around that.
What should I pack?
Check the climate in the area where you're headed and pack accordingly. Your chosen volunteer organization can give you better guidance on suggested clothing and personal items. You may also want to ask if there are any items you can bring to donate, such as books or school or medical supplies.
Best for cultural immersion: Maximo Nivel
- Program length: 1-52 weeks
- Price point: $$$
- What's included: accommodation with host family, breakfast and dinner 7 days a week, airport pickup
Maximo Nivel consistently provides top-rated placements in Latin America and their program in Costa Rica is no different. Whether you choose to teach English to kids, join a construction project with a local foreperson, or get involved in wildlife conservation, you can expect to be fully immersed in the experience. As a volunteer, you'll stay with a host family who will provide you with a shared room along with breakfast and dinner. This living arrangement is an invaluable opportunity to form lasting relationships and participant in a cultural exchange.
With the ability to choose the duration of your placement, Maximo Nivel gives you valuable flexibility for your summer plans. You can stay for a minimum of one week, however, it is recommended to stay for two or more weeks to maximize your impact.
Read what a past participant had to say about Maximo Nivel:
“I loved my experience with Maximo Nivel, I felt like I was really immersed into the culture and the town where I lived. Our host mom was such an amazing cook who taught me her recipes so I could practice at home for my family!”
Best for community building: Village Book Builders
- Program length: 2-12 weeks
- Price point: $$$
- What's included: accommodation with host family, 3 meals a day/7 days a week, airport pickup
Build a library and bring the joy of reading to communities in Mexico, Nepal, or Malawi this summer. Village Book Builders is looking for volunteers willing to roll up their sleeves on a construction project and to engage children and families in one-on-one settings in massive efforts to encourage reading and literacy.
In addition to reading books with kids, you’ll have the chance to lead workshops to teach important life skills and imagination. In your free time, all-inclusive expeditions provided by Village Book Builders will give you opportunities to try new foods, go swimming in underground lakes, and even raft down the Himalayas! Between getting to share the love of reading with families and the cultural experiences, travelers say the experience is well worth the hard work.
Read what a past participant had to say about Village Book Builders:
“I highly recommend Village Book Builders. You can be sure every dime is going to improve the lives of people who truly need it! I plan to volunteer at another library with them soon!”
Best for personalized program: The Tarzan Way
- Program length: 2 weeks
- Price point: $$
- What's included: hostel accommodation, breakfast 7 days a week, airport pickup, excursions
This travel experience takes you into the heart of Delhi, the capital of India, to make a difference in the lives of the diverse communities of this culturally and historically rich city. Projects in child care, marketing, community service, animal care, and women empowerment allow you to get involved in endeavors with lasting impact.
The Tarzan Way emphasizes a slow pace and deep immersion into Indian culture, meaning that in addition to your placement, you’ll learn about the culture through classes in Indian cooking and Hindi language as well as trips to the street markets and historic sites of Agra, the Taj Mahal, and Varanasi. For volunteers who want to stay longer, the Tarzan Way is more than happy to help you create a personalized travel plan.
Read what a past participant had to say about the volunteer program in India:
“I would definitely recommend coming to India through The Tarzan Way. They really take care of each participant and make sure we are comfortable. Having support like this in a new country really made me feel safe.”
Best for program choice: International Volunteer HQ
- Program length: 1-24 weeks
- Price point: $-$$
- What's included: accommodation in homestay or volunteer house, 3 meals a day/7 days a week, airport pickup
With 17 meaningful volunteer options across Peru, you're sure to find the best program for you through International Volunteer HQ. Project areas include childcare and teaching, animal care, agriculture, healthcare, conservation, and construction. Daily volunteer schedules range from 3-7 hours of work and placements last anywhere from one to 24 weeks.
International Volunteer HQ's projects in Peru align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and are run by locals to ensure the work meets the community's needs.
Read what a past participant had to say about International Volunteer HQ:
“I am forever grateful for both IVHQ and Tarpuy Sonqo for this opportunity. It really solidified my aspirations for working with children and it even opened a new career path. I had a child in my class who had trouble speaking not sure if he was on the autism spectrum. But because of that I have decided to pursue my masters in speech language pathology.”
Best for supporting children: Honduras Child Alliance
- Program length: 6-52 weeks
- Price point: $
- What's included: accommodation in a volunteer house, airport pickup
Quickly integrate into the life of El Porvenir and the rich, lively culture of the Honduran people as you help provide education for children in grades 1 through 6. Through small group instruction, volunteers teach kids skills in English, computers, and other fields that will allow them to pursue opportunities for their future. With Honduras Child Alliance you’ll also be invited to design and implement new programs such as bathroom construction or healthy snack distribution to improve the quality of the life for the whole community.
Living near the picturesque sea, pineapple fields, and mountains of Honduras, volunteers make profound impacts in the lives of children, learning as much from the kids as they teach, and it’s no surprise that a number of the reviewers of the Honduras Child Alliance program say they wished they could have stayed longer.
Read what a past participant had to say about the volunteer program in Honduras:
In the past five months, I have felt so safe and supported during my time in El Porvenir, and have had the opportunity to get to know people from all over the world and make a difference working with kids.
Best for wildlife conservation: Oceans 2 Earth Volunteers
- Program length: 1-12 weeks
- Price point: $$$
- What's included: hostel accommodation, meals vary by project but at least one provided, airport pickup
If you’ve always wanted to cuddle a baby kangaroo or work with wombats, Oceans 2 Earth is for you. Animal lovers are invited to join in Australian animal welfare projects, supporting efforts to rescue, care for, and release wildlife back into their natural habitats.
Volunteers will feed baby bats, exercise wombats, collect gum leaves for koalas, scrub sea turtle shells, and provide emergency treatment and rehabilitation for a wide variety of species, including wallabies, possums, bandicoots, echidnas, and other animals unique to Australia. This country is known for its vast diversity not only in its wildlife but in its geography as well, and you can lend support to other environmental efforts from beach cleanup to reef monitoring. You can even assist in research using GPS tracking and provide public education about the fascinating wildlife that calls Australia home.
Read what a past participant had to say about the volunteer program in Australia:
“I had an amazing time in the Wallaby, Kangaroo and Possum Care program out of Brisbane, QLD. I got lots of hands on time with the animals and learned so much.”
Best for teaching: Volunteer Programs Bali
- Program length: blocks of 4, 8, or 12 weeks
- Price point: program costs pending for 2022
- What's included: accommodation at a volunteer house, breakfast provided 7 days a week, in-country transportation (no airport pickup)
Volunteer Programs Bali seeks to empower Balinese people through volunteers engaging in the day to day rhythms of communities. Placements range from planning lessons and teaching children to assisting local businesses. Working alongside local Balinese staff members, you will gain an appreciation for the culture that goes beyond simply seeing the temples and rice terraces.
Outside of your formal placement which ranges between two to 12 weeks, you have the opportunity to participate in workshops, recycling events, cultural exchanges, and festivals. This program strives to provide you with the best experience possible, and so they provide a thorough orientation to introduce volunteers to this vibrant culture. During your stay, you’ll also live with a Balinese family, which might become a second family to you before you leave. With three-day weekends, you’ll also have time to explore the country on your own.
Read what a past participant had to say about the volunteer program in Bali:
“I was thrilled to have taken part in such a wonderful program and I am most definitely going to be going back soonest possible. So much love to Kim, Tutik, Eka, Indra & the rest of the beautiful team that makes VP Bali what it is.”
Give back in summer 2022
Pack your bags this summer for an experience of a lifetime! There are projects all over the world in need of enthusiastic volunteers willing to give their time and energy to meaningful and lasting work to improve the lives of people everywhere. Book your volunteer program today for a summer you won’t forget.
If you still aren't ready to travel, there are plenty of unique virtual internships for you to explore!