Volunteer Abroad

Where to Volunteer Abroad in the Winter

Whether you're on break from school or growing tired of cold weather, why not use the time to participate in meaningful travel and give back? Here's our guide to sunny, volunteer-friendly countries to head to this winter.

A person in a yellow top and colorful pants waving and smiling on the beach in Bali
Sanyu, IVHQ Bali alum

Whether you're on winter break from college or just fed up with the deluge of snowstorms and want to escape, why not venture to one of these warm places and do some good by volunteering abroad this winter? We here at Go Overseas think this is a fantastic idea!

Not only can you experience warmer weather by volunteering abroad in the winter, but the wintertime is considered low season in many places which is also a great money saver!

Now that we've got you on board, it's time to start thinking about where you want to go. So naturally, we've got you covered with the following seven great destinations for a volunteer abroad trip in winter

1. Best for impactful & immersive: India

A teal, pink, and blue sunset behind the Taj Mahal
  • Average winter temperature: 10–15 °C (50–59 °F) in the northwest, 20–25 °C (68–77 °F) in India's southeast.
  • Average program cost: $250 - $450 per week
  • Short programs available: yes

We're especially fond of India in the winter for its burst of color and greenery in post-monsoon Kerala, the warm, time-warped coastal Goa, and the stunning snow-capped mountains in Kashmir.

Winter is also a fantastic time to experience Indian culture, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the country. It is also the peak season for weddings.

But the beauty of the country and its diverse traditions and cultures aside, development needs in India are complex. Volunteering projects here are best suited to those looking for a challenge. There are plenty of ways to make a difference, such as joining projects that support women's rights or helping increase access to education for vulnerable young people.

2. Best for wildlife & warm weather: South Africa

Where to Volunteer Abroad in the Winter [2019 Edition]: South Africa
  • Average winter temperature: around 16 °C (61 °F)
  • Average program cost: $250 - $350 per week
  • Short programs available: yes

Say the words “South Africa,” and the parched earth of the savanna plains of the Kalahari Desert punctuated with roaming giraffes or elephants probably springs to mind.

If caring for and tracking endangered species like leopards, elephants, and rhinos sound like a great way to spend your winter break, go to South Africa. There are plenty of ways to support animal conservation projects on reserves and sanctuaries as well as in the wild, and it’s an excellent spot for volunteering abroad with primates.

You’ll be working with some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. You might even be involved in efforts to raise the population numbers of many species! If that’s not enough incentive for you, just do a quick Google image search of South Africa, and tell me you don't want to be in those beautiful landscapes right now.

And oh yeah, winter in North America and Europe means it's summertime in South Africa. So peruse your options for volunteering in South Africa and promise me you'll take a break from your volunteer work to sunbathe with some penguins in Cape Town.

3. Best for opportunities close to home: Haiti

Colorful boats on the beach in Haiti
  • Average winter temperature: between 19°C and 28°C (66.2°F - 82.4°F)
  • Short programs available: yes

Haiti has long been a common place to volunteer abroad. With one of the highest poverty rates in the world (52% according to the World Bank) and a tendency to be rocked by natural disasters, there's a clear need for international aid and volunteers within the country.

However, Haiti is best visited in the winter, specifically, between November to March, when hurricane season has passed, and the weather is (just a little) less hot and humid.

Organizations in Haiti tend to focus on construction, disaster relief, childcare, and healthcare. While some of these projects are best done by longer-term volunteers, some lend well to volunteers who can only commit to a couple of weeks. If you plan on doing this, make sure you read up on how to make the greatest impact on a short-term volunteering placement.

What’s more, Haiti is still focusing on recovering from the devastating earthquake on August 14th in 2021. As a result, volunteers looking to support hurricane relief efforts, such as providing hot meals, first aid, or reconstructing damaged buildings, can still make a profound difference.

An added bonus? For North Americans, flights to Haiti are short and won't break the bank. So go ahead, and look at all of the volunteer programs in Haiti.

4. Best for temperate year-round: Thailand

A family of elephants walking down a roadside with lush green trees in Thailand
  • Average winter temperature: around 24°C - 30°C (75°F - 86°F)
  • Average program cost: $320 - $549 per week
  • Short programs available: yes

Between November and February, when we're bundling up in coats and bracing ourselves for winter snowstorms, Thailand is also experiencing a cool season. But trust me, this is a very good thing and quite frankly the most pleasant time of year to visit this tropical, delicious-food-filled, friendly nation.

And of course, Thailand has many established non-profit organizations and volunteering providers to pick from.

Whether you're interested in teaching English as a volunteer to Buddhist monks, volunteering with an elephant sanctuary, community development, or working with a project that’s eradicating prostitution and trafficking, there's guaranteed to be a project in Thailand that will be able to make use of your skills.

We know that Thailand has long been on your bucket list, so book a ticket this winter and volunteer in Thailand.

5. Best for where winter is summer: Australia

A person with a red backpack, blonde hair and a crochet hat looks at the Australian bush
  • Average winter temperature: between 28°C (82°F), but can often reach higher than 30°C (86°F)
  • Average program cost: $685 - $1010 per week
  • Short programs available: yes

If you dream of going Down Under, why not volunteer there while exploring Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef, culturally captivating cities, and scorching outback? Especially in the northern hemisphere's winter months, Australia's glorious summer weather and laid-back vibes can be an excellent appeal for prospective volunteers who want to make an impact while also enjoying a little chillax in the sunny evenings after work.

But what can you do as a volunteer in Australia? After all, unlike some of the other countries on our list, it is far from impoverished (in fact, you may find yourself cringing at your bar tab more than a couple of times on your trip). Even so, its fantastic landscapes, both on land and under the sea, provide volunteer opportunities to work in environmental conservation, including marine conservation and preserving forests and ecological parks.

Another perk? A fair amount of volunteer providers working in Australia will pair your project with some adventure activities, so you can get the best of both worlds while exploring and volunteering in Australia.

6. Best for mountain communities in need: Peru

Madison C. looking out at Machu Picchu
  • Average winter temperature: around 19°C - 38°C (66.2°F - 100.4°F)
  • Average program cost: $180 - $665 per week
  • Short programs available: yes

Peru is probably best known for its Inca civilization and the historic remains left in the city of Machu Picchu. However, it’s also home to the Andes Mountains, where hundreds of tiny, remote villages and impressive archeological ruins are to be found.

However, despite its remarkable history, modern Peru faces plenty of struggles. Throughout the country, poor access to healthcare means volunteers are needed at clinics in both cities and rural areas.

Other organizations promote gender equality, community development, indigenous rights, education, and environmental conservation. But, again, some of these projects prefer volunteers who can stay for longer. Still, with the wide variety of projects and organizations working towards development in Peru, you'll be sure to find a project that fits your timeline and skills. There are even plenty of opportunities to volunteer for free in Peru.

Do note that a level of Spanish may be required for some projects (particularly as we rank it as one of the best Spanish-speaking places to do volunteer programs. You won't know until you flip through your options for volunteering abroad in Peru, right?

7. Best for providing humanitarian aid: The Philippines

A hillside of colorful homes in The Philippines with a blue and pink sunset in the background
  • Average winter temperature: between 23°C - 30°C (74°F and high of 86°F)
  • Average program cost: $260 - $420 per week
  • Short programs available: yes

Although November 2013 might seem a long time ago, the Philippines are still struggling to cope with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, and more recently Super Typhoon Rai of December 2021. So, if you’re a hands-on person, you can make a real difference by building homes, hospitals, and schools to replace the thousands of buildings that were wiped out and where efforts to rebuild lives continue to this day.

Before this disaster, there was a problem with children living on the streets. After the typhoon, this problem grew exponentially. Making it easy enough to devote your volunteering experience in the Philippines to helping street children, although projects promoting community development or where you can work in healthcare are common too.

While winter is peak tourist season, typhoon season runs until October, so the Philippines is a better destination for a winter volunteer program. So, if this sounds like just the ticket for you, start exploring volunteer programs in the Philippines!

Ready to shed your winter coat?

Instead of spending your winter break as you usually do, why not create memories to last a lifetime and leave a positive impact along the way? No matter where you go, your volunteer experience will be more fun and rewarding than hanging out at home, waiting for the second semester of college to start, that winter snowstorm to pass, or shivering with friends as you bring in the New Year. So make it your resolution to give back this winter and volunteer abroad!