To help you jumpstart planning your time abroad, here’s a list of the nine most popular countries for volunteers:
Volunteer Abroad Program Search
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Your guide to volunteering abroad
Volunteering abroad is one of the most gratifying and impactful experiences you’ll ever choose to take part in.
- You can make a positive impact within local communities!
- You can help save animals and conserve planet earth!
- You can learn more about how to contribute to a better world while traveling the world!
You also get to see how every person’s conscious contribution to humanity and nature is essential to human rights and the longevity of life on this planet. You’ll return home with a newfound outlook on how to create change everyday in your own life -- and how to discern when your generous intentions may be detrimental.
Here at Go Overseas, we are committed to providing information that will help you leave a positive impact through volunteering abroad.
Explore our expert resources to learn more about how to volunteer overseas, requirements to meet before filling out your program application, financial aid help, and information on how to avoid the unethical pitfalls of volunteer abroad scams.
How to volunteer abroad
If you want to give back to causes you care about and don’t know where to begin, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s how to start researching for your volunteer adventure abroad:
- Support a project or field you’re interested in. Whether you’re interested in working on organic farms, teaching English at summer camps, or assisting with disaster relief, there are so many projects available for volunteers looking to lend a helping hand!
- Find a program that fits your goals and passions. You can browse and compare volunteer programs here at Go Overseas! You can filter by country, project type, time frame and more. To help you find the perfect program, make sure to also read the verified community reviews written by travelers just like you!
- Determine how long you want to volunteer for. How long you decide to volunteer abroad is totally up to you! Though most programs require volunteers to commit to at least 1-2 weeks of volunteering, it’s not uncommon for many volunteers to extend their time volunteering. You could volunteer anywhere from 3 weeks to 36!
- Start saving for your volunteer trip abroad. Though it is possible to volunteer for free if you look hard enough, many volunteer programs will come at a cost. These fees typically support both the organization and the volunteers, and cover necessary expenses such as housing, meals, and insurance. There are also plenty of available scholarships and grants for volunteers to apply for!
- Apply for your visa, passport, and travel insurance. You’ll need to make sure you gather these pre-departure essentials in advance, depending on where you plan to volunteer and for how long.
- Book your flights and get your necessary vaccinations. Some countries may require vaccinations, in order to allow travelers to enter. You can explore vaccine requirements and health advisories by country in this interactive map.
- Enjoy your time making an impact abroad! Though it will be hard work, you’re sure to make long-lasting memories, connect with new people from around the world, and contribute to a cause greater than yourself – isn’t that exciting?
Where to volunteer abroad
Where you decide to volunteer abroad will largely depend on the type of projects you’re looking to assist with and the environment you want to be in. For some, helping with biodiversity conservation in Ecuador is the ideal volunteer trip for them. While for others, helping to promote the basics of health among local communities in India better suits their passions and skills!
Start by comparing some of these popular countries for volunteering:
For volunteers passionate about wildlife conservation, consider caring for animals in the diverse, culturally-rich country of South Africa. You can also enjoy fantastic beaches, vineyards, and natural views while abroad. In South Africa’s more rural areas, you’ll find opportunities for volunteer work in healthcare, teaching and youth development, and construction.
The lush, tropical environment of Costa Rica is the perfect destination for exploring volunteer opportunities in biodiversity research, wildlife rehabilitation, and sustainable agriculture. With volcanic valleys, stunning rainforests, and clear, blue waters you’re sure to have a great time making an impact abroad.
For volunteers especially interested in economic justice, youth advocacy, women’s rights, and teaching, a wide variety of projects can be found in Thailand. Volunteers are needed year-round to assist with childcare, NGO training, English teaching, and more. Thailand is also a great country to explore, with delicious food, must-see floating markets, and plenty of white sand beaches.
Need more inspiration? Explore our list of the 10 best places to volunteer abroad, based on the types of volunteer projects available in each location and reviews written by our Go Overseas community members!
Volunteer abroad requirements
While researching volunteer abroad opportunities, you’ll find every program has a list of requirements for prospective applicants. Make sure to double check the program’s requirements carefully before submitting your application!
Here are some common requirements to volunteer overseas include:
- Physical Ability: Some assignments may demand a higher degree of physical activity. If so, they will list it to ensure you can participate.
- Passport & Visas: In order to go abroad, you’ll need to be eligible for a passport in your home country and apply for visas as necessary.
- Language: Though this requirement does not apply to all volunteer programs, some programs may require volunteers to speak the country’s native language if the projects involve direct communication with locals and takes place in a country where English isn’t widely spoken. Fortunately, there are many volunteer projects that do not have a language requirement and will even provide lessons to volunteers to help overcome language barriers. Ultimately, it always helps to brush up on your language skills or take a quick course before heading overseas.
- Field Experience: If your volunteer assignment requires professional skills (like medical work) you may be required to have six months to a few years of professional experience in order to be eligible for the program.
- A Good Attitude: While this may seem like a no-brainer, some volunteers forget this isn’t a vacation. You’ll have to be positive, adaptable, and willing to work hard.
Can I volunteer abroad at any age?
While volunteering abroad may be popularized by young travelers, it isn’t exclusive to them. Though many programs require volunteers to be at least 18 years old, others may be specifically geared to high school students, families, and even adults who’ve long completed their education. Below are some different volunteer program types:
High school and gap year volunteering
There are plenty of volunteer programs designed specifically for teens, with many offering solo and group options. You can invite your best friends or opt to go the independent route, depending on your comfort level! Some common volunteer projects for high school students include helping paint the walls of local schools, assisting with after-school youth programs, and learning about conservation efforts.
Volunteering post-college or during career breaks
Whether you’re looking to volunteer during your gap year, or plan a meaningful travel vacation, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities for young adults like you! Maybe you want to surf in Costa Rica and learn about saving the sea turtles! Or explore the snow-capped mountains of Nepal and help out the local communities! You can personalize programs to find your perfect project match and even extend the duration of your volunteer time to fit your schedule and lifestyle.
Volunteering during retirement
Having life, career, and travel experience can serve as a great asset overseas, which is why many organizations host volunteer programs aimed specifically for more mature travelers! Some common project types for older volunteers include providing medical and clinical services, assisting with infrastructure and urban planning, and even lending a hand on administrative tasks for local organizations.
So, don’t let your age deter you from considering a volunteer abroad experience. Just be sure to double check age and physical fitness requirements before filling out your application. You’ll find many volunteer programs are looking for people with your exact age range and experience!
Visa requirements for volunteering
Visa requirements to volunteer abroad vary by country. While some volunteers use a tourist visa to go abroad, others may use a student, working, or working holiday visa. These requirements depend on your home country’s passport, the destination country, and the length of your stay.
Before you volunteer abroad, check the destination country’s requirements and your program details:
- Do they require a special visa for passport-holders from your home country?
- What type of organization are you volunteering with? (Travel Company vs. Long-Term Volunteering vs. Paid Program)
- How long can you stay in the country with a visa?
- How long does it take to process a visa request?
Volunteer abroad costs & scholarships
While some travelers would recommend you never pay a dime to volunteer, others enthusiastically encourage you to pay your way and more. Most programs are somewhere in the middle: offering you reasonable program fees while you cover flights, passport, visa, insurance, and other miscellaneous expenses.
In truth, fees vary by country and program. Some programs are in wealthier countries and find that welcoming volunteers at no charge pays off. Other programs, however -- especially ones that provide meals and housing for volunteers -- simply cannot afford to take on the additional expenses.
Volunteer trip costs can range from $500 - $4,000 depending on the destination, program fee, program length, flights, and visa requirements. Read more about how much it costs to volunteer abroad on Go Overseas.
If you’re wondering if it’s possible to volunteer abroad for free, the short answer is “Yes,” but just remember that free volunteer opportunities usually require you to take on all of the coordination and research. If you have limited time or need help, a fee-based program might be a better option.
Scholarships and grants for volunteering
As volunteering abroad becomes more popular, financial aid options are also increasingly available. There are many scholarships and grants for volunteer abroad programs around the world, and they are generally easy to apply to. You’ll find some programs even host their own scholarships!
Choosing a volunteer abroad program
Once you’ve decided to volunteer abroad, there are a number of things you should look for to ensure you pick the right program for you. With voluntourism thriving both ethically and unethically, you’ll want to take a deeper look at the company’s spendings, reputation, project goals, and community involvement.
Instead of volunteering for roles that could’ve been filled by a local, or joining a company that has had a negative impact on local neighborhoods, seek sustainable initiatives that focus on longevity, community empowerment, and transparency.
Other information to look for when choosing a volunteer program include:
- Organization’s mission: Why was this organization founded? Do their goals and mission align?
- Benefits included in the program fee: Is housing provided? Are meals and transportation covered?
- Company’s spendings: Where are your program fees going? Do your fees go towards the community, or the pockets of the program providers?
- On-site volunteer support available: How much help will volunteers be given once they arrive at the project site? Will there be an orientation for volunteers or language/cultural sensitivity training? Is there a plan in place for in case an emergency arises and volunteers need professional help?
- Educational/professional experience and specialized skills requirements: How selective is this organization? Do they check how qualified their volunteers are?
- Access to alumni network: Is there any way to connect with other volunteers?
- History of impact: Did the local community request these projects; why were they created? Does the organization provide support to the community even after the volunteers depart?
Read this expert breakdown on how to identify responsible volunteer programs.
How Go Overseas Works
Go Overseas is your trusted source for travel abroad programs: here you can browse and discover thousands of vetted providers. Just like a trusted travel buddy, we want to help you find the right information and feel excited and confident about your first or next culturally immersive trip overseas. We know sometimes having an abundance of options can be overwhelming, so we have a few tips on how to use Go Overseas to find the perfect transformative travel program for you.
Browse 16,000+ programs: Narrow your search results by using filters, such as program type, location, and length.
Read 46,000+ Reviews: Real people have gone on these programs, and have experiences to share. Read alumni reviews on any program that interests you to get an idea of what it's really like to be on the ground, overseas.
Read 5,700+ Interviews: For any program that really sparks your interest, read personal stories and in-depth accounts from travelers like you. If you'd like to reach out and hear more from the traveler who left an interview, let us know and we'll help connect you.
Browse community photos: Pictures of food, accommodations, adventures, and people (oh, the friends you'll make!) in program community galleries will help you visualize yourself abroad.
Wish List 💙: Not ready to commit to a program? Click the Wish List heart icon to bookmark programs and save them for later. Then, compare programs side by side.
Popular Places to Volunteer Abroad
Featured Volunteer Programs
Where should I volunteer abroad?Related Content
Can I volunteer abroad for free?
A free volunteer program means there’s no participation fee. Usually, this means volunteering directly through an NGO or organization, but you may still need to pay for housing, food, airfare, and in-country transportation. Some organizations and projects offer housing and/or food as part of the volunteer arrangement, so it's possible to find a situation that’s essentially free except for transportation costs.
Others get funding from local governments that allows volunteers to participate without paying any program fees. In some cases, you even receive a small stipend in addition to health insurance, food, and accommodation. Keep in mind, though, that these tend to be longer-term projects, so you’re less likely to find a trade-for-work deal if you only have a week or two to spare.
On that note, if you go for a free or no-fee program, don’t expect your host organization to be able to sponsor your housing or food. Although some organizations definitely will be able to help you with this, not all have the extra funds to do so, particularly as their priority is dedicating money towards the project itself. By expecting volunteering programs to cover these costs, you may well be redirecting resources from the project you’re supposed to be helping -- and doing more harm than good as a result.Related Content
How much does it cost to volunteer abroad?
Each country has a different range, but you can expect to pay around $1,000 on the low end in cheaper countries, and up to $4,000 on the high end in more expensive countries.Related Content
Why should you volunteer abroad?
People volunteer abroad for three primary reasons: to experience culture, to help others, and for adventure. While some of these reasons might seem selfish, we know that what makes meaningful travel like volunteering abroad so powerful is that it impacts the traveler and the community they visit.Related Content
Do you have to pay to volunteer abroad?
Program fees vary based on what the program offers in return. From logistics and orientation to in-country support, these organizations are there to make sure you get the most out of your time abroad and are there to help if you find yourself in a tight situation. Some organizations go a step further, by setting up day trips for their volunteers to explore the region. Other organizations may include room and board in their fees. So it is important to read the fine print to find out exactly where your fees will be going and what will be covered for you. You should also look into the general cost of living when comparing programs, as the fee may be adjusted based on which country you are looking at, and this could save you some money in the end.Related Content
What kind of volunteering can I do?
Volunteering placements, like everything in life, come in all shapes and sizes. We've found that there are five different types of volunteer programs (and programs can be more than one type): Short-Term, Long-Term, Conservation, Recruitment/Placement, and Relief/Emergency volunteering.Related Content