Plan My Gap Year - Volunteer in Sri Lanka from $270

COVID-19 Program Updates

Due to global health & safety concerns and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus, Plan My Gap Year has decided to pause some of their upcoming programs temporarily and may be offering flexible booking options as well. Learn more about COVID-19 updates to stay tuned regarding program information.

Video and Photos

Climbing up Lion's Rock
Climbing up Lion's Rock
Views from River House
Views from River House
Sunset after the safari through Parakrama Samudra
Sunset after the safari through Parakrama Samudra
Old Tsunami School
Old Tsunami School
Sri Lankan Elephant
Sri Lankan Elephant
Ambalangoda
Ambalangoda
Train to Galle
Train to Galle
River house sunset
River house sunset

About

PMGY offers 1-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in the lovely coastal town of Ambalangoda in Sri Lanka. Volunteers get involved in a wide-range of project work childcare, dog rescue, elephant, English teaching, medical, mental health & turtle conservation opportunities.

Our programs in Ambalangoda run throughout the year. We have two start dates every month so you decide when you go and how long you go for.

Highlights
  • Most Affordable – PMGY’s programs are accessible to everyone who wants to make a difference, through low fees and high-impact projects.
  • Best Support – Our international and local teams provide extensive around the clock services to assist you every step of your PMGY adventure.
  • Safety Prioritised – With safety a PMGY number-1 priority, we have taken all necessary precautions to ensure our programs are as safe and structured as possible.
  • Extraordinary Experiences – With PMGY, you have the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in amazing cultural and travel experiences, ensuring you leave with unforgettable memories.
  • Friendships for Life – Your PMGY experience not only opens up a doorway for new experiences and exciting memories, but also life-long friendships when meeting new people from around the world.

Popular Programs

sri-lanka-childcare

On this uncrowded, exotic and developing island there are many vulnerable children in much need of volunteer's care and support.

sri-lanka-elephant

If you love elephants you will love this! Elephants in their natural habitat combined with meaningful research represent a perfect match!

sri-lanka-teaching

Teach novice Buddhist monks or children displaced by the Tsunami. English is a valuable skill that will greatly enhance their future career prospects.

sri-lanka-family

Do something different and amazing with your family and give back to a local Sri Lankan community whilst immersing yourselves in the culture and lifestyle.

sri-lanka-medical

Gain invaluable medical experience, an opportunity not to be missed in this gorgeous part of the world by those pursuing a career in medicine.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.5 Rating
based on 105 reviews
  • Impact 9
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 9.6
  • Program Selection 10
  • Pre-departure Help 10
  • In-program Support 10
  • Impact on Student 10
  • Value 10
Showing 1 - 8 of 105
Default avatar
Sarah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Elephant experience project

This was my first time away with PMGY but it certainly won’t be my last. I had the most amazing time away in Sri Lanka, for three weeks in November 2017 on their Elephant Experience Project. From the beginning, there was nothing to worry about. I was swiftly accepted onto the programme and they were very responsive with any questions which I had.

The handbook was full and thorough with great knowledge which meant I had a full understanding of the cultural differences, and what was available to me whilst there. They had a recommended packing list which was useful too. There was a pre-departure webinar which was really interesting and helpful, which eased any worries. A week before I left they sent a very useful email with the contact details of the place we were staying for relatives, and a reminder of the pick-up information.

Once out in Sri Lanka, the local team over there run by Ashika were professional and very helpful. The weekend trips which are organised were fabulous and totally worth every penny. They even planned the Maldives weekend trip at short notice for us – they really are a great bunch of people. We were able to help release Turtle hatchlings one evening which was wonderful, and one of the highlights of the trip. This certainly will not be my last experience with them. I’m now looking into the possibility of helping out on projects in Nepal, Bali and/or Fiji in the near future. Who knows which one?! Thanks for an amazing experience which I will never forget.

Default avatar
Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience of my life

So you’re probably on here right now as you’re feeling a bit skeptical about this whole thing, don’t worry I was the exact same. Checking the ins and outs to make sure this is all legit. It is and I can tell you that this was the greatest decision of my entire life. I spent a little over 2 weeks volunteering in Sri Lanka and I could talk for hours about the experience I had, the people I met and my overall experience. One thing I wish I had when I was making my decision to go travelling was a post like the one I am about to write.

I got talking to a girl I worked with about going volunteering abroad, I just wanted to try travel and I mean why not do it with a little bit more purpose. I started to google absolutely every company and country to volunteer in, I then came across Sri Lanka and immediately I knew that’s where I wanted to go. I found plan my gap year and I started to look deeper into it. I thought it was all too good to be true with the price and the photos. I took to Instagram and trustpilot to help make my decision. After realising it was definitely real I just booked straight away, I didn’t even care how much my flights were going to be. Eventually I revived a handbook from PMGY and I actually think I read the whole thing as I found it interesting and it told me everything I needed about my trip. I also got added onto the Facebook group and I found people I would be volunteering with, I never looked too much but it gave me a sense of comfort knowing I wouldn’t be alone on my journey.

As you might only be here for the advice rather than my personal experience I’ll list off my top 5 travel tips for volunteering in Sri Lanka:
Don’t be scared to do it, just do it. I can promise it will be the greatest thing you’ll ever do.
Use your time wisely; enjoy every second of it because you will look back on it and think about how incredible it was. There’s a few things I regret not doing, try fit in as much as possible.
Be ready to try new things, it might seem scary but again it’ll be worth it. Try all the food you can, try surfing if you have the time and interest, Try meditation, try anything you get the opportunity to.
Learn their culture, be a little prepared before you go. There are 4 main religions in Sri Lanka so be prepared to respect them all (i.e take respectable clothing).
Most importantly you will be learning so many new things but HAVE FUN. You will feel so good about yourself after volunteering, that little extra help you’re giving might be small but it will have a big impact.

I also have a list of 10 things I wish I knew before volunteering in Sri Lanka:
I wish I knew how incredible PMGY were before going, they will literally do anything to make sure you have the greatest time.
It’s not just volunteering. It’s making new friends, new experiences, new feelings.
I couldn’t believe how cheap everything was out in Sri Lanka, I came prepared with a bit of money saved and I never even spent £300 on my entire 2 weeks there and that included a lot of food and drink. Not everyone will be in the same boat and might be budgeting but if you get the chance to tip a little more in the markets or that then it does go a long way and will be appreciated so much.
Although you’re staying in a safe place, be careful and trust everything Ash and the other guys tell you, they are only looking out for you.
Prepare yourself to see a different world, it is nothing like being back at home.
It really isn’t scary to travel alone. I’m still friends with the people I met out in Sri Lanka.
Try as much of their cuisine as you can, it is amazing.
Make sure to try their beer too, it’s also extremely cheap so try not get too drunk.
If you can, do the weekend trips. We done the organised one and it was amazing. We also planned our own one and I think it cost maybe £80 max including transport, food, and accommodation (we dined well).
Sri Lanka is still recovering from the Easter attacks and lost a lot of tourism due to it, when they see tourists you will be treated very well as they appreciate everything. Sri Lankan’s are some of the nicest people I have ever met so don’t be scared (still be cautious too of course)

A day in the life of a volunteer is different everyday, you’d wake up and get ready for project, have some breakfast made by the sisters. I liked to wake up that little bit earlier so I could sit out on the balcony and have my morning coffee whilst talking to a couple volunteers every morning. After project you’d come back and have lunch, it’s different everyday but it’s always delicious. After that you’d be free to do whatever you wanted. Some days we’d go to the beach, sometimes the pool house, others we’d visit the little town. You get the choice to have dinner back at the house or to go out and try new places. In the evenings the volunteers and I would go to the pool house where we’d sit and get to know each other and have a few drinks. Sometimes we’d just stay in and watch a film. Everyday was different but everyday was amazing.

I challenged myself to a lot since I wasn’t spending too long out in Sri Lanka and I overcame it all:
Visiting a new country and travelling alone.
Meeting new people, people I now call my friends.
Becoming an independent person, I now love doing everything alone, company is nice at times but I don’t feel the anxiety of doing things alone anymore.

I know this is a rather long sum up of my time in Sri Lanka but trust me I done so much I haven’t even wrote half of it down. I will leave my Instagram underneath for anyone who wants to see my pictures from my time in Sri Lanka

My experience
On October 4th I boarded my flight to Sri Lanka, 14 hours I think it was going to be. Eventually after a long and draining flight, I arrived in Colombo. I have never been to Asia before so this experience was so new and exciting to me. I did panic thinking “omg what if no ones here to get me” but it was all good and I was picked up along with another girl from London and we drove a couple hours to our house in Ambalangoda. After arriving we met everyone and got settled in straight away. Luckily we had a few days to try get used to the time difference and to meet all these new people. On the Sunday we had our induction and we got to visit a few local places (longest sleeping Buddha in Southeast Asia, moonstone mine, the pool house). Monday comes around and that was the day we all started our project, I chose to volunteer with the girls at the childcare. It was a lovely 40 minute drive in a tuk tuk (for someone who’s never been in a tuk tuk I loved it every single journey), the girls I met were absolutely amazing. The people of Sri Lanka were always so cheerful and happy to see someone new, it really made you feel good about being there. I continued my week volunteering with the girls, playing games, doing spelling tests, and just getting to know them whilst having the most fun. Getting your weekends off to be free to do whatever you want was a massive bonus too.

On the first weekend I signed up for the adventure and safari trip. There were around 12 of us that went on this trip so it was perfect time to relax and get to know everyone. It was the busiest and most productive weekend of my life. We visited an old fortress down in Galle, stopping for lunch right next to a beautiful beach in Mirissa. That evening we visited a giant temple and walked the entire place (it was huge). We got up early on the Saturday morning and went to Yala National Park for a sunrise safari, definitely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We even got to see elephants rather close up. We then made the journey up the mountains, a total different side to the lovely palm beaches on the coast. It was proper rainforest and absolutely beautiful. Before arriving at our hotel we made a stop to the Nine Arch Bridge, this was definekty one of my highlights (wear comfy walking shoes) although it was monsoon season and we were all walking down a mountain in the pouring rain, its an experience I’ll never forget. We stayed in the most beautiful little town called Ella, we had the evening to ourselves and went for the most amazing food (it’s been 6 months and I’m still thinking about this place). Sunday morning we had another early start, the thought of a 5am hike up little Adams peak might put you off but it was another amazing experience for me. A little time to reflect my first week in Sri Lanka and enjoy this experience that will become amazing memories. It was a nice bus journey home to chill out and prepare for my second week volunteering.

After my last week of volunteering, the friends I had made and I decided we were going to plan our own weekend away. We managed to get a minibus, organised by PMGY so it was safe from Ambalangoda to Ella. We just had to go back to Ella as it was such a beautiful little town and we wanted to discover more of it. We stayed in Ella for 2 days just chilling, eating, drinking and walking around. One of the things you must absolutely do in Sri Lanka is travel by train. Sri Lanka is famous for their trains. We booked one from Ella up to Kandy, a city in the mountains. The journey was 7 hours long and the only seats we had available were third class. I did panic about third class thinking it would be something like slum dog millionaire. Luckily it wasn't bad at all and for £1.50 I couldn’t complain. Yes that’s right it cost us £1.50 to travel 7 hours on a train, pretty amazing. After arriving in Kandy we managed to find the hostel we had booked, it was called ‘bunk’ and whatever you do, do not stay there. We arrived and literally found bed bugs in the bed. For £7.50 a night we couldn’t really say much as we weren’t that surprised. Instead we found another hotel up the road for just £10 a night and it had an infinity pool up on the roof terrace. We found a really cool British bar that evening a got a drink there before going for food. After we dined we got a tuk tuk up to the giant Buddha situated on top of a hill. As our lovely weekend came to an end it was time to say goodbye to the lovely people I met. Im shocked to say how emotional it was. I really did make friends for life there. To this day I still speak every few days to a few of the people I volunteered with. I actually think I cried my whole journey back to Scotland. I definitely had such an eye opening experience in Sri Lanka and it’s a country I would love to visit again. To anyone thinking about it, just do it.

Instagram: @laurenmcintosh_
If you need advice on places to try follow @reviewswithreb on Instagram too.

Sorry for the length of this post but I hope it may help with your decision for volunteering.

What would you improve about this program?
I couldn’t fault a single thing with this programme. I recommend to absolutely anyone willing to try new things
Default avatar
Tejaswini
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Farm

I volunteered on a turtle conservation farm in Sri Lanka for 3 weeks with Plan My Gap Year and it was the most incredible experience. The staff involved in the program were all so lovely, welcoming and were a treat to be around. Ash, the country coordinator, went above and beyond to make sure the volunteers were all happy and comfortable at all times. He also organised many events that we could participate in when we weren’t volunteering to give us better insight into Sri Lankan culture.

The volunteer house had all the amenities you would need and also a pool. At the time that I went, the pool was under maintenance, so we had the choice to go to a pool house 5 minutes away from the main house which was really sociable and fun. There were also custom PMGY taxis which we could hire if we wanted to go anywhere which gave us really easy access to transport and was also very safe and cheap.

The volunteers themselves were such a great bunch and I have definitely made friends for life. The turtles in the farm were very endearing and feisty and we got to witness first-hand the devastating effects of pollution in the ocean on the turtles.

PMGY also organised weekend trips around the country which were very smoothly run. We always had someone from PMGY accompany us, so the trips were also really informative.

I would wholeheartedly recommend volunteering on this project as it was an amazing opportunity that I would love to take part in again.

Default avatar
Gentiana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

PMGY Sri Lanka Medical Programme

PMGY Sri Lanka, was by far the best experience ever. I have done a programme with PMGY before and that inspired me to go on this one. I have taken part in other similar company programmes but PMGY do it right and is by far the best value for your money. Everything is very simple from booking your place to getting to Sri Lanka. Before you leave, the website offers all the basic info you would need and along the way you will get emails from the team in Sri Lanka helping you every step of the way, to decision making and any questions you might have. Once you have applied you receive an information handbook with every thing you need to know from visa info with step by step guides on how acquire one and also about location, projects and other general information (even what you should back and country background information). The volunteer house is amazing, with a pool and roof top terrace, all meals are included and is local cuisine (absolutely delicious btw). Rooms are shared and allocated by gender, the volunteer house is a great way to make friends and for those who are afraid because of travel, PMGY Sri Lanka have their very own tuk tuk services. These tuk tuks will take you to and from projects, the beach, supermarket...essentially anywhere you would need to go.

I did the medical project and worked in the government hospital and had an amazing time, we got to experience many different departments in the hospital, including A&E, paediatrics, labour room (female only) and surgery. The position was mostly observational, but I can only recommend that you ask questions and ASK to be shown around and what is going around you. But you have to appreciate that it’s a hospital and they will be busy, you need to put in the effort to ask and they will happily show you around and teach you the ropes.

I also did the Maldives trip, honestly if you can I would defo recommend, you will never be able to go in your life for the price of £350.....NEVER!! But if that doesn’t float your boat, a lot of the other volunteers ended up going away for the weekend to other areas in Sri Lanka like Kandy, Ella,etc. If you are ever stuck with what to do there is an amazing team of people like Meena and Bea who will happily help you with anything you need help with and also with travel ideas. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss, I recommend that anyone who is thinking of doing it should definitely do.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I could do this again, I would go for longer and explore other volunteering projects and other areas in Sri Lanka.
Default avatar
Alyssa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation and Childcare Project

This past week I returned home from my program with PMGY. I initially started with a two week program but that wasn’t enough and I added an extra week to work with children. Everything couldn’t have gone any better. Pickup from the airport was nice as our leader knew who I was! Reading the volunteer handbook was extremely helpful in what to prepare along with what to expect. It doesn’t capture how truly beautiful Sri Lanka is. The projects were Monday-Friday unless there was a bank holiday going on in Sri Lanka. During the Turtle Project there are different things that have to be done. You cut up sardines to feed to the larger fish, move sand so the eggs can hatch properly, sometimes you get to see them hatch(this is luck and dependent on when the turtle eggs were buried)! There is also painting the walls to decorate to look like turtles with information regarding the different types! The feeding is absolutely the best part. There are super tiny baby turtles, regular sized turtles and massive ones! They all are unique and have their own names! I also did the Childcare Project, this one is different in the sense you get to teach the girls something. That part is rewarding, they also love to dance and listen to music! They’re just little kids who want to have fun however they can. The accommodation in Sri Lanka for the turtle and childcare project was perfect. Ashika made it feel like home and is the absolute perfect person for these conservation projects. The house had a swimming pool, a rooftop, food was made everyday and there was a list of what we would eat each day. They can make accommodations for vegans and vegetarians you’ve just got to let Ashika know! You’ll find that many people there have been or are vegans! It didn’t matter where you went in Sri Lanka, say on your own or with some friends over the weekend, there are many people who can help you find your way or learn the best ways to come back. Ashika and Manoj were always readily available and excited to help out. The energy in Sri Lanka is one to match from everyone. If you’re thinking of trying this out I highly recommend it. There is very little advice I can give to truly help you prepare for this amazing experience, you may find this is what you want to do for the rest of your life as I have. I was only there three weeks! Join PMGY it is something you will always remember and won’t be able to wait to do again.

Default avatar
Alyssa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation and Childcare Project

This past week I returned home from my program with PMGY. I initially started with a two week program but that wasn’t enough and I added an extra week to work with children. Everything couldn’t have gone any better. Pickup from the airport was nice as our leader knew who I was! Reading the volunteer handbook was extremely helpful in what to prepare along with what to expect. It doesn’t capture how truly beautiful Sri Lanka is. The projects were Monday-Friday unless there was a bank holiday going on in Sri Lanka. During the Turtle Project there are different things that have to be done. You cut up sardines to feed to the larger fish, move sand so the eggs can hatch properly, sometimes you get to see them hatch(this is luck and dependent on when the turtle eggs were buried)! There is also painting the walls to decorate to look like turtles with information regarding the different types! The feeding is absolutely the best part. There are super tiny baby turtles, regular sized turtles and massive ones! They all are unique and have their own names! I also did the Childcare Project, this one is different in the sense you get to teach the girls something. That part is rewarding, they also love to dance and listen to music! They’re just little kids who want to have fun however they can. The accommodation in Sri Lanka for the turtle and childcare project was perfect. Ashika made it feel like home and is the absolute perfect person for these conservation projects. The house had a swimming pool, a rooftop, food was made everyday and there was a list of what we would eat each day. They can make accommodations for vegans and vegetarians you’ve just got to let Ashika know! You’ll find that many people there have been or are vegans! It didn’t matter where you went in Sri Lanka, say on your own or with some friends over the weekend, there are many people who can help you find your way or learn the best ways to come back. Ashika and Manoj were always readily available and excited to help out. The energy in Sri Lanka is one to match from everyone. If you’re thinking of trying this out I highly recommend it. There is very little advice I can give to truly help you prepare for this amazing experience, you may find this is what you want to do for the rest of your life as I have. I was only there three weeks! Join PMGY it is something you will always remember and can't wait to do again.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I can think that would be extra helpful to the program would be having more people who are able to speak both Sinhala and English to make communication a little bit easier. That isn't to say that the communication was awful, it was far from it actually! Just when doing projects or trying to go somewhere if the volunteers were able to have multiple people walk through the Sinhala - English translation!
Default avatar
Shiloh
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

TIME OF MY LIFE

PMGY- honestly what an experience!!

I have just finished my programme with Sri Lanka and now am currently traveling the country.

The company- could not fault them and their support. Before I left I was very nervous- my first time travelling to a less developed country but Philip was my point of contact and he was so responsive to all my questions. The volunteer hand book we got had EVERYTHING you could need and answered all my questions. They even did a live webinar where the coordinator in Sri Lanka -Meena, spoke to us live online and answered any questions I had- it was nice to see a face who is out in Sri Lanka as a form of comfort for my arrival!!

I did the renovation programme and helped to paint the pre-school that PMGY are building. The pre-school is for the orphan's who are too young to go to school and for children of the local village who's parents need to go away to work during the day and need looking after. It was incredible to see how much impact I made during my time there.

All the local staff were super helpful- Emma and Ash were always around when I needed help and advised me on my travels that I am doing now.

I will definitely volunteer with PMGY again, I felt supported, I felt safe, I felt looked after! Also the accommodation and food is sooo nice, the sisters are really lovely, so thats a bonus!

Would advise anyone to volunteer with PMGY, the fee's are so transparent and the UK staff were all previous volunteers as well so they really knew how we were feeling and what we wanted!!

What would you improve about this program?
No improvements but I would lovee some photos of the pre-school when it's completely finished!!
Catherine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Sri Lanka Real Experience

The Sri Lanka Real Experience was amazing! The two weeks travelling was tightly planned, it felt like we saw as much of Sri Lanka as possible in the time we had. We were constantly supervised by our tour guide which made the whole experience feel really safe - I came as a solo traveller so it was reassuring staying as a group the entire time. The hotels we stayed in during the two weeks had everything you could need, we were all warmly welcomed. We mainly ate in hotels during the two weeks, however, I didn't feel like I missed out on the Sri Lankan culture. Most of the food we ate were traditional Sri Lankan curries, I am coeliac and all the curries are naturally gluten free - so there's no issue eating in Sri Lanka! A particular highlight of the trip was going on a jeep safari through Parakrama Samudra. We were able to give presents to the children in the village, and saw so much nature as we were driving through. Our tour guide kept on stopping the jeep to explain what we could see, it was just amazing! We finished the journey off by watching the sun set over the river, we were incredibly lucky to see an elephant basking in the water. It was truly magical and my favourite memory of the trip!
The two weeks volunteering was equally rewarding - but in different ways. I volunteered with the elephants in the morning and did teaching in the afternoon. I absolutely loved the elephant experience, however, I think you get the most out of it by understanding that in Sri Lanka, elephants are working animals. Once you understand the cultural difference, and therefore appreciate that the elephants you look after are working elephants that are almost having 'time off', you understand the impact your care has. I loved it, and felt like cleaning them and feeding them made their situation a lot better.
Teaching was one of the challenging, yet one of the most satisfying experiences ever. I taught the lowest ability class which ranged from 4-9 year olds. Once we found ways in which we could communicate to them (through drawing pictures and asking the teacher to translate) it was so much easier! They are so willing to learn, I learnt so much about myself just from the happiness they get from living such simple lives. You really realise how little you need to be content, and how precious these children are.
I stayed in the River House. The views are amazing, you see such beautiful sunsets at night! Make sure you bring a blanket with you, the beds only have pillows so many of us had to go and buy scarfs etc. from the nearby town! The whole team are really friendly and willing to make your experience the best it can be. I had the most amazing time and would recommend it to anyone!

What would you improve about this program?
Some more free time during the travelling experience.
Make it more clear on the checklist to bring a blanket for the beds.