Plan My Gap Year - Volunteer in Sri Lanka from $300

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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 including English teaching, orphanage care, medical electives, psychology & mental health, turtle and elephant conservation and building projects.

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.

Questions & Answers


based on 92 reviews
  • Impact 8.9
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.6
  • Program Selection 10
  • Pre-departure Help 10
  • In-program Support 10
  • Impact on Student 10
  • Value 10
Showing 16 - 30 of 92

8 weeks volunteering in Sri Lanka.

I have just completed 8 weeks volunteering with Plan My gap year in Sri Lanka and I had a great time!

The support before you depart was amazing, walking me through every aspect of my trip and answering any questions I had with no hesitation. This continued in country with an amazing group of local and western co ordinators to aid your trip in any and every way possible. The co ordinators are a credit to Plan my gap year and made my trip more enjoyable and memorable.

I volunteered in the teaching programmes whilst in Sri Lanka and whilst this was incredibly challenging (preparing and making all your resources without a computer or printer, the language barrier and no curriculum to follow) I really enjoyed my time with the children and they taught me whilst I was teaching them. What a great experience!

As a solo traveller I felt safe throughout my whole trip and was able to meet so many likeminded people and I have made lasting friendships with them.

I would definitely recommend Plan my gap year.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Medical experience

In regards to pre-departure support, I feel that there was lots of support given in term of the webinars and the handbook, I feel the handbook listed the information I required prior to this trip.
In terms of in country support, this was very good, there was always a coordinator around to help if you needed it, even late at night. There is security always on duty which made me feel safe. A member of my group needed medical attention and I can honestly say the support she was given from both the Sri Lankan staff (Manoj) and English staff (Steph) was amazing! They coordinated for her to see a specialist within 20 minutes and were at the hospital by her side for her whole experience.
I stayed at River House, it was nice as it was all outside, rooms were basic with bunk beds, the biggest positive was that it had air conditioning. A negative is that there was only one bathroom in the building shared between a lot of people, but once you find the toilets and showers by the pool it made life lots easier.
I was on the medical programme, overall it was a pleasant experience, visiting both the local government hospital and the local Ayurveda hospital. It was good to see the difference in health care between the UK and Sri Lanka. I would have liked to have been more involved and hands on, but I knew this before the programme started. When being on the wards in the hospital it was difficult as not many of the nurses spoke English, but I still managed to get involved in terms of reading notes and spending times with patients. Manoj (local coordinator) really does his best to ensure you have a pleasant time, however, there is a barrier between what the doctors have agreed for the volunteers to do/observe and what the nurses allow you to do.
Overall, a pleasant experience.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Medical Project - Four weeks

I have just returned from Sri Lanka after being there for one month doing the medical project. About the project, although it was not as I expected, I was able to see how hospitals work there and I also saw some interesting things like operations and deliveries. However, as it was not a project in which you felt needed, in addition some of us signed up for the orphanage project for two weeks during the afternoon (without any problem). The little girls in the Girls Orphanage are so cute and they are very excited for you to come and teach and play with them. The rest of the afternoons we were able to visit other cities, go to the beach and go shopping for souvenirs.

I also went to the "Adventure, hill country & safari weekend trip" and to the " Cultural triangle & elephants weekend trip". I would recommend them if you want to see the inner part of the country. We saw many awesome views and cultural events in the two of them. I would just notice that you have to be prepared for many hours on bus. However, if you preferred going to the beach, the staff would help you preparing your trip and would recommend you the best places.

The local staff is really nice and helps you with everything you need!

To sum up, this trip has given me the opportunity to discover the real Sri Lanka, try new food, learn other cultures, meet new people (western and local), and live an experience I have never had before.

How can this program be improved?
Projects could be longer.
Yes, I recommend this program

Four weeks in Sri Lanka

I was so excited to go to Sri Lanka in the summer after my A level exams; it was my way of cramming a gap year into one month before university. We arrived early in the morning and were instantly welcomed by the coordinators - they made the whole trip so easy because they were so easy to talk to and would go out of their way to help you. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country and being on the elephant project meant I got to see a lot of the scenery every day as we drove to project. The only way to get the most out of your project is to get completely stuck in - sometimes hands are better than a shovel! The highlight of my day was always feeding the elephants after their scrub. They're so cheeky and will try to cram as many cucumbers in their mouth as they can! I really recommend the Cultural Triangle weekend trip as a way to explore a lot of Sri Lanka quickly and in a stress-free way. The view from the top of Lion Rock is incredible! Thank you to all the amazing people I met who made the whole experience unforgettable!

How can this program be improved?
It would have been nice to be able to leave the accommodation without always having to pay for transport, maybe a free bus service into Amba and it would have been easier if transfer back to the airport was included in the original fee.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Turtle conservation from 5th to 26th August

Reading the pre-departure volunteer handbook really help me prepare for the journey despite not being available for any of the webinar. Whilst flying I was quite worried as my final flight was delayed so I text someone through the in country support phone number and got a response so quick and made me feel a lot more relaxed. I was at River house for the entire stay and loved it, at first I felt slightly disappointed purely because I had only watched the London house tour and thought it looked amazing. I realized that Riverhouse was beautiful and I felt more located in Sri Lanka and I really enjoyed my room, I got on straight away with my roommates whom I'll be seeing in October. I loved the freedom that you had where you could walk to and from the restaurant, there was a swing and a large pool and the views you see are absolutely stunning! On the turtle conservation project I did expect to do a little more in the first week rather than alternating feeding and painting as I am not an artist, and we finished an hour early. We spoke to a staff member and they came to project the next week and had a look round then after that we had more to do, we fed, did beach cleaning, we cleaned the turtle's shells, and applied their medication, cleaned their tanks and did a release!
My advice to anyone thinking of PMGY, volunteering in Sri Lanka or working with turtles would be to do it. It was the most amazing experience in my life so far. PMGY made my first volunteering trip a memorable one and Sri Lanka is a beautiful country where the local are always very kind and the turtle conservation Staff - Soni and Rana are so lovely and always happy to talk about all the turtles and encourage you to get completely stuck in.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I would like is the option to possibly stay longer at the project a few times a week, not everyday as it is nice to have the time to travel and relax, but to stay longer to have that extra time at the sanctuary. Other than that it was amazing!
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Sri Lankan Experience - Orphanage and Monk Teaching Program

Having just returned from 2 weeks with PMGY in Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka, I cannot recommend this program enough! I signed up having never previously travelled alone and found that PMGY thoroughly prepared me for my trip, carefully responding to all of my pre-departure enquiries and providing all necessary information in their specialised handbook. I felt 100% secure arriving in Sri Lanka even after a delayed flight; the staff make sure you are looked after in all stages of your stay. Once I arrived, I quickly realised that we would be having a very authentic Sri Lankan experience - the local food was delicious, the tuk tuk's exciting and the view from River House was incredible, with the pinkest sunsets you've ever seen every night. In-country everything can be organised if needs be, the staff helped us get local SIM cards, change our money, organise weekend trips etc. Transport around the area in your own time is easy as they have a PMGY tuk tuk system in place, which is safe, easy and quick. River House has a beautiful view of MaduGanga river and the accommodation has a great atmosphere.

I signed up to do the orphanage project in the afternoons but also signed up to teach young Monks English in the mornings once I arrived. Each of these are two week commitments and I enjoyed every day of them. The children are all eager to learn and get to know you. At the girl's orphanage we spent some time teaching English and some time playing games and bonding with the girls. I would recommend making plans for teaching in both projects as this makes your time a lot more worthwhile with them and helps you to make the most of the hours you have together each day. Many of the girls in the orphanage like to give you their books at the end of the day and enjoy having handmade worksheets to fill in with you on the following day, which you can then check for them. All the kids are extremely hard working.

My advice for future volunteers is to come with an open mind and embrace all the quirks of the local culture. I came with high expectations and my experience went above and beyond them. The country is beautiful, the people are so kind and PMGY make your stay extremely comfortable and enjoyable.

Yes, I recommend this program

Elephant Experience August 2017

If you're thinking about heading to Sri Lanka for volunteering I highly recommmend it. This was my first trip away alone and I was really worried about going, but PMGY helped organise everything even my flights which took so much pressure and stress off the experience. There is constant support from the team and when you arrive there is always someone around to answer questions. There is also a couple of group chats you get added to whilst you're over there which the organisers always check. Nalaka would always be online to organise transport for you and friends if you wanted to go somewhere, making it really easy to see other areas of Sri Lanka.
I stayed in River House, which is the main accommodation, and there was lovely views, monkeys in the trees and really spacious rooms. There isn't many places to unpack your stuff but everyone just slid their suitcase under the bed and found it easier living out of it for a couple of weeks anyway. The food was also really good but they staff will also make any extra snacks or tea for you during the day if you ask nicely!

The elephant project was, definitely for me, a big eye opener to what these elephants have to go through every day. During orientation Ashika explained to us what to expect on the experience so we were prepared for the elephants to be in chains as it was the law. Although, I feel everyone who bought a day pass should have been told this as some people were so surprised they refused to participate, which made it harder for everyone else. Over all, knowing these elephants are having a break from their work and time to relax certainly outweighed the negatives. It did feel like we were helping them everyday, although finding out they are scrubbed for 4 hours a day was a shock when we only scrubbed them for an hour! On our final day we were taken to see a male who had been rescued by Ashika and allowed to move freely with out chains. He was so well behaved it was amazing to see him walk around freely, even to home when his mahout told him to so. It was incredible to see, after several young elephants had to be chained more as they were not fully trained.

I also went on the hilltop and safari weekend trip, from Friday morning to Sunday evening. Although some people complained that there was to much traveling involved, you must realise no one ever saw so many incredible things staying in one spot. Yes, there was a lot of time on the bus, but even looking out of the window had its perks when driving up the side of a mountain to see a tea plantation, and feeling as though the bus could topple off the edge at any moment. The hotels we stayed in were also lovely and it was great to try new food, and wake up ready for the next days adventure! The hike to worlds end was also great! While in Sri Lanka we came to realise that the time you were meant to be picked up was usually half an hour to an hour earlier than when they actually arrive. We asked Kazun how long the hike was, he responded 2 hours, so we were expecting 3/4 hours.. to our surprise it was actually 2 hours!

Overall, I really do suggest taking a trip to Sri Lanka, if you're unsure then pop by for only 2 weeks, and you can always extend your trip while you're over there! - the team also make this really easy for you to do if you want to!

How can this program be improved?
A few more options at breakfast. Toast and eggs are great but if you're there longer than 2 weeks they can become quite dull.
Yes, I recommend this program
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2 Weeks Volunteering - Elephant Project

I volunteered in Sri Lanka for 2 weeks from the 5th to the 19th August with PMGY and can honestly say I had the most amazing time and met the most amazing people.
The staff at PMGY were fantastic as soon as I had signed up, keeping me updated on my application and allowing my friend and I to book together. They helped me to book my flight and answered any questions I had, no matter how insignificant they were (Colby in particular was a great help, responding almost instantly and helping with many different aspects of my application). The volunteer handbook was very useful in getting a basic understanding of the culture and was helpful when trying to apply for visas etc.
The team in Sri Lanka were so welcoming and friendly; they always made an effort to have a conversation and a laugh with you and were also good at giving advice on what to do in Sri Lanka.

I stayed in River House, which although it wasn't the best, I had a great time there and made so many memories. There were a lot of bugs, a few problems with the bathroom (which the staff were very quick in dealing with once we'd actually told them!) and not a lot of room in the bedrooms but being in such close proximity to the other volunteers allowed us all to become very close friends. The swimming pool is a great area to allow you to talk to some of the other volunteers in other rooms and was lovely to be able to have a swim after a long morning of volunteering!
I personally really enjoyed the food at the accommodation. Lunches and dinners were usually very good and I tried a lot of new food that I otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to. Breakfast was much more repetitive and wasn't as great but many of us bought our own food to eat in the mornings.

Although it was harder work than I had expected, I really enjoyed doing the elephant project. It was an amazing experience to be so up close with the elephants and to be able to wash and feed them. Although they experienced some complications with one of the elephants and mahouts (which was completely out of PMGY's control) which slightly disrupted the normal routine of our project, the coordinators made sure we still got to work with the elephants everyday. On a typical day we would drive about an hour to get to the elephants, clean up the site e.g. shovelling elephant dung, sweeping leaves etc. There was then a short walk to the river where we would wash and scrub the elephants. We then fed the elephants, got loads of photos and then had an hour drive back to the house. There was also an elephant safari included in this project which was one of the best days on the project. We got up at about 3am and drove to Udawalawe National Park where we saw so many elephants - it was a great start to the 2 weeks!

I had one full weekend in Sri Lanka and used this to go on the Yala National Safari Weekend Trip. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the activities that we did (especially the World's End hike, Hindu temple and Yala National Safari Park), I felt like there wasn't enough time to spend in each place as we did so much travelling on the bus over just one weekend. However, it was a good way to be able to see things further afield in a short space of time. If I had been in Sri Lanka for another weekend, I definitely would have loved to use this for independent travel with my friends.

Overall, I had an amazing experience in Sri Lanka and the staff at PMGY were absolutely amazing from the beginning to the end. I would have loved to stay for longer than 2 weeks as I felt like there was so much more I had to see and I would have loved to have experienced some of the other projects too.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Mental health

The mental health and psychology programme has a varied schedule including working in a local orphanage, visiting out patient clinics, meditations with monks and meeting psycharists. Learning about the differences between western and Sri Lankan medication was also very interesting such as meeting an Ayurvedic practitioner and observing her with clients!

The majority of the time the programme is either in the morning or afternoon and is quite rare for it to be both. You would generally spend around 2-3 hours a day on project and then have the rest of the day to yourself. On occasion we would turn up to our project locations and project would be cancelled.

How can this program be improved?
Communication would be the main thing that I think could be improved. Communication between pmgy and the institutions that we were visiting could be better with regards to ensuring that the institution is expecting us to be coming and confirmation of that. We were often not told about these issues and so project was sometimes cut short because of this.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Sri Lanka - 4th to 19th August

All the pre-departure information was very thorough and useful. The addition of the handbook was very reassuring and helpful. While I was there the staff were so informative and supportive to me, especially the cooks. I loved the accommodation: lots of space and not far from the town. I worked on the Medical Project for a week and a half where I observed the doctors and nurses in the private hospital. I found some part interesting and helpful but it was a little unstructured for me. As the doctors and nurses are really busy, we didn't do anything for most of the majority of the mornings I worked on the project but what we did do was really good. The last half of the last week I worked in the Monk School which was so good. I loved teaching the monks and they made me feel very much apart of their community. My only advice would be bring more English money than you think as I started to run out and felt obliged to stay in when others went out and was also unable to buy more internet while I was in London House. Overall though, it was amazing! :)

How can this program be improved?
More organisation and structure
More fulfilling Projects
Yes, I recommend this program

Sri Lanka construction and renovation

The PMGY trip was really good, especially in regards to the social aspects, but do be warned that on construction that it is quite costly. Given that you only do 1 hour, which makes sense given it is hard work, it may not seem value for money, but know that for all of them you pay for the social aspect and safety as well. Thus, I would strongly recommend this trip if you are looking to help abroad but are also very driven to sightseeing and going out with friends. Note, it is costly so have a wallet that will almost definitely become a lot emptier.

How can this program be improved?
Construction and renovation was costlier than I imagined it would be. Part of this is due to the £50 not being put on the online charge with the £75 but to be given there. I would have preferred to pay it online as I forgot and it almost caused me a big problem with my finances.
Yes, I recommend this program
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My volunteering experience

It was my first time doing volunteering activities. I had a really good time in Sri Lanka. I did the orphanage project for four weeks and the turtles project for two week. The orphanage It´s been my favourite one for sure. Being able to spend time with these kids was incredible. Every day they were waiting for us in the entrance of the orphanage with a big smile in their faces. Maybe these kids can teach us more than we can teach them such as value more the things that we have in the first world and be more generous because we can be happy with much less than we have. To sum up, It was a really good experience that I recommend to everyone!

How can this program be improved?
In my opinion, the orphanage project wasn´t very well organized. I mean the children were all together despite their age and english level so not all of them could understand us during the class time. It would had been more useful making separated groups. Furthermore if we have had more information about them and the activities they did normally maybe we could have done more interesting activities for them.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Real Experience PMGY Sri Lanka

I took part in the Real Experience in Sri Lanka, where I went travelling all around the country with a group of 13 others in the first two weeks of my trip and then did a volunteering placement in the second two weeks.
The first half of the experience was amazing (as was the rest of it). We saw so much of the country and had so much fun; it was a great way to get to know the people I was with and we all got along really well. We were accompanied by our guide and driver (Kasun & Jaga <3) and they were always on hand to answer our questions and keep us safe. Our accommodation was in various hotels (all included in the price and organised by PMGY), which were all clean. We were always doing something enjoyable, be it visiting an elephant orphanage, relaxing on a beach, going on safari or touring temples. The food we had (again organised by PMGY and included in the price) was unbelievable! I would often fill up two plates of food because it was that good and I always looked forward to lunch and dinner. This was an awesome way to see the country and I am sure that if I had not gone with PMGY and had gone independently, I would not have done all that I did in these two weeks and certainly not for as low a price.
During the second two weeks, I volunteered at Roseth Hospital (one of the medical projects) and stayed at River House (one of PMGY's volunteer houses). The project exceeded my expectations massively; I learnt so much during my time there and it was much more structured than I was expecting. We were given topics to learn about in each department we went to, such as the different types of containers used when taking blood or the procedure of Root Canal Treatment in Dentistry. This made sure we had a basis upon which to ask questions and learn. I was very impressed and would recommend this project to anyone thinking of going into healthcare, as it does teach you a lot (especially in the Dental Surgery department). Everyone I met at the hospital was very friendly and happy to answer my questions and by the end of my two weeks here, I was sorry to leave. One thing I would also say about the project, however, is that it seemed to me more like a work experience placement than a volunteering project. This is because there was little scope to help others, as the most we could do was assist on a very basic level and even this was very rare. The focus was therefore on furthering your own knowledge through observing, rather than first hand experience, which to be fair was made clear by PMGY in all the information they provided before and after I signed up.
As the project did not run on the weekends, we were free to do some independent travelling and these provided yet more great memories. With people that had now become my friends, we would plan where we wanted to go, book our accommodation and hit the road, all with recommendations and help from fellow volunteers and staff. This was another really fun part of the trip, as we had total control over what we did and where we went. Unsurprisingly, beaches were a common theme for weekend trips. With all the shops, bars and places to eat that came with the sun, sea and sand, it was hard not to have a good time. In fact, I would often also go to another, nearer beach after I finished my project at the hospital, as it was only about 45 minutes from the volunteer house and travel there and back would usually cost less than £1.
All in all, this was an outstanding trip. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, which I am not in a hurry to forget about. PMGY are amazing; every member of that company I encountered, be they in London or Sri Lanka, were exactly the type of people you would want to be around and have support you.

How can this program be improved?
The accommodation at River House could be improved, and this would have made the trip faultless. I do understand that I was amongst the first to move into the new volunteer house and so it is natural to have had some issues at this early stage. I want to also say that I regret not informing Ashika or a member of his team of these areas I feel could be improved whilst I was in the country so that they could be fixed sooner. The rooms where I was staying were cramped and there was little room for anything other than the beds. The room I was sleeping in (at Villa House in the River House complex) can't have been more than 8 square metres and had two bunk beds. Fortunately, there were only three of us sleeping in the room and we only had two suitcases, as one of us was sharing a suitcase with his girlfriend in another room. This was just about comfortable. However, the beds were certainly not comfortable. The mattresses were thin layers of foam and I, as well as others I spoke to, could clearly feel the structure beneath us, be it a wooden sheet or wooden bars.
The other area of the accommodation in which an improvement would have gone a long way was the food. The majority of the time, I (and a fair chunk of the volunteers I was around) preferred buying food from outside. This was not the end of the world, as by Western prices, the food in Sri Lanka was very cheap. However, bearing in mind that we had paid for the food provided by the volunteer house and we were then also buying food to replace it, I feel this should not really have been happening. This is a shame, but it did mean we could taste more, authentic Sri Lankan food.
Yes, I recommend this program

Teen 2 week adventure & volunteer programme

The 2 weeks I spent in Sri Lanka with PMGY were amazing and such an incredible experience. This was down to my groups great coordinators - Steph and Anthony, Colby, Ashika and their continued support throughout the trip. But also the activities and volunteering work we were doing. Each trip or working day was planned out and all transport was provided to get us there and back. This made the trip far more enjoyable as you didn't have to worry about navigating Sri Lanka yourself.
The accommodation was clean and the 'sisters' cooked all the food for everyone - it always tasted amazing! Pre-departure organisation and communication was great so I knew just what to expect, however I would recommend bringing a blanket or sheet with you to sleep with. You may think Sri Lanka is hot but when the AC is on in the bedrooms at night it can sometimes get a bit chilly. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend PMGY and hope to do a longer trip with them in the future.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Volunteer and Adventure

This trip was so well organised and there was always someone with you wherever you go so you always feel safe. All the activities are so well thought out and things that you would never get to do unless on a trip like this so they were all enjoyed by everyone!
The co-ordinators (Steph and Anthony) were so fun and down to earth and felt like they were apart of the group, which was so good as it then didn't end up feeling like a school trip.
The pre-departure information was very helpful and they are always there to answer your questions and help as much as they can.
The first week of doing the different projects was so much fun as you get a taster of all the different projects, especially the teaching as the kids were so excited and grateful for you being there!
The second week we got to see so much of the country and experience loads of different things such as the safari, a hike and chilling on a beach.
The food cooked by the sisters is very yummy, especially the noodles! (they were a huge favourite by everyone).
It was an amazing two weeks and would go back and do it all over again if i could!

Yes, I recommend this program


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About Plan My Gap Year

Plan My Gap Year (PMGY) is an award-winning international volunteer placement organisation based in the UK. We provide the worlds most affordable, need-driven and supportive short-term volunteer programmes across Africa, Asia & Latin America. Our...