Located in Thailand's mountainous region, Chiang Mai is the perfect location to spend time volunteering for causes that matter, while living in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Spend anywhere from one week to up to one year working on environmental, educational, and healthcare projects. Unlike other popular cities in Thailand, Chiang Mai is less touristy, giving you the chance to really connect with the community and experience an immersive program.
Volunteer programs are available for all different age ranges too, making this the perfect gap year or post-graduate option as well.
People interested in volunteering in Chiang Mai, Thailand can choose from the following project types:
Spend a few weeks to a few months providing assistance in local clinics, and working with people in the community to spread awareness about public health and hygienic issues through education outreach efforts in schools.
From teaching English to children in school, to teaching English to monks at monasteries, coming to Thailand to volunteer in the field of education is a great way to connect with people in Chiang Mai. Most volunteer programs do not require that teachers are TEFL certified, as being a native English speaker is enough to allow you to volunteer. Other programs will give you the option to become TEFL certified on site, for additional fees, depending on program provider.
When most people think about volunteering in Thailand, naturally working with elephants comes to mind. Help preserve some of the world's most beautiful lush forests in Thailand's mountain region while restoring the natural habitats of many different species of animals. Volunteers will get to work directly with experienced local Mahouts, or elephant keepers.
Places to Go
- Buddhist Temples: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Umong
- Parks: Doi Suthep–Pui National Park for waterfalls, hikes, and elephant observatories
- Art and Culture: Chiang Mai Zoo, Chiang Mai National Museum, Chiang Mai flower festival
- Weekend trips to nearby cities: Lamphun for a weekend of historical site seeing, Thaton for great hiking, Lampang for dinner along the river, or Chiang Rai for cultural diversity at the intersection of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.
Volunteers in Thailand can live in a number of different housing situations including a volunteer home, youth hostels, hotels, camping, or sometimes even a homestay.
The only volunteers who need visas are those planning to stay in Thailand for more than 30 days, as long as they have proof of a departure plane ticket upon arrival to Thailand. A visa can be acquired at a local consulate in the US, and is good for 60 days. If a volunteer plans to extend their stay, they can renew their visa by paying a 1,900 baht fee to the Thai Immigration Bureau office, according to the Embassy of Thailand. Most program providers will assist volunteers with the visa process.
The official currency in Thailand is the Baht, and currently $1 USD is equivalent to around 35 Baht. Typically, people can get a meal for around $3 USD or less, and since Chiang Mai isn't as touristy as other parts of the country, things tend to be less expensive.
While Thai is by no means required in order to volunteer, learning basic conversational phrases never hurts. You can download apps like Duolingo or even a basic cheat sheet to keep with you in your pocket while in Thailand.
Generally, the weather in Chiang Mai is very mild, with highs ranging from the 80s to low 90s, and lows ranging from low 60s-70s. The rainy season here lasts from May-October. With this information in mind, we recommend packing the following:
- A rain jacket
- Comfortable sneakers
- Plain shirts, shorts, and pants that mix and match well
- A few semi-nice outfits for special occasions
- Personal hygienic products
- Type A, B, or C power plugs
Luckily, most smartphones today have removable SIM cards, which makes it easy to communicate while abroad. All you have to do is warn your cell phone provider that you will be overseas so that they can freeze your phone line. When you get abroad, you will be able to purchase a local SIM card and a prepaid phone plan.
Prior to coming to Thailand, it is recommended that volunteers be vaccinated for Japanese encephalitis, Rabies, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid.
Like many other places in the world, the only real threat in Thailand right now is petty theft, like pickpocketing. We recommend that volunteers make copies of all important documents like their passports and credit cards. In addition to this, we also advise that volunteers avoid protests, which sometimes occur in Bangkok.
Contributed by Danielle Ortiz-Geis