How to Volunteer Abroad for Free -Free Flight, Free Accomodation, Free Everything
Are you looking for a volunteer abroad trip? Are you worried about high costs associated with volunteer abroad? And are you wondering if there are any free volunteer abroad programs? In this article we will go in detail about:
- What is volunteer abroad and what are the expenses associated with it?
- Why would you need to pay for volunteering abroad?
- Free volunteer abroad
- How to find free volunteer abroad programs
- 10 World's Best Free Volunteer Abroad Programs
- What are the limitations of free volunteer abroad?
- How to find paid volunteering (free program, free flight, and or free accommodation)
- What are the limitations of paid volunteer abroad programs?
- Other important issues of both free and paid volunteering
- Information on affordable volunteer abroad programs
Reading this article will help you find free volunteering opportunities and paid volunteer opportunities where even your flight, food, and room will be covered.
Chapter 1. What is volunteer abroad?
Lets start the article first by understanding what volunteering abroad is.
Volunteer abroad is an opportunity where volunteers travel to developing countries to help and make difference. Volunteer abroad is emerging as an alternative form of travel as it gives you the opportunity to travel, cultural immerse yourself, and development your self as a person.
Unfortunately, volunteer abroad is not free, and if you do internet research you will find hundreds of companies offering volunteer abroad programs that cost between $200-$2000 for 2 weeks of volunteering abroad.
What are the expenses associated with volunteer abroad?
When you think of volunteer abroad, you might think only of the program fees that volunteer organizations charge. However, this program fee mostly covers your room and food. You still need to arrange for airfare, insurance, vaccination, visa and pocket money.
Program fee: this is the fee charged by volunteer organizations. It mostly covers room and food. Depending on the organization it may cover airport pick up, insurance etc. Program fees vary by the duration of your stay, project you join, country etc. It can cost anywhere from $200- $3000 for 2 weeks.
Airfare: Your program fee will most likely not cover airfare. It is also a major cost. Airfare depends on many factors like the destination you are travelling to, the season, airline, and booking date.
Insurance: A few volunteer companies charge higher fees to cover insurance. However, the majority of companies who charge lower program fees do not cover insurance. Depending on the level of coverage an insurance company could cost you between $2 and $5 per day.
Vaccination: Vaccination is also an important cost. Before volunteering abroad you need to take the proper vaccinations. How much it costs depends on the type of vaccination you need.
Visa: Most of the volunteer abroad organizations run volunteer programs through a tourist visa. Your program fee most likely does not cover the price of the visa. The cost of the visa will depend on the duration of the visa and the country you are travelling to. You can generally expect anywhere between $1 and $5 per day for a visa.
Additional cost: When you join expensive volunteer programs, your airport pick up and drop off costs will be covered. But when you join less expensive programs, you need to pay for airport pick-ups, as well as other costs, like daily transportation.
Pocket money: Most volunteer programs cover your room and food so you do not need a lot of pocket money. When you travel over the weekend, however, or on your personal favorite food, or any other personal travel expenses you would need pocket money for. You should expect to bring somewhere between $20 and $100 a week, depending on the country and your habits/choices.
Why it costs to volunteer abroad? Why volunteering abroad is not free.
When you think of volunteering abroad, you may wonder why you need to pay. Why would you need to pay to give a helping hand? This is good question. However, after doing careful research, you’ll realize that volunteer abroad is something nearer to traveling abroad. These organizations do not get any external government funding and running volunteer programs have a lot of expenses involved. Volunteer organizations need these program fees to cover those expenses.
Expenses associated with office/business
- Travel to develop program
- Associate costs of business like tax, accounting
Expenses associated with running a volunteer program
- Room for volunteers
- Food for volunteers
- Transportation for volunteers
- Project donation
- Expenses associated with running country office
Chapter 2: Free Volunteer Abroad
As you now know, volunteer abroad programs are similar to traveling abroad. Like other businesses, it involves a lot of expenses, including expenses for room and food. There are limited possibilities of finding free volunteer abroad programs from established volunteer abroad organizations.
However, there are still possibilities where you can contact local organizations directly. Even in this situation, however, you’ll avoid program fees but you’ll still have to pay for airfare, visa, vaccination, and pocket expenses.
How can I get involved in free volunteer abroad programs?
Most volunteer organizations won’t offer free volunteering because of the costs associated. Nevertheless, here are a few tips that you can use to find free volunteer abroad programs.
Do A Google Search
Do a google search and type in key words such as: volunteer for free abroad, or free volunteer abroad. Many organizations will pop up and you will have to spend some time researching your options. Take notes, keep a list of free volunteer organizations, and then contact them directly.
Contact Local Organizations Directly
Check out job directories, such as idealist.org, that lists hundreds of non-profit job opportunities worldwide. They include volunteer placements in schools, orphanages and grassroots organizations. Some of these organizations have opportunities to volunteer abroad for free. If possible, try to contact them directly either through email or phone to fully understand the type of opportunity they are advertising.
Talk To Friends Who Have Recently Returned From Volunteering Abroad
One of the very best ways to find free volunteering abroad is by talking to friends and people who have recently returned from volunteering abroad. Your friend can most likely connect you to the volunteer organization where they volunteered.
Talk to friends who are living abroad
Is your friend living or working or volunteering abroad? If they are living or working or volunteering abroad, then they should have connections with (or known) the local organizations where you can volunteer for free. Therefore, checking with your friends might be a good way to find free volunteer opportunities.
Post on online portals like Quora, Facebook or Twitter, asking people if they know of any free volunteer abroad opportunities. There’s always a chance a few people will reply back to your posting with possible free volunteer overseas opportunities.
Use Local Contacts
If you have already hit the road running and you are currently traveling abroad, use local contacts to your advantage. If you are staying at a hostel or hotel ask the front desk if they have access to any local organizations that are looking for volunteers. This is a good way to get connected with a community and see how you can make a difference on a local level.
An Essential Checklist for Free Volunteer Programs
Free volunteer abroad programs can be very risky scheme. They may be scams. So do not feel over excited when you find free volunteering abroad opportunities.
Before buying your plane tickets, it is very important to do some serious background checks on various aspects of the free volunteer opportunity you've chosen. Failure to do enough research and just choosing the free volunteering abroad option without serious background checking, will endanger your safety, ruin your volunteer experience, and waste your time and money.
Questions to ask when researching the background of a free volunteer abroad organization
Why do they offer free volunteer abroad options?
First, start your research by finding why that organization is offering free volunteer abroad programs, when other volunteer organizations need program fees to run operations and to host volunteers. Where does this organization get their funding from? How do they pay room/food for volunteers? Why are they offering free volunteer programs? What are the benefits of offering free volunteering abroad programs? Understanding the answers to these questions should be your first step.
Is the organization legitimate?
The organizations that offer free volunteer abroad programs are mainly small organizations. Are they legit? Are they registered with the local government office? Look for affiliation with volunteer bodies, or their name and contact information in volunteer directories. Have they won any awards, or been praised/recommended by a trustworthy source? Are they affiliated with any reputable organizations? What is the proof that the organization is really legitimate? Make sure the organization offering free volunteering abroad is a legal and legitimate organization.
Does their website offer clear and comprehensive details about their history, vision and experience?
Once you confirm their legitimacy, please check their website. Read the ‘about us’ section. Try to find out their history, programs they offer, vison, accomplishment etc. How do they sound? What do you feel? A good organization should have a good website, a clear vision, program, and achievements.
How long have they been running free volunteer abroad programs and how many volunteers have they worked with in the past?
To take your research even further, please try to find how long this organization has been offering free volunteering, and how many volunteers have been served. If the organization you choose has a strong history of running free volunteer opportunities, then this can be a good opportunity for you. The history and number of volunteers served tell a lot.
Are there genuine sounding reviews and testimonials available on their website and elsewhere?
They don't all have to be positive, but the majority should be. Think about the content of these comments – do they sound genuine, as if real people wrote them? Are they written in natural English? Lots of errors could suggest the site owners paid someone else to write them. Search for program and organization reviews on general volunteer forums and feedback sites, as the volunteer placement provider cannot control the content of these. How recent are they? What kind of response does the project provider make? A professional company will respond politely to most comments, whether they are negative or positive.
Are there any hidden costs?
‘Free’ volunteering can be misleading. What is actually free, the program fee, room and food? Airfare? Most likely, the organization offering free volunteering many not ask for a program fee for your volunteer work. But who will pay for your room/food? Are they offering you it free of charge?
Chances are that they will not offer you free room/food. In this situation, you will need to pay.. This can be a trap. They may asked you to pay a certain amount for it which can be even higher than other low cost, but reputable volunteer abroad programs. There may be other hidden costs like a required project donation or support. So before you select a free volunteer opportunity, you must be clear on what exactly is free and if there are any hidden costs. If you failed to check it out you might end up paying more.
Is their website, blog and social media presence kept updated?
A good and active organization keeps their website, blog, and other social media presence updated. This tells a lot about an organization. So before joining a free volunteer opportunity please make sure their blog, social media, and web presence are updated regularly and professional looking.
Do they answer emails fully, and with a professional tone?
A good organization communicates fast and efficiently. Be aware that if your messages, questions or concerns are ignored or evaded before you travel, you have little chance of better service once you have left to begin your placement. A decent organization will make every effort to communicate with you as promptly as they are able.
Using the above tips and doing research will help you to select a good free volunteer abroad opportunity. Again, be careful when you hear something is “free”.
10 World's Best Free Volunteer Abroad Programs
Unfortunately, free volunteer abroad programs are harder to find than you might expect. If you have ever looked into volunteering abroad before, you have probably already noticed that many companies offering volunteer programs will charge a hefty fee just for you to sign up. This fee is likely far more expensive than if you were to just travel abroad on your own.
At this point, you are probably wondering the same thing. Is it even possible to do that, or will a simple vacation be a better way to go? Do free volunteer opportunities abroad even exist?
Well, it’s a good thing you’re reading this article, because we have compiled a list of some of the best organizations that offer either free volunteer abroad programs or opportunities work abroad at no extra cost to you – or, if there is a cost, it is minimal. Finally you can find a way to go abroad on a budget!
Let’s look at some of those organizations.
Help Stay is a site that is all about connecting hosts with international helpers. Although it is more of a work exchange, for many it could count as free volunteer work abroad. They have a wide range of hosts looking for helpers in places that that include both the expected and common but also the strange and obscure.
Some of the hosts in their database include farms, households, art retreats, eco-villages, backpacker hostels, surf lodges, vineyards, ranches, schools, monasteries, kibbutzim, and more. The agreement is this: dedicate a few hours a day helping out the hosts, and they will give you food and accommodation (and a once in a lifetime cultural exchange) in return.
The only fee you would pay is 30 Euros for one year of individual membership, or 50 Euros for one year of a dual membership (either a couple, two friends, or a family). These prices are subject to change, of course, so be sure to check on their website for the most up-to-date fees. There are often discounts for signing up, as well.
Once you have paid this small fee, the website is opened up to you completely. You will have access to the entire listings of hosts from all around the world, and you can view their offerings and descriptions. You won’t have to pay any more to be placed with someone; from that point on, the agreement is only between you and your host.
The beauty of this website is that it is simply a database – the organization itself will not be arranging anything for you, nor will they book your flights, pick you up from the airport, or baby you at all. This is why they don’t charge you for your placement – and this is also why you will have complete freedom to plan your free volunteering abroad however you like.
WWOOF, a funny acronym that stands for “World Wide Opportunities on organic Farms,” is the pioneer of the work exchange world. As far as anybody knows, it is the original and the most extensive program out there for people looking to do work exchange programs. It makes for a fantastic alternative to free volunteering abroad.
WWOOF is so commonly known around the backpacking crowd and the work exchangers around the world that, in certain countries and communities, people doing a work exchange are just called “wwoofers,” even if they are going through another work exchange organization. In other words, WWOOF is to work exchange as “Kleenex” is to tissues, or “Frisbees” are to flying discs.
Even when you first go on WWOOF’s website, you can see how professional and clean the entire organization looks. That being said, this is just the general webpage for the entire organization. When you sign up and get into you, you will need to use the country-specific website – and those can vary greatly from country to country.
As with any sites that simply offer databases for free volunteering opportunities abroad, your experience with WWOOF is all up to you. You can decide which hosts to contact, which countries to visit, and how long you would like to stay.
The main thing to remember with WWOOF, however, is the fact that it has an emphasis on organic farming – so if that is something you are interested in, then it is perfect.
Additionally, because every country has their own website, you need to pay for a separate membership for each country you would like to do a free volunteer abroad program in – so if you are planning on backpacking from country to country in a relatively short amount of time, this is perhaps not the best website to use.
If you are just going to be in one country, however, then WWOOF is a great choice. It usually doesn’t cost more than about 30 US dollars for one full year of membership, and sometimes couples’ membership options are also available.
Unlike many other free abroad volunteer programs, MovingWorlds will not send just anyone to their placement countries. In fact, they are looking only for a certain type of person: experts. They recognize that true help comes from people who actually know what they’re doing.
These people (experts who are doing free volunteer work abroad) are called “experteers.” These experteers are already equipped with specific skills that will make the highest positive impact possible in their destination.
If you are skilled in some way, you are in luck: you get to choose your timing, location, and duration of the experteering trip. You can filter your searches by country, by skill, or by cause (what exactly that experteer trip would be supporting).
Each project listed will include the specific benefits – for example, some come with provided accommodation, a meal stipend, or both if you’re lucky. You can therefore quickly and easily see which projects might be a good fit for you.
Luckily, you can basically turn any professional experience you have into a skill for an experteering program. The beauty of it is that it not only helps the destination and organization you are working for, but it also gives you a way to develop your own skills professionally. If you’re looking for the next best thing to an internship abroad, this is it.
Membership is more expensive for MovingWorlds than for the previous organizations: for a standard membership, it costs $125 (US dollars) for two years of being a full-access member. This includes an unlimited number of introductions to all the opportunities available as well as personal support from the company itself.
A “membership PLUS” account would include additional support. This one costs $300, but it is certainly worth it if you aren’t comfortable being completely on your own for a project like this, or if it is your first experience abroad.
If you purchase this membership option, you will have more highly specific opportunities (i.e. a specific skillset, a particular region of a country, or a specific time). This membership also allows you to do projects as a family or a couple, or to plan for more than one experteer experience on one trip. If you’re not happy with the service, there is a money back guarantee.
As is shown in the name, Free Volunteering has a wide array of free volunteer abroad opportunities available. Incidentally, it is powered by Help Stay (see above) and therefore always takes you to the Help Stay website when you click on an opportunity. That being said, Free Volunteering does offer a few added bonuses.
For one thing, Free Volunteering has the option to sign up for weekly alert emails. These emails aren’t personalized, but they will let you know which new opportunities have just come out each week, saving you from spending time checking the website on a daily or weekly basis for new free volunteer opportunities abroad.
You can select the specific country you would like to volunteer in or one of the specific types of projects that is highlighted on the homepage. That’s the beauty of Free Volunteering: the possibilities seem to be completely endless.
From eco projects in Canada to working in a preschool in Zimbabwe, from building houses in Tanzania to taking a teenager-specific trip to Spain for a week, there are a wide variety of options for free volunteering abroad with this site.
You will have to pay the same Help Stay fees when you actually get into a project you would like to partake in, of course. These fees include about 30 Euros for a one year individual membership and 50 Euros for a couple, pair of friends, or family. Remember, this is a one-time fee that allows you do to all their programs for free from then on.
Like the other work exchange sites out there (such as HelpX, WWOOF, or HelpStay), Workaway is all about cultural exchanges. The main difference between Workaway and the other work exchange sites is that it emphasizes making a difference in the communities you are visiting, rather than only providing a low cost volunteer abroad program like the others.
In this way, Workaway has the same philosophy as many other companies that are offering free volunteer programs abroad. It’s all about different cultures understanding one another, as well as just lending a helping hand in exchange for a place to stay. Oftentimes meals are also part of the agreement, but this can vary from host to host.
Part of the appeal of Workaway is simply is massive network of hosts and “workawayers.” More than 155 countries have hosts, and the number of hosts in the world is more than a whopping 22,000. In other words, the variety of places you can go and things you can be doing is huge.
Like most other sites, there is a registration fee to volunteer through Workaway. For one person it costs $29 USD per year, and for two friends or a couple it costs $38 USD per year. Registering and paying this fee enables you to contact any of the hosts that you see listed – and that means infinite possibilities for your future of travel.
Whether you’re interested in helping in a tiny, remote village or in the middle of an urban metropolis, whether you’d like to help out on an organic farm or help a hostel stay afloat, you will find something to do at Workaway. It is perfect for a person who wants to try new things with their free volunteer abroad program, as most of the jobs don’t require prior expertise or experience.
Help Exchange, more commonly known as HelpX, is an expansive kind of work exchange very similar to WWOOF, Workaway, and Help Stay. While it is less specific or less regulated than other websites such as Workaway or WWOOF, HelpX has a hugely expansive network of hosts and locations.
Like Workaway and unlike WWOOF, HelpX requires just one paid registration (per year) to access all of its locations around the world. That makes it be an extremely low cost volunteer abroad organization, although it is technically a work exchange rather than a volunteer program.
The deal with HelpX is this: helpers work between three and six hours of work every day they are staying (although this depends on a lot on the host – some want you to work eight hours for a few days and then you have a few days free). In exchange, you get a place to sleep and all your meals.
Again, the exchange itself can vary: some hosts will have you do less work and won’t give you free food, so it’s important to be extremely clear in your initial communications with the hosts. There are a few common sense rules set by HelpX, but beyond that it all comes down to what the host wants and what the helper agrees to.
In order to be able to contact the hosts directly, you will need to have a premier membership. This lasts a full two years, and any kind of membership you have (single or a pair) will cost you just 20 Euros. In terms of the more established and better known work exchange websites out there, many will tell you that HelpX is the best for people looking for low cost volunteer work abroad.
Part of the reason for this is the fact that all of the locations are contained within one site and one paid two-year membership. Its big competitor, WWOOF, requires you to pay for each country you visit. In this way, HelpX clearly gives you the best value, especially if you are doing a trip that spans several borders.
Diverbo is different from the other free volunteer abroad organizations in that it only has a program in Spain and Germany. In fact, there is only one program offered to adults at all: participating in their free English “talkathons.” These talkathons involve the community coming together to practice their English with native speakers -- in this case, that native speaker would be you!
The catch is that they only want groups of native speakers (so people coming from countries like the US, Scotland, Australia, England, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and so on). These groups are generally between 15 and 25 people in size (all native speakers), and they help the locals learn and practice their English.
In exchange for the work of the native speakers, they are given a free weeklong stay in one of the hotel resorts (advertised as “beautiful”). The setup is quite clever: visitors get to do a free abroad volunteer program, while the locals get exposure to native English and get to interactively practice with them.
It is more than just hanging out and speaking English, of course. Volunteers are expected to be active participants in the many activities, which rotate on an hourly basis. You might have one-on-one conversations with some English learners, or perhaps you would help out with a themed group session, or maybe even do part of the evening entertainment for everyone.
Of course, it’s most likely that you will help out with a little of everything. You don’t need to have a specific professional background; you just need to be a native English speaker. Of course, this is not a great placement for someone who is looking for some peace and quiet -- instead, you should be someone who loves to socialize and have active, diverse fun.
There are a variety of venues that you could volunteer at, although most of them are in larger cities that you might be interested in visiting anyway. This includes Madrid, Munich, and Frankfurt, among other locations that are perhaps lesser known but make for fantastic locations for free volunteer abroad programs.
The timing of your volunteer placement can also be quite flexible -- there are weeklong sessions throughout the year, generally ranging from 6 days to 8 days, with some variation mixed in. It’s important to remember (and is emphasized on their website) that this isn’t a teaching position. It’s a talking position, and volunteers are expected to talk a lot in order to have a free stay.
Hostel Travel Jobs is exactly what it sounds like. It is a platform that connects you with hostels around the world that are in need of some temporary help. Although it does not exactly provide the free volunteer abroad opportunities that many of the other sites in this article do, it is still something to consider if you are looking for a way to afford an extended stay in another country.
You can check out the jobs they have posted under “Recent Jobs,” allowing you to see what the newest opportunities are. The work available varies greatly, especially considering the fact that it advertises primarily hostel jobs. You could work as a housekeeper, a receptionist, a host or hostess, night shift crew, a manager, or even an English teacher to Buddhist monks!
So, with that in mind, it’s important to remember that Hostel Travel Jobs has more than just jobs in the hostel or hotel industry. Most listings offer accommodation and some or all meals in exchange for their volunteers’ work.
The beauty of this website is that each listing has very simply and clearly indicated what exactly you can expect. For example, if the free volunteer work abroad includes accommodation and breakfasts, it will say it right there – you just have to glance at the listing to know. It’ll mention if it is part time or full time right at the top, and will say what your accommodation will be like.
Hostel Travel Jobs is likely one of the cheapest options for free volunteering abroad available out there – it only costs 6 Euros for a premium lifetime membership! At that cost, it’s well worth giving it a shot.
This website is a little bit different from the others, if only because it is more of a blog than it is a platform to connect you with free volunteer abroad opportunities. That being said, it has a tremendous amount of resources that will help any future volunteer find their perfect program.
Perhaps the best thing about this website is that it is well-organized and informative without making you really search for all the details. For example, you can select lists of free volunteer opportunities abroad based on the geographic location – there is a list of organizations in Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America.
Of course, if you’re looking for free volunteer abroad programs in North America or Europe, then you’re out of luck with True Travellers Society. If you’re looking for one in the regions listed, however, you will find this website to be an excellent resource.
Each organization’s link comes with a brief description about the most important information about that program. If you need to be able to work with kids or ride horses, this website will mention it. If nothing else, it should help you easily short list your top ten possibilities when deciding on a free or low cost volunteer abroad program.
Volunteer Latin America is another free and low cost volunteer abroad organization that is specifically focused on one region of the world: Latin America. As soon as you visit their website you will realize that this is a company that takes itself seriously – even better, it clearly lists your various options (learning Spanish abroad or volunteering abroad, and what the benefits of each program are).
Volunteer Latin America strives to do most of the work of organizing for you, giving you time to focus on what you are really interested in: volunteering and traveling. Its mission is to do this without making you pay an arm and a leg for it. As soon as you go to the membership options, you’ll see that their philosophy holds true – membership is quite affordable.
You can either sign up to be a basic member or a premium member, with the former costing 9 British Pounds and the latter costing twice that amount. Both membership options are valid for two full years, with the main difference between the two being the fact that the premium membership gives you some more additional support.
If you are someone who prefers to plan things on your own, a basic membership is already enough – it gives you full access to all of the low cost or free volunteer abroad projects, and gives you the flexibility you need. Premium membership is better for people who haven’t traveled much on their own or haven’t volunteered abroad before.
Once you register and pay for your membership, you will have access to the full listings. You can easily search their information by choosing a specific country you would like to work in, a category of projects, or other kinds of keyword matches.
Once you find a listing that looks good to you, you can contact that organization directly. If they accept you, you can get started on making plans! Remember that different projects have different costs, perks, and duration requirements – for example, some may charge something like $10 per day to pay for your accommodation. Others might pay for everything – including your flights!
The variety of projects on Volunteer Latin America is really impressive – you can find just about anything, as long as you would like to work somewhere in the Latin American part of the world. Another great aspect to this site is their commitment to the environment – even the catch phrase on the top of every page is “volunteering abroad shouldn’t cost the Earth.”
This gives you a good place to start with when you’re researching your free volunteer abroad programs, but it is by no means a comprehensive list of all the options that are available to you. For example, there are a number of country-specific or project-specific organizations that can offer you enjoyable experiences for free or at a very low cost.
For example, there are organizations that specialize in sea turtle conservation, but are located all over the world. On the other hand, there are organizations that are only located in New Zealand or Bolivia and have options for free or low cost volunteer opportunities abroad in a variety of different project areas.
In this way, it might be a better idea to narrow down your search that way. Begin by asking yourself, “what would I like to do as a free volunteer abroad?” Or even “what part of the world would I like to go to?” If you can answer one or both of these questions, you can open up a huge number of other options to choose from.
So, whether it’s protecting newly hatched turtles while they make their way to the safety of the ocean or it’s working in the tightly knit community of a kibbutz in Israel, your options are only limited by your own imagination and flexibility. It seems obvious, but even doing a simple Google search for your specific country or area of interest can make a world of difference in your search for free volunteering abroad.
In any case, this list is enough to show you that doing free volunteer work abroad does not have to cost you a very large amount. If you are working for free, after all, why should it be unaffordable to you? You don’t need to go through the huge companies that offer a vast amount of support and services to find a high quality, safe, and once in a lifetime experience.
If you are someone who has been through this searching process before, maybe you can share some expertise with the community. Can you think of any free or low cost volunteer or work abroad organizations around the world?
Chapter 3: Paid volunteering Abroad – free flight, free room, free food
We have just learned how to get free volunteering and what the limitations are of free volunteering. In this chapter, we will discuss paid volunteer abroad programs. Many of these programs will give you free airfare and a free room. However paid volunteering programs have some limitations.
Many paid volunteer opportunities do exist. Many paid volunteer abroad programs are funded by the government or by large international humanitarian organizations. Paid volunteer programs offer the same exciting opportunities for volunteering, personal growth and skill-sharing as other volunteer projects, but they also cover all your related expenses and offer a salary or living allowance on top of everything else. The catch is that particular qualifications and/or experience are usually required, and competition for places can be intense. There may be a minimum time commitment requirement.
A few popular paid volunteer program
The Peace Corp is a volunteer program created in 1961 to deepen cultural understanding between Americans and citizens of other countries. This mission is achieved through the provision of technical assistance that contributes to economic and social development. Around a quarter of a million Americans have served in the Peace Corps, in over 130 countries around the world.
Return international travel costs are fully covered, along with medical/dental Insurance fees, and volunteers receive both a modest regular living allowance to cover daily expenses, as well as a decent lump sum of cash when they complete their service term.
Volunteers must make a long term commitment – 2 years plus an initial training period, which totals around 27 months. The screening process is very thorough and time consuming, so expect to apply at least nine months before you'd like to depart. Finally, many projects only recruit volunteers with specific qualifications, educational backgrounds or experience. Learn more >
A great chance to get directly involved with community work in several areas –education, the environment and agriculture – while gaining experience that will boost any resume. Couples are welcome to apply, and all volunteers get to choose where they go and what they do. An allowance –around what a local graduate would earn – is paid to volunteers to spend on things like personal toiletry items or social activities, as both food and housing costs are covered by the organization.
Long term volunteer opportunities are restricted to professionals with relevant training and experience. (Potential volunteers aged 18-25 can apply for a place on the short-term International Citizen Service (ICS) program). Participants must pay for their own airfare.
UN Volunteers is the organization responsible for recruiting and placing willing helpers into development programs operated by the United Nations. Established in 1970, each year more than 7000 people participate. Around 75% of all volunteers are themselves from developing counties, some being local to the area where a project is running. This reflects the focus on promoting social, economic and cultural growth through volunteering at a grassroots level.
30 month placements allow volunteers to experience true immersion in a country and project, which they are carefully matched to, based on their professional experience, abilities and background. All volunteers get a settlement allowance, and a regular living allowance which covers housing, utility charges, daily living expenses, comprehensive insurance and return airfare.
Opportunities are limited for anyone without certain desirable skills or qualifications. (Currently: a university degree or equivalent; 2+ related work experience and a decent level of either English, Spanish or French, and personal qualities including an open mind and the ability to adapt to new situations easily). Although great for solo volunteers, here are fewer opportunities for those who want to bring their family along.
Other organizations offering paid volunteer abroad
Special volunteer paid volunteer abroad programs
In addition to government programs like the Peace Corps, VSO and others, there are some special paid volunteer programs funded by the government of the destination country to meet particular needs. Not only can you volunteer abroad for free, but various costs related to taking part in this kind of project are covered. In return, a longer time commitment is expected.
The 'English Opens Doors' Program - Chile
The 'English Opens Doors' Program is a joint venture between the Chilean Ministry of Education and the United Nations Development Program. It was developed to help improve the English language skills of children, which in turn should help to speed Chile's development in the 21st century.
In operation since 2002, this Pacific island based program was developed to improve the English language levels of students at all stages of the compulsory education system.
This is a challenging placement, without the creature comforts or access to supplies you may be used to, especially if placed on the outer islands. Basic housing is provided, along with return airfare from the USA, health insurance, meals, a monthly stipend to cover daily personal expenses and full support from staff.
Chapter 4- A few alternatives to paid volunteering abroad
Besides government funded paid volunteer abroad programs, there are a few programs that are not essentially volunteering programs but give you opportunities to travel, help, and explore. Many of these programs offer free tickets, free room, and food, in exchange for your work.
Teach English abroad
Teach English abroad programs are similar to paid volunteer abroad programs in many aspects. If you yearn to immerse yourself in a foreign culture for a year or two but need a regular income then teaching English as a foreign language is a great way to make it happen.
There are jobs available all around the world, and not all require previous experience or teaching qualifications. Second language skills are not usually essential, especially for entry-level jobs.
Most jobs expect you to commit to working for 6 -12 months, and many expect teachers to work very long hours, which may leave you short of time and energy to enjoy the country and culture you're living in. Also, be prepared for some pre-trip expenses, as more and more destinations now require foreign English teachers to have at least an undergraduate degree, while visa conditions may also need applicants to produce a (clean) national criminal record check and have this, plus their degree certificate verified as genuine.
- China is a growing market for TEFL teaching, and salaries are rising to reflect this.
- Most jobs provide accommodation, and apartments tend to be larger than those on offer in other parts of Asia.
- If money or gaining good experience is your priority, look for work in a language school. If you prefer a lighter schedule and have a decent resume, look at university-based teaching positions.
- College graduates flock to South Korea to take advantage of the relatively low cost of living/taxes and high percentage of disposable income.
- Experience is not necessary for entry-level work that pays enough for the average teacher to save 30-50% of their monthly salary. Accommodation is generally provided.
- The TALK program is open to undergraduates who have completed a certain percentage of their degree.
- Most language school jobs use recruiters to screen candidates. Use as many as you can and don't be pressured into applying for every job they suggest.
- A fascinating country offering lots of great food, history and cultural adventure. Taiwan is perfect for teachers with a TEFL qualification.
- Accommodation is not always provided but rates are reasonable and affordable on the average salary.
- Cities can be quite polluted but the countryside is clean and beautiful.
- Japan is a popular choice for both new and experienced English teachers, attracted to the rich cultural landscape and amazing food. The cost of living is fairly high, especially if living in the capital city, but the average starting salary should provide enough income for some travel adventures and a social life.
- It is possible to pick up extra work in Japan, whether that is through private tutoring, modelling, acting and so on.
- Most large language schools (e.g. AEON, ECC, Shane) recruit only from western countries, so check their websites for details of any interviews planned for your region.
- Teaching in Asian countries such as Cambodia, Thailand or Laos is a great way to explore, travel and fund a fantastic cultural experience, but it is difficult to save much on the salaries offered,
- Vietnam is becoming a good place to teach and save a little. Work permits are (officially) only issued to college graduates, and this rule is becoming stricter now.
- English teachers with previous experience and a relevant graduate degree have access to high paying tax-free jobs in theMiddle East.Accommodation is usually either provided or paid for via an allowance. TEFL teachers without enough experience or education for the top jobs can still find well-paid work in Saudi Arabia.
- In many areas of this region male applicants will find it easier to find well-paid work and experience a more relaxed lifestyle than foreign female teachers will.
Look atSouth Americanlocations if you are happy earning enough to cover your daily living expenses, have some kind of social life and travel domestically or to nearby countries. Though it's unlikely you'll save lots of cash, your monthly salary will be enough to guarantee a comfortable lifestyle. Learn more:
Combine getting a TEFL qualification with paid work
Although there are English teaching positions open to completely inexperienced native English speakers, securing a related qualification definitely opens more doors. If you'd like to get certified it makes sense to study while actually doing the job – especially as demonstrating your new skills in the classroom is often a part of the process anyhow. There are lots of companies around who offer either TEFL training followed by a guaranteed job, or run the course alongside the work placement.
Au pair: an alternative to paid volunteer abroad
If you are interested in spending some time abroad, want the opportunity to really immerse yourself in the language or culture, and also want or need to cover your expenses the best solution is to explore short term paid work options. These jobs may be temporary or seasonal but they offer you the unique chance to truly experience another country, in a way tourists cannot, along with practical experience to boost your resume and enough cash to cover your living expenses.
Work abroad as an au pair
If you are reliable, love children, find it easy to adapt to living with other people and have a sense of adventure this is a great option to consider. Working as an au pair abroad involves making a short-term commitment to care for a family's young children, and in some cases to do some light household chores. Au pairs work part time, leaving plenty of opportunity to go sightseeing, learn the host country's language – independently or in a language school, or pursue any other interests you may have.
There are thousands of positions available around the world, but specifically across Europe. This is great news for those nationalities - such as non-EU citizens - who have fewer opportunities to combine work and travel in that region. Au pairs are provided with a private bedroom and all meals, along with a monthly salary that could range from 75 – 450 Euros, depending on the country, and the hours they are contracted to work. Some au pairs will get the chance to travel for free with their host family. Both long and short-term au pair positions are available, so there's lots of choice and flexibility out there. From a few weeks to several months – you get to decide where and how long for you work.
Entry-level jobs – open to applicants without childcare experience and/or qualifications are harder to find, and pay lower salaries. Plus, if you choose to find work through a specialist recruitment agency you'll need to budget for the cost of their services – which include through checks on host families and support throughout your employment term.
If you have a clear vision about your future career path, and like the idea of getting some direct experience in an international setting then a paid internship offers the best of all worlds. Live abroad while gaining hands-on work experience and a salary to boot.
Internships abroad provide a unique opportunity to gain practical experience and make valuable contacts without losing out financially. Interns, who may be either under or post-graduate, are generally given an allowance that is more than competitive within the local economy.
Places on paid internship abroad schemes are very popular, so be prepared to fight off a lot of competition. Plus, many are restricted to applicants with a high-achieving educational record. Compared to volunteer abroad programs, paid internships usually have longer working hours and a more demanding workload.
Paid seasonal work
Bartending at a tropical beach resort, running an activity program for children, picking fruit and working at a stunning ski destination – these are just a few of the fun seasonal work opportunities available around the world. Applicants with proven experience and/or qualifications in areas like childcare, cooking or sport have more choices, but there are less financially lucrative jobs available to unskilled workers too.
There are lots of jobs offering decent rates of pay, and many also offer related perks such as free food and accommodation, a ski pass or access to leisure facilities. Additionally, seasonal work is often available in regions like Europe, where volunteer opportunities are often thin on the ground.
Seasonal workers are generally expected to work hard for several days a week, so time off may be limited or non-existent. While accommodation and food will probably be provided it is likely to be fairly basic. Finally, there are fewer opportunities for workers without any particular skills to offer
Chapter 5: More information on free flight, free food, free room while volunteering abroad
Flight is one of the biggest expenses when it comes to international volunteering. If you research online, you will realize that it is extremely difficult to volunteer abroad with flights included. There are only a few special group programs and high school summer programs that allow you to volunteer abroad with flights included. Additionally, some special programs such as the Peace Corps, VSO, and other long-term government programs allow you to volunteer abroad with free flights and accommodation.
Below are some Frequently Asked Questions on flights to you understand how to volunteer abroad flights included:
Is there any volunteer abroad program where flights are included?
Except for some high school group volunteer programs and other special projects, most volunteer abroad programs do not cover airfare. If the airfare is included, please take note that the program fee would be very high as the organization has already included a pre-determined (usually high) cost of flight. If you research online about cheap volunteering abroad programs including flights, you will realize that some of them cost more than $4000! It is usually cheaper for you to book your own airfare as you will have the freedom to book cheap, budget airlines and make your booking during promotional periods.
Do I have to book the flight ticket by myself?
Applicants that choose to not volunteer abroad with flights included often wonder how they can get the best airfare deal, especially if this is their first time traveling internationally. Please keep in mind that most volunteer organizations do not book air ticket for you. But worry not! This is due to the simple fact that you can easily find the best airfare by just doing some internet research. So, unless it is a volunteer abroad program including flights, you will have to spend some time researching among the airlines. Booking your flight ticket is very easy as you can do it online in just a few minutes!
Does the volunteer organization help to find cheaper airfare?
Please keep in mind that volunteer organizations usually do not have any special link with air carriers. They will therefore not be able to influence the price and get you a cheap airfare, even if it is with a local airline. You can find cheap airfare online just by doing simple internet research and comparing prices among different airlines, if you choose to not volunteer abroad flights included! There are also many websites such as Kayak and Trip Advisor, where you can compare the price of different airlines and save your time. These sites also sometimes offer you last minute deals for cheaper air tickets!!
How much does it cost for international flights?
The cost of an international flight is affected by many factors such as the season, airline, travel destination, and booking time. If you travel in high demand seasons such as Christmas or summer, the cost of airfare will go up as there will be a lot of people traveling for the holidays, including students. Your cost of flight will also go up if you book airfare at the last minute. It is best to plan carefully in advance to get the best flight deal possible and save up on your expenditure!
Where can I get cheap airfare?
Most volunteers that opt to not volunteer abroad flights included tend to book their airfare online. There are many websites that help you to compare prices between different airlines to go to your selected destination. Websites such as Trip Advisor and Kayak are excellent sources to compare flight deals.
Is there any airline that offers discount tickets for volunteers?
If you search for discounted airfare for international humanitarian workers, you will come across many sites such as Fly For Good, Safe Harbors, Wilcoxtravel , and to offer discounted flights for volunteers. You can check them out for the value deals prior to your trip preparation. However, our research shows that websites such as Cheap air, Kayak, and Trip Advisor are the best and most reliable sources to get the most excellent airfare deals.
How can I lower my airfare cost?
You can reduce your airfare cost significantly with careful planning and advanced booking. Never book at the last minute as flight costs will be very high as the departure date nears. It is highly advisable to compare the prices of different airlines online before choosing the best airfare. If possible, avoid planning your volunteer abroad trip in peak travel seasons as the travel costs will skyrocket! Some volunteers find it useful to create Google Alerts for last minute deals from airlines. You can also subscribe to fare alterations from sites such as Trip Advisor. You can find very cheap flight tickets from budget airlines such as Spirit to reduce your travel cost.
Is there any volunteer abroad program with free flights and accommodation?
Unfortunately, there are rarely ever volunteer abroad programs with free flights and accommodation. Please understand that volunteer organizations often do not get funding to run their programs and their overhead costs are covered solely through donations and program fees paid by volunteers. However, there are indeed a few programs where volunteers are provided with free flight and accommodation! These programs often need a long-term commitment, so check them out if you have plenty of time on your hands! Read more : Peace Corps, VSO, and World Teach.
It is indeed possible to volunteer abroad flight included, but we hope that this section has managed to convince you that you will get a better deal for your money by booking your own airfare. Just give yourself sufficient time to compare prices between different airlines and book in advance, you will be all set to go!
More information on Volunteering Abroad for Free
Volunteer abroad is privilege and a blessing – and one that anyone who participates in does not take for granted in anyway. Many have dreams of volunteering the world in a positive and developmental way, by giving back to the communities visited.
Volunteering abroad is the best way to get these cultural experiences that is entirely enriching to both you and the community you become a part of it. However, these dreams can easily be shattered when you realise that volunteering abroad comes with hefty price tag.
It seems ironic that in order to share your goodwill and positive vibes, you need to pay a whole heap of money. Larger international volunteering organisations have these fees in place to fund the programs they offer, covering costs from airport pick up with accommodation and meals.
These all-inclusive programs can be convenient as they take care of all the in-country expenses in one easy go. Yet, not everyone can afford such as conveniences.
Fortunately, there are other ways that you can volunteer abroad for free, or for very minimal costs. And in this case, the reduced expenses do not at all result in a lesser experience.
Reasons to find a free placement
Money is obviously the primary reason you need to find a free volunteer abroad opportunity. Budgeting in any aspect of life is difficult and tiresome, especially when it comes to travel and funding your dreams abroad.
The major benefit of free or inexpensive programs is that it makes volunteering abroad accessible to people of all lifestyles and budgets, rather than being an exclusive middle to upper class experience.
Aside from the money factors involved, there are other reason why volunteering abroad for free is such a great opportunity. Some of these reasons include:
Stronger involvement in the community
Because you are skipping over the step of being involved with a corporate volunteering organisation. This means that you are directly linked to the community and will make better connections.
Closer connection with host family
Because you will be directly contacting the people you are staying with and they will be your main source of information in the community. This gives you the chance to form an organic and natural relationship based on mutuality, rather than an arrangement through a corporate organisation.
Better grass roots development work
Because the programs you find when looking for free volunteering placements are ones that generally can’t afford to have a large international volunteer company involved, they are the ones the need the help the most. This means that you will be doing more genuine grass roots work in the community and will make a strong impact.
Things to be wary of when looking at free volunteer abroad programs
We’ve all heard the expression that the best things in life are free and money doesn’t buy happiness. But we’re also quite aware that in life, things generally don’t come free and if it seems too good to be true, unfortunately it probably is.
This can certainly be the case when finding a program that allows you to volunteer abroad for free. If you think you’ve found the perfect program, you definitely need to read that fine print with a large magnifying glass to make sure there aren’t costly catches.
While it can feel disappointing that you need to be so wary about finding a good free volunteer abroad placement, being cautious will absolutely pay off in the long run. It is the same with any aspect of going abroad that you always need to have an extra layer of caution to keep yourself safe and from entering dangerous situations. After all, it is much better to be safe than sorry.
The following list is just some things to keep in mind while looking free volunteer programs abroad.
1. Unexpected extra costs
such as housing or meal fares. It will happen with some programs that additional charges for food or bedding are outlined from the beginning.
This is reasonable, especially for long term free volunteer abroad placements in a developing community. However, you need to make sure that any of these charges are upfront and honest from your first contact with the program so that you avoid any nasty financial shocks at the end of your placement.
2. Gifts or requested donations
These are often expected by host organization or the site of your placement. It’s a good idea to prepare for this by having some fundraising events or donation rallies in your hometown before you go abroad. This way you can show up in the community with gifts and donations and make a positive first impression.
3. Disorganisation in the program management
It often occurs in developing community. You need to remember that the program structures in place are very different from those in the western world.
Therefore you should expect some level of disorganisation, but be cautious of programs that can’t offer you details on the daily structure and work expectations while you are there. Make sure you ask plenty of questions about wha
Questions to ask yourself
Deciding to travel and volunteer abroad means that you are probably quite self-aware and have questioned your motivations to seek out this type of adventure already. This is a positive reflection on your personal insight and a good quality to have.
When it comes to choosing the right type of volunteering abroad for free program, you really need to know yourself and your abilities to find what is right your personality and character. More importantly, when you are choosing a free volunteer aborad placement, you need to be discerning about the type of program you are getting yourself into.
Here are some questions that you ask yourself about every volunteer placement you come across the sparks your interest.
Are there any extra costs?
There may be additional costs for food, bedding, and transportation with some volunteer placements. Make sure these are outlined and you have all the information on them so that no expenses are hidden from you upon arrival.
Does the organisation seem legitimate ?
Do a background check on the company and see if they have any affiliation with international volunteer bodies. This will give you peace of mind that they have a solid reputation in the international community.
How do the reviews and testimonials sound ?
Unfortunately, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, especially reviews for this type of thing. In some cases companies will pay someone to write fake, positive reviews to boost their reputation. These reviews will be very general, often ultra-positive, and written in unnatural English with mistakes and errors. Genuine companies will have a range of honest reviews with both positive and negative feedback, and they sound be fairly recent.
Is the website informative and easy to read ?
The website content of the company says a lot about their work values and ethos. Their history, vision, and experiences should all be detailed and easy to find on the website. The contact details should also be easily accessible and there should be a range of images to look at too.
Is their written communication good ?
When sending emails and communication over written text, you can still get a very strong feel for the type of people who work at the company. Emails should be responded to timely with a positive and friendly tone. If you don’t feel comfortable with the type of communication you are receiving, look into another program.
Do they have a social media presence online ?
The best form of marketing in today’s global community is through social media. If the free abroad volunteer company you are looking into has a strong presence on Facebook or Twitter or an up-to-date blog, this is a very good sign. This means that they are putting in extra effort to be part of the global world and reaching out to more volunteers.
Factor in other expenses to your budget
Since you are keen to go abroad and volunteer in a new community, there is obviously going to be other expenses, such as the plane ticket you need to get yourself to another part of the world.
This expense alone is a poignant reminder that in order to volunteer abroad, you do require some financial security. Aside from the flight, there are other things to factor into your budget as well.
The following list outlines such as expenses, and you need to keep in mind that all of these will depend on exactly where you are planning to go for your free volunteering abroad placement.
Such as trains, buses, taxis, and airport transfers most likely won’t be covered by your placement, so you should budget for this for whole duration of your stay.
Vaccinations and injections
you will need to be safe and healthy in the country need to be organised before you leave and won’t be covered by the placement.
It is very important when going abroad, especially when going to developing countries. You will need to sort out travel insurance for the duration of your time away and make sure you budget for this.
Food and excursions
You want to undertake while you are abroad may not always be covered by your placement. While some meals are, if you want to go out with new friends you meet, you will need some extra cash. Similarly, if you want to go on a weekend trip somewhere, you should take extra money for this.
Top tips to get free volunteer abroad programs:
1. Look into websites that put you in touch with volunteer hosts
There are some really great volunteer networking websites available, such as WorkAway, HelpStay, and WWOLF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). For a small sign-up fee, these websites put you in touch with hosts in a variety of countries who are keen and willing to take on volunteers. In exchange for your skills and help, you get free accommodation and meals for a long or short term stay.
2. Contact local organisations directly
If you know of a local organisation that you want to work for in a specific country, try contacting them directly. This can be hit and miss and may take a few attempts, but it can really be worthwhile in the end if you make direct contact with the company. This way you skip over the step of going through an international organisation and paying administration fees.
3. Have a read of travel blogs
When you volunteer abroad you will be following in the footsteps of many people who have done it before you, and many of these people have written travel blogs. These have great money saving tips and advice on how to find a decent volunteer abroad program for free. You can even get in touch with the blogger and ask for more information.
4. Consider long term opportunities through the Peace Corp
If you are ready to embark on a long term adventure, consider volunteering through organisations such as Peace Corp or something similar. These programs involve more commitment, but you will certainly be taken to places in the world you have only dreamed of before. You also receive accommodation, meals, transport, and a paid stipend for you work.
5. Start networking to make the best decision
The internet truly is your best resource when looking into volunteering abroad for free. There are many discussion boards and forums that have lots of information for you to read. You can also start you own discussion thread to get tips and advice and make some strong networking connections in the international community along the way.
Thanks to globalisation, the internet, and travel opportunities being made more accessible to people from all walks of life, it is a relief to know that money doesn’t have to stand in the way of your dreams to volunteer abroad. Now is the time to take your skills and passions abroad and make a positive impact in a local community without the hefty price tag. These types of adventures are priceless and the experiences you have while volunteering abroad are entirely worthwhile.
Volunteer Abroad 101
- What is Volunteer Abroad?
- Why volunteer abroad?
- Is Volunteering really for Me?
- What is ethical volunteering?
- Volunteer Abroad Complaints
- What are the Most Popular Volunteer Abroad Places?
- How Can You Select the Best Volunteer Abroad Organizations?
- How can you make volunteer abroad experience rewarding?
- Cost/Money Matter
- How can I find free volunteer opportunities abroad?
- Why do I need to pay to volunteer?
- Health and Safety
- Host family
- How to prepare to volunteer abroad?
- Gift for project/host families
- In-country support or when you will be in field
- What is the daily schedule for projects?
- What are popular volunteer abroad project?
- How can you reduce the cost of volunteer abroad?