free volunteer abroad

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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 volunteering abroad? Are you wondering if there are any free volunteer abroad programs that will allow you to use your compassion to help make the world a better place at very little or no cost to you?

In this article, we will explore all aspects of free volunteering abroad, and at the end of this article we have added a comprehensive volunteer abroad guide for you to help you start your dream volunteer abroad journey.

This comprehensive Guide to Volunteering Abroad” is jam-packed with invaluable information so you can begin your life-changing adventure without any hesitation. From getting started to traveling overseas and then returning home, you’ll discover all the guidance you need to ensure it’s a seamless abroad adventure from the beginning to end.

You can also watch the video version of the guide or download it for free.

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to International Volunteering
  • What is volunteer abroad?
  • What are the expenses associated with it?
  • Why would you need to pay for volunteering abroad?
  • Chapter 2: How to find free international volunteer programs
  • What is a free volunteer program?
  • How can I find free volunteer abroad programs?
  • How can I check the legitimacy of an abroad volunteer organization?
  • More information on volunteering abroad for free
  • The world’s 10 best free volunteer organizations for free programs
  • Chapter 3: Alternatives to Free Volunteer- Paid volunteering Abroad
  • Popular paid volunteer opportunities
  • Specialized paid international Volunteer Programs
  • Chapter 4: Alternatives to Free volunteering – Paid travel & work program
  • Teaching abroad
  • Au pair
  • Paid internships
  • International seasonal work
  • Chapter 5: Comprehensive mini-volunteer guide

What is volunteering abroad?

Let’s start the article first by understanding what volunteering abroad is.

Volunteering abroad is an opportunity where volunteers travel to developing countries to help and make difference. Volunteer opportunities are emerging as an alternative form of travel as it gives you the opportunity to travel, cultural immerse yourself, and development yourself as a person.

Unfortunately, volunteering abroad is not free, and if you do internet research you will find hundreds of companies offering abroad programs that cost between $200-$2000 for 2 weeks of volunteering.

What are the expenses associated with volunteer work abroad programs?

When you think of volunteering abroad, you may only think of the program feesthat volunteer organizations charge which mostly covers your room and food. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, the program fee will not cover all expenses involved in your abroad opportunity. You still need to arrange extra money for your airfare, insurance, vaccination, visa, and other personal expenses.

Here’s a list of expenses associated with volunteering abroad:

Program fee: this is the fee charged by volunteer organizations for joining a volunteer program. The program fee mostly covers room, food, airport pickup, insurance and other minor expenses. How much you pay for the program fee varies by volunteer organization, duration of stay, volunteer project you join, country of choice, etc. It can cost anywhere from $200- $3000 for 2 weeks.

Airfare: Your program fee will most likely not cover airfare. Airfare is a major cost and depends on many factors like the destination you are travelling to, the season, airline, and booking date.

Insurance: A few volunteer companies who charge higher fees most likely cover your insurance as part of your program fee. However, the majority of companies who charge lower program fees do not cover travel insurance for the duration of your time away. Depending on the level of coverage an insurance company could cost you between $2 and $5 per day.

Vaccinations: While volunteering abroad, it is very important obtain both required and recommended vaccinations for your health and safety. Vaccinations also have a significant cost. How much it costs depends on the type of vaccination you need. You can do internet research to find the exact cost for countries your interested in traveling to.

Visa: Most international volunteer organizations run volunteer programs through a tourist visa. Your program fee won’t likely cover the price of the visa. The cost of the visa will depend on your stay in the country and where you are traveling to. You can generally expect anywhere between $1 and $5 per day for a visa.

Additional program costs: Most volunteer organizations offer airport pick-up service. However, you will still need to pay for your airport drop-off and other daily costs like commuting to your volunteer project.

Extra personal spending money: Most volunteer programs cover your room and food, so you do not need a lot of pocket money. However, when you travel over the weekend, plan to purchase personal food and drinks or have any other personal travel expenses – these do require extra money. You should expect to bring somewhere between $20 and $100 a week, depending on the country and how often you plan to do extra activities.

In-country transport 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.

Why does it cost so much to volunteer abroad? Why isn’t it 100% 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? Shouldn’t your time and energy be compensated with free room and board?

These are very good questions. However, after doing careful research, you’ll realize that volunteering abroad programs are much closer to traveling abroad programs. Volunteer organizations do not get any external funding or Government support to run the program. Because of that, they need to charge you the program fee to cover the following expenses required to run volunteer programs:

Here are major expenses that incurred while running a volunteer abroad program:

Expenses associated with office/business

  • Rent
  • Salary
  • Utilities
  • Advertisement
  • Travel to develop program
  • Associate costs of businesses like taxes and 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: What are free volunteer programs and where can I find them?

What is a free international volunteer program?

First let’s define international volunteering: international volunteering is an abroad humanitarian trip usually to developing countries where you travel to volunteer your time, skills or labor to a local community project. These programs are normally a minimum of one week, and cost between $200 - $3000 for two weeks of volunteering + personal or additional expenses.

Free international volunteer programs allow you volunteer internationally at a low- or no-cost to you.

how to search volunteer abroad for free

How can I find free volunteer abroad programs?

While free volunteering programs aren’t as common as pay-to-volunteer programs, you do have options available! You may skip this and the next few sections to read ahead about the ’10 best free volunteer organizations,’ which gives you a straightforward list of credible volunteer agencies who are sure to provide you with a quality experience.

However, if you would like to know more about how you can research free volunteer opportunities and what to look for in selecting a program – keep reading! We recommend you keep a list or create a spreadsheet to compare and contract volunteer agencies while doing your google research.

Here’s some tips for finding free international volunteer program through independent research:

how to search local organization to free volunteer

Contact local organizations directly

You may venture to nonprofit directory websites like These websites list non-profit volunteer opportunities worldwide and allow you to contact local organizations directly.

Talk to your friends who have volunteered or lived abroad

You can ask your friends about local opportunities and get organization contacts from people they’ve worked with. What’s more, they will be able to give you a much better idea of what its like to volunteer in that country, area, or with that project.

Utilize social media or travel forums

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.

Take advantage of your Twitter account! Ask people if they know of any opportunities. Even if your immediate first-degree contacts do not, they could connect you with some of their friends who do. You can also post on Quora or Facebook groups in search of opportunities

Network where you are if you’ve already started traveling

If you have already hit the ground running and you are currently traveling abroad, use your 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.

Narrow your search by searching for either country-specific or project-specific free volunteer opportunities

If you narrow your search in this way, you will discover lesser known programs that you may not have been able to find otherwise. 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 abroad program search!

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.

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.

How can I check the legitimacy of an abroad volunteer organization?

Be wary of free volunteer programs when doing research. While we’ve all heard the expressions “ the best things in life are free” and “money doesn’t buy happiness” things generally don’t come free; if it seems too good to be true, unfortunately it probably is.

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. Taking caution in your research will pay off in the long run as it will prevent you from entering dangerous situations. Failure to do enough research and just choosing the free volunteering abroad option without serious background checking, could endanger your safety, ruin your volunteer experience, or waste your time and money.

Here’s a list of things you immediately want to look out for when researching and selecting your volunteering organization.

Ask yourself how the organization is able to offer free volunteer opportunities

You may start your research by finding out why that organization is offering free volunteer abroad programs when other volunteer organizations need program fees to run operations and to host volunteers. You may ask the following questions: Where does this organization get their funding from? How do they pay room/food for volunteers? What are the benefits of offering free volunteering abroad programs?

Double check what’s financially expected from you as a volunteer

Ask what parts of your experience are free, whether there are program or registration fees, and who pays for your housing and food. Ensure that there won’t be any unanticipated costs upon arrival or departure including expectations for donations or gifts. Be direct with your organization and ask specific questions. If they hesitate to give you information of have hidden fees, you likely don’t want to volunteer through them anyway.

You may also ask yourself: what will be the full cost of my experience once I’ve completed my program? When you look at your overall budget for a “free” volunteering abroad experience, it may be the same if not more than a fee-based program that includes housing, transportation, food, and more peace of mind.

Analyze the program’s mission and commitment to local causes

Any good volunteer agency should have a professional website with a clear mission statement and outlined values. They should tell you specifics about how their local projects, programs, and causes contribute to the community. If they don’t offer that information or can’t provide adequate details, chances are that there won’t be real impact in what you’re doing.

Research the organization’s history and legal standing

Most organizations that offer free volunteer overseas programs are small agencies, therefore it’s really important to know how long they’ve been established, whether they are registered with local government officials, and if they’ve hosted other volunteers successfully. They should have a website with a clear “About” section that includes a mission, vision, or organizational values. Look for affiliations with volunteer bodies, past awards, recommendations from trustworthy sources, and listings in volunteer directories.

Read reviews and travel blogs of the past volunteers

Reviews don't all have to be positive, but the majority should be. Think about the legitimacy of the online review – do the comments 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 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.

Check their website for up-to-date and clear information

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.

Evaluate the agency’s ability for communication

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.

Make sure that your organization has worked with other volunteers who have had good experiences

Search the organization’s website for pictures or testimonies from other volunteers. If they don’t have a website or their content is outdated, request previous volunteer information. They should give you this information without hesitation. If they can’t offer previous volunteer information, that’s a huge sign that they don’t have experience or can’t offer the program type they are suggesting.

Analyze the program’s organization and past experience

Volunteer agencies offering free volunteer programs may not have the experience or staff to provide an organized experience, which comes at a cost to you. Make sure you ask plenty of questions before committing to a program and decide for yourself if the agency seems like an experienced agency.

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 realize 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 organizations 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.

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.

Unexpected extra cost

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.

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.

Disorganization 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 disorganization, but be cautious of programs that can’t offer you details on the daily structure and work expectations while you are there.

The world’s 10 best free volunteer abroad organizations

Legitimate volunteer organizations that offer free experiences may be harder to find than you expect. To help kick-start your research endeavors, we’ve listed some of the best organizations that offer free or low-cost volunteer abroad work opportunities.

The following are credible organizations who have given volunteers high quality experiences:

Help Stay

Help Stay

Help Stay connects hosts with international volunteers. The HelpStay agreement is this: dedicate a few hours a day helping out the hosts, and they will give you food and accommodation in return. They have a wide range of hosts looking for helpers in a variety of places: farms, households, art retreats, eco-villages, backpacker hostels, surf lodges, vineyards, ranches, schools, monasteries, kibbutzim, and more.

The only fee you pay is 30 Euros ($33) for one year of individual membership, or 50 Euros ($55) for one year of a dual membership (either a couple, two friends, or a family). Once you have paid this 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, an acronym that stands for “Worldwide 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 amongst the backpacking crowd. You may have even heard of people who volunteer in this program referred to as ‘woofers.’ Similarly to HelpStay, WWOOF offers an online database for free volunteering opportunities abroad, so your experience 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, rather than just paying one fee to access the site, you must pay an individual membership for each country you would like to visit. 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. Volunteers with MovingWorlds are referred to as “experteers,” and they volunteer with existing skills that will make the highest positive impact possible in their destination.

If you decide to embark on an experteering trip , you can filter your searches by country, by skill, or cause. 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.

Free Volunteering

Free Volunteering

Free Volunteering has a wide array of free volunteer abroad opportunities available. Incidentally, it is powered by HelpStay (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.

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 HelpStay fees when you actually get into a project you would like to partake in. These fees include about 30 Euros ($33) for a one-year individual membership or 50 Euros ($55) for a couple, pair of friends, or 2-person family. This one-time fee that allows you do to all their programs for free from then on.


work Away

Workaway is all about cultural exchanges. This organization emphasizes making a difference in the communities you are visiting, rather than only providing a low cost volunteer abroad program. Part of the appeal of Workaway is the massive network of hosts and “ workawayers ,” or other volunteers.

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 seemingly endless.

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 supporting a family 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 overseas volunteer 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 HelpStay. While it is less specific and less regulated than other websites, HelpX has a hugely expansive network of hosts and locations.

HelpX requires just one paid registration per year to access all of its locations around the world. That makes it an extremely low-cost volunteering abroad organization, although it is technically a work exchange rather than a volunteer program.

Helpers can expect to work between three and six hours every day they are staying although ultimately this depends on a lot on the host. 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 ($22). 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.



Diverbo is different from the other free overseas volunteer organizations in that it only has programs 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. 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.

The timing of your group’s 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

Hostel Travel Jobs

Hostel Travel Jobs is exactly what it sounds like. It is a platform that connects you with hostels around the world that need 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. Most listings offer accommodation and some or all meals in exchange for their volunteers’ work.

Each listing on this website has simple and clear outlined expectations. 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 ($7) for a premium lifetime membership ! At that cost, it’s well worth giving it a shot.

True Travellers Society

True Travellers

This website is different from the others because it is written in the style of a blog. That being said, it has a tremendous amount of resources that will help any future volunteer find their perfect program. 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.

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 program.

Volunteer Latin America

Volunteer Latin America

Volunteer Latin America is another free and low-cost abroad volunteer organization that is specifically focused on one region of the world: Latin America. 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. To help you understand this, they even list the difference of learning Spanish abroad verses volunteering abroad what the benefit of each program type is.

Volunteer Latin America’s 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 ($12-25)

If you are someone who prefers to plan things on your own, a basic membership will give you full access to all of the low cost or free international volunteering projects. 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. Remember that different projects have different costs, perks, and duration requirements.

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.”

Hopefully this has given you a good starting place for researching your own free volunteer abroad program, 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.

In above chapters, we discussed the possibilities of free volunteering, its limitations, and provided you with a list of things to be wary of when selecting an abroad volunteering organization.

You’re not only limited to these free volunteering opportunities, though. There are also many paid volunteer programs out there in the world. In the following chapters, we will discuss different options for paid volunteering that may interest you.

Chapter 3: Alternatives to Free Volunteering - Paid volunteering Abroad

Let’s start this section by asking a few questions.

Many paid opportunities to work or volunteer overseas do exist. They are often funded by the government or other large international humanitarian organizations. These 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 also be a minimum time commitment.

Here’s a list of the popular paid volunteering abroad programs to help get your search started:

The Peace Corps

The Peace Corp is a paid volunteer abroad program that was created in 1961 to deepen cultural understanding between Americans and citizens of other countries. Their 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.

Plus Point

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 >

Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO))

Since 1958 this UK based organization has been working to rid the world of poverty by providing people with a way to work together on development issues. Although it was once easy to get a place on a VSO scheme, regardless of your experience or background, since 1980 only skilled and professional applicants are considered for this paid volunteer abroad opportunity. However, an alternative program (ICS) is in place for undergraduates who would like to get involved.

Plus Point

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

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.

Plus Point

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 that offer paid volunteering abroad opportunities

Volunteering for International Development from Australia (AVID)

Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst (DED)

European Voluntary Service and

Specialized paid international volunteer opportunities

In addition to government programs like the Peace Corps, VSO and others, there are some special paid volunteer abroad programs funded by the government of the destination country to meet particular needs. Not only can you volunteer 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.

The 'World Teach' Program – The Marshall Islands

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. Paid abroad volunteers go 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: Alternatives to Free volunteering – Paid travel& work programs

Besides government funded paid volunteer abroad programs, there are a few programs that are not technically volunteering programs, but give you opportunities to travel, help, and explore. Many of these programs offer free airfare and accommodations, in exchange for your work.

Teaching English abroad

English teaching abroad programs are similar to paid volunteer overseas 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 that happen.

Plus Point

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.

Here are some of our top picks for alternatives to paid abroad volunteer teaching:

Paid teaching in China

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.

Learn more: Teach Away- Teach English in China

Paid teaching in Korea

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.

Learn more: Teach English in Korea

Paid teaching in Taiwan

A fascinating country offering lots of great food, history and cultural adventure. If you want to embark on a paid volunteer program abroad in Taiwan, you may consider teaching abroad instead. 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.

Learn more: EslcafeJoblist, Reach to teach recruiting

Paid teaching in Japan

Japan is a popular choice for both new and experienced English teachers as an alternative to paid abroad volunteering, 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.

Learn more: TEFL Jobs in Japan

Paid teaching in other Asian countries

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.

Learn more: EslcafeJoblist, ESL Jobs in Vietnam, TEFL One

Paid teaching in the Middle East

Although this option is not as accessible for people looking for paid abroad volunteer opportunities, English teachers with previous experience and a relevant graduate degree have access to high paying tax-free jobs in the Middle 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.

Learn more: Teachaway - Teach in Saudi Arabia

Paid teaching in South America

Look at South American locations 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.

Combine getting a TEFL qualification with paid work

If teaching abroad sounds like a good alternative to paid volunteer abroad work, you may consider working toward a TEFL certification. 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.

Learn more:

Experiential Programs -API

Teaching English Abroad -Transitionsabroad

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.

Plus Point

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.

Learn more: InterExchange Working Abroad , Aupair World , Find Aupair

Paid internship abroad

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.

Plus Point

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.

Learn more:

Work Experience Program - Allianceabroad

10 Paid Internships Abroad in Summer 2017 - Gooverseas

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.

Plus Point

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

Learn more:

Any work anywhere

Season workers

More information on flight, food, 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!

Chapter 5 Comprehensive mini-volunteer guide

Download Your Free Volunteer Abroad Guide Ebook

This comprehensive Volunteer Abroad Guide is jam-packed with comprehensive information so you can begin your life-changing adventure without a hitch. From getting started to living overseas and then returning home, you’ll discover all the guidance you need to ensure it’s a seamless process from the beginning to end.

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Comprehensive Guide to Volunteering Abroad

Welcome to IFRE Volunteer’s comprehensive guide for volunteering abroad! We have packed this guide full of invaluable information that will help you every step of your volunteer journey – from researching volunteer organizations to following through and continuing to support your volunteer project of choice.

In this comprehensive volunteer guide, we’ll cover the following topics:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction: Volunteering abroad
  • Chapter 2: Benefits of volunteer abroad programs
  • Is volunteering abroadthe right choice for me?
  • Chapter 3: Most popular volunteer abroad destinations
  • Chapter 4: Most popular volunteer abroad programs
  • Chapter 5: Finding your volunteer organization& applying for your program
  • How to find a credible volunteer organization
  • What to expect when you apply for your program
  • Chapter 6: Preparing for you abroad experience
  • Travel prep check list
  • Know before you go
  • In-country support staff&what to expect upon arrival
  • How to make your volunteer abroad experience rewarding
  • Chapter 7: Safety and Cultural Shock While Volunteering Abroad
  • Safety recommendations
  • Culture shock: what to expect
  • Chapter 8 : Completing your project and returning
  • Things to do and see while volunteering abroad
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Further reading

Chapter 5: Finding the best volunteer abroad organization& Filling out your program application

Searching for the best volunteer abroad organization

There are hundreds of volunteer agencies out there ready to help you have the best volunteer abroad experience. So, how do you know which one to choose? How you can be sure you’re selecting a trusted and credible organization that will offer you a good experience? How do you avoid companies who play the “middleman” or low quality free volunteer programs?

Selecting the volunteer abroad organization for you is extremely important because the decision affects your safety, budget and overall experience Here are few tips that should help you to choose a credible organization:

Check the organization’s website

The best organizations have clearly written information on their website without grammar or spelling mistakes, blogs with regular updates, and an “about us” section that explains the organization’s mission and goals. If they don’t have a website or are missing these key aspects, red flags should go up in your mind. You may also look for up-to-date photographs of previous volunteers and social media accounts where the company is actively engaging with its followers.

Check the program’s affordability and how they allocate program fees

Volunteer abroad organizations charge program fees ranging from $300.00 to$3,000 for a 2-week period. They should be clear about where those fees go – are they supporting the local project and host families? If the organization isn’t clear about where your money is going, you should probably second guess using them as your agency of choice.

Chapter 6: Preparing for your abroad experience

It may take a little while to hear back (normally between 1-3 weeks), but once you are approved to volunteer in your program of choice you will receive a confirmation of your acceptance and the details of your placement. This should include everything you need to know about pre-departure requirements, project details, itineraries and schedules, visa information, vaccination requirements, in-country office details, accommodation details, and more.

To help you out with your travel planning and ensure that you don’t forget anything during the planning period, I created this travel prep checklist just for you:

Travel Prep and Checklist

Visa:All countries with volunteer abroad programs require foreign citizens to have a visa before they can enter. Some countries issue these on arrival, but others don’t. In these cases, you must apply for the visa before you travel. If you are unsure about the visa situation for your destination country it’s best to check with their embassy website, or with the volunteer organization you are working with.

Passport: To enter another country for volunteering work abroad you are required to hold a valid passport with at least 6, (sometimes 9), months validity. Some require one or more pages to be blank and available for visa stamps, and most countries expect visitors to show proof of onward travel, such as a return air ticket or a bus ticket to a different country.

Vaccination : When travelling abroad it is best to protect yourself against any potential health concerns. Well before your travel date be sure to consult your doctor, the website of the Center for Disease Control or an official website for your destination country about which vaccinations you may need to have.

Flight : In most cases volunteers are responsible for sourcing and paying for their own airfare for volunteering trips abroad, so start looking for great deals as soon as you can. Set up alert notifications for cheap airfare comparison sites such as Orbitz, or Kayak as well as Google Flights and Skyscanner. Booking a round trip flight is generally cheaper, as is being flexible with your travel dates.

Chapter 7: Safety and Culture Shock While Volunteering Abroad

Is traveling and working in a developing country actually safe? What should I do to take safety precautions? What will happen if I experience culture shock?

Safety recommendations

These questions are legitimate and so incredibly important. Once you are accepted into your program of choice, it is likely that your volunteer agency will send a specific list of safety recommendation to you for your country. If they don’t, do independent research and ask a lot of questions. To help get you started thinking about how you can be safe while traveling abroad, here’ my top safety recommendations:

  • Read up on current news events and safety issues
  • Buy a good travel insurance policy
  • Don’t carry your original passport once in your country. Instead, make a photocopy.
  • Obtain contact details for local emergency services. Carry them with you always.
  • Register your travel details with your local embassy
  • Inform family and friends of your travel plans.
  • Don’t take any unnecessary valuable items with you.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and who might be watching you
  • Try to avoid standing around looking at maps and guidebooks
  • Respect the culture and dress appropriately to avoid unwanted attention.
  • Always carry your wallet and bags at the front of your body
  • Never leave bags or possessions unattended in public places

Chapter 8 : Completing Your Project and Returning Home

How can I continue to support my abroad volunteering program? What are some common concerns other volunteers have had? Will I have a chance to see other parts of the country?

Your volunteer program abroad will be an experience to treasure forever. Remember to take lots of photos of the places you visit, your host family and the people you work with in order to keep the wonderful memories fresh. They are also a great way to share your stories with your friends and family.

If you’re wondering how to volunteer responsibly, contribute to the development of volunteer programs by providing your organization and project with positive and constructive feedback, and writing honest reviews to help future volunteers. Sharing your memories on social media sites, or by email to the organizations involved (for them to use as a review or testimonial) or adding your experiences to volunteer discussion boards will really benefit others.

Talk to people from your project or volunteer organization about how you can offer remote support and help develop the program further. Keeping in touch is also a great way to monitor your project’s progress, and perhaps plan another visit.

Things to see and do while volunteering abroad

Whether you are looking for good food, shopping, nightlife, history, cultural immersion, action, adventure or relaxation, you will not need to look far to find it in the country you have chosen to volunteer in. During your volunteer placement make sure you take the time to discover the many wonders your new location has to offer.

Top destinations