Cultural ExchangeExperiencesInterning AbroadVolunteer Abroad

How to plan to volunteer abroad

Volunteering abroad is both exciting and intimidating, but with careful research and planning, your trip can go smoothly and be packed with valuable experiences. 

When choosing the organization that you will work with, research into how they sustainably support and empower local communities and how they get their project ideas.

Sustainable Organisations

If they are in communication with the community and are producing positive results, these are indications of an organisation that is sustainable. Find an organisation that aligns with your own values and passions have an enriching experience abroad. To help in your search idealist.com contains wonderful volunteer opportunities all over the world. Globalteer is even on there! If you are passionate about helping animals, education initiatives, protecting the environment, or anything else, there is a project for you. Once you have chosen your organization and reached out to them, you may be asked to fundraise either for the organisation or to help fund your own trip.

Volunteering with Dogs in Peru
Volunteering with children in Colombia

Planning your trip

Planning a few months in advance will ensure that you have everything needed to enter the country. Before your trip, you will need to notify your bank and get any necessary vaccines, insurance, and visas. Also be sure that your passport will be valid for 6 months after your return date.

Cusco during June festivities
Water festival in Cambodia

Spending time abroad

Spending at least 10 days in the country will allow you to become involved in your volunteer work and experience the culture. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the cheapest days to book and fly. Next comes the exciting part of planning excursions and cultural events. Ensuring that you are touring the country in a sustainable way is an important part of this. Buying from local vendors, walking when possible, and reducing waste are all ways to help the local community.

If you are in Peru, exploring the Plaza de Armas, San Blas neighborhood, and the archeological site Sacsaywaman are all easy excursions from your hotel or our volunteer house. For longer tours, book with tour groups in person a lower price than those listed online. There are surely plenty of wonderful day trips from your city to learn cultural history and tour the country.

Volunteer with elephants in Thailand
Come volunteer with us!

Doing your research

Additionally, researching the area you are going will give you insight into the culture and way of life. Reading books and articles and watching documentaries can give you an idea of what to expect and see. It is important to understand peoples’ attitudes towards the land, food, clothing, and ways of life. Learning language basics will also help to ensure a smooth trip. Ordering food, understanding transportation, and making small talk while at your volunteering site are good goals for language practice. Using Duolingo and phrasebooks can help you learn language basics quickly. If learning a new language sounds stressful, don’t worry! You will pick up some phrases and understand more once you are immersed!

Volunteer at a temple
Volunteers at Machu Picchu

Packing for your trip

Next, make a packing list based on the activities you will be doing while volunteering and in your free time. There are many packing lists online and you can ask your organization for recommendations for what to bring and what not to. Be aware of cultural differences in dress, as some countries may be a bit more conservative. If you are going to a place like Peru or Cambodia, the weather varies greatly depending on whether it is wet or dry season, so be sure to account for this when looking at packing lists. 

After planning and packing and preparing, you can relax! Get excited for your trip and the work you will be doing!