Places still available for July & August - book now

40 Genius Tips From Real Volunteers


40 Genius Tips from Real Volunteers

When planning to volunteer abroad it can feel like you’re gazing into a crystal ball, trying to predict different aspects of your trip. How much research should you do? What should you pack? What should you do to prepare for your volunteer placement? How can you ensure you leave without any regrets?

When IVHQers complete a volunteer program, we seek their feedback to ensure we’re continually improving our programs. We also ask, “What do you think future volunteers should know to better prepare?” to assist those of you planing for your upcoming trip.

So ditch the crystal ball and keep reading as we reveal 40 genius tips from real IVHQ volunteers:

40 Quick Tips to Volunteering Abroad


“Read, read and read. Especially your IVHQ information booklet!”

“Volunteering in Latin America? Learn as much Spanish as humanly possible. Really.”

“Research the weather! When I thought Africa, I thought hot. However, it was actually pretty chilly! I knew I was going in the early spring season, but I thought shorts and a jacket would be enough. I know a lot of other volunteers made the same mistake.”

“Research the general area you are traveling and its culture. This is something I wish I had done more of when I planned my trip.”

“Learn some very basic phrases: such as ‘Hello, My name is, What’s your name? Goodbye, Excuse me, Can you help me?’”

“Volunteers should do what they can to prepare themselves, but also to know that one cannot prepare 100% for what will come. Volunteers will need to come with an open mind and be adaptable.”

“Tell your bank that you’re traveling, so they don’t block your account when you use local ATMs!”

“Make sure you bring the newest bills from your country. I had a difficult time exchanging money with older bills.”

“If you are wanting to take small weekend trips and explore, it is wise to know that you’ll be spending more than you think.”

“Join the various Facebook groups set up by IVHQ. I was able to connect with people and organize weekend trips before I arrived in country.”

Pack for the climate when volunteering with IVHQ

Pack Sensibly!

“Future volunteers should bring all types of clothes in order to be prepared for any weather.”

“It would be helpful to ask volunteers to bring a padlock with them for lockers.”

“Pack bug spray and sunscreen. These can be very expensive in places like Bali.”

“Leave space when you pack. I always forget, and PACK LIGHT!!!”

“Prepare appropriate clothing, wear clothes that are comfortable and light. Pack a big water bottle, and pack your suitcase at half capacity as you’ll want to buy a lot of local products at the market!”

“Bring hand sanitizer!!!!!”

“You don’t need as much stuff as you think. Plan on wearing clothes more than once.”

“Don’t pack too many gifts for the kids, as these can easily be bought locally and it helps the local economy!”

“It’s smart for volunteers to carry a few days worth of clothes in carry-on, as sometimes luggage gets delayed in transit!”

Volunteer in childcare in South Africa with IVHQ

On The Job!

“Volunteers need to have initiative. You need to understand that you have a responsibility to complete the job allocated to you. You should be prepared to turn up on time, apply yourself fully to the task at hand and tidy up after yourself like at home.”

“Patience, adaptability and an open mind go a long way to making this sort of experience a success. It is going to be what you make of it.”

“Try to prepare some sort of lesson plan or have an idea of what you are going to teach because you are just thrown in the classroom.”

“Just be yourself and throw yourself into the local culture. You will come out as a new and improved person.”

“Bring more worksheets as opposed to books - worksheets about days of the week, colours, crosswords, puzzles etc.”

“Come with a plan on what you wish to teach each day. Think of English games and songs to use beforehand.”

“Bring more games activities (so playground games) or download more teaching songs to use in class.”

“Be flexible and have patience.”

“If you sign up to a certain program be prepared to help where necessary, help where the need is! For example as a childcare volunteer, we were often required to help serve food or assist in the kitchen.”

“Teaching volunteers should prepare more resources like photocopies of worksheets etc. It can be hard to find places to print items or get them copied locally, especially if your placement doesn’t have any suitable resources or access to the internet, a computer or a printer. Be prepared that your placement may only have limited English. Don’t expect too much of the local children or yourself - take it slowly.”

IVHQ weekends in South Africa

In Country!

“WiFi can be unreliable (and sites including Gmail and Google Maps are blocked in China!). Save maps and screenshot information in case the WiFi doesn’t work when you need the information!”

“IVHQ makes it very clear that the culture is different compared to western standards. But still, I experienced major culture shock in my first couple of days. Future volunteers should know to just stay calm and work past it, because the experience soon becomes life changing and wonderful.”

“I think future volunteers should bring a small gift for their host family. Something from their own country that represents where they come from. You can bring your national flag for example.”

“Be prepared to see a different style of living wherever you go. You may find while volunteering that life is a bit slower than most western countries. This is what makes traveling and volunteering in a different culture so unique.”

“Prepare to have your life changed! Rough it some times, find ideas different than your own, change some of your opinions and views, and most importantly get ready for the best time of your life!”

“Please, bring your passports when checking into a hotel or hostel on a weekend trip! Simple!”

“Time volunteering flies by! Enjoy everyday no matter what. Some of the most memorable times are often the unplanned ones, or the ones that may seem small in comparison to seeing and doing all of the more touristy activities.”

“Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.”

“Don’t stay put. Every country is a magical land with so many different things to see, eat, try, experience and to fall in love with. Traveling within your volunteer destination is rewarding and really eye opening. The whole experience is not the same if you don’t explore.”

“Have fun and relax. You’re going to learn a lot about yourself and the local community. We are all just people with different languages, food, music etc! There is nothing to worry about!”

“Most importantly: you’ll meet some of the kindest, friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Everywhere we went the people were kind, even in places that not many tourists ventured.”

Discover more tips to assist in planning your volunteer experience on our volunteer resources page, or take the tips you’ve learnt above and apply them to one of IVHQ’s 40+ program countries around the world.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the Registration Fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!