2018 Volunteer Abroad Destinations + Best Programs & Projects
Where should I volunteer abroad? What volunteer abroad programs can I join and what are good volunteer abroad programs?
Sound like questions you’re asking?
Having supported more than 73,000 international volunteers on our affordable volunteer abroad programs, we know that when it comes to volunteering abroad, picking where to go is an important and exciting decision. It’s worth asking the questions and taking the time to get it right! And, we’re here to help!
International Volunteer HQ has a wide range of volunteer abroad opportunities in more than 35 destinations, so there’s a program to suit everyone’s motivations and skills. Whether you are a first-time traveler, a young professional, or a retiree looking to volunteer overseas, our service trips focus on responsible volunteering with positive outcomes for the local communities our international volunteers are immersed in, so you can set off, on what will be a life-changing trip, with confidence.
Create a plan and make 2018 the year you travel abroad and positively impact the country, culture, and community you visit. To help you make volunteering overseas a reality and not just a dream, we’re sharing some of our recommendations for volunteer abroad programs in 2018.
The Costa Rica volunteer program has proven time and time again to be one of our most popular destinations. Why’s that? Well, it could be the imagery of lush vistas, chasing waterfalls, or testing yourself on one of the many adventure sports opportunities. Or maybe, it’s the affordable flights, being immersed in the Costa Rican culture, and truly getting to know the friendly and passionate locals, as you work with them to create positive and sustainable outcomes for their communities. Regardless of the catalyst for the decision to choose Costa Rica as your volunteer destination, a transformative experience awaits you! The majority of projects are based out of San Jose, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Volunteers also have the option of volunteering on the Working With Children, Teaching English and Healthcare projects in Manuel Antonio, a popular beach town. Depending on the project you choose, you’ll be accommodated in a homestay or dormitory-style lodging. With between 40 and 80 volunteers starting in Costa Rica each month, there’re loads of opportunities for you to get to know a range of like-minded people from around the world. As you experience volunteering and exploring the country together, your fellow volunteers will quickly become important people in your life!
- 12 meaningful project options, including Childcare and Turtle Conservation
- Program fees from $345 for 1 week
- Projects based in San Jose, Manuel Antonio and throughout Costa Rica
I had the absolute best time in Costa Rica. There is so much to do in the country, so many beautiful places to see. The people are so welcoming to the volunteers and you feel so appreciated. I would go back and volunteer in a heartbeat, I had the best month there. Grace Chapman, Canadian, 19, volunteered in Costa Rica for 4 weeks
Bali has a culture and vibrancy that has captivated travelers for generations. Volunteers have the unique opportunity to go beyond the experience of typical travelers by immersing themselves in the Balinese culture, customs and way of life. As a volunteer, you’ll be led by an engaged local support team that ensures the volunteer work benefits the community and is sustainable long term. On the Bali - Ubud volunteer program you can choose between the Teaching, Kindergarten, Environmental Education, Healthcare Education, Construction and Renovation and Turtle Conservation projects (based on the island of Nusa Penida). Ubud, where the program is based, is the cultural, spiritual and arts hub of Bali. You don’t have to wander far for incredible sights and once you’ve worked up an appetite there’s a mouthwatering selection of incredible restaurants - it’s paradise for vegan and vegetarian volunteers! After all, this is the home of the Eat, Pray, Love movement. As a volunteer, you’ll have the opportunity to re-center your life and priorities, as you take on the Balinese approach to life!
- 6 meaningful project options, including Teaching and Construction and Renovation
- Program fees from $295 for 1 week
- Projects based in Ubud, while the Turtle Conservation project is based on the island of Nusa Penida
- Also, consider the Bali - Lovina volunteer program
My time abroad in Bali was one of the most incredible and life-changing opportunities I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never met so many wonderful people all in the same place, with the same desire to help a community. It was amazing to grow and learn more about myself while dedicating my time to teaching children English. Emma Daun, American, 19, volunteered in Bali - Ubud for 8 weeks
If the price is deciding factor for where you will volunteer abroad, then the Peru - Lima volunteer program can’t be beaten! Fees start from $180 for 1 week and include accommodation, meals, airport pick-up, an informative program orientation, access to your volunteer placement and 24/7 support from an experienced local team to help you get the most out of your time abroad. This program strives to make volunteering abroad an affordable option for anyone with the passion and drive to give back on a global scale. Arriving on the program couldn’t be simpler, with the program based in the capital city of Peru, you’ll be able to fly into Peru’s biggest airport be picked up and taken straight to your accommodation. You will stay with other volunteers, in either a volunteer house run by the local coordinator’s family or in a homestay. With between 5 and 20 volunteers starting in Lima each month, you’ll be able to make the most of the coastline location with beach days, surfing the breaks, or take a long weekend and have an altitude adjustment as you trek Machu Picchu together.
- 4 meaningful project options, including Medical and Special Needs/Childcare
- Our most affordable program with fees from $180 for 1 week
- Based in Peru’s capital city of Lima
- Also, consider the Peru - Cusco volunteer program
Volunteering for IVHQ in Lima, Peru was by far the best experience of a lifetime. I not only got to give back to the community, but I also had the pleasure of getting to know the Peruvian culture down to its core. Arletys Gomez, Cuban, 20, volunteered in Peru - Lima for 4 weeks
When IVHQ started 10 years ago founder Dan Radcliffe launched the first IVHQ program in Kenya. Since 2009 more than 4000 volunteers have given back on the program - so you can set off knowing you will be supporting a well established, sustainable program that has community driven outcomes at its heart. While volunteering in Kenya, you can choose from a wide range of volunteer abroad projects, including Teaching, Childcare, Sports Education, Music Education, Special Needs and Women’s Education. If you are wanting to volunteer in Africa then Kenya is an awesome option, with volunteers able to fill their days at meaningful placements and answer the call of the wild on their weekends. You can take a trip to the coastal city of Mombasa and relax against the pristine white coastline, or join your fellow volunteers for a safari and watch the migration of wildebeest and zebras, or spot a lion hunting on the savannah. You’ll never forget Kenya!
- 6 meaningful project options, including Childcare and Teaching
- Affordable program fee from $270 for 1 week
- Based in and around Nairobi
Kenya - what a breathtakingly, amazing experience. The culture is so vibrant and the people so kind and welcoming. Make the most of your time. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, put your phones down and take everything in. You’ll experience nothing like it again. Oh and definitely go on safari! Jazmin Tanerau-Love, Australian, 30, volunteered in Kenya for 2 weeks
You’ll experience the best moments of your life volunteering in South Africa! With two programs to choose from the hardest part will be deciding which one is right for you! Program fees for the IVHQ South Africa program start from $250 for 1 week and you’ll be based in Muizenberg, 30 to 40 minutes from Cape Town. On this program, volunteers can align their skills with, and give back on, the following projects: Teaching, Childcare, Surf Outreach, Sports Development and Computer Training. You can start your volunteer program on the first and third Monday of each month. If you are less flexible with the date you need to start the program, then the South Africa Table View program might be a better fit for you, as you can start this program on any Monday of the year. The fees for this program start from $265 for 1 week, and you’ll be based in Table View, 30 minutes from Cape Town. On the South Africa Table View program you can choose between the Surf, Skate & Swim, Kindergarten, Sport Development and Special Needs Care projects. On both programs, volunteers are accommodated in volunteer houses, which fosters a strong and lasting connection between volunteers. After all, you’ll be sharing what is a life-changing experience with each other and there’s no better basis for a friendship. Oh, and regardless of which program you choose, make sure you hike up the truly iconic Table Mountain - the envy-inducing photos alone make the climb worth it!
- Two programs to choose from and 9 project options
- Choose between the South Africa program and the South Africa Table View program
I cannot say enough about this experience. It’s very rare that you come home from something saying it was everything you expected, but this really was everything I expected and more. You will fall in love with South Africa. The people there are incredible and there is always something new to see or somewhere new to go. South Africa has my heart forever. Madison Schade, American, 19, volunteered in South Africa for 4 weeks
The IVHQ Sri Lanka program is based in Kandy - a spiritual and cultural hub. With the colonial-era city set around a picturesque lake, it makes for a stunning setting. Kandy is known for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, one of Buddhism’s most sacred shrines. At night the striking temple, lamp-lighting and lakeside setting make for a reflective atmosphere that’s worth putting up with the jostling crowd. As a volunteer, you’ll have the time and opportunity to go beyond the popular sights and truly get to know the quaint city and the people that call it home. The in-country team will provide local insight and volunteer support as you immerse yourself in the culture and community while giving back on your chosen project. You can choose from a wide range of volunteer abroad projects, including Teaching, Childcare, Special Needs, Elderly Care, Temple Renovation, Medical, Rural Community Development and Wild Elephant Conservation. As you explore on your weekends you’ll notice from Sri Lanka’s turbulent history, with the civil war ending in 2009 and the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, a stronger, brighter Sri Lanka has emerged. You’ll be amazed that one small island-nation can pack in so much, and the Sri Lankan people are now eager to share their beautiful country with you. You can tour modern Colombo set against the historical colonial buildings, traverse the soaring heights of the tea plantations down to the crystal clear waters of the coastline, or absorb the history of the ancient ruins and ponder the vibrant culture of today.
- 8 meaningful project options, including Temple Renovation and Wild Elephant Conservation
- Program fees from $285 for 1 week
- Projects based in and around the sacred city of Kandy
I loved this back to nature experience! It was deeply relaxing and rewarding at the same time. I met so many beautiful people, not just Sri Lankan, but volunteers from all over the place! This was a really connected experience, where I was blown away by the beauty and serenity of the area. Annie Winchcombe, Australian, 51, volunteered in Sri Lanka for 3 weeks
We believe that regardless of where you choose to travel in the world, you should be able to positively impact the community you are exploring. Our volunteer program in Portugal allows you to not only learn the culture and customs from the locals, but it also enables you to work together to drive the positive outcomes they want for their community. Match your skills and interests to one of the following project options - Construction and Renovation, Environmental Scuba Diving, Food Rescue Project, Wolf Conservation and Youth Support. The local team here are quintessentially Portuguese, passionate and friendly people that will go above and beyond to provide a support structure to help you make the most of your time abroad. With the program based in Lisbon, the capital city, you’ll be able to wander through the cobbled streets, make the most of the beautiful coast on your doorstep, and enjoy the buzzing cafe culture. If you like the mellow nature of coastal life and being in touch with nature and history, then the Portugal program is perfect for you.
- 5 meaningful project options, including Environmental Scuba Diving and Food Rescue Project
- Program fees from $375 for 1 week
- Based in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal
- If you are set on volunteering in Europe also consider the programs in Spain, Italy, and Romania
The IVHQ Portugal trip was absolutely amazing! Not only do I promise you will fall in love with Lisbon, you will also be gifted with a home-away-from-home-family in the local team. My favorite part of the trip was definitely seeing the intimate role we as volunteers play in community developments in Portugal, and the beautiful adventures we are allotted time to partake in throughout Lisbon. Emily-Marie Pacheco, Canadian, 21, volunteered in Portugal for 2 weeks
Ecuador is a standout destination in South America, but with two program options which volunteer opportunity is right for you? Here are the differences: The Santa Elena volunteer program is based on the Pacific Coast and is close to some of Ecuador’s best beaches! There are six volunteer projects to choose from - Environmental Education, Kindergarten, Sports Education, Community Development, School Break and Teaching English. Program fees start from $315 for 1 week and between 5 and 20 volunteers start this program each month. The fusion of urban and rural makes for a vibrant community to be immersed in, pair that with warm temperatures and blue skies for a truly remarkable volunteer destination. Whereas, the IVHQ Ecuador - Quito volunteer program sits high in the Andean foothills at an altitude of 2,850m. Being based in the capital city, there’s always something happening. You can choose between 10 projects, including Teaching English, Street Children Work, School Support, Kindergarten, Music, Physical Education, Community Development, Shelter Support, School Break and NGO Support. Volunteer placements are located in Quito and surrounding urban and rural areas, approximately 45 minutes out of the city. Program fees start from $290 for 1 week and between 10 and 20 volunteers start this program each month. So are you more of a beach person, or do you like the soaring heights of the city? Or do you prefer the project options of Santa Elena or Quito?
- Choose from two volunteer programs and more than 16 project options
- Consider volunteering on the Ecuador - Quito program or the Ecuador Santa Elena program
Before coming to Ecuador I never imagined how beautiful the people would be or how kind and generous the staff are. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to come here and work alongside amazing people who truly care about the impact they are making on the world. My family is amazing! They welcomed us with open arms and teach us every day about Ecuadorian culture. I definitely feel like I am part of the family. Colleen Irwin, American, 22, volunteered in Ecuador - Quito for 3 weeks
Volunteers can explore the history and bustle of old Kathmandu on one day and soak up the mountainous scenery of Pokhara the next, all while enjoying the hospitality and kindness that Nepal is famous for. The IVHQ Nepal volunteer program has volunteer placements located in four main areas within Nepal – Kathmandu, Chitwan, Chitlang, and Pokhara - each with its own appeal. Kathmandu is the energetic capital city, Chitwan is located in the middle of a flat fertile plain that borders India and stretches right across Southern Nepal, Chitlang is rural getaway located in mid-hills along the Mahabharat range, and Pokhara is a popular tourist destination, renowned for its amazing mountain views. Regardless of where your specific skills and interests take you, Nepal is a country on the rebuild and your energy supporting incredible local projects is highly valued by the community. You can match your skills with one of the following projects, Teaching English, Childcare, Construction and Renovation and Medical Elective.
- 5 meaningful project options, including Teaching English and Construction and Renovation
- Program fees from $250 for 1 week
- Projects based in and around Kathmandu, Chitwan, Chitlang, and Pokhara
I had an amazing experience volunteering in Nepal through IVHQ. This was my first volunteer project and the opportunity to teach in another country was unforgettable. I met other volunteers from all over the world and made some great memories with them. Nepal is such a beautiful country filled with peaceful and friendly people. I really enjoyed my time there, and I’m already planning my trip back. I highly recommend going! Holly Hutton, American, 30, volunteered in Nepal for 3 weeks
Whether you have 1 week or 24 weeks to commit to volunteering abroad, IVHQ and our local teams will ensure that you are contributing to sustainable and impactful projects by building on the work of previous volunteers and paving the way for those to come. For more information, see our full range of volunteer abroad programs.
Latest Blog Posts
Take this quiz to find out which program is the best fit for you, and your career path…
“Volunteering abroad on her gap year, IVHQer Kelly, was exposed to the school of life. Here’s why she thinks taking a gap year abroad should be a must-do for all high-school graduates.”
“Here’s all the advice and tips you need to know about volunteering in the Philippines, from someone who spent 5 months volunteering in Palawan.”