Whether you’re philanthropically inclined or just looking to change up your next vacation, volunteering overseas is a great way to see the world while making a positive impact. While working abroad may not be for everyone, it offers up an opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes for a while, and to observe the realities of life in the farthest corners of the globe. Here’s a list of 13 best places where you can volunteer and do your bit to make the world a better place.
Australia and New Zealand
Conservation is the name of the volunteer game down under. With programs like Conversation Volunteers, eager travelers with a love of the outdoors can join a conservation team in any territory across the continent. For just a small fee to cover accommodation and food costs, volunteers can sign up for a residential program and serve for week-long blocks planting trees, constructing trails and assisting with heritage restoration.
Despite having one of Africa’s largest economies, South Africa also has one of the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate. Whether it’s working with the children of families affected by the disease or the victims themselves, volunteer programs here are established and in need of help. For a small program fee, choose to work at centers for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS through International Volunteer HQ or assist with adult HIV education programs through African Impact.
While riding on an elephant’s back may seem like the perfect adventure, the dark truth behind the treatment and abuse of these gentle giants is horrific. However, there are plenty of compounds across Thailand working to combat the tourist business and promoting the natural and healthy treatment of elephants. Join the cause and help to rehabilitate elephants at ethical sanctuaries in Chiang Mai with programs through GVI or Volunteer Solutions.
Home to over 1.3 billion people, 22 different languages and a whole host of different cultures, India is quickly gaining attention globally for its artistic and economic influence. Nevertheless, the country is also home to widespread issues concerning gender inequality and poverty, particularly in rural and low-income areas, where women can be subject to domestic violence and oppression when it comes to education, employment and even healthcare. Join forces with programs like Kaya Volunteer and Volunteering Journeys and assist in empowering these women through confidence building, education, and other key skills.
Topping lists for best beach destinations, this small Indonesian island has been inundated with tourists in recent years. In an effort to catch the local population up with the growing tourism industry, volunteers are needed across the country to teach English to children. Experience Bali’s local treasures while teaching through programs like Volunteer in Bali or Volunteer Programs Bali.
Peru is home to some significant social reform volunteer programs, so community development, healthcare and education are all options for volunteers looking to help out in the land of the Incas. Work in education or social work sectors in Cusco with Proyecto Peru Center. Alternatively, choose to take the off-the-grid approach, fully immersing yourself into indigenous, Quechua-speaking communities high in the Andes mountains through programs with Maximo Nivel.
With nearly 300 beaches along both its Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, turtle hatchings are a year-round phenomenon in Costa Rica. However, with poaching, fishing nets and pollution, precious sea turtle populations are declining. La Tortuga Feliz offers volunteers affordable experiences manning hatcheries, patrolling beaches and assisting within turtle rehabilitation centers.
Europe’s southernmost country has arguably been heavily impacted by the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Having seen over 1.3 million Syrian, Afghani and Iraqi refugees pass through its shores, the Mediterranean nation doesn’t have the infrastructure to absorb the population influx. Confined primarily to the Greek islands, the number of refugees stranded in the country has risen to a staggering 62,000. To join the efforts, check out Greek Island Volunteers or GreeceVol for volunteer positions on the mainland. If you’re looking to provide support to women and children, you might want to consider Nurture Project International, who work to provide pregnant women with antenatal and prenatal care within refugee camps.
Bordering the Black Sea is the robust and historic nation of Romania. But despite all its natural beauty, the country has a tragic past relating to the mistreatment of children in orphanages. While such appalling conditions have been brought to the world’s attention and progress has been made to improve conditions, even today volunteers are needed to nurture neglected and abandoned children. Check out United Planet or Go Inspired to find programmes which will allow you to live on-site, teach English and organize activities.
With its unparalleled significance across a myriad of religions, Israel is a treasure trove for any history or religion buff. What better way to delve into the nation’s past than to literally to dig into it? Get your hands dirty and sift through history by volunteering on archaeological sites across Israel. Usually linked to a university and operating during summer months, these projects often require little to no qualifications and provide housing either on-site or with a host family. Scour through available dig sites at Archaeological Institute of America or Find a Dig.
Considered to be one of the best places in Africa to witness wildlife in its natural habitat, Zambia’s main draws – African elephants, hippos and lions – are vulnerable and endangered, according to the IUCN red list of threatened species. The illegal poaching of these animals for ivory and bushmeat is driven by an economic demand coming out of the capital city, Lusaka. With programs like GoEco’s, you can join wildlife rehabilitation and conservation efforts, or for a more local flavor, create your own volunteer experience through wildlife protection group Conservation Lower Zambezi.
This Central American country has a range of incredible volunteer opportunities from rainforest conservation projects to social advocacy. However, one program through GVI stands out. In partnership with Mexican NGO Amigos de Sian Ka’an, this GVI’s Marine Conservation Expedition tackles the issue of the destruction of the Mesoamerican coral reef, the second largest in the world. Located in the Caribbean Sea, volunteers will assist with coral reef monitoring and data collection, all while becoming PADI certified.
Native American Reservations, United States
The plight of Native Americans in the United States is often overlooked, and they continually face challenges when it comes to keeping their culture alive. From the high plains of northern Montana to the red rocks of Arizona, volunteer with these communities by teaching, assisting with cultural and language preservation, providing medical care, or helping with conservation and construction. The experience will allow you to learn about the country’s past from a different perspective.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.