Updated for 2022
With many Southeast Asian countries removing quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements, the region is regaining its status as a favorite corner of the world for globetrotters. Tucked between the Indian and Pacific oceans, and at the intersection of major geological plates, the area is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations despite the fact it regularly endures earthquakes and volcanic activities. Still, visitors can’t resist Southeast Asia’s year-round tropical climate, gorgeous beaches, rich and varied cultural encounters, fabulous food, and low cost of living.
Home to some of the world’s most beautiful Buddhist and Hindu temples, Southeast Asia’s craftsmanship is awe-inspiring. Its architecture is enduring, as these religious testaments have lasted for centuries. Many temples are protected – and some even rebuilt – thanks to their UNESCO World Heritage status. While you’re volunteering in Southeast Asia, be sure to visit the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya in Thailand, Bagan in Myanmar, or Prambanan and Borobudur in Indonesia.
Know Before You Go
While it’s doubtful you’ll be able to visit them all in one journey, there are 11 Southeast Asian countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam.
Climate doesn’t vary much in this region. In the equatorial parts, which include Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines, there are two seasons – wet and dry – with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. Some areas receive more than 60 inches of rain each year. The mainland, or Indochina region, which includes north/central Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar, experiences hot wet and dry seasons, with temperatures climbing as high as 104! At the opposite end of the climate spectrum, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar have mountains so high that snow falls every year, and Indonesia and Myanmar boast permanent glaciers.
People have been here for a long time. Archaeological excavations in Southeast Asia, a landscape characterized by mountain ranges, plains, and plateaus, date some fossils to one million years ago! Historically, it’s a culturally diverse region, home to 620 million people speaking more than 1,000 of the 6,000 languages spoken in the world today, and a mix of major cultures from India and China.
People from India began to migrate into Southeast Asia, traveling across the Bay of Bengal, and down rivers into the various countries of the mainland. These immigrants brought the Sanskrit inscriptions with them, which are still part of the modern languages of Thai, Lao, Burmese, and Khmer. Then, around 4,000 years ago, people from southern China and Taiwan began to trickle into the archipelagos of East Timor, Indonesia, and the Philippines, as well as Malaysia on the mainland.
Historically, religions in Southeast Asia were predominantly Buddhist and Hindu, until Islamic teachings spread throughout Southeast Asia around the 13th century. This fact was documented by Marco Polo, an Italian merchant, and explorer who visited Sumatra in 1292. Islam is the state religion of Malaysia and Brunei and practiced by 85% of the population of Indonesia, however, Muslims are a minority in Singapore and the southern Philippines.
Southeast Asia’s recent history is rife with colonization by other powerful European countries, including Great Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, and even the United States, until Japan conquered virtually all of the territory (with the exception of Thailand) during World War II. Still, Thailand’s treaty of peace allowed Japan to establish military bases there. The war years were a time of great hardship for the people of Southeast Asia, but eventually, these countries gained their independence.
Today, some countries of Southeast Asia are experiencing what’s called the “Tiger Cub Economies,” a time of high rate of economic growth achieved by employing an export-driven model of technology and economic development. This model is used by South Korea and Taiwan, and the cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, collectively known as the “Four Asian Tigers.”
Yet, with this newfound wealth, and despite being one of the most fertile and resource-rich regions in the world, there is widespread corruption and wealth remains in the hands of an elite few. According to Natalia Soebagjo, chair of Transparency International Indonesia, “Southeast Asia is home to some of the richest, fastest-growing economies, as well as some of the planet’s poorest people. Battling corruption is an integral part of sustainable growth and reducing income inequality.”
When you plan your tour of Southeast Asia, you can help to counter the negative aspects of corruption by traveling responsibly and volunteering with sustainable programs that lift up the vulnerable communities here. From teaching conversational English to schoolchildren to helping conserve iconic animals such as elephants and orangutans that draw ecotourism, and even building a community center or repairing a temple, there are worthwhile outlets for your energy and enthusiasm, as well as tasks that will enrich your soul.
Keep reading to learn more about volunteer travel organizations that deliver high-quality programs and experiences, while maintaining safety and affordability, in Southeast Asia!
Featured Volunteer, Teach, and Intern Programs in Southeast Asia
International TEFL Academy
Do you want to get paid to live abroad as a professional English teacher in a country like Spain, Thailand, or Costa Rica? Are you looking for the best TEFL training and job services? If so, you’ve come to the right place!
Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy (ITA) offers the gold standard in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad & teaching English online. We are proud to provide the finest internationally accredited TEFL courses both online and in-person in 20+ locations across the globe. ITA certifies 5,000 people per year, and our graduates are teaching in over 80 countries & online. Our #1 commitment is to provide the highest quality training and services to our students to help you achieve your goal of getting a great job and enjoying the experience of a lifetime teaching English abroad and online.
All ITA TEFL courses – including online TEFL classes – include live practice teaching & employ a state-of-the-art curriculum taught by highly credentialed and experienced instructors. In addition, all ITA students receive lifetime job search assistance that includes personalized guidance from our team of expert advisors. To learn more & begin your journey, download your free TEFL Guide now.
Teach English in Thailand
Head to the ‘Land of Smiles’ and teach English in one of Asia’s fastest growing markets. Destinations abound for teaching English in Thailand too. You can choose to teach in the bustling city of Bangkok, journey to the beaches of Phuket or experience the jungles of Chiang Mai. It’s up to you. If you have a 4-year degree and a TEFL training through ITA, obtaining a job in the location of your choice shouldn’t be a problem. English teaching jobs are in abundance in primary schools, language centers, universities and other educational institutions. Salary is quite solid, typically between $1,000 – $2,000+ monthly, and usually more than enough to live comfortably in Thailand.
International Volunteer HQ
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) has built its reputation as a trusted, low-cost volunteer program provider since its launch in 2007. IVHQ offers more than 200 affordable volunteer programs, with project fees starting at only $180, in 40+ countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. More than 85,000 volunteers have worked with IVHQ on programs around the world, with support for education and childcare, conservation and wildlife, community building, and medical care. IVHQ partners with local NGOs and organizations that invite volunteers to gain meaningful experiences. IVHQ volunteers receive a comprehensive information booklet in preparation for their trip and guidance from an experienced team of volunteer travel experts who will ensure you are well prepared for your trip.
Each year, thousands of volunteers choose to travel to Southeast Asia with IVHQ. With online training, airport pick-up, program orientation, safe accommodations, and meaningful volunteer work, IVHQ offers outstanding Southeast Asia volunteer programs that support the long-term goals of host communities in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The IVHQ team can provide recommendations for tours or trips that you can take during your free time and on weekends, as well.
Travel and Volunteer in Malaysia
Get to know Malaysia as a volunteer on one of IVHQ’s four meaningful projects here, including a conservation program that places you with orangutans. Based in northwest Malaysia, in Taiping and nearby villages, you can choose to:
- Teach English to children after school
- Work at an orangutan sanctuary providing care for rehabilitating primates kept illegally as pets or rejected by zoos
- Volunteer with special-needs education with an emphasis on sharing conversational English
- Play a hands-on role in supporting the construction and renovation of community halls, schools, and village homes.
Taiping is popular with tourists because of its well-preserved colonial architecture and the remarkable 160-acre Taiping Lake Gardens. This is the first public park established in Malaysia, installed during British rule in 1880. Nearby, the Taiping Zoo is a major zoological park in Malaysia and breeds endangered species such as the Malayan tiger. The zoo offers a night safari that’s popular with visitors. The Perak Museum is the oldest museum in Malaysia and displays indigenous crafts, tribal artifacts, and natural history. There is an array of street stalls and open-air restaurants to choose from that will suit your tastes, and there are even hip, Western-style cafes in Taiping. Away from the city, there are great destinations to choose from, including Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Sabah, and beach destinations, such as Pangkor Island and Langkawi Island.
IVHQ participants stay in a central hostel or volunteer house about 15 minutes walk from the center of Taiping. All meals are provided, and program fees begin at $395 for two weeks. Click here to learn more and to register.
Volunteer in Cambodia
Join IVHQ for a volunteer program in Cambodia and while you’re in-country, visit Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or the Pursat and Kampong Speu provinces. Program placements you can consider include:
- Teaching English to school children
- Working with NGOs in the areas of human rights, health, and gender issues
- Caring for children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS
- Special needs care for children aged 5 to 18
- Computer support for NGOs and community centers
Cambodia, land of the Khmer people, is an unforgettable country with a serene and colorful landscape. Visit somber temples filled with saffron-robed chanting monks, and vibrant markets crowded with vendors selling food, spices, and flowers. Don’t miss a chance to sightsee Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as various national parks or the beaches in the south of Cambodia.
In-country orientation covers everything you need to know for your stay in Cambodia, and once you’re ready to start your program, a coordinator will escort you on your first day volunteering, introducing you to the placement staff. Each day, you’ll be assigned a duty roster, and work and hours are dependent upon the project and location.
You’ll stay with other volunteers in a shared house or homestay in Cambodia, and during your weekends and free time, you’re encouraged to explore temples, national parks, and beaches. This program starts from just $360 for your first two weeks, and you’re invited to volunteer for up to six months. Learn more and apply here.
Volunteering in Thailand
Join IVHQ in Chiang Rai, Thailand, volunteering with a childcare project. You’ll help care for children ages 2 to 6 years old from local villages and learn more about the Thai culture. Work alongside local teachers, helping with tasks such as maintaining the classroom, helping with the children at mealtimes, and working in the garden after school. You’ll also have a chance to help plan lessons and lead the class each day. No experience is necessary to sign up.
If you’d rather be outside, performing physical labor, consider a volunteer placement with outdoor work. This project needs help with a variety of tasks, including:
- Building water tanks and extending pipe systems
- Building check dams
- Building or painting school classrooms
- Developing an agricultural project
- Assisting with the maintenance of a vegetable garden
- Repairing roads
- Repairing or building homes of elderly villagers
Located in Northern Thailand, Chiang Rai is a popular destination for people wanting to escape the noise and traffic of Bangkok. Use your free time to explore the city’s morning markets, which offer a variety of foods and goods, as well as the Night Bazaar, which showcases handicrafts, silk garments, and more. The Bandaam Museum, or Black Temple, houses the artwork and collections of Thai artist Thawan Duchanee. Visit the iconic Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, which is decorated with small mirrors that glitter in the sunlight. Book a tour or travel in Thailand with IVHQ.
Live at IVHQ’s team headquarters in Chiang Rai, with its dormitory-style design and basic amenities. Meals are provided during the workweek. Program fees start at $320 for one week. To learn more about volunteering in Thailand, click here.
Plan My Gap Year
Plan My Gap Year is an award-winning organization known for its inspirational and affordable volunteer projects. Founded in 2011, Plan My Gap Year offers placements lasting from one week to six months, for travelers 14 years old and up, in Africa, Asia, and South America. This is a great choice for meaningful, responsible, and sustainable travel, with recognitions including the Shell LiveWire Grand Idea Award, Thailand Green Excellence Award, and Special Recognition from the United Nations in Sri Lanka. Plan My Gap Year is an excellent way to meet like-minded people and make friends.
Real Southeast Asia Encounter
If Asia is on your bucket list, and you want to explore more than one country, hopping from one experience to the other, then check out the Real South East Asia Encounter. This adventure takes you on a volunteering journey through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bali, introducing you to some of the most diverse, colorful, and spiritual countries in the world. You’ll cross 11 countries from eastern India to China, visiting beaches, temples, urban areas, and much more on this itinerary. This 12-week immersion will give you time to embrace the riches of each exotic country in which you work, learning the heritage and history of its people and having a positive impact while you’re there. Volunteer projects you can choose from include:
- Vietnam Childcare
- Vietnam English Teaching
- Vietnam NGO Assistance
- Cambodia Childcare
- Cambodia English Teaching
- Bali Childcare
- Bali English Teaching
- Bali Medical
- Bali Wildlife Rescue
Your program fee starts at $2,565 and includes accommodations, most meals, local transport, in-country orientations, transfers, and 24/7 support. To learn more about the countries and the volunteer opportunities available to you, click here.
Real Vietnam Experience
The Real Vietnam Experience promises you the time of your life, combining grassroots volunteer work with amazing travel. Developed by Plan My Gap Year for explorers who want to envelop themselves in Vietnam’s compelling history, cultural identity, and breathtaking natural landscapes, this four-week itinerary introduces to all of the highlights of North Vietnam. In addition, you’ll make a positive difference and enjoy cultural exchange through volunteering here. Some of the highlights you’ll enjoy during the Real Vietnam Experience are:
- Learning to speak Vietnamese and converse with friendly people
- Taking in the incredible sights of Hanoi including Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
- Riding an overnight train to Lao Cai in a private cabin
- Trekking through rice terraces and hill tribe villages from Sapa
- Enjoying dinner and an overnight stay with a hill tribe
- Sailing along the Ngo Dong River through the magical Tam Coc cave system
- Teaching English to eager Vietnamese children
- Stargazing on your overnight cruise in the spectacular Halong Bay
- Kayaking, swimming, and dining on the gorgeous Cat Ba island
- Visiting the beautiful Ninh Binh province
You’ll travel with a group to some of the best destinations in North Vietnam, learning much about the country’s rich culture and inspiring history from your trip coordinator. Your volunteer work will take place at The Friendship Village, located around 15 km outside of Hanoi, and the Hoa Binh placement, around 80 km outside of Hanoi. Both of these placements are under-resourced and often overcrowded, and your task is to teach conversational English to the children. Some additional hands-on work may be available at Hoa Binh.
Accommodations vary during your travels, but home base is the Volunteer House in Hanoi, close to ATMs, supermarkets, launderettes, and pharmacies. There also are cafes and bars you can frequent. Most meals, housing, transport, in-country orientation, and transfers to airports, as well as a cooking class, are included in your fee, starting at $1,275 for four weeks. Read more and register here.
Global Vision International (GVI)
Global Vision International (GVI) specializes in award-winning and high impact conservation and community development programs. Founded in 1997, GVI places 2,000+ people on volunteer and intern programs each year. With programs in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australasia, and Africa, GVI projects are designed toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, allowing volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to contribute to responsible projects. GVI partners with prolific organizations such as Save the Children, The Red Cross, WWF, SANParks, and The Jane Goodall Institute, as well as smaller, community-based organizations with grassroots initiatives.
Volunteer with Children in Laos
Tourism is expanding in Laos, and the ability to speak English is in demand. You can share your passion for education and teach conversational English to children and other disadvantaged social groups in Laos with GVI. Young adults, novice Buddhist monks, and girls and women need your help to improve their English-speaking skills, and in doing so, improve their chances at future employment and a better quality of life.
You’ll stay in the beautiful and ancient city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its Buddhist temples and monasteries. There are optional side trips on this placement, including a chance to swim in the crystal clear water of the Kuang Si waterfall. Rent a kayak and explore the Nam Khan River, discovering village life, beautiful countryside, and lush green mountains along the way. Another sightseeing option is to visit the Royal Palace Museum and the beautiful temples of Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai.
Located at the junction of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, this small town is untarnished by tourism, and you’ll be able to walk everywhere and see people you’ve met during your stay. Time off can be spent taking scenic boat trips up the Mekong to the Pak Ou Cave. Trek to top of Mount Phu Si and watch gorgeous sunsets, and swim in the Kuang Si waterfalls. This program starts from $995 for two weeks. Learn more and apply here.
Volunteer to Teach English in Cambodia
Go on a spiritual journey with GVl’s English teaching volunteer program in Cambodia. This opportunity allows you to visit Kampong Cham, a city on the Mekong River, and teach English to Buddhist monks from the local community. This a great way to give back to communities and learn about their education system. You will have the chance to teach both children and adults. You’ll work closely with Cambodians during one-on-one lessons, workshops and in classes on numeracy and literacy.
Cambodia is renowned for its pristine tropical beaches and rich history of Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which you can enjoy during your two-week travel adventure to Southeast Asia. Highlights of this trip include:
- Working closely with the novice Buddhist monks
- Exploring Kampong Cham and appreciate its natural beauty and attractions
- Immersing yourself into the Cambodian culture and learning some of the languages
- Visiting iconic landmarks like the Royal Palace or the National Museum of Cambodia
- Sustainably impacting the lives of people through educational initiatives
- Growing personally and professionally and developing your teaching ability
Your orientation will provide you with everything you need to know, including a foundation of the Khmer language. Accommodation is basic but comfortable and centrally located. Communal meals are held with the other participants. Fees for this program start at $1,795 for two weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks.
While in-country, be sure to travel north to see Angkor Wat temple, the largest religious monument in the world! Also visit the Royal Palace, a distinct landmark in Phnom Penh and the official residence of King Sihamoni. Another stop is the National Museum of Cambodia, home to an array of the finest Khmer sculpture. Read more here.
Volunteer in Chiang Mai with Elephants and Wildlife
Thinking about a trip to Thailand? GVI offers two internships and two volunteer abroad placements in Chiang Mai. All projects here take place in Mae Chaem District, a five-hour journey into the mountains, at the Karen elephant-keeping communities. The people here have shared a sacred relationship with elephants for hundreds of years.
If you’re looking for an internship, consider Elephant Conservation, which invites you to assist with biodiversity studies, and help rehabilitate rescued elephants in a sanctuary. Another internship possibility is Wildlife Conservation, a placement that allows you to help to conserve animal populations and promote sustainable ecotourism.
Looking for short-term placement, but also want to work with elephants? A conservation volunteer program that invites you to help rehabilitate elephants rescued from tourist camps might be a great option. If you’re a fan of the sea, then a marine and wildlife conservation volunteer project will let you contribute to ongoing sustainable development programs.
Volunteer placements through GVI Thailand start from one week at $1,9240, and longer-term internships are available from six weeks at $3,795. Your project focus may change based upon needs of the community and the time you choose to travel, but regardless, your work will be both impactful and varied. Accommodations are in a shared house, with upgrades available if you prefer a private residence, and in your free time, GVI invites you to explore Thailand, enjoy the cuisine here, and make friends and unforgettable memories. Learn more and apply here.
Love Volunteers offers more than 120 affordable programs with fees starting at $229 for one week overseas, depending on where you travel. Founded in 2009, Love Volunteers has placed more than 20,000 volunteers and interns on meaningful projects in 34 countries worldwide. With a mission to empower communities, Love Volunteers staff reviews each program for safety, social responsibility, and impact.
Volunteer & Travel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Venture to Vietnam on a volunteer travel placement that includes weekend excursions to the Mekong Delta, and the beautiful coastline of Mui Ne, with Love Volunteers. You’ll spend your weekdays providing essential care and support for the people of Ho Chi Minh City, then explore the country on the weekends. Choose a project that has you:
- Teaching English to children
- Assisting in the daycare with daily tasks
- Caring for and playing with children
- Assisting the elderly and keeping them company
Your customized activity plan can place you in cultural workshops every day, allowing you to watch a cooking demonstration while spending dinner with a Vietnam family, enabling the intercultural exchange to benefit you as well as the community. At Mui Ne, you can explore the sand dunes, watch sunrises, enjoy water sports, and stroll alongside the ocean. Fees for this program start at $959 for two weeks. Read more about this exciting opportunity!
Teach Monks on the Chiang Mai Program
Share your knowledge with novice Buddhist monks during basic English-speaking lessons in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Help the young monks to improve pronunciation and conversational skills, and teach them about your culture. You’ll be paired with a Thai teacher, assisting with their administrative duties, and you’ll perform a variety of tasks, from tutoring and homework help to arranging games and fun activities.
You’ll enjoy the authentic Thai atmosphere and cuisine of Chiang Mai as you visit temples and explore the old city. Located in the mountainous region of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is an old city – founded in 1296. As you tour the city, you’ll see vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a religious center. It’s home to hundreds of Buddhist temples, including the 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents. The National Museum traces the history of Chiang Mai from prehistoric times to present-day, with a focus on the Lanna Kingdom era. The Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden is the oldest and foremost botanical garden in Thailand and dedicated to the conservation of Thai flora, including its lovely orchids.
A must-see is the famous Night Bazaar, where you can learn to haggle for souvenirs. If you enjoy shopping, the city is filled with markets, shopping centers, and unique shops. There are also many wholesale factories on its outskirts. A short ride outside the city you’ll be able to visit rainforests, waterfalls, rivers, hot springs, and tranquil villages. Go ziplining the rainforest canopy, and trek to the most sacred temple in Chiang Mai – Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Fees start at $669 for two weeks. Learn more and apply here.
Founded in 2007, Fronteering places volunteers and travelers on adventures in locations that are far from ordinary, and rich in wildlife and indigenous cultures. Its vision is to provide experiences in remote locations along with volunteer projects that care for the environment and preserve animals. Fronteering’s goals are to make a difference to communities that can benefit from the input of volunteers.
Island Conservation in Indonesia
Join Fronteering in Indonesia on one of two island conservation projects: on Bangkaruworking with turtle conservation; and on Simeulue, promoting responsible land use planning. Or, sign up for both projects while you’re in-country! If you’re not fussy and want to get your hands dirty on a beach project while living on an island that’s bustling with flora and fauna, these projects may be exactly what you need. There are adventure opportunities waiting for you, from exploring these amazing Islands and taking up surfing, snorkeling, biking, and more, while expanding your knowledge on conservation issues.
On Bangkaru, you’ll spend two weeks working with researchers, marine biologists, and other volunteers to help conserve the wildlife of the island, including the Green Sea Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle, both of which nest on the island’s famous Turtle Beach. You’ll assist with initiatives that address the serious issues of turtle egg poaching, destructive development plans, and unsustainable fishing practices.
On Simeulue, you’ll spend two weeks helping this island that’s still recovering from the effects of the 2004 Tsunami. Do this by helping to promote responsible land-use planning, avoiding the loss of primary forest, transitioning the island to renewable energy sources, and preventing bird poaching and unsustainable fishing. Both programs have fees beginning at $1,695 for two weeks, with stays up to four weeks on each island. Read more about this intriguing opportunity.
Cross-Cultural Solutions places volunteers and interns on international programs in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. Founded in 1995, Cross-Cultural Solutions is a leader in the field of international volunteering, with programs that range from child development, girls’ and women’s empowerment, and global health. More than 35,000 alumni have contributed two million volunteer hours to benefit people worldwide. Its vision is to provide children with equal access to high-quality education and health. In 2003, Cross-Cultural Solutions received Special Consultative status by the United Nations.
Volunteer in Thailand’s Nan Province
Volunteer in Thailand, the “Land of Smiles,” with Cross-Cultural Solutions, choosing from two programs: child education or child health. When you choose to help the students in the Nan Province, you’re lifting up an entire community of seasonal farmworkers who live with relatives during the off-season. The students struggle with transportation to schools in the region and often have poor attendance and high drop-out rates. Teach basic English and help with conversations and pronunciation, providing a foundation for employment.
Or when you choose to work with the Hill Tribe communities, providing assistance with health care to children, you work at schools that board students. Share your knowledge and skills in the areas of hygiene and sanitation practices, and help to improve the school dorm facilities by constructing wash stations, holding health education workshops, and conducting dental health campaigns.
Thailand is becoming one of the world’s most visited destinations, popular with travelers because of its mix of historic culture and temples, modern high-rise buildings, and beautiful natural environs. Nan Province is a hidden gem, a quiet city surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and known for numerous natural parks. Located in northern Thailand and bordering Laos, it is filled with sacred and religious sites where you can learn more about Buddhism. Hear monks chanting, master the different temple styles, and even create a Tung flag to present to the temple for good merit. Visit the Nan National Museum and the Thung Chang Military Museum and understand the country’s heritage, and the unique traditions of the Hill Tribes, such as the Mien and Hmong people. Programs are available for one to 12 weeks with program fees starting at $2490. Read more and apply.
Founded in 2006, GoEco features more than 150 projects across the globe, including numerous high-quality volunteer programs in Southeast Asia. Recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization by GoAbroad in 2015, GoEco is committed to transparency and affordability and has carefully vetted all their projects in Southeast Asia to ensure high standards for safety and quality are met. So, whether you want to work at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand or be a medical volunteer in Vietnam, GoEco is an excellent organization if you’re looking to travel and volunteer in Southeast Asia. Additionally, GoEco conveniently offers 24-hour support and travel insurance for volunteers during the program.
Road Trip Thailand
Hit the road with GoEco in Thailand. This four-week excursion, which costs $1,880, allows you to experience the culture, natural beauty, and uniqueness of Thailand all in one trip. Highlights include spending a day with the Akha hill tribe, taking a ferry along the Chao Phraya River, relaxing on the island of Koh Samui, and touring Bangkok. During your travels, you and your fellow volunteers will do your part to give back to the communities and places you visit. Volunteer tasks include temple maintenance and teaching at local schools.
As you can see, this is quite the way to visit Thailand. In fact, it can be a life-changing experience. To find out more and sign up, click here.
Thailand – Learn, Volunteer and Travel
Discover the Sing Buri region of Thailand through this immersive volunteer experience! Choose between rural teaching or construction placement and enjoy helping the local community either way. Volunteers will have an orientation day, including a walking tour of the Tha Kham village. This program is ideal for volunteers looking to volunteer for a short amount of time, and who are eager to learn about a new culture.
Cambodia – Community Health Education Project
Public health students can gain experience in their field of study through this community health program in rural Cambodia. Volunteers will put their skills to use as they teach local school children about hygiene and overall body and public health. Volunteers will be involved in hands-on tasks, as well, such as teaching the children how to effectively wash their hands to avoid spreading germs and how to effectively brush their teeth.
Malaysia – Jungle Trekking and Sea Turtle Conservation
Join this dynamic program in Malaysia! Volunteers begin by trekking through the jungle on mainland Malaysia to collect data on the ecosystem and its flora and fauna. From there, participants go to the tropical Perhentian Islands to volunteer for sea turtle conservation!
Frontier is a global NGO that places volunteers and interns on inspirational and high-quality programs and adventure travel. Founded in 1989, Frontier operates in 60 countries, offering 400+ projects that safeguard biodiversity and help contribute sustainable livelihoods for communities in the world’s poorest countries. Frontier’s origins are in scientific and conservation research, and its projects range from community development, education, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, humanitarian work, and research and conservation.
Southeast Asia Ethical Adventure Trail
Spend 10 unforgettable weeks on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam on Frontier’s Southeast Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.
You’ll see countries of unimaginable beauty and learn why they are the most popular destinations for gap year travelers. From postcard-perfect beaches to thriving rainforests, you’ll see it all. Spend hours at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, as well as other temples and historic sites of ancient empires. Part of the itinerary is a two-day jungle trek that encompasses temples, monasteries, waterfalls, pagodas, white sand beaches, and hill villages. Evenings can be spent with friends, touring the cities you visit, enjoying the exciting and vibrant nightlife.
But it’s not just sightseeing tours and parties on this placement. You’ll also spend four weeks as a volunteer teaching conversational English and assisting teachers, working on a community development project, or helping with beach conservation. You also can choose to combine one, two, or all three of these opportunities for an enlightening experience. Fees for this incredible travel opportunity begin at $4,095. Read about the trip details, learn about the destinations and tours, as well as the various volunteer projects available to you.
Philippines Palawan Island Experience
Join Frontier in Palawan, a top destination in the Philippines because of its emerald green mountains covered with jungles and its stunning sandy beaches with clear, blue waters. This long, narrow island is home to several Filipino fishing villages, and natural landmarks include prehistoric caves and waterfalls. This program is intended to introduce you to the Philippine culture, and the surrounding region of Palawan. You’ll meet new people and make friends, tasting local cuisine during a cooking class, and learning the language, as well as customs and culture, first-hand.
You’ll work alongside villagers in their professions, both fishing, and agriculture, giving you an extraordinary insight into the livelihood of the people of Palawan. Depending upon the weather, you may go out fishing, repair fishing tools, or make fish products such as salted fish. At the plantations, you may help to plant rice and vegetables, cut rice, and assist with other farming chores. You’ll also spend time relaxing and exploring the beautiful town and beaches of El Nido. Other fun activities on this tour include a kayaking trip and a traditional Filipino massage. You’re also invited to try snorkeling and scuba diving. Fees for this opportunity start at $2,045 for four weeks. Click here to read more.
Volunteer in Borneo, Explore Malaysia Islands & Jungles
Frontier’s exciting opportunity in Malaysia takes you to a rainforest that’s more than 130 million years old and then transports you to tropical islands for an exciting turtle conservation program.
First, join Frontier guides in the vast jungles of the Taman Negara National Park, tracking wild animals on the “Tiger Trail,” a wildlife corridor between the park and the main mountain range. Volunteer work you do will contribute toward the collection of baseline data and help to deter poachers. You may even see the elusive tigers, leopards, elephants, tapirs, and sun bears that live in the rainforests of Merapoh.
The second part of your adventure takes you to the Perhentian Island where you’ll help to conserve and protect sea turtles. You’ll conduct vital surveys to identify individual animals for monitoring purposes, record nesting activity, and help protect turtle nests from human poachers and other predators. Another aspect of this placement has you helping to educate islanders about marine conservation.
Malaysia is a melting pot of diversity in wildlife and people, a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European cultural influences. Taman Negara is home to tigers, macaques, and different types of birds, as well as the enormous flowers of the rafflesia plant. The Perhentians offer great diving and excellent snorkeling. Between visiting and volunteering at both, you’ll be making significant contributions to the sustainable use of tropical rainforests and marine life. Program fees begin at $1,745 for two weeks. Learn more and sign up here!
Ready to Travel to Southeast Asia?
Dreaming about the Land of Smiles and all the things you can do and see in Southeast Asia? Hanging with elephants? Check. Full Moon Partying? Check. Snapping pics at Angkor Wat? Check. Jungle trekking? Check.
Instead of trying to check everything off your travel list and getting temple overload, consider quality over quantity and narrow down your itinerary. Give yourself time to enjoy the exotic experience of touring and volunteering in Southeast Asia and, if you can’t see it all, come back next year. As the Tiger Cub Economy continues to grow, this region of the world will only improve.
Robin Van Auken · Writer
Robin is a researcher, writer, and a registered professional archaeologist, a skillset she uses every day as a cultural communication specialist with Hands-on Heritage. Her projects connect communities with an emphasis on interpretation and education and conserve cultural and environmental legacies.