Thinking outside-the-box for your volunteer abroad trip?
We know it’s easy to run into popular destinations, such as Costa Rica, South Africa, and Thailand, when researching volunteer abroad programs. So, we’re going to discuss other destinations that aren’t as commonly covered in volunteer and teach abroad articles.
Regardless of whether you wish to make a difference in Latin America or do some good in Australasia and the Pacific, there are tons of volunteer projects in unique destinations. And you don’t have to be a legendary explorer to qualify! Just come with an open mind and eagerness to help, and you’ll have a wonderful time.
Now, let’s talk about what you can do when you volunteer off the beaten path and highlight a few of the reputable organizations that can offer you an adventurous volunteer experience.
Where You Can Go And What You Can Do
Some examples of wonderful destinations that aren’t among the most commonly chosen include:
Cuba: Known for white-sand beaches, the colorful capital of Havana, and vibrant culture, Cuba is emerging as an increasingly popular place to volunteer. For instance, Global Leadership Adventures (GLA) has a program in Cuba that’s designed for teens and young adults to immerse themselves in Cuban culture and history, while also supporting art projects that benefit urban communities.
Zanzibar: A semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, Zanzibar is an exciting volunteer destination thanks to its unique culture and marvelous location in the Indian Ocean. Through Love Volunteers, you can take part in women’s empowerment initiatives in Zanzibar.
Bangladesh: When you volunteer in Bangladesh, which is developing quite rapidly, you can give much-needed support in areas like education, community development, healthcare, and environmental conservation. For example, Frontier has a volunteer program that aims to improve infrastructure in remote areas of Bangladesh.
From service work in Cameroon to wildlife conservation in Argentina to teaching English in Moldova, there are so many places you can go and so many ways you can help. Common volunteer program types are:
Education: Teach English, provide basic education at childcare centers, run jobs skill training workshops, work on women’s empowerment initiatives, give indigenous communities better access to education, and more.
Environmental and wildlife conservation: Contribute to the protection of important ecosystems, like rainforests and coral reefs. Or, research and preserve precious wildlife, such as great white sharks, big cats, and elephants.
Healthcare: Raise public awareness of diseases like HIV/AIDS, provide basic medical services to disadvantaged communities, and/or serve as a medical intern or volunteer, helping with everything from delivering babies and caring for new moms to taking vitals and doing sugar tests.
Community development: Construct schools, health clinics, and community centers. Or, assist with job skills training, help entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses, work on promoting human rights, and support communities affected by diseases.
In addition to these types of volunteer abroad programs, there are also intern abroad opportunities in delightful destinations like Colombia, volunteer travel expeditions like those offered by Raleigh International, and language immersions through organizations like Maximo Nivel.
Now, let’s get into our featured programs so you can explore all possible volunteer and teach abroad destinations and programs. Read on!
Top Volunteer Trips Off The Beaten Path
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
Launched in 2007, International Volunteer HQ has become one of the most popular volunteer abroad organizations worldwide. By the end of 2018, IVHQ sent more than 97,000 volunteers abroad.
In addition to offering high-quality, safe, and affordable volunteer opportunities, IVHQ attracts many people thanks to their wide array of unique volunteer destinations, such as:
Volunteer in Madagascar for sea turtle conservation, forest conservation, and teaching and community development. Based in Nosy Komba, a volcanic island off the northwest coast, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the beaches and immerse yourself in the culture of Madagascar. You’ll also be able to see lots of lemurs!
Sound exciting? Register here (from $550 for two weeks).
Looking for a fun destination in Southeast Asia? Volunteer in Indonesia on an island conservation project. Duties include bird surveys, organic gardening, community education, and marine debris pickup. The project takes place at an eco-minded surf resort on Simeulue Island.
If hanging out in a tropical paradise, and contributing to conservation efforts there, sounds like your idea of an adventure, click here and apply (from $660 for one week).
Want to go somewhere neat in the Americas? Volunteer in Belize on a marine conservation project. Tasks include whale shark research, coral reef monitoring, and invasive species removal. This is a great program if you’re studying and/or planning to work in environmental science, marine biology, or related field.
During free time, you can relax on the beautiful private island where you’ll be based and explore mainland Belize. Already picturing yourself in the Caribbean? Sign up and be on your way (from $690 for one week).
Plan My Gap Year
An award-winning volunteer travel organization, Plan My Gap Year offers volunteer abroad programs across 17 countries in South America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Founded in 2011 for volunteers by volunteers, Plan My Gap Year is known for great in-country support, meaningful projects, and affordable fees. That’s why more than 4,000 volunteers per year choose PMGY.
If you want to volunteer off the beaten path, Plan My Gap Year has choices for you, like:
Head to Rabat, the bustling capital of Morocco, and be a childcare volunteer or English teaching volunteer (both programs start from $474 for one week). For the childcare project, you’ll work at a daycare, helping to provide much-needed education support and give Morocco’s most vulnerable children a sense of hope. For the English teaching project, you’ll teach students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and give them a language skill that can open up opportunities in the future.
When you’re not volunteering, explore cultural sites around Rabat, such as the Kasbah of the Udayas. Interested to learn more? Get all the details here!
If you want to volunteer in Nepal, Plan My Gap Year has numerous program options across three cities: You could teach English to monks (from $699 for two weeks) or teach at a local school that needs extra resources and staff (from $624 for two weeks) – other programs are available as well. These trips take place in Kathmandu. If you want a program that explores other areas of Nepal, Plan My Gap Year has you covered with their two-week Nepal Experience trip ($924), which takes you to Chitwan, Pokhara, and Kathmandu and includes trekking in the Himalayas.
So, is Nepal calling your name? Learn more about volunteering on top of the world here!
Established in 2003, Maximo Nivel specializes in education, conservation, and community development initiatives in Latin America. They’re also known for their Spanish immersion programs, which give you the chance to immerse yourself in local culture as you improve your Spanish skills. If you’re looking for a unique destination through Maximo Nivel, try one of their volunteer abroad programs in Guatemala.
Projects are held in or near Antigua, a city that’s been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich colonial architecture and impressive layout. Project choices include (from $645 for one week):
- Teaching English: Give students from low-income families a chance to learn English, a language that can improve their employment ability later in life.
- Sea turtle conservation: Protect the local sea turtles from extinction. This project begins in Antigua before taking volunteers to the coast.
- Sustainable agriculture: Help local farmers build a sustainable coffee and tea farming operation.
- Building and construction: Erect a school, community center, or health clinic.
Maximo Nivel also runs a great initiative meant to uplift indigenous communities. During the Mayan cultural immersion experience, you’ll care for animals and livestock, help with farming, assist with community construction, and work with children at a school. You’ll get the unique opportunity to learn the native language and culture and experience the lifestyle of an indigenous community.
Interested in going to Guatemala? Learn more and register here!
Agape Volunteers is an excellent choice if you are looking for a reputable and affordable volunteer abroad trip to Africa. This registered UK charity supports humanitarian efforts and environmental conservation – with volunteering, tourism, and development work in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, and Maasai-land. Program costs include registration and administration fees, tours and excursions, housing and feed, and even travel insurance, making Agape Volunteers the most affordable option for volunteering in Africa.
Refugee Work at a Kenyan IDP Camp
For more than a decade, Kenya has staggered under the humanitarian crisis that followed the 2007 election that declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner. Targeted ethnic violence resulted in casualties of more than 1,300 people, and the displacement of half a million more. Even after the violence that displaced so many Kenyans ended, they were unable to return to their homes and communities. In response, the Kenyan Government and the United Nations established Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps to house these internal refugees.
In 2012, Agape Volunteers and its partner Marifiki began supporting refugees at one of the larger IDP camps in Mahi Mahu. Agape Volunteers provide weekly food deliveries, help to construct fresh water supplies, and construct numerous buildings, including houses and schools. The IDP continues to be one of Agape Volunteers’ primary initiatives for funding and volunteers to this day.
International travelers who choose to work in Kenya will spend part of their time at the IDP, volunteering assistance with medical outreach work, distributing supplies, or helping with the building and maintenance of ongoing construction projects. Learn more about volunteering in Kenya and refugee work at an IDP camp.
Love Volunteers began in 2009 with the goal of providing volunteers with high-quality, cost-effective service opportunities. A commitment to transparency and making an impact in local communities has earned Love Volunteers a lot of respect from partner organizations and program participants.
For those adventurous travelers considering off-the-beaten-path locations, Love Volunteers has numerous great programs, including:
Venture to the city of Rwamagana! Love Volunteers has ongoing initiatives there in education and community development. These programs aim to address issues, such as poverty and hunger, that plague too many Rwandans. When you volunteer in Rwanda with Love Volunteers, you can:
- Care for children: Help grow and improve a promising early childhood education program that serves Rwanda’s poorest families, including those households who were affected by the genocide. By doing so, you can help improve the future prospects of the next generation.
- Assist women farmers: Join a farming cooperative and support women growing crops to feed their families. You’ll also get to teach the women trading skills. This is a program where you can make a huge impact, as you’ll help address food scarcity in the region.
When you’re not volunteering, explore the local area. Kigali, the capital city, is just one hour away. So, does a volunteer trip to Rwanda sound right for you? Fees start at just $379 for two weeks! Learn more on Love Volunteers’ site!
Partnering with a local NGO, Love Volunteers is able to offer several programs in Albania. These focus on education in communities that have been hit hard by discrimination and poverty. For example, when you volunteer in Albania, you could:
- Help with animal rescue: Help offer a safe haven and medical treatment to mistreated animals.
- Work in a children’s community center: Give compassion and companionship to vulnerable children, and engage in intercultural exchange.
- Volunteer for special needs: Be a friend and mentor to children and young adults with disabilities. Arrange games and activities for fun and learning.
The animal rescue and community center projects begin at $279 for two weeks. The special needs project starts at $339 for three weeks. These projects take place in Tirana, the capital city. Tirana is filled with colorful architecture and historical sites like the National Museum of History. Interested in volunteering in Albania? Register here!
Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad sends more than 10,000 volunteers overseas each year. Featured by publications like The New York Times and Time, Projects Abroad is well-regarded and are known for their meaningful projects and top-notch in-country support.
If you want to volunteer in a more unique location, consider going with Projects Abroad to one of the destinations below:
Projects Abroad has a variety of service programs in Samoa, from community health and nutrition initiatives to childcare programs. If you want to volunteer to coach sports, know Projects Abroad runs a great sports program for children (from $2,565 for two weeks). Meant to encourage exercise and fitness, and combat non-communicable diseases that are too common in Samoa, like diabetes and high blood pressure, the sports program enables you to teach rugby, volleyball, and soccer to local children. Not only is it fun, you can also help them improve teamwork and communication skills.
Volunteer programs are held in and around Apia, the beautiful seaside capital. Are you ready for a trip to the Pacific Islands? Learn about all of Projects Abroad’s programs in Samoa here.
If you want to volunteer in Mongolia, Projects Abroad may just be your go-to choice. You can volunteer with children, teach English, or serve as a medical volunteer/intern at a hospital. Perhaps the most unique experience is the chance to live and work with nomads (from $2,720 for one week); stay with a nomad family in the serene Töv Province and immerse yourself in the traditional nomadic way of life as you help with day-to-day tasks, like milking cows. How amazing does that sound?
Projects Abroad also has numerous internships in Mongolia if you want to gain international work experience, including in human rights, medicine, business, and psychology. So, want to hear more about volunteering in Mongolia? Check out Project Abroad’s site!
Recognized as Top Volunteer Abroad Organization by GoAbroad in 2015, GoEco has more than 150 community, education, and environmental initiatives, which means plenty of selection if you want to go off the beaten path. GoEco is known for their affordability, commitment to making a difference, and great volunteer support.
GoEco has programs in volunteer destinations you might not have considered, such as:
When it comes to volunteer programs in Israel, GoEco is a top organization. Whether you want to work at an animal shelter, create safe spaces for at-risk youth, intern at a vegan bakery, or join in coral reef conservation, GoEco has a project to suit you. Other popular volunteer initiatives in Israel include:
Food baskets for families: Travel to happening Tel Aviv or historic Jerusalem, and work with a charity that sends more than 3,000 food baskets each week to hungry households. Sound like a good volunteer program for you? Register today! Fees begin at $720 for one week.
Desert wildlife program: Make the trek to the breathtaking Arava Desert, and care for native animals at a wildlife reserve. You’ll also get to accompany park rangers on daily rounds. Interested? Get more details here! Fees begin at $650 for two weeks.
Want to experience life in Santiago? Then join GoEco’s equine therapy project in the Andean foothills. Care for the beautiful horses and assist with therapy of disabled individuals. Duties include playing games with therapy participants, cleaning stables, and guiding the horses during therapy rides.
When you’re not volunteering with horses, you can hike, explore Santiago, practice your Spanish, and more. Want to head to Chile? Sign up here! Fees start at $1,720 for four weeks.
Naturally Africa Volunteers
Dedicated to building sustainable communities across Africa, Naturally Africa Volunteers is an excellent organization to choose if you wish to volunteer in Africa. They emphasize creating responsible volunteering projects, and each program has been carefully selected and created by the team.
For those looking for a unique volunteer experience in Africa, think about going to the following places with Naturally Africa Volunteers:
Naturally Africa Volunteers’ projects in Malawi focus on improving childhood education, raising public awareness and understanding of common diseases, and enabling communities to be more self-sufficient. For example, you could be a nursery teacher at a center near Lake Malawi (from $870 for two weeks); teach basic knowledge to disadvantaged and orphaned children, while making sure they’re provided sufficient food and maintain daily hygiene.
Another amazing opportunity is the medical volunteering program (from $800 for two weeks). Provide medical treatment and care to communities that lack proper access to healthcare. Create awareness and help prevent epidemic diseases, like malaria and HIV/AIDS. Note your involvement level depends on your experience.
Naturally Africa Volunteers’ programs are also near Lake Malawi, which is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. So, be sure to go explore! Interested to learn more about volunteering in Malawi? Click here!
Are you studying medicine and/or interested in being a healthcare volunteer? Then take a look at the Namibia medical volunteer project offered by Naturally Africa Volunteers (from $870 for two weeks). Assist doctors and nurses in seeing patients at a hospital in the Caprivi Region, an area known for its wildlife, parks, and farming communities. By providing care to society’s most vulnerable, you’ll help alleviate some of the issues caused by a lack of healthcare resources. You’ll also get the chance to teach locals about how to reduce the spread of certain diseases.
During free time, visit one of the Caprivi national parks or make the trip to nearby Victoria Falls. Sound amazing? Read more details here!
Fronteering is a service organization that was started to take volunteers off the beaten path. Their aim is to provide real, raw experiences in unspoiled locations. Fronteering specifically has a mission to uplift indigenous communities and protect precious natural environments, such as the Amazon rainforest.
So, if you want a unique volunteer adventure, look no further than Fronteering’s programs listed here:
From wildlife research in the Amazon to teaching in an Amerindian community, Fronteering has numerous volunteer opportunities in Guyana, South America. These efforts help preserve the environment there, as well as ensure communities can develop and progress responsibly. When you volunteer in Guyana, you can see unspoiled jungle, learn about the lives and cultures of Amerindians, partake in farm work, and more.
One great project through Fronteering is the Amazon ranch project. Help out on a remote cattle ranch in the splendid savannas of Guyana. Work with the vaqueros to set up a sustainable eco-tourism operation. If that sounds awesome to you, register today (from $1,995 for four weeks).
When you volunteer in Russia with Fronteering, you’ll take part in Lake Baikal conservation. This ancient, massive lake in the mountainous region of Siberia is said to be the deepest in the world. As a volunteer, your role will be to help build small walking bridges, create environmentally-sensitive trails to support eco-tourism, raise ecological awareness through workshops, and support other efforts to build a sustainable economy.
Interested in making your way to Russia? Find out more here (from $995 for three days).
Off The Beaten Path: Where True Adventure Awaits
Beyond commonly chosen volunteer abroad destinations, such as India and Peru, you have lots of exciting destinations. Whether you want to contribute to island conservation efforts in Seychelles or work with NGOs in Naples, Italy, you can find a program that will enable you to do some good and learn about a new culture.
When selecting a program and destination, factor in things like your preferences and budget. Also, look at where you can have the most rewarding experience and the biggest impact. Go off the beaten path, and you’ll be amazed by what you discover.
Ready to plan your volunteer adventure? On top of reading this article, use Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform. This way, you can fundraise your trip with ease and lower travel costs. And you’ll be packing your bags before you know it!
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.