Are you considering a one-of-a-kind trip abroad — perhaps to volunteer for an amazing cause — but traveling alone is outside your comfort zone? Take a deep breath…and relax. Solo travel is easier and safer than you think, and it can be a profound experience!
Too often, women are discouraged from traveling solo by well-meaning friends or worried family members. It’s a normal reaction, but their concern can enhance your anxiety — especially if this is your first trip abroad on your own. Worse, it can be the reason for canceling an extraordinary and life-changing adventure. My advice? Do your research, stay connected, and be realistic and smart about choosing your destination.
Benefits of Solo Travel
If you’re planning a trip abroad — whether it’s for a gap year, a semester overseas, or even just a week or two — and you’re worried you might get lonely, consider the benefits of traveling solo before coaxing someone into joining you: for starters, you won’t have to let someone else’s bucket list hold you back. You can plan the trip you want, visit all the sites you want, take part in the volunteer program you want, all without having to wait for others or sacrifice any of your plans for theirs.
Other benefits of traveling solo? You decide when you want to sightsee or shop. You can seize the day with a hike, linger in a museum, or spend a decadent afternoon reading at a beach. Be adventurous! Go snorkeling or zip lining with a local tour group. Try new cafes and restaurants. Dinner for one may be disconcerting the first night, but you’ll soon learn to relax, enjoy the food, and be at peace. And that’s just the time you’ll spend outside of volunteering for a cause that’s near and dear to your heart!
Traveling solo can also give you the opportunity to meet wonderful new people — whether they’re friendly locals or fellow travelers. If you’re worried about meeting the wrong people (really that’s the biggest fear our friends and family have when we travel alone), read on to see how volunteering or interning abroad with the right organization can open you up to adventure, build lifelong friendships, and give you invaluable support to ensure you can make the most of your solo trip!
Volunteering Solo with International Organizations
Volunteering or interning abroad with the right organization can alleviate so many of your concerns as a solo female traveler. Safety is often a major concern for those planning solo trips, so finding an organization that has robust volunteer safety practices in place is critical. International Volunteer HQ is a great example: with a focus on safety before and during your volunteer abroad program, online safety training, onsite Risk Management Policy, emergency response, and lots of other resources, IVHQ is here to ensure a safe and fun trip abroad.
As well, Maximo Nivel — a leader in international education, study abroad, and travel — will work with you to arrange airport pickup, housing, meals, embassy relations, and emergency plans. They also constantly monitor their in-field conditions to ensure you’re safe and contributing to a meaningful project at each of their Latin American program locations.
Love Volunteers is another great example: this organization excels at providing transparent and cost-effective volunteer and intern opportunities and places travelers on programs that have been fully audited for safety, social responsibility, and impact. Love Volunteers also assigns a staff member to be your point of contact throughout your placement, so if at any time you need further assistance, it’s available. If you start your journey with trusted organizations like these, you can travel the world on your own and with confidence.
Agape Volunteers is another awesome charity to check out. Based in the UK, Agape Volunteers was founded by graduates from Oxford University and King’s College London. They’re among the most affordable volunteering options in Africa and are unique in that they offer free comprehensive travel insurance and don’t charge a separate registration fee. They’re really great for those seeking adventure into addition to volunteering since Agape organizes free weekend side-trips such as city tours and also additional adventure trips such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Check out the 13 amazing and low-cost volunteer projects here.
Solo travel can be an amazing adventure if you choose your destination wisely, learn about local customs, trust your intuition, and be aware of your surroundings. If you want to travel with an organization that offers round-the-clock security, consider Global Vision International. GVI has more than 200 trained staff members supporting 150 different volunteer projects in 10 countries worldwide. With its robust infrastructure, GVI offers pre-departure advice, documents outlining travel and safety, airport pickup, local orientation, housing arrangements, and a 24-hour emergency phone line. Bottom line: you have a safety net.
As a solo traveler, you can decide how much freedom you want or need. By setting your own agenda, you can enroll in classes and learn new skills, take salsa dancing lessons, try your hand at cooking local dishes, and even tackle a foreign language.
Are you ready for an amazing solo travel experience? Take a look at some of the opportunities below and let’s get started!
Great Volunteer Programs for Female Solo Travelers
Since 2007, International Volunteer HQ has placed more than 80,000 dedicated volunteers in 35 countries around the world. Focused on providing affordable and responsible volunteer travel experiences, IVHQ’s trips heighten global awareness and cultural understanding through the exchange of skills and expertise. With an emphasis on sustainability and safety, IVHQ partners with local NGOs to host volunteers on a wide variety of projects that can range from wildlife and animal care to teaching, to sports coaching, construction and renovation, and much more.
Contribute to the long-term development goals of communities worldwide with IVHQ’s affordable construction and renovation volunteer abroad projects! As a volunteer, you’ll work alongside local professionals to build new structures, renovate existing community centers and temples, and improve local infrastructure. You don’t need the experience to sign up, as you’ll be supported and led by a skilled member of the local construction team to ensure the sustainability of your work. A few of the many countries that you can travel to on construction volunteer projects with IVHQ include Bali, Fiji, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Ghana, Zambia, Colombia, Argentina, and Peru. During your weekends and free time, you can relax, enjoy the local sights, and depending on where you travel, you can go snorkeling or diving, embark on cycling or trekking tours, visit natural landmarks such as mountains and waterfalls, and explore museums, temples, restaurants, and shops. Program fees start at an affordable $295 for your first week abroad, and you’re invited to stay up to six months — learn more and sign up here!
Another of IVHQ’s volunteer adventures invites you to a private game reserve in Zimbabwe, close to the Victoria Falls UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reserve is home to Africa’s Big 5 animals: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. As a wildlife conservation volunteer, you’ll gain hands-on experience in game reserve management and help out with ongoing research — all of which is vital to the successful operation of the reserve, its surrounding areas, and the local ecosystems. Weekends can be spent whitewater rafting, sunset river cruising, exploring rainforests, and taking guided tours and safaris. This wildlife conservation volunteer trip starts from two weeks at $880, and you’re invited to stay for up to three months. Learn more and sign up here!
Plan My Gap Year (PMGY) is unique in that 93% of its volunteer placements are solo travelers and females — join like-minded volunteers and get involved in English teaching, wildlife conservation, community projects, childcare, and mental health programs in Africa and Asia! You’ll meet many people during your stay and have plenty of opportunities to explore with your newfound travel buddies. Founded in 2011, PMGY inspects all programs personally to ensure project safety — and despite the name, you don’t have to take a gap year to sign up for PMGY’s trips.
PMGY’s English-teaching volunteers in Cambodia work with students to improve their language skills, which are essential for future employment in an area where tourism has rapidly become vital to economic development. As a volunteer, you can lead classes to help students become more engaged through storytelling, songs, arts and crafts, sports, and educational games. In your free time, you are invited to explore the region’s temples, palaces, and other landmarks — your home base with PMGY for this trip is 90 minutes away from central, exotic Phnom Penh along the banks of the Mekong. This English teaching volunteer program starts from two weeks at $360, and you can stay up to six months to make the most of your trip abroad. Learn more and sign up here!
Volunteer with the Isabella School Empowerment Project, a unique Plan My Gap Year social initiative in India that provides computer and vocational training for young women, ensuring a greater chance for employment and educational success in this male-dominated community. You can teach simple skills such as sewing, arts and crafts, personal hygiene, beauty and grooming, and even basic numeracy and speaking English. Contributing to the women’s empowerment project is rewarding and eye-opening, regardless of your experience level. Program fees start at $330 for two weeks, with durations up to six months.
Imagine working—and playing—with elephants during your next trip abroad! Plan My Gap Year has created an amazing hands-on experience for volunteers in Sri Lanka, where you can help to care for these gentle giants. You’ll assist the Mahout, an elephant keeper who generally starts as a young boy in the family profession, assigned an elephant early in its life. He’ll introduce you to the commands the elephant understands so you can help with the twice-daily activities associated with caring for these animals. Work alongside other volunteers to prepare the elephants’ meals, cut fruit, then hand-feed them. As a reward, you get to help bathe and play with the elephants in the stream. Other daily tasks include cleaning and maintaining the project site, cleaning the elephants’ beds, assisting with composting and picking the bananas grown onsite. You’ll enjoy a safari to Udawalawe National Park, created as a sanctuary for a herd of 250 elephants – and nearby is an elephant orphanage where you’ll observe the twice-daily feeding of the babies. Program fees start at $375 for one week.
If you’re new to traveling abroad, consider an inspiring group adventure with the Mini Thailand Experience through Plan My Gap Year. Relax on some of the world’s best beaches, explore the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest, and bask in the serenity of Buddhist temples. Your adventure begins in Bangkok at the famous JJ market, which is home to 8,000 vendor stalls. You’ll stay in floating raft houses on Cheow Larn Lake, using kayaks for transportation. Other trip highlights include touring the Grand Palace, visiting Was Pho and view the city’s largest reclining Buddha statue, taking a guided tour of Khao Sok National Park’s rainforest, enjoying sunsets on the island of Ko Samui, snorkeling on Ko Tao, and going to a full-moon party in Koh Phangan. You can round out your adventure with elephant treks, cooking classes, and sightseeing. The fee for the Mini Thailand adventure starts at $705 for two weeks.
Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel offers volunteer trips, study abroad programs, internships, teaching opportunities, and Spanish language learning trips to Latin America. Programs are internationally accredited and university credit is available for most of their programs. To date, 25,000 travelers have signed up with Maximo Nivel to visit, learn, and make a difference in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. As a traveler with Maximo Nivel, you will have the wonderful opportunity to teach English, volunteer on a variety of impactful projects, learn Spanish, or even take on an internship that can enhance your education and boost your career prospects.
On this one-of-a-kind volunteer program, you will live in a small mountain pueblo in the Andes Mountains, overlooking Peru’s Sacred Valley while immersing yourself in a Quechua-speaking community. A few activities you’ll take on include caring for animals and livestock, helping with agricultural work, trying your hand at weaving, assisting with local construction projects, and supporting children at the local school. This is an outstanding opportunity to expand your horizons while engaging in cross-cultural understanding and skills exchange. You don’t need to know Spanish to sign up (though Maximo Nivel offers Spanish language lessons), but you do need to be flexible and willing to take on manual labor and varying tasks depending on the season. This program starts from $625 for one week – learn more here!
If you love animals, then consider signing up for one of Maximo Nivel’s animal care volunteering programs, available in Guatemala and Peru! On Maximo Nivel’s shelter and rescue initiatives, you will be part of a program that cares for street animals, provides veterinary services, and adopts them to forever homes. You can help with medical treatment, spay and neuter programs, grooming, and walking the animals — you also can assist with basic obedience training, leading education programs, or taking part in fundraising events.
Maximo Nivel’s wildlife volunteer programs also are available at a zoo and an amphibian and reptile rescue center, where you can work with more exotic animals by caring for endangered species, assisting with rehabilitation and release, and sparking a lifelong love for animals in children who visit each day. As a volunteer, you can feed animals, clean cages, help with light construction work, care for injured or sick reptiles, and even release healthy adult animals back into the wild. These programs start from one week at $625 – learn more here!
Agape Volunteers is an excellent choice if you are looking for a reputable and affordable volunteer abroad program in Africa. Founded in 2011, AV is a registered UK charity that supports humanitarian efforts and environmental conservation – with volunteering, tourism, and development work in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, and Maasai-land available, programs range from medical volunteering to teaching abroad, to volunteering at a wildlife refuge. Costs include registration and administration fees, tours and excursions, housing and feed, and even travel insurance, making Agape Volunteers the most affordable option on this list for volunteering in Africa.
Volunteer to provide HIV prevention counseling in Kenya on this meaningful program, where you will help to promote awareness and care for people in need, supporting the local healthcare teams on the ground. All HIV volunteers take part in the HIV Testing and Counseling Course (HTC), an internationally-recognized qualification provided by local universities that trains you on how to conduct safety testing techniques, and provides a useful qualification for your future medical career. Spend evenings unwinding with team members over dinner, and spend your weekends exploring Kenya. Side trips and weekend travel include safaris, beach weekends, mountain climbing, cultural city tours, and more. Costs start at £590 for one week. Learn more and apply here.
Run with the Big Cats as a wildlife conservation volunteer in South Africa: travel to Marakele National Park where you’ll focus on animal protection – specifically lions, leopards, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, water buffalos, and hyenas. Learn how to monitor the movements and behaviors of animals and take part in anti-poaching activities, such as looking for suspicious tracks. Work with committed naturalists who have devoted their lives to protecting the reserve’s habitats. Stay in a large farmhouse with dorm-style rooms, protected from neighboring animals by a large fence. This program cost starts from £1,530 for two weeks, but you can stay for up to 12 weeks. Sign up today!
If you want to teach abroad, consider this volunteer opportunity in Tanzania! No experience is needed except enthusiasm and a willingness to work with eager students who want to learn English. Spend time holding conversations to help improve their English-speaking skills. Volunteers stay at a lovely guesthouse near the center of Arusha. Spend weekends exploring Tanzania, taking a safari to the Serengeti, or on an excursion to the Moshi Waterfalls and Chemka Hot Springs. Stay one week or longer, with program fees starting at £695. Click here to read more!
Founded in 2009, Love Volunteers is a low-cost international volunteer organization that provides meaningful trips to 34 different countries throughout the Americas, Asia, Africa, The Middle East, and Europe. Volunteer programs and intern abroad placements range from 1 week to 6 months — and as one of the world’s fastest-growing volunteer organizations, Love Volunteers has placed more than 20,000 travelers abroad since its founding, with more than 4,000 placed just in the past year.
Love Volunteers’ medical internship in Uganda plays an essential role in supplying quality medical care to the people of Kampala while also offering participants practical African medical experience and intercultural exchange opportunities. As an intern, you can stay for two weeks or longer at one of four medical facilities, including:
- Ngora Health Centre 4: an outpatient clinic offering malaria/TB /HIV testing, ART clinic, immunizations, and maternity care
- Ngora District Maternity Unit: delivering 200 babies per month, offering baby check-ups, immunizations, HIV testing, and 6-week screening
- Ngora Freda Carr Hospital: providing a surgical theater, inpatient, outpatient, lab, pharmacy, maternity, dental, immunizations, and more
- Pallisa Hospital: with a large out-patient department, maternity unit, a theater, a pediatric ward, and general wards
During your free time, you can relax, have dinner with your host family, and explore and immerse yourself in Ugandan culture – this program starts from two weeks at $429. Learn more and sign up here!
This social development program creates and improves relationships between the young people of historically conflicting ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, through a combination of youth-focused education and arts initiatives. International volunteers like yourself can demonstrate compassion and indiscriminate empathy to the children, playing an important role in building at-risk youth’s confidence and self-worth. As a volunteer, you can assist with evening language workshops for young people and adults and provide a positive influence for young people in need. During your free time, you can relax, explore, and even try your hand at cooking Bosnian cuisine, which has Turkish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and European influences. You are invited to stay four weeks or longer, starting from $499 — learn more and sign up here.
Founded in 1997, Global Vision International provides volunteer trips and internship opportunities in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, and the Americas. A family-founded organization, GVI aims to encourage travelers to make impactful contributions even on short stays overseas. GVI places 2,000 participants abroad every year, with more than 20,000 travelers placed to date. A few opportunities that you can be a part of include volunteering from one week and up, or even long-term internships for those looking to jumpstart their career or enhance their education. GVI’s differentiators and their emphasis on volunteer safety make the program appealing to first-time international volunteers as well as those traveling solo.
Travel to the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean as a member of an expedition and work on critical GVI marine conservation projects amongst the beautiful islands of Seychelles! On this trip, you will earn your PADI Advanced and PADI Coral Reef Research Diver qualification while working and learning alongside marine researchers. Five days per week, you will go snorkeling or diving to conduct underwater surveys aimed at providing data to the local government on coral reef research, invertebrate surveys, and turtle breeding areas. Expect to participate in training sessions, marine debris surveys, environmental education sessions, and more. During your free time, you can hike up Cap Matoopa and on the last days of your project, you can visit favorite sites to dive just for fun. Head over to Beau Vallon Bay for a well-earned break and enjoy its lovely long beach, hotels, shops, and restaurants. This marine research program starts from four weeks at $4,100. Learn more and sign up here!
Do you dream of becoming a teacher? As a GVI education intern, you’ll receive practical classroom experience to further your teaching career goals: on this program, you’ll work with people from disadvantaged communities where teachers are limited and schools are overcrowded. A few programs that you can choose from including teaching Buddhist novice monks in Laos, providing educational opportunities to children in a safe and nurturing environment in India, teaching basic English in Fiji, or even earning your TEFL qualification in Thailand so that you can get paid to teach English abroad. Education Internships begin with six-week stays starting at $3,000. Learn more and sign up here.
Learn about sustainable development through this service learning program that provides earthquake relief in Pokhara, Nepal. To start, you’ll learn about the history of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, plus how your personal, shorter-term involvement with this GVI program contributes to these goals. For the service portion of your trip, you’ll support students with English lessons, individual tutoring, and first aid training with an emphasis on health care and disease prevention. You also may lend a hand on construction initiatives or help local women become more self-sufficient through income-generating projects. But your trip isn’t all about service: based in the second-largest city in Nepal, Pokhara — also known as the City of Seven Lakes — is an adventure sports capital, with three out of the world’s ten highest mountains based within 30 miles. During your free time, you can go rafting or kayaking on the Trishuli and Seti rivers, mountain biking, and hiking — and if you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, visit the beautiful Tal Barahi Temple or the Gurkha soldier Museum, or sign up for Nepali language lessons, dance classes, or a cooking class. This service learning program starts from one week, and you’re invited to stay longer — learn more and sign up here.
Want a way to quickly search for high-quality volunteer programs for female solo travelers? Check out Abroadly, Volunteer Forever’s new booking platform.
Whether you want to protect wildlife in Zimbabwe or teach English in Vietnam, Abroadly has a project that suits your interests and skills. All programs and organizations have been vetted by Volunteer Forever for safety and commitment to making an impact. So, when you see a program you like, you can be certain it’s a very reputable one.
When you apply to a program on Abroadly’s site, your application fee is guaranteed 100% refundable if you’re not accepted. You’ll also get the chance to win a $500 scholarship and free access to Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform. Begin your search for volunteer trips for female solo travelers today!
Travel to Peru with Maximo Nivel and help with community development. The main goal of the program is to build community centers and healthcare clinics, refurbish schools, and add to animal shelters. You can expect to mix cement, remove dirt, carry bricks, paint, plaster, and more. When you’re not building, you can explore Cusco, a city known for its Inca ruins and Spanish colonial architecture.
You have the choice of staying with a host family, in a dormitory, or at a private apartment. The program fee is $710 for one week, with stays up to 12 weeks available. Learn more here!
Journey to Costa Rica and preserve beautiful national parklands. A great program for those that know at least some Spanish, your main duties will include planting trees, assisting with general upkeep, clearing trails, and caring for a butterfly garden at a community-owned nature preserve. You may even get to see big cats, turtles, sloths, monkeys, and other native species in their natural habitat. During free time, you can go to downtown San Ramon, where there are shops, restaurants, and cultural sites, and hike in Cloud Forest Reserve.
Offered by uVolunteer, you’ll stay in a volunteer house throughout the program. The program fee is $935 for three weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks available. Learn more here!
Make the trek to Panama and teach English to third-grade students in an after-school program. Great for solo female travelers looking to build a career in ESL teaching, or those that just enjoy teaching and working with children, this program offered by TeachPTY aims to give primary school students a skill they can use to improve their futures. You’ll mostly play games and hold activities for students in order to build conversation skills and increase their confidence in speaking English. It’s quite rewarding, as you’ll see your impact right away.
When you’re not teaching, you can hang out at Playa del Toro, a pristine beach, or check out Isla Iguana, a wonderful wildlife refuge. The program fee is $1,501 for two weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks available. Learn more here!
Make the trip to Kumasi, Ghana and help children who have special needs. Offered by Plan My Gap Year, this program aims to improve the lives of those living with physical disabilities and mental challenges. You’ll be working with both children and adults (ages 7 to 25), supporting education and rehabilitation sessions for them. You’ll also play games, do exercises, sing songs, and just talk with children and adult patients at the facility.
When you’re not assisting at the facility, explore the sites of Kumasi, such as the Kumasi Central Market and Centre for National Culture. The program fee is $624 for two weeks, with stays up to 24 weeks available. Learn more here!
Head to Thailand with Love Volunteers and provide free English lessons to monks. Simply an incredible experience and great way to learn about Thai culture, this project’s goal is to expose non-native English speakers to native speakers so that they can improve their conversation skills, pronunciation, and listening ability. You’ll do that through games and activities, reading stories, and just talking. The program also emphasizes cross-cultural interaction, which means you’ll get the opportunity to see how monks in Chiang Mai live.
When you’re not teaching, you can shop at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, visit temples, tour Doi Suthep–Pui National Park, and more. The program fee is $968 for two weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks available. Learn more here!
If you’re interested in a rugged volunteer experience in a remote, off-the-beaten-path location, check out Fronteering, which offers truly unique trips that conserve the environment and world wildlife, and support indigenous people throughout the world. With volunteer and internship programs located in 14 different countries worldwide, travelers have the wonderful opportunity to visit unspoiled locations and make a positive impact.
Calling all horse lovers! On this volunteer trip, you will have the chance to work with horses — most rescued from the slaughterhouse — at a 40-acre farm near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. This is a great volunteer opportunity if you love animals and want to give them the care that they need, as many of the horses have suffered from abuse and neglect. You also will be able to work with other livestock, such as pigs, llamas, goats, ducks, and chickens. A few of the tasks you’ll take on include feeding the horses and other animals, helping with maintenance and repairs, assisting the vet, and cleaning the paddocks. Activities that you can engage in outside of volunteering range from hiking, to skiing, to dog sledding, and sightseeing the majestic Canadian Rockies. While this program is open all year, you should plan to travel between April and October for the best experience. This trip starts from eight weeks at $995 — learn more and sign up here!
Take to the Scottish Highlands and volunteer with wildlife and environmental conservation projects that protect wildlife like the European wild cat, white-tailed eagles, European otter, osprey, and golden eagle! A few ways that you can help as a conservation volunteer on this program include felling non-native trees, monitoring and researching wildlife, removing invasive plants, maintaining footpaths, constructing fences, installing reserve signs, building boardwalks, and more. Because of the intense training and logistics involved, you must be able to stay 24 weeks on this program, which starts at $1,095. Learn more and sign up here!
Imagine waking up to a concert of tree frogs and exotic birds each morning in the Amazon rainforest. On this volunteer adventure, you’ll travel to Guyana, South America’s only English speaking country on an internship with an Amazon Amerindian-run eco-lodge! Depending on your skills and experience, you can support the eco-lodge with marketing and tourism management, teaching children and adults valuable IT skills, and teaching staff members the basics of accounting. On this impactful and responsible getaway, you will sleep in a private hammock in a shared village house, and you’re invited to stay four to 12 weeks. While there’s no base fee for this internship, you are responsible for your own costs, which are estimated at about $1,600 for your first four weeks in Guyana. Learn more and sign up here!
Ready to Travel?
Solo travel opportunities are on the rise, and more and more women are responding. Whether you’re embarking on a weeklong volunteer trip spent empowering other women in New Delhi, a month-long international internship with a medical center in Uganda, a long-term immersion in Spain that leads to TEFL certification, or even a gap year supporting wildlife conservation organizations in South Africa, the possibilities are limitless.
This is your chance to be independent and self-sufficient — and along the way, you can do good for the communities that welcome you and the natural environment surrounding them. If you’re ready to travel solo, sign into your Volunteer Forever account to find the perfect program and start fundraising for your trip — and check out these articles for more inspiration!
Cheap Affordable Volunteer Abroad Programs & Low-Cost Overseas Projects
Wildlife, Marine Animal, Veterinary, & Conservation Volunteer Abroad
Long Term Volunteer Work Abroad Programs & Voluntary Charity Jobs