A great way to spend a summer or spring break is to volunteer abroad. You get to see the world while doing good and gaining valuable experience for your resume. But when you’re on a limited student budget, traveling can sometimes seem unattainable.
The good news is your bank account doesn’t have to take a major hit simply because you want to travel and make a difference. All you need is an affordable volunteer organization and a low-cost volunteer abroad destination where you can make your money last. Here are ten places to consider:
Thailand is known as a mecca for budget-strapped backpackers. It has it all — rich culture, great food, lots of adventure and all at very low prices. You can volunteer in Thailand teaching English, working in community education or helping with animal conservation, to name a few options. And you’ll never be far from beaches, waterfalls and jungles to explore during your days off.
Right across the border from Thailand, Cambodia is another great and exciting destination. Cambodia is famous for its ancient temples, like Angkor Wat, which attracts hordes of visitors from around the world. However, the country’s extreme poverty means there is a great need for volunteer help in community development and education. Since the economy is still developing, everything is ridiculously cheap. That means you won’t need to spend much on basics like food and getting around.
There are so many things to see and do all over India. You can find amazing food, see the Taj Mahal or spot exotic wildlife. In fact, it can all be a little overwhelming, so make sure to read these tips before you go. You can choose from a variety of volunteer projects in areas like education, women’s rights, healthcare, animal conservation and various other social issues where volunteers can make a difference.
If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, then you’ll fall in love with Ghana. You’ll get to experience vibrant culture, friendly people and beautiful landscape. From national parks to abundant waterfalls, there’s no shortage of things to do in Ghana. As a volunteer, you can make a huge difference in rural communities, teaching at a local orphanage, assisting doctors at a hospital or even living among elephants and other wildlife at a national park. Apart from your flight, your daily expenses will be much lower than anywhere in the West since food at local restaurants and transportation are very cheap.
While it is less popular than neighboring China, Vietnam has plenty to offer travelers who are looking for something different. The landscape is absolutely gorgeous with expansive rice terraces, colorful sand dunes and stunning white sand beaches all along the endless coastline. And the food is amazing (and cheap!) — have yourself a bowl of pho for less than $2 US.
Famous for its biodiversity, Costa Rica is home to numerous national parks, beaches, waterfalls and volcanoes. You can enjoy all that and more at a very reasonable cost. From teaching English to turtle conservation, there are many ways to give back while enjoying this beautiful country during your volunteer abroad stay. And while you’re there, maybe you’ll pick up a bit of the laidback, happy attitude that Costa Ricans are known for. Not surprising when you live in a literal paradise!
Europe is probably not the first place that comes to mind when you think cheap travel, but Romania is one of the few exceptions. As one of the poorest countries in Europe, living expenses are much lower than what you’re probably used to at home. There is also lots to see, like Dracula’s castle in Transylvania and amazing mountains and forests to explore (just look out for bears!)
This tiny Central American country is filled with natural wonders, from active volcanoes that you can hike to the breathtaking view of Lake Atitlan. Between volunteering in areas like medicine, education or animal welfare, you’ll find a host of things to indulge in, including the nightlife and restaurant scene in Antigua, the ancient Mayan ruins in Tikal and the bustling Chichicastenango Market.
The Philippines is one of the most beautiful places you can visit. With more than 7,000 islands (many of which are still unexplored), there are endless opportunities to do something exciting! You can relax on the beach, go snorkeling, take boat tours and enjoy island life in various other ways. Volunteers are always in high demand to help Filipino children learn English and have a better future. Plus, super cheap prices means you can live and eat like royalty here and take affordable weekend trips.
Although famous among college students as a spring break destination, Mexico is also great for volunteers on a budget. Public transportation costs less than $1USD in many cases. And forget Chipotle, you can eat the real thing for under $5 at street stalls and local restaurants! With a range of volunteer opportunities to choose from in various cities across the country, there’s something for everyone.
As the most savvy travelers know, you don’t have to spend a lot to have a great experience abroad. These countries are proof! And when you volunteer abroad, your program fee typically covers your accommodation and meals, so some of your biggest expenses are already taken care of. Affordable and meaningful travel — what more could you ask for?