The Best Volunteer Abroad Programs for Travelers on a Budget

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Many people often assume that volunteering abroad is free, and that you won’t be charged at all for your services.

Because you’re giving up your time and making the effort to help out other people (and to do things that you’d normally get paid for back home), they think you shouldn’t be charged for it.

In a perfect world, this is how it would work, but in reality, some volunteering organizations will charge you a small fortune (in the range of thousands of dollars, depending on how long you plan to volunteer for) for the ‘privilege’ of volunteering and helping out another community.

Of course, there are some international volunteer programs that are free, but these usually don’t offer the help, support and structure that’s necessary for volunteers (especially for first-timers).

I’ve already written about why it’s sometimes better to pay to volunteer, and why cheap volunteer abroad programs aren’t always the best (because essentially, you get what you pay for).

Of course, I’m generalizing here, as every volunteer program is different. Some programs might include accommodation, meals, pickup from the airport and a support structure, while others might not (regardless of how much you pay).

That being said, not everyone out there can afford to pay the high prices some organizations charge, so for the budget travelers amongst us, here are some of the best volunteer abroad programs out there:

Peace Corps

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps’ mission statement is to “promote world peace and friendship”, and allow their volunteers the chance to do community service abroad for periods of up to 27 months.

The Peace Corps has overseas volunteer programs setup in over 70 different countries, each focusing on one of the following areas: community development, education, the environment, agriculture, business development or health.

Joining the Peace Corps is a big commitment and is one that should not be taken lightly, as you’ll be spending a lot of time making a real difference in the world.

The fact that joining the Peace Corps is such a big commitment (and the fact that you’ll do some genuine good in the world) is part of what makes it one of the best volunteer abroad programs. As well as this, the Peace Corps will assist you with learning any foreign languages and technical skills you may need for your program, so it’ll look great on your resume (although that’s not the only reason to join).

In addition to this, Peace Corps ‘volunteers’ are often entitled to free flights (to and from their program’s location), the occasional vacation day, help paying off their student loan debts and are also regularly paid for their work (making it less of a volunteer program and more of an semi-altruistic job),


WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is one of the best volunteer abroad programs/organizations around (if you’re looking to work on a farm), and they have links to dozens of different countries all around the world.

In most organic farm volunteer programs, you’ll receive room and board (i.e. accommodation and meals) in exchange for labor.

One of the main benefits of WWOOFing is that it gives you the opportunity to experience a culture and a way of life in a way that most people will never get the chance to.

It might sound like hard work, but doing manual labor outside in the sun and in the fresh air can often leave you feeling healthier and at ease with the world.

Typical WWOOFing volunteer programs include harvesting (e.g. strawberry picking), wine making, gardening and working with animals.

For more information, check out 11 Things You Need to Know About WWOOFing.


International Volunteer Headquarters

International Volunteer Headquarters’ programs are perhaps the best volunteer abroad programs for those that have never volunteered overseas before.

Why is this? For starters, their programs are reasonably priced. Secondly, their programs include 24/7 support and pickup from the airport (meaning you won’t have to worry about getting there). Most of their programs also include accommodation and meals.

Many people prefer International Volunteer Headquarters’ programs over other organizations’ because they allow you to stay in the villages with the local people you’ll be helping out (as opposed to staying in a fancy hotel 10 miles away). This will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and to really get to know the local people.

Typical International Volunteer Headquarters programs include teaching English in South-East Asia, building homes in South America and doing HIV/AIDS work in Africa.


SE7EN offer free and low-cost worldwide volunteer opportunities.

They focus on environmental and social projects all around the world (from Albania to Zimbabwe), and most SE7EN host projects provide accommodation and meals.

What makes SE7EN different to other organizations? SE7EN are able to offer some of the best volunteer abroad programs out there for knock-down rates because they allow hosts and volunteers to contact each other directly (via their website), thereby cutting out the middle-man (and the extra costs that a middle-man brings).

Some projects listed on SE7EN’s website include:

  • Working with orphans and needy children in Kenya.
  • Maintaining the natural environment and harvesting in Portugal.
  • Teaching literacy and arts in Ecuador.

Sunset in Kenya


UBELONG run several volunteer abroad programs throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America (typically ranging from one week to six months in length).

UBELONG volunteer programs aren’t free, but they are very affordable – especially when you consider they include accommodation, meals, project supervision, orientation and round-the-clock support.

A two week volunteer placement with UBELONG will cost you around $250, whereas a full six month placement will set you back around $3,500.

Volunteer South America

Want to travel to and volunteer in South America? You’re not alone. Volunteer South America (VSA) is an organization setup specifically for those who want to do just that, and they offer some of the best volunteer abroad programs within the continent.

VSA are a low-cost (or completely free) alternative to many of the ‘bigger’ volunteering organizations. As with SE7EN, VSA aim to cut out the middleman – thereby reducing agency fees and making their volunteer programs cheaper for you.

Related posts:

  1. Why Should You Pay to Volunteer Abroad?
  2. Gap Year Conservation Programs
  3. Want to Study Abroad? How to Choose the Right Study Abroad Program for You
  4. What are the Benefits of Studying Abroad?
  5. Jobs Abroad for College Graduates

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