Volunteer Travel: A Beginner’s Guide

Volunteer Travel

The new year is approaching, and you might be thinking about your goals and resolutions. Is giving back to the community one of them? The idea of volunteering as a means of travel appeals to many. I recently mentioned it as a way to find free accommodation, but there is a lot to consider when you choose to do volunteer travel.

What cause do you want to give your time to? What part of the world needs or calls to you most? And that doesn’t even get into the nitty gritty of the process, including ethical volunteering, visas, etc. I’ve gathered some information and resources that can get your started on your volunteer travel journey.

Ethical Volunteering

Above all, make sure that you are contributing to making the world better. Do your research to ensure that the money you give goes where you expect. Not all organizations are doing ethical work to make communities better. One good way to determine if a project is going to make a positive change is to find out if the local community is on-board. If they are welcoming the service and projects rather than fighting them, you are on the right path. 

Volunteer Travel
Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

Types of Volunteer Travel

What type of volunteering should you do? There are a few factors to consider, including length of stay, how much money you have available, or how deeply you want to be involved. Here is a brief description of the types of volunteer travel available:


Independent volunteering is ideal for flexible travelers who can stay for longer periods of time. There’s usually little or no facilitation, so you must arrange everything yourself. This includes paying for your own travel, accommodation, and food. You will get to work directly on a project at a very hands-on level. 

Placement Companies

Using a middleman is ideal for specific volunteer travel requests. A fee will be charged to match you with a project. This allows you to work in the field that you are interested in and lets you specify how much time you can commit. Your accommodation and food are usually included.


While more expensive, voluntours are ideal for those on a short vacation. The money spent is going towards taking you on the tour. This type of volunteer travel is more about seeing the destination, with a nod to service included.

Volunteer Organizations

There are many organizations available to help facilitate volunteer travel. Use these sites to research what types of volunteering are available, and consider their different levels of facilitation and fees.

  • Grassroots Volunteering: Lists volunteering opportunities as well as social enterprises all over the world.
  • Go Overseas: Allows you choose volunteer options by country, program type, and length of time.
  • Volunteer HQ: Projects with long-term community approach.
  • WWOOF: Working on farms to help cultivate a more sustainable way of living.

Research a Visa

Once you decide the country where you wish to volunteer and the duration, you should determine whether you will need a visa. If you use a middleman to find your volunteer travel opportunity, they will likely let you know how to start the process. Otherwise, it is important to read through the destination country’s tourist visa and volunteer visa requirements.

Why Pay to Volunteer?

When you pay for a program, it includes your accommodation, food, on-site support, and a certain amount of the money goes for the improvement of the project. But if you still have concerns, ask how your money is being used!

Volunteer Travel
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Have you volunteered abroad before? I would love to hear all about it in Companach’s Facebook Group!