7 volunteer opportunities around the world, perfect for open-minded and adventurous budget travelers.
If you’ve browsed through my blog before, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of volunteering abroad.
It is an amazing way to experience different cultures, learn new skills, meet lovely people, and save money while traveling.
I’ve written a few articles about the perks of volunteering, including:
In this article, I’ll be sharing 7 specific places to volunteer abroad. I’ve personally done each of these, and can honestly recommend them all.
So if you’re looking for a unique cultural experience abroad, or you just want to avoid the usual tourist trail, these are some great options.
For all of these volunteer opportunities, you work in exchange for your accommodation.
This makes traveling so much more affordable!
You usually work around 20 hours per week. It’s a great feeling to know you’re giving back to the community, being productive, and learning new things.
So if that sounds as enticing to you as it is to me, you will love any of these volunteer opportunities from around the world.
7 Volunteer Opportunities From Around The World
For each volunteer experience, I’ll link to my previous articles with more details.
I’ll also link to the official website where you can apply to volunteer.
Also, you don’t need a visa to volunteer in any of these countries if your stay is less than 3 months (except Australia).
So here are 7 volunteer opportunities that I highly recommend!
1. Bulungula Lodge: Nquileni Village, South Africa
Of all the places I’ve volunteered, this one was the most inspiring.
Bulungula Lodge is a colorful, sustainable tourist lodge set on a stunning headland in the Transkei region of South Africa.
The Transkei is extremely remote, and it is absolutely gorgeous.
Picture miles of untouched beaches framed by rolling green hills. You can surf, swim, kayak, fish, hike, or walk along the beach for miles without seeing another person.
Animals like cows, goats, pigs, dogs, and donkeys roam freely around the land. Dolphins are often playing in the waves, and it’s common to find huge whale bones washed up on the beach.
The Nquileni Village is spread out over the landscape. The locals speak Xhosa, a language with clicks in it.
Round local dwellings are built using handmade mud bricks, and they are all painted in bright colors.
This was the most unique location of all these volunteer opportunities, and I felt lucky to live here for 2 weeks.
The Work Exchange
At Bulungula Lodge, our job was posting photos on social media and socializing with guests. It was easy, enjoyable work.
In order to create high-quality posts, it was also our duty to learn about the local Xhosa community.
The tourist lodge is staffed solely by the locals, which provides jobs and creates income for this rural town.
Some locals offer guided tours so travelers can learn more about their land and culture.
Tours I did included canoeing down the nearby river, learning about herbal remedies with the local medicine man, and touring the village with the local women.
There are also some other local projects designed to help better the community. The Bulungula Incubator is a childcare and education program that helps teach and prepare kids for life.
We also helped out with the “Give A Wave” Project, which teaches kids about ocean safety. We did beach cleanups and helped with surf lessons.
In exchange for our work, we got a private room and 2 home cooked meals a day.
2. Dreamsea Surf Camp: Tamarindo, Costa Rica
This is probably the most fun and social of all these volunteer opportunities.
Dreamsea Surf Camp is located in the jungle near the touristy town of Tamarindo. From town, it’s about a 30-minute walk along dirt roads until you reach the camp.
The camp has glamping tents, bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining area, a yoga platform, and a bar, all spread out around the property..
Everything is open, so all day you’re breathing humid jungle air and listening to howler monkeys in the trees above you.
The camp truck heads to town every day, transporting all the backpackers and their surfboards to Tamarindo beach.
You spend all day surfing and enjoying the beach before heading back to camp in the afternoon for yoga, meditations, drinking games, hangouts in the massive Mango Tree, and delicious meals.
The Work Exchange
Dreamsea takes general volunteers and skilled volunteers.
General volunteers help with cooking, cleaning, and general upkeep of the camp. They do have to pay a weekly fee for food and accommodation.
Skilled volunteers include surf instructors, yoga teachers, photographers, videographers, and social media experts.
I did blogging and social media, and as a skilled volunteer there is no fee.
In exchange, I got breakfast and dinner and a free stay in a shared tent. I spent 2 months here, living in paradise, learning to surf, getting in touch with nature, and making lifelong friends.
3. Nice Way Hostel: Porto, Portugal
This work exchange is an amazing way to save money while traveling in Europe.
Portugal is relatively cheap for Western Europe, but accommodation still costs around 20 Euros per night for a hostel dorm bed.
Doing a work exchange in a hostel allows you to explore Portugal on a budget!
Porto is the capital city of northern Portugal. It is slightly less touristy than Lisbon, but just as gorgeous.
Located on the Douro River, Porto is home to picturesque, colorful waterfront buildings, massive bridges, and lots of cool architecture.
There are towers, statues, fountains, and gardens around every corner. Many of the churches are covered in intricately decorated blue tiles known as azulejos, and street murals add to the beauty of the city.
Nice Way Hostel is located right in the heart of Porto, making it the perfect location for exploring.
It is set in a majestic old building, but the hostel has a pretty modern feel. There is a large communal kitchen, a bar, and lots of cozy rooms.
The Work Exchange
This is one of the most accessible work exchanges for everyone. The work is straightforward and simple, and you don’t need prior hospitality experience.
When I volunteered here, I did a range of different duties.
I helped housekeeping with cleaning rooms, and I ran breakfast for the guests every morning. I did a little admin work in reception as well.
In exchange for these tasks, I slept in a staff dorm room with about 4 other volunteers from around the world.
Additionally, I got free breakfast, a few free tours with partner organizations, and a free stay at the Nice Way Hostels in other Portuguese cities.
I had 3-4 days off per week, and the local staff encouraged me to travel around the area in my free time.
When I wasn’t taking trips to other areas of Portugal, I was bonding with the other staff and experiencing the heartwarming Portuguese culture.
4. Las Terrazas De Dana: Mindo, Ecuador
This work exchange is relaxing and serene, perfect for anyone looking for some quiet time with nature.
Mindo is a town in Ecuador’s Cloud Forest. It’s about 2 hours northwest of the capital city, Quito.
The village is very small, but the jungle surrounding the town is packed with exotic, colorful plants and animals.
Las Terrazas De Dana is a small boutique lodge just outside the town.
Most of my time in Mindo consisted of hiking through the forest, relaxing by the river, and playing with the local dogs.
I also visited the local butterfly sanctuary, orchid garden, and chocolate tasting centers. My favorite activity in Mindo was the Nambillo Waterfalls hike, where you follow a trail through the jungle and pass multiple impressive waterfalls.
Other fun things to do in Mindo include bird-watching, zip-lining, and river rafting.
The Work Exchange
My job at Las Terrazas De Dana was writing for their blog. The owner, David, was very flexible and allowed me to write whenever suited me.
So I spent every day exploring the area, then sat down in the dining room to write an article every evening after dinner.
In exchange for my articles, I got to stay in a little staff room by myself, and I got to share most meals with the local staff.
It’s a very small place, and there weren’t any other volunteers or people my age. But I loved practicing my Spanish with the local staff and spending time alone with nature and with the dogs.
5. GuateSUP: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
This is probably the coolest work exchange I’ve done, in terms of the location and the work.
This work exchange is set on the picturesque Lake Atitlan. One of the most beautiful places in Guatemala, this lake is surrounded by volcanoes, green forests, and traditional Mayan villages.
GuateSUP is a paddle boarding company based in Panajachel, the biggest and most commercialized town on the lake.
Working for a paddleboarding company is amazing. You can get out on the water every day and see the beauty of Lake Atitlan up close.
When we weren’t on the water, we went hiking, cliff-jumping, waterfall-seeking, and shopping at the local produce market. We did lots of yoga and acroyoga as well.
On our days off work, we took the local boats across the lake to explore all the beautiful towns.
Lake Atitlan is a gorgeous place and there are so many ways to enjoy the water and the land around it.
The Work Exchange
GuateSUP is a small business run by an awesome dude named JC. He’s from the USA, but he’s lived in Guatemala for years and he’s practically a local. He is very knowledgeable about yoga and SUP, so you can learn a lot from him.
JC runs a small guesthouse called Casa Colonial, and operates GuateSUP out of Casa Colonial.
So working for JC means you could be helping check-in guests and make beds at Casa Colonial. You could also be helping run paddling tours on the lake. You could be doing social media, photography, yoga and fitness classes, or board maintenance.
GuateSUP also partners with local special needs organizations. So you could be assisting with the paddling camps for disabled kids.
You could even be helping raise money for food and medication to give to the local stray dogs. JC is passionate about dogs and helping the ones in need.
The work always varies, but there is always something fun and fulfilling to do.
6. Pachamama Forest Retreat: Knysna, South Africa
Of all these volunteer opportunities, this one was the most wholesome.
If you want to cleanse your body and live off the grid, Pachamama Forest Retreat is perfect.
The Garden Route is a famous road trip along the south coast of South Africa. Near the town of Knysna, head about 45 minutes inland along quiet, winding roads until you reach Pachamama Forest Retreat.
This eco-village in the forest runs on sustainable technologies.
All the cabins are built with wood from the nearby trees. Rainwater tanks, compost toilets, and wood-fired hot showers make living easier without costing the Earth.
There is a yoga studio, a kitchen area, a sawmill, a fire pit, a sweat lodge for spiritual ceremonies, and a large garden.
There is a small amount of electricity for running the fridge and charging devices, but there is no internet at all. Enjoy this opportunity to disconnect!
The Work Exchange
Pachamama takes in volunteers to help with various tasks around the community.
I often found myself gardening and working with plants. We removed invasive species from the forest, weaved garden beds out of soft wattle trees, made compost, and planted seeds.
There is also work at the saw mill, making planks for buildings. Some people helped in the kitchen, preparing all vegan food using ingredients fresh from the garden.
You can camp in a tent or stay in a cabin if one is free.
Meals are included. However, it is recommended to pitch in whatever money you can for special ingredients outside the garden, such as coffee, tea, honey, nuts, and other snacks.
When we weren’t working, we were exploring the forest, doing yoga or meditations, and drinking tea around the campfire.
7. PK’s Jungle Village: Cape Tribulation, Australia
I recommend this work exchange for backpackers in Australia. You have to be on a work visa to volunteer in Australia, such as a Working Holiday Visa.
I took a job at PK’s expecting it to be paid regional work that would qualify for my Second Year WHV. It turned out to be more of a work for accommodation situation, which didn’t get me my visa.
Once I got over the disappointment of not getting my visa, I looked at my PK’s experience in a more positive light. It was a breathtaking place to live, and I didn’t need to spend any money since I worked for my accommodation.
PK’s has reformed a lot since I was there in early 2019, so I think their employment situation has improved.
Either way, if you’re a backpacker in Australia and you want a super cool, remote working experience, contact PK’s and see what they’re offering.
PK’s Jungle Village is a tourist resort in the Daintree Rainforest of Tropical North Queensland.
It is set in Cape Tribulation, a rugged corner of the rainforest with 1 main road and very few amenities.
PK’s has cabins, campsites, dorm rooms, a pool, a bar and restaurant, and a path that leads directly to Myall Beach.
Once you step off PK’s grounds, you’re surrounded by the world’s oldest rainforest.
Everything is huge, from the trees and the leaves to the spiders and the bats.
Spend your days hiking to freshwater swimming holes, walking along the warm sandy beaches, and climbing up cliffs to watch sea turtles swim in the ocean below.
The Work Exchange
As a tourist resort, PK’s hires people to work in reception, housekeeping, maintenance, waitressing, and cooking.
I worked in reception, checking in guests, taking bookings, and doing admin work. I got to sit in an air-conditioned office and escape the thick jungle humidity, which was nice.
Staff start out in a shared dorm, and eventually can move to their own small private rooms.
We got meals provided from the restaurant, as well as the ability to join in on group tours.
I visited during the rainy season when most tours weren’t running. But during peak season, you can ride horses on the beach, go zip-lining, tour a tropical fruit farm, see crocodiles in the Daintree River, and visit the Great Barrier Reef.
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Thanks for reading about these 7 volunteer opportunities from around the world!
Each one of these has greatly enriched my life.
I’ve had such crazy experiences, and met amazing friends who will be in my life forever.
There is no doubt that traveling is one of the best things a person can do. I believe that traveling this way, living with locals and immersing yourself in a new culture, is the best way to travel.
Hopefully you’re now inspired to try a work exchange!
Please comment or email me with any questions about any of these volunteer opportunities!
For more helpful travel articles, check out:
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