Voluntourism holidays

√ Watch/Do-Play √ Culture √ People √ Climate


voluntourism holidays

Voluntourism is a type of tourism which combines traditional travel and tourism with volunteer work. Travellers are given opportunities to contribute money and/or time to causes related to their destinations.   This type of holiday will particularly appeal to people wishing to give freely of their time to particular causes or communities, whilst getting the chance to visit somewhere new.


Typically, voluntourism holidays are offered in some of the less prosperous continents and countries.   Africa, the Indian Ocean, South and South East Asia, Australasia, Central America and limited parts of Europe have at one time or another given volunteers the opportunity to travel and make a valid contribution to local communities, wildlife and the environment.


Depending on your skills, experience and availability, you could get involved in projects or internships ranging from sport to healthcare, teaching, wildlife, construction or climate change.     Often the conditions you live in will be basic (you might for instance have to live with a local family in their home), so you must be prepared for a less than 5 star experience.   However, if you love rolling up your sleeves in the great outdoors (or maybe using your brain to transfer knowledge to a village education project or a micro business start up) and have an adaptable personality so that you can get along with local people who might not speak English, can work alone or in a team, chances are you will love this type of holiday.    You should select your project carefully, though, if you don’t like very hot, cold or wet weather, because most of the countries offering voluntourism holidays have extreme and often uncomfortable conditions.


Voluntourism Holidays can be taken all year round and typically last between a few days and several months.   Bear in mind that there are often long lists of other people wanting to do the same, so it pays to register well in advance with the appropriate charities or other organisations putting programmes together.


Often you will be supplied with any special equipment you need by the organisation putting together the holiday.   You will also be vetted and trained before you depart and possibly also in country.   Keep in mind that if you are going to work with children for example, your criminal record will be checked.   Likewise, if you are going to be helping to re-wire a factory you will have to prove you are qualified.

Also, take account of the fact that because many of the projects take place in less privileged countries worldwide, you will need a valid passport, often also a visa, and the chances are you will need vaccinations to guard against insect bites and disease.   Sometimes off the beaten track places are less secure than others so you should also carefully check out the security situation in such places and decide if you are comfortable with the risks.   You will also need to make sure you can get insurance cover.   A good starting point for information is the Charity Commission website for a list of suitable voluntourism charities, or http://www.ethicalvolunteering.org, but also the usual UK government websites for health, passport, visa and security information.


Unlike longer volunteering projects, where expert skills are often needed, short-term voluntourism trips often make use of everyday talents such as reading with children or helping a school gardening project.   On World Expeditions’ 10-day “Aberdare Ranges Primary School Vegetable Garden Project” trip in Kenya, participants spent three days helping children from families displaced from their homes after the country’s elections in 2007 as they tend allotments to provide sustainable food sources. The rest of the trip is spent wildlife-watching around Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and Hells Gate National Park. A budget of about £2,000 per person includes international flights, local transport, accommodation and most meals, but not international flights.

For longer and more highly skilled projects, people should consider contacting organisations like VSO (www.vso.org.uk).


Voluntourism Holidays can cost very little depending on the contribution provided by the charity concerned, but often will require the volunteer to pay for flights and other items.   Be prepared to pay for at least your flights and insurance (local costs and food will often be covered), so a minimum cost for a short one or two week trip will be from about £1,000 and rising based on the location of the holiday, complexity of reaching it, and any special insurance needed.


Some very famous people are, or started out as, volunteers.   Jonathan Dimbleby, Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Madonna , Sandra Bullock and Elizabeth Taylor have all turned their hand to volunteering in one form or another.

Link to Other Things To Know (Passports, Visas, Health, Security)

You will certainly need a valid passport, usually with several months’ validity remaining, and often a visa which could take time to be granted.    Very often you will need vaccinations, and you should also carefully check security information for the area you are travelling to.   A good starting point for information is UK government websites like http://www.fco.gov.uk and http://www.dfid.gov.uk.

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