Imagine riding an elephant through the jungle or visiting one of the holiest rivers in the world. Refreshingly vibrant, stimulating, and positively overwhelming. An volunteer's playground, India is a land of incredible diversity filled with endless volunteer opportunities.
Often referred to as the subcontinent, the Republic of India is situated in southern Asia. Bordered by Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal in the north, the nation is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Bay of Bengal in the south. One of the most populated countries in the world, at over one billion people, the demographics of India are unbelievably diverse. With a multitude of religions, languages and tribes represented, India is vast in nearly every sense of the word.
Ask any Indian from the south and they will tell you there are three seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest. The overall climate ranges from tropical monsoon season in the south to more temperate climate in the north. With impeccable biodiversity, a wide range of climates can be found throughout the country.
India is predominantly a Hindu nation. Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion, although other commonly practiced religions include Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Christianity. Holidays are celebrated year round and are a staple to any traveler’s experience. Indian Independence Day, Ramadaan, Holi, and Diwali are some of the top celebrations throughout the country.
Each state in India has three official languages. Two being English and Hindi, with the third official language being state-specific. The literacy rate in some areas is incredibly high, but incredibly low in others; greatly dependent on class and location.
There is a growing middle class but still a major socioeconomic divide. Caste discrimination has been banned but many do not oblige. The caste system, fixed from birth, is the hierarchy embedded in traditional Hindu culture. Castes are related to occupation and often forbid individuals from interacting outside of their caste.
The subcontinent is the vegetarian traveler’s paradise. Indian cuisine is as diverse as its citizens. Known for its pungent spices, foreigners can find themselves hand deep in exotic curries and dishes. Leave spoons and forks at home, Indians eat with their right hand. The left hand is considered unsanitary, being used to clean oneself after toileting only. Mouthwatering dishes that please meat-eating foreigners are also widely served as well. Costals cities serve more fish and seafood dishes, while inland cities tend to abide by more strict vegetarian standards.
The local currency in India is the Indian Rupee. Money transfers and ATMs are some of the best ways to access funds nationwide for international volunteers. These means can be found in nearly every city but make sure to have rupees if venturing into the villages, where access to foreign currencies or ATMs is nonexistent.
Traveling throughout the country is convenient and affordable, because there are unlimited means of transportation throughout the country. With an intricate railway network, traveling by train is not only common but convenient and inexpensive.
A vast array of volunteer placements are offered to satisfy any individual’s desires. Placements range from health sciences to community development, sustainable farming to working with ESL students. Multiple programs are individually tailored to maximize the volunteer’s experience. Volunteers can choose between rural or urban placements, where accommodations include homestays, designated volunteer apartments and guest houses. Independent housing is also available but may take away from the culture experience. Visa requirements are specific to the traveler’s respective country of origin. Responsibility is typically placed in the hands of the volunteer.