Good for the World AND Your Wallet: 10 Cheap Volunteer Abroad Destinations

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How to Find the Cheapest Volunteer Abroad Opportunities

So, you’re thinking of volunteering abroad, and you want to save a little green while you’re at it. We don’t blame you. Volunteering in another country can be one of the greatest adventures of your life, but it certainly isn’t free. In fact, it can often come with a hefty price tag attached to it.

That’s why we’ve compiled the following list of the top 10 cheap volunteer abroad destinations, so that you’ll get the most bang for your buck, and not have to worry about going broke in your quest to make a positive impact in the world. The fact that these countries are some of the most affordable means that they are generally low-income, developing economies, so they can also benefit from skilled volunteer labor in a variety of sectors.

Good for the World AND Your Wallet: 10 Cheapest Volunteer Abroad Destinations

Affordability doesn’t mean that you’ll be on vacation, spreading your money around as you please. On the contrary, the purpose of volunteer work through cheap volunteer programs is to immerse yourself in the community, learn from the local way of life, and give something of yourself back through your time and effort. If done properly, any of these low cost volunteer abroad destinations can provide an ideal, and inexpensive, environment to do just that. So, cheap volunteering abroad really does exist!

1. Mexico

Sprawling neighborhoods and colorful houses of Monterrey, Mexico
Volunteer placements in Mexico are low-cost, but high impact.

While Mexico has one of the largest GDPs in the world it’s still one of the cheapest volunteer abroad spots. Its position along the southern border of the United States has always posed a challenge to its economic development under the shadow of its more powerful northern neighbor. Volunteering abroad in Mexico is an opportunity to lend your time toward levelling that gap. FYI: the local currency is the Mexican peso, which trades at about 18 MXN to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in Mexico:

2. Colombia

Rolling green hillsides and jungles of Colombia
Experience the green countryside of Colombia while keeping a little extra green in your pocket.

Sitting at the vital apex of South and North American continents, Colombia has struggled with internal stability in the past, but has made huge strides in recent history to becoming a major magnet for volunteers and travelers from all over the world. Today, it offers one of the most promising stories in Latin America and is a great choice for low cost volunteer abroad placements. FYI: The local currency is the Colombian peso, which trades at about 2,895 COP to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in Colombia:

[First-time volunteer? You GOTTA read this eBook]

3. Bolivia

Car and campers in Uyuni, Bolivia at the salt flats
Salt away a little cash volunteering abroad in Bolivia (or, donate that money saved!).

A small landlocked country sitting in the heart of South America, Bolivia is one of the poorest countries on the continent; it is also one of the most diverse, with over three dozen indigenous dialects recognized as official languages. Often overlooked by travellers headed to Latin America, volunteering abroad in Bolivia will be the opportunity to immerse yourself in a deep-rooted cultural heritage not experienced by many. FYI: the local currency is the Boliviano, which trades at about 7 BOB to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in Bolivia:

4. România

Town view of Sighișoara, Romania
Europe might not be on your list of cheapest volunteer abroad locales, but you can make a difference in Romania without making a huge dent in your savings.

Crossing the Atlantic now, we’ll stop briefly in Europe— not somewhere you’d associate with the cheapest volunteer abroad destination, but here we are. While its economy has grown significantly in the post-Soviet era, România remains one of the poorer countries on the continent and an affordable destination to live and volunteer abroad. Volunteering in România is your chance to become part of an exciting economic boom while living in the heart of Eastern Europe. FYI: the local currency is the Românian leu, which trades at about 4 RON to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in România:

[Get customized program selection help here]

5. Morocco

Wide shot of driving through the mountains of Morocco
You’ll get to make the most out of your time in Morocco, and the cost won’t break the camel’s back.

Now to North Africa, Morocco has proven to be a beacon of stability in an otherwise volatile region throughout recent history. Even so, its solid economic reputation has not benefitted many of its most vulnerable citizens, and so volunteers from all over the world are invited here to help extend much needed services. FYI: the local currency is the Moroccan dirham, which trades at about 10 MAD to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in Morocco:

6. Kenya

Clothes hung on the laundry line in the foreground while children play soccer in the background in Makuyu, Kenya
You’ll turn out your pockets to do laundry, but volunteering in Kenya won’t leave them empty.

Kenya has the potential to become a major success story in East Africa, but it still is struggling to overcome many early barriers to economic development. Volunteers in Kenya will be living in an affordable country, and also devoting their time to building up what can become a leading African nation. FYI: the local currency is the Kenyan shilling, which trades at about 103 KES to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in Kenya:

[Everything you need to know to volunteer abroad for cheap]

7. South Africa

View through the Jeep driving through Kruger National Park, South Africa
Offer your skilled services in South Africa to make a big impact everywhere but on your bank account.

South Africa is the leading country in sub-Saharan Africa, but still faces many challenges stemming from economic and social inequality, a legacy of colonialism and the apartheid era. It’s a great place for low cost volunteer abroad opportunities, and also a great entryway to learning about Africa’s historical and modern development. FYI: the local currency is the South African rand, which trades at about 13 ZAR to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in South Africa:

8. Nepal

Pokhara, Nepal through the early morning mist
Live simply and make a difference volunteering in Nepal.

Switching over to Asia, next on the list of cheapest volunteer abroad locations is the small mountain country of Nepal. Because of its geographical layout sprawled among the mighty Himalayas, Nepal faces significant challenges in developing its infrastructure and extending services to its entire population. Along with India to the south, it’s one of the most affordable countries to volunteer abroad in as such. FYI: the local currency is the Nepalese Rupee, which trades at about 103 NPR to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in Nepal:

[Compare your fave volunteer programs side-by-side]

9. India

Young girl with backpack through two blue sliding doors in India
Stop wringing your hands about a rupee here and there, and lend a hand instead.

The world’s second-largest country with a population larger than that of both Africa and the Americas, India is a subregion not often enough appreciated for its tremendous internal dynamism and diversity. While its economy is booming though, poverty still remains a huge challenge, and the hard work of volunteers can go a long way toward providing basic services for those that fall through the cracks of the system. FYI: the local currency is the Indian rupee, which trades at about 64 INR to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in India:

10. Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, canals and buildings
The low cost of volunteering in Vietnam means you can dedicate time to your project and still quest for the best Pho.

Moving on southeast, we’ve chosen to round off this list of cheapest volunteer abroad locales with Vietnam. Host of a devastating war in the latter part of the 20th century, Vietnam to this day still faces many economic challenges in overcoming its tragic past. Volunteering abroad in Vietnam is an opportunity to learn all about this fascinating chapter of history from the country itself, while lending your time to help boost the prospects of its citizens in need. The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong, which trades at 22,711 to $1.

Recommended affordable volunteer programs in Vietnam:

Aim for Impact with Cheap Volunteer Abroad Destinations

In the end, it’s not just about finding the cheapest volunteer abroad opportunities, it’s about making an impact. And, if you really want to make a positive impact on the communities you serve (which, you better!), you’re going to need to spend a little money. There are certainly affordable ways to volunteer abroad and do good, but if your motivation is to spend as little money as possible to see the world — try budget backpacking instead of cheap volunteer abroad programs.

Money spent volunteering abroad is never wasted, especially if you’re vigilant in researching programs, locations, projects, and local communities. Read reviews, reach out to program staff and alumni to ask them the tough questions and make sure this opportunity is good for you AND the community you hope to serve.

Volunteering abroad in any of these countries, among many others, is a unique opportunity to travel the world, immerse yourself in an entirely new culture, and in return give your time to advancing local development efforts (and you don’t have to break the bank).

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