Volunteer Abroad in Dharamsala

Back to Programs

A Guide to Volunteering Abroad in Dharamsala

Nestled in the northern Indian foothills of the Himalayas lies Dharamsala, a tiny city of only 20,000 inhabitants known widely as the center of the Tibetan exile community and home of the Dalai Lama. A beautiful town with Hindu and Buddhist influences, a friendly expatriate existence, and magnificent natural surroundings, Dharamsala is an ideal destination for volunteering abroad in India. Not only will you positively impact an underserved community, but you will undergo tremendous personal development amongst a deeply grounded and highly spiritual culture while volunteering in Dharamsala.

Projects & Placements

Volunteering in Dharamsala provides you with a quainter alternative to placements in urban areas of India, where everyday life can be intense and very chaotic. Volunteer placements in Dharamsala are often centered on the areas of healthcare, education, and community development. While Dharamsala has a higher literacy rate than most rural areas, it still hovers below 80 percent which means there are plenty of opportunities to facilitate economic advancement through education volunteer placements. Individual who volunteer in Dharamsala will also find placements in fields such as women’s empowerment and social justice.

Many volunteer programs target specific interaction with the Tibetan exile community of Dharamsala, which constitutes about half of the city’s population. The suburb of McLeodganj is home to the Tibetan government in exile, and many volunteer programs in Dharamsala are aimed at easing the transition into Indian life for Tibetans living in this area. Teaching English, computer skills, and other practical skillsets to refugees can be a great way for volunteers to help this often overlooked community in adapting to their new home and finding gainful employment.

Individuals can volunteer in Dharamsala year round, and programs typically last anywhere from two weeks to six months. Volunteers typically have a good amount of flexibility in determining their own departure dates and length of stay. Summers are hot and humid, followed by the rainy monsoon season. But, in some of the upper reaches of Dharamsala it can snow in the winter as well, so plan accordingly.

Life in Dharamsala

The city itself is very small, so volunteers can expect an experience reflective of Indian rural life while volunteering in Dharamsala. In short, life will be basic. While the city is a popular tourist destination and there is a modest expatriate community, volunteers will not have access to many of the entertainments or luxuries of a larger city. Early to bed and early to rise is the norm, and volunteers will certainly discover how to make the most of their days in this tiny hill town in the Himalayas.

Dharamsala is heavily influenced by both Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, creating a rich spiritual culture, which volunteers will have the opportunity to learn a lot from. Everyday life throughout India is more conservative than most Westerners are accustomed to, so whatever your personal beliefs it is important to be respectful and understanding of the culture which permeates your new home. If you keep your eyes open, volunteering abroad in India might just change your perspective on a lot of things in life.

When not volunteering, volunteers will have a lot of free time to explore the city and its glorious natural surroundings. Trekking is very popular in this part of the Himalayas, and even on an afternoon hike volunteers can come upon beautiful landscapes, such as Dal Lake, Naddi, and Bhagsu Waterfall. There are also many stunning temples in and around the city which merit at least one visit.

While volunteers will likely be living very basically in Dharamsala, they can also expect affordable prices to match the simple lifestyle. India is one of the most inexpensive countries to live in, which makes life within the city and travel elsewhere cheap and easily accessible. Those who volunteer in Dharamsala should be sure to take advantage of their location by travelling to other parts of Northern India, as there is tremendous diversity and beauty throughout the northern region of India.

Accommodation & Visas

Since Dharamsala is such a small city, it is likely that your volunteer program will organize housing for you ahead of time. Homestays are quite popular, affording those who volunteer in Dharamsala with an invaluable and intimate experience living with a local Indian or Tibetan family. Individual or group living options are also often made available – consult your volunteer program in advance to see what specific housing plans they offer.

You will need to apply for a visa in order to volunteer abroad in Dharamsala. What type you’ll need will depend on the length of your stay, but most commonly volunteer programs will help you obtain either a volunteer or tourist visa. Communicate with your volunteer program in India about what option is best in advance, and check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to locate the nearest Indian consulate to you.

GoAbroad Insider Tips

Volunteering abroad in Dharamsala will be a defining life experience. India has a mystical quality about it which has attracted foreign travellers for centuries, and as a volunteer you can experience the magic while also making a positive contribution toward the social development of the country. In Dharamsala specifically, you will find yourself in a unique environment influenced by both Indian and Tibetan cultures, a fusion of vibrant spirituality in the foothills of the Himalayas. Volunteer work in Dharamsala provides individuals with the chance to contribute valuable resources to a community in need while obtaining valuable life lessons in return.

Will you take the leap? You may also read our comprehensive guide on volunteering abroad in India for more insights.

Read More
Banner Report 2018

A Guide To
Volunteering Abroad in Dharamsala


 Find Volunteer Programs in Dharamsala Now


This listing has been saved 827 times

Affordable Volunteering in India: Costs from USD 250

Discover amazing cultural destinations while engaging in service projects abroad. International Volunteer HQ provides volunteer programs in Dharamsala, an Indian city that offers many interesting attractions. Volunteers can get involved in various projects in areas such as Women's Empowerment, Healthcare, Childcare.


This listing has been saved 6 times

India - Road Trip India

Explore the diverse culture through traveling through four different states in India! This project allows for eco-friendly tourism as well as a variety of volunteer placement options. Spend the first 3 weeks of your trip experiencing the best India has to offer, from Delhi to Jaisalmer and everywhere in between. After this sensory and cultural expedition you will head to Southern district of G...


This listing has been saved 4 times

Summer and Year-Round Volunteering in India

Contribute to community service projects in India through Volunteering Solutions. Participants can choose from 18 community service projects and embrace the chance to experience the local culture, customs, and people. They can help care for children in an orphanage, assist with female empowerment projects, and help provide dental care.


This listing has been saved 23 times

Medical Placements in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal

Travel to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, or India where you will acquire hands-on experience through a volunteering or internship placement. These are medical electives designed for pre-med and medical students of any medical discipline. It gives you the opportunity to apply your existing skills and learn new ones along the way while working in a real work setting. During your time with us and...


This listing has been saved 16 times

Semester in India, explore the Northern Plains and Himalayas

When you study abroad in India with us, you'll spend 3 months traversing the diverse ecological and spiritual landscape of the Himalayas, the Indus River Valley and the birthplace of 3 major world religions. Experience how these diverse belief systems live and work side by side in tolerance as you, too, live and work alongside them. Challenge your engagement with your own life as you volunteer ...


This listing has been saved 1 time

Meaningful programs with Volunteering India

Volunteering India offers affordable placements to individuals as young as 16 years old in the hometown of the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala. Participants can work in a wide range of programs ranging from women's empowerment to the education of orphaned or street children. Gain a deeper understanding of the Indian culture by interacting with locals, learning the language, and enjoying the exquisite cu...


This listing has been saved 65 times

Volunteer World: Best Volunteer Abroad Programs Worldwide

Looking to apply your talent and expertise to a good cause? Find a program that matches your interests and skills through Volunteer World! We are the largest volunteer abroad comparison platform around the globe, enabling you to seek and compare offers from major travel agencies as well as smaller grassroots NGOs and local specialists in more than 80 countries. All these with just one click! ...


This listing has been saved 2 times

AFSNext: Education and Women’s Rights in India

The India experience begins the moment you step off the plane and stays with you long after you depart. The mixture of languages, religions, spectacular architecture, and distinctive cuisine will rattle you and leave you wanting more. India has a buzz about it, a pace and a national character all its own. The complexity that you'll find in India offers you an experience of incomparable historic...


This listing has been saved 73 times

Volunteering Abroad through GivingWay

GivingWay is a free and open platform through which worldwide travelers connect with local nonprofit organizations seeking volunteers in a simple and direct manner. With hundreds of volunteering opportunities in over 80 countries worldwide, GivingWay makes it easy for everyone to find just the right cause to support. Whether you want to teach English in Thailand, help out in a white lion san...


This listing has been saved 10 times

Volunteer Work in India

Engage intimately with the Indian culture while making constructive contributions to local communities. Knowledge Must provides volunteering programs that truly meet the needs of the locals. Volunteers will work with charitable institutions and self-governed and internationally recognized NGOs.