How can I reduce the cost of volunteer abroad?

When you first start to look into volunteer abroad, you may be somewhat deterred by the seemingly endless costs. Beyond the often extremely high programme fees that you pay to your volunteer abroad organisation, you will also realise that there are a number of unavoidable extra costs such as flights, vaccinations and visas. Most costs are unavoidable but there are a number of ways to minimise and reduce the amount of money you will be spending whilst volunteering abroad. Below we will go over the main costs associated with volunteer abroad and how you can reduce them.

Program fees

Any research you may have done into volunteer abroad programs will have shown you that the prices vary significantly. There are actually a number of ways you may be able to reduce the costs of volunteer abroad program fees:

Compare different organisations

Have a look online at different volunteer abroad organisations. Don’t just choose the cheapest. Look at what is actually included in the program to make sure you are actually getting value for money as many organisations who advertise extremely low prices, do so by cutting out various services.

Try and get a group discount

Get a group of friends together and contact organisations to see if they will offer you a discount for a large group. Whilst not all organisations will advertise group discounts, you will be amazed at the discounts you will receive if you contact the organisation directly.

Follow the organisations social media accounts

If you are flexible in terms of when you travel, you will find that many volunteer abroad organisations offer last minute discounts and offers on their Facebook, twitter and Instagram pages. Follow the organisations that you are interested in and wait for a special offer!


One of the easiest parts of your volunteer abroad trip to save money on is the airfare. Anybody who travels frequently will tell you that there are huge savings to be made on airfare. We go into ways to save money on airfare in more detail in another article but here is a brief summary of the main points:

  • Use comparison websites
  • Book in advance
  • Travel in low season
  • Go to travel agents and see if they can find you special deals

Visas and vaccinations

We go into both of these issues in other articles but unfortunately there is very little you can do to save money on either of these things.

With regards to vaccinations, you should definitely check to see what is covered by your insurance, and make sure you are not being talked into getting any vaccinations you do not need. Contact your volunteer abroad organisation beforehand and they can tell you precisely which vaccinations are required and which are recommended.

Visa costs are fairly fixed. Sometimes, you have to pay more to get your visa quickly so the best advice is to apply as early as possible. Also, when looking at online visa application, make sure you are doing so through the official website and not a third party which will charge you more.

Pocket money/extra expenses

Don’t fall into the trap of buying a lot of expensive equipment and clothing before you travel. We have gone over a general packing list in a previous article and your volunteer organisation can tell you if you need any specialist equipment.

Your program fee is likely to include 2 meals a day with your host family which means you will be responsible for your own lunch. Try to find out where locals eat as it is likely to be your cheapest option, or find out if you will have the facilities to prepare your own lunch.

When travelling try to travel by public buses/trains rather than expensive tourist shuttles. This will save you a great deal in the long run and will also be a great cultural experience. Just check with local staff to make sure public transportation is safe.

In general, the best way to save money when volunteering abroad is to do some research beforehand, and to make a budget.