Guest post by Astrid Halliday
Volunteering overseas can be the most amazing experience of your life but many decide not to embark on this adventure as it is often associated with breaking the bank. However, it shouldn’t be! I have volunteered abroad many times and even when volunteering for twelve weeks in Cambodia, it didn’t cost me more than US$190, including accommodation.
Here are a couple of ways I managed to volunteer overseas on a budget:
Use Cheap Organisations
There are plenty of affordable organisations out there, but they are harder to find. Expensive organisations invest a lot of money into marketing and dominating the market, this makes it harder to find low-cost organisations. Persist with searching, you will find them. Low-cost organisations may be on the second or third page of online results.
Low-cost organisations provide the same amount of support and volunteering opportunities than more expensive ones, although they may have more basic accommodation.
Personally, I have volunteered with Original Volunteers many times, mainly because they allow you to volunteer many times under one registration. Other organisations make you re-register every time you volunteer abroad. I have also volunteered through HelpX and met a group of medical students who highly praised Doctors Without Borders.
Stay As Long As You Can
A lot of organisations’ project fees lower in price the longer you stay. After a couple of weeks, project fees may drop to US$15 a week including accommodation. A couple of times I hung around so long the project offered me free accommodation in exchange for taking on a bit more responsibility. After hanging around for even longer I was kindly given a stipend to cover my food expenses.
The longer a traveller spends in one area, the more comfortable they become with the currency and local prices, uncovering the cheapest shops and the locals’ affordable way of living.
I pretty much let my visa choose how long I was going to volunteer in one place for. Sticking around until the country kicked me out!
Get The Best Flight Deal
Consider when you are flying, prices can double if schools are closed and families are likely to be travelling. According to Business Insider, flights are cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays than any other day of the week.
Don’t fall prey to large flight suppliers who offer discounts. Large companies tend not to be competitive with their prices, they normally increase the ticket prices to then offer five or ten
Search online and set up a price alert to receive emails when prices rise or fall. Make sure you are following airlines on social media to be the first to access sales and receive updates. Check multiple different sites and routes to make sure you are getting the best deal.
Remember that most flights have a free cancellation period. If you find a cheaper flight elsewhere, you can cancel yours and purchase cheaper ones.
Look For Free Accommodation
Accommodation whilst volunteering is often included in project fees, however, weekends are often spent travelling, seeing more of the amazing country they have chosen to visit.
Continuous weekend stays at hotels and resorts add up quickly, there are many ways to find free accommodation to help you save money whilst travelling at the weekend.
Camping: There are many locations where volunteers can pitch their tent for free or for low costs. CampSpace is a useful website to find unique places to camp. It can be easy, and you don’t have to worry about getting back to a hotel or guest house for the night, you can just pitch and camp when you are done with the day and ready to relax. Some of my favourite nights volunteering abroad were up along the river bank, in a group, falling asleep under the stars.
CouchSurfing: A fun and exciting way to get free accommodation, especially in city centres and towns is to couch surf. The site Couchsurfing is easy to use for travellers to find individuals offering a couch or spare.
Day Trips: To save money on accommodation at weekends, you can choose to stay close to the volunteer project. You have already paid for the accommodation at the volunteer house, rather than duplicating costs for accommodation, go out for a day and return to the volunteer house instead.
HouseSitting: Most volunteers travel after they have finished on a volunteer project, getting further away and seeing parts of the country they couldn’t fit into a weekend. A way to get free accommodation whilst travelling is to house sit for someone. There are many house-sitting websites to search through, sometimes the home-owners have pets which you need to look after, personally being a dog lover I thought this made the experience ten times better!