Does Voluntourism Really Save You Money?

Volunteer tourism, or voluntourism for short, is a relatively new form of way to explore new destinations, mainly focusing on helping deprived communities by volunteering. This form of tourism has been on the rise again, with many volunteers embarking on expeditions to help communities regain their feet. But does it really save you money?

Voluntourism is more expensive than regular tours and embarking on a voluntourism trip to explore a country will cost more than expected. However, engaging in the trip to help deprived communities will save you a fortune in terms of experience, education, and gaining new skills. 

The key to having a successful voluntourism program is to use the many facets of projects that are conducted through certified charities and NGOs. This article will explore the costs involved in different voluntourism projects and the benefits one can obtain from having a successful time abroad. 

Differences Of Costs In Voluntourism And Regular Tourism: A Case Study

Visiting a country for sightseeing and visiting the same country to volunteer are two different types of tourism. There are inherent advantages in either of them, and it’s crucial to get a sound understanding of the costs and areas covered by each of these sectors to make a more informed decision. 

For example, a two-week budget trip to South Asia comprising popular destinations like Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh will on average cost $1400. This cost includes the airfare, normal accommodation, transport, and other costs. Planning tours to popular destinations like Maldives and India may cost more given their high demand. 

These costs can be classified as:

CategoryThe average cost for 14 days
Airfare and Visa$850
Food and drink$200
Random spending$200

A voluntourism project to India in the form of a medical internship will, on average, cost $2500. This cost includes;

  • Airfare
  • Food – All three meals each day
  • A complete induction, orientation, and cultural awareness course
  • Transport
  • Emergency assistance
  • Training workshops
  • A certificate once the program is completed

Hence when the two types of tourism are compared by price, it is evident that embarking on a regular trip is cheaper than going on a voluntourism project.

Still, the perks and cons of voluntourism projects have to be considered, which may prove their worth for the extra money.

Pros And Cons Of Voluntourism

The key aim of voluntourism is to help deprived communities. The types of help one can give can vary according to one’s profession, beliefs, and set of values. Therefore, identifying the right project and using it to boost a professional career can be a win-win situation for both parties.

As an example, a medical student studying in the USA can complete a medical internship in a voluntourism project which will let the student gain vital professional experience and has the potential to boost his career in the long run.

Using voluntourism projects to gain professional experience in the fields of medicine, law, human rights, journalism, engineering, business, etc can prove to be a good value for money given the rising education costs.

However, there have been many controversies surrounding this industry too. The below table weighs in on all the pros and cons of the existing voluntourism industry.

Volunteering can be a gamechanger for communities Some communities, particularly in Asia and Latin America, require immediate economic help. The arrival of volunteer tourists can fuel and boost the local economy when buying necessities for their day-to-day lives.  Voluntourism can prevent communities from being sustainable The main criticism of this trade is that it prevents communities from establishing themselves without any foreign aid. There have been instances where locals deliberately put children in danger to gain financial assistance.
Experience new cultures Volunteers have a golden opportunity to experience the different cultural settings of the world and be a part of it, allowing them to gain a fresh look at the world.Volunteer skills can be overexaggeratedTreating medical interns as doctors and expecting them to conduct advanced medical procedures have been reported by some communities. This greatly affects the health and risks of both the community and the volunteer.
Gain a fresh perspective of the world Embarking on voluntourism projects can provide a new meaning to each individual. Understanding the differences in the world is important for the mental and spiritual well-being of a person. Voluntourism companies can be scams Proper research into a travel agent or a company is required as some agents do not account for the safety or the well-being of the volunteers while abroad.
Volunteering can bring in more profits to the locals In an age where social media takes prominence, sharing personal volunteering experiences can act as a catalyst in influencing more people to take part and make the world a better place.Volunteers can steal local employment opportunities Embarking as volunteers can have a negative impact on local employment. Volunteers can take vital employment opportunities from the locals, resulting in higher unemployment rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Best Places To Volunteer Abroad?

Countries like Peru, Thailand, Kenya, Vietnam, Cuba, and Guatemala have some good volunteer programs where the local communities can benefit from receiving extra assistance.

What Are The Cheapest Places To Volunteer?

Countries in South and Southeast Asia including Bali, Costa Rica, Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka are on average cheaper than most voluntourism projects. This is because of the low costs of living when compared with developed countries. 

Can I Volunteer For Free?

While some organizations offer free volunteering opportunities, they are offered through a scholarship or a big waiting list. Organizations like Global Vision, IVHQ, and GlobalGiving have some scholarships that offer free volunteering tours. Check this link for more information!


Volunteering abroad can reap many benefits where you can help deprived communities according to your expertise. Always be mindful of the voluntourism companies and research well about your safety in the destination to make the most out of the experience!

References And Additional Information Links

International volunteer programs – 

Pros and Cons –

How voluntourism can save you money? –

How much does it cost to volunteer abroad –,program%20and%20country%20you%20choose

The volunteers’ dilemma – 

India travel expenses – 

Southasia travel expenses – 

Best places to volunteer abroad – 

Volunteering grants – 


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