Ways to Save Money While Volunteering Abroad

Ways to Save Money While Volunteering Abroad

From buying plane tickets to getting a passport, traveling abroad and more than that volunteering abroad in particular can be an expensive endeavor. However, there are ways to save money while you are abroad. Here are a few tips:

1. Stay with a host family

Living in a hotel or hostel during your volunteer trip will not only rack up your expenses, but it will also impede your ability to immerse yourself in the culture. I highly recommend volunteering through an organization that will set you up with a host family. This affords you the opportunity to practice your language skills, see daily life for the locals first-hand, form lasting connections with the local people, and see the culture on a deeper level. You will need to pay your host family to cover food and accommodation expenses, but this will work out to be much cheaper than staying in even the cheapest hotel.

2. Eat the local fare

Eating out at restaurants that serve your favorite foods may help you combat homesickness, but it will also impact your budget. Even just getting breakfast out every day will soon add up. Eat with your host family if you choose to live with one. Food is part of what you are paying them for so you might as well get your money’s worth. Even if you don’t stay with a host family, find a small restaurant that serves the country’s typical cuisine. It will cost you around $2 a plate as opposed to $7 or $8 at a fancier restaurant.

3. Use public transportation

Although taxis are faster to get around in, paying $2 every time you want to get somewhere is not economical. Some taxi drivers charge tourists more, since they are not from the area and don’t know what the normal rate is. In developing countries, bus fare is usually a matter of cents (here in Chitre, Panama the intra-city buses cost.25-.35). This will be your most economical option. You may have to ask about bus routes and fares, but drivers are usually friendly and some busses have a “helper” who takes bags and collects money and can help you get where you are going.

4. Only buy the necessities

Of course you are going to want to buy souvenirs for your friends and family and keepsakes to remember your trip, but don’t over-do it. Not only can you easily blow your budget, but you may end up with a suitcase that won’t close. Make a list of people you want to buy something for and buy one item each. Instead of buying every piece of hand-made artisanry you see, take pictures to remember them and share with friends and family. Save your money and buy things you will really need such as toiletries and supplies for your project.


Unless you are going to a remote area that does not have a computer within a 50 mile radius, sign up for a Skype account. Calling home can get costly, especially since you may have to buy a cell phone in country to get any kind of service. Using Skype from computer to computer is free and if you have a webcam your friends and family can see you in your new surroundings. Phone cards add up, so investigate other means of communication.