Volunteering in Thailand
Chiang Mai, located in the north of Thailand, is different from the big city of Bangkok. Yet it has all the necessary accommodation and entertainment options to receive different types of travelers who want to volunteer in Thailand.
It’s an attractive city for its outdoor markets, abundant cuisine and the access it offers to the forested mountains that make the city an attractive point for adventurers and lovers of outdoor life.
Tourists often tend to miss the most authentic places and people of Chiang Mai. However, being a volunteer in Thailand, you will have the opportunity to meet Thai people, as well as to learn about their daily routines, in a way you would never do if your only main contact was with merchants and tour guides.
Bangkok is a very bold and accelerated city, one that will surprise you with both its oldest and newest sides. Its glamorous multi-level shopping centers, open-air markets and modern fusion cafes for dinner – you can do a little bit of all in one day.
But the contrast goes even deeper as Bangkok presents many issues of economic inequality. In response to this, volunteer projects are coordinated to help in poor neighborhoods of the city. In this way, continuous care is provided to families and children who live in the areas.
Volunteers have the possibility to teach English in local schools or in Buddhist temples, in addition to helping with childcare or even staying in an elephant camp and training as a mahout.
This is general information, you will find specific information on each project in its section. Depending on each program, different information will be included or excluded and there will be different arrival and cooperation timetables.
Volunteering programs in Thailand
COOPERATION MONTHS IN THAILAND
- Volunteer projects in social orphanages are available all year round, except for vacation months in Thailand (April).
- Teaching projects with Buddhist monks are available all year, except for the months of April and October.
- In the case of the English Teaching volunteer projects in schools, it’s open all year, except in April and October.
- The elephant care and protection center is open to volunteers all year, except for the month of April.
START OF VOLUNTEERING IN THAILAND
The dates for the start of the programs are detailed below. It’s important that you keep in mind that you must arrive on a Friday.
Arrival days for the year 2019
January 04 and 18
July 12 and 26
February 01 and 15
August 9 and 23
March 01 and 15
September 02 and 16
April – Closed
October – Closed
May 03, 17 and 31
November 01, 15 and 29
June 14 and 28
The different accommodation options for volunteers who join the projects in Chiang Mai are located in a safe central area. These three houses where the volunteers sleep are only 5 minutes walking distance away from the local office of the organization.
You share rooms of 2 or 4 beds with other volunteers. These rooms have sheets, pillows, and air conditioning, which gives a respite to the hot and sunny days of northern Thailand.
The houses also have living areas in case the volunteer likes to watch a movie, read a book, talk to the family or just relax after a day’s work.
Meals included in the volunteering program are: breakfast and lunch. Food for volunteers is provided on the projects.
A volunteer’s day starts with breakfast that usually includes: toast, cereal, eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, fresh fruit and coffee.
For dinners (which are not included), the volunteer can use the kitchen that is in the volunteer house or go to cheap and delicious Thai restaurants. You can also go to international restaurants that are only minutes away from the volunteer houses.
- To become a volunteer in Thailand with us, you will need to pass the Adventure Volunteer forms and interviews process.
- Another very important point to keep in mind is that if you are going to work with children, you must issue us with a criminal record certificate.
- We will need a photocopy of your passport with the visa entry. If you go for less than a month and you are authorized, you will present this when you arrive.
- For programs related to teaching it’s important to have a good level of English, as all subjects are taught in this language.
- You must have a return flight to participate in the programs.
- At the beginning of your program you must be at least 18 years old.
To participate in our volunteer programs in Thailand, you must bear in mind that you will work with volunteers from all over the world and will contribute with your knowledge to young Thais who have a totally different culture. So, you must show mutual respect to both the clothing and the religion, as well as to the rules of the centers and projects.
You can participate in our volunteer programs in Thailand from €700 for 2 weeks, every additional week costs €150. This includes:
- Lunch on the project
- Accommodation in two or four-bed rooms with air conditioning.
- Two days of orientation in Chiang Mai or Bangkok aimed at your adaptation and acquaintance with the most important points.
- Volunteering certificate of participation.
- You will count on the continuous support of the local staff of the organization. At all times, and in English, they will ensure your well-being and your comfort both at home and in the program.
For the conservation and protection program in the elephant sanctuary, the prices vary from €650 for 1 week to €900 for 2 weeks.
To participate in the program, you must pay a deposit of €150. That way we will reserve your bed and you are guaranteed your place in the project. The rest of the payment should be made a month before joining the project.
You will have all the meals included and will be provided with a room in the house of the volunteers, where the project is developed. It’s located an hour and a half from the town of Chiang Mai. In addition, internal transportation is included (a round trip to the elephant project).
In each project you can see the costs for the weeks you are interested in.
CAROLINE TELLS US ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE IN CHIANG MAI
Arrival to your destination
Our main role is to give you all the support you will need before and during your volunteering in Thailand to make your experience as pleasant as possible.
When you apply to one of the projects, the first thing we will do is to send you an email with the first information you need to know to organize your trip, as well as what to expect when you arrive in Thailand. In this sense, the project support begins well before the start date.
Once in Thailand and in the project, the volunteers have the help and support from the local staff in Thailand. The local work team has the ability to handle different situations from airport pick-ups to emergencies.
The most important thing is that communication is maintained with the volunteer and the staff of the entire organization.
Induction and inicial travel
The first 2 days upon arriving in Thailand are reserved for induction and orientation (Saturday and Sunday), which includes the following:
- Information on Thai culture and on how to move around the country.
- A half day tour around the main sites and local markets of the city.
- Introductory course in Thai language that covers basic words and phrases.
- Information on local transport, including how to get to the projects.
The coordinators work hard to ensure that your volunteer project works smoothly. They also help the volunteers with any problem, misunderstanding or challenge they encounter during their volunteering.
How to arrive in Chiang Mai from Bangkok
For your volunteer program, you will have to arrive in the city of Chiang Mai on a Friday (one of the Fridays of the program’s start) between 8 in the morning and 8 in the afternoon.
The city is located 700 km north of Bangkok and is also called the Rose of the North. For many Thais it’s culturally the most important city, and also one of the most beautiful because of its nature, including the highest mountains in the country.
Getting the flight tickets from your city of origin, you can get directly to Chiang Mai on the same flight you buy. Nonetheless, if you decide to stop for a few days in Bangkok, then you can continue to your volunteer project in Chiang Mai taking advantage of the typical night train, a domestic flight, or a bus.
It doesn’t matter which means of transport you choose for your arrival, because you will always be picked up at the airport, train or bus station whenever you come within the program start dates between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm.
You can exchange money at the airport in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, there are also currency exchange stores all around the cities. We recommend you exchange some money at the airport so that you have some cash for the beginning of your stay. You can also withdraw with your debit card from any ATM, they are very safe. Before doing so, we recommend you talk to your bank to see what they charge for withdrawing money abroad.
In addition to the cost of this program, volunteers have been spending on their personal costs between €20 to €30 per week. Thailand is a very cheap country, it stands out for its possibilities of eating very economically or using public transport for very cheap prices.
The local currency is the Baht, one baht is around €0.358.
Below you will find a list of different prices so that you can get an idea, depending on your lifestyle, what you can spend during the week.
- If you go to the beaches or some other place outside the volunteer house on your days off or when you finish volunteering in Thailand, you can sleep in hostels for 200 bahts (€4.7).
- Prices for local food are around 30 bahts (0,90€) on the streets and 70 bahts (€1.9) in restaurants.
- Fresh fruit is the best thing you can eat in Thailand, you can find freshly sliced fruit for 20 bahts (€0.50).
- Transportation is also very cheap. You can negotiate with Tuk-tuk, taxis with a taximeter in Bangkok, or if you are more daring, for 3 or 4 euros you can rent a Scooter.
- If you want to go to the best beaches in the south, don’t worry about volunteering in a northern city next to China and Burma. You can find a domestic flight to Krabi or Phuket for around 1400 bahts (€30 -35).
- Visit the Doi Inthanon National Park.
- Shop at the typical craft markets of the north.
- Take a meditation course in Buddhist temples.
- Make several excursions to the mountains and rice fields or go trekking.
- Get lost in the old town by visiting the hundreds of temples that the city has.
- Go out with other volunteers to the Zoe Yellow area for dinner and drinks.
- Visit the Sunday Market or organise a night visit to the safari.
OTHER TOURISTIC PLACES IN THAILAND
- Koh San Road may be the first destination you will get to know in Bangkok. It’s a street crowded with more backpackers than you can imagine, full of unique atmosphere and shops where you can taste fried insects, eat pasta or dive among the shops and bars.
- The island of Koh Tao, one of the three islands of the Gulf of Thailand, can be one of the most unique destinations. Here you can take a diving course or enjoy a quiet hippie atmosphere during your last days of volunteering.
- The beautiful Koh Phangan, known worldwide for its great blue Moon Party. If you like Las Fallas, San Fermin, rallies or concerts, this is undoubtedly your island.
- Krabi, one of our favorite and one of the best destinations to give you the feeling of incredible beaches where giant sea stones emerge as skyscrapers. Apart from the beaches, you can also go trekking along the cliffs or take trips to other islands such as Phi Phi Island. (The movie The Beach with Leonardo di Caprio).
- Phuket, one of the destinations most frequented by volunteers in Thailand. The Patong beach is long and beautiful, has a wide variety of bars and restaurants, as well as a great nightlife. It’s an ideal place to rent a motorcycle and go around the island seeing other quieter beaches or climbing the mountain of the great golden Buddha.
GETTING TO KNOW THE COUNTRY
- Get a Thai massage, which is not a tourist place, but you can get one for 150 or 200 bahts in all parts of the country.
- See the great palace of Bangkok, all you can see in the great palace is truly impressive.
- Kanchanaburi, a beautiful place and the set of the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai.
- Ayutthaya was the city and the capital of the ancient kingdom Siam, Thailand, 85 km from the current capital Bangkok. You can enjoy what remains of this millenary city.
Thailand is a country of 60 million inhabitants and full of incredibly beautiful places – from beaches to natural parks or ancient cities. It’s also known for its culture, safety and good prices.
These are just a few points of reference. We recommend, as long as you have the time around your work or family obligations, that you reserve 6 or 8 days to enjoy some of the places besides the beautiful Chiang Mai that you will see daily while volunteering in Thailand.
HOW MANY VOLUNTEERS WILL THERE BE WHEN I ARRIVE TO THE PROGRAM?
Normally, you will find in the volunteer house between 6 to 14 volunteers at a time depending on the season you go.
WHAT NATIONALITY ARE THE VOLUNTEERS THAT I WILL MEET AT THE VOLUNTEER HOUSE?
Thousands of volunteers participate in solidarity trips throughout the year. The nationalities that you will find in the volunteer home are those of the United States, Canada, Australia, Spain and the rest of Europe.
IF I DECIDE TO BECOME A VOLUNTEER, HOW MANY WEEKS ARE RECOMMENDED?
For an environmental program in Thailand, we would recommend one or two weeks, since it’s hard work consisiting of support, care and maintenance in the animal refuge and sanctuary.
In the case of a social program, it depends on your availability. It’s possible to participante in these programs for longer than two weeks while living a nice experience and teaching or taking care of children with scarce resources.
I HAVE NEVER TRAVELED ALONE AND IT SCARES ME TO GO TO A COUNTRY THAT IS SO REMOTE AND DIFFERENT.
Of all the countries that you can choose, Thailand is one of the safest. Just like in any country in the world, one always has to keep an eye on one’s belongings. However, Thailand stands out for its safety and tranquility, so don’t worry and go ahead!
HOW MUCH MONEY DO I HAVE TO BRING ONCE I PAY FOR THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM AND THE FLIGHTS?
Let’s say you are going to make a long weekend trip to the beach with some friends, in addition to living in Chiang Mai on the week days. For this I would recommend that you take around €300-400.
CAN I JOIN AT ANY TIME OF THE YEAR?
Volunteer programs are open from mid-May to the end of February. Due to the country’s different culture and religion, as well as a different calendar, both school and work holidays are between April and May.
WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE DURING THE TIME OF MY VOLUNTEERING? I AM NOT SURE WHAT TO BRING WITH ME.
Thailand is a very hot country. Luckily, in Chiang Mai you can enjoy a less stifling climate, although you will still need summer clothes. We recommend bringing some long pants and a jacket in case you ride a motorcycle at night, for the beach area you don’t need any of that.
If you forget the long pants, don’t worry. For less than one euro, you will find comfortable Thai pants of various colours.
CAN I UNDERTAKE THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM WITH A FRIEND OR A FAMILY MEMBER?
You can volunteer with whoever you want. The experience of traveling alone is very beautiful, since in the volunteer house you will have the chance to make new friends of all nationalities and share your cultures and languages, or even learn a bit about each others’ cuisines. But you can also come with your friend, partner, mother or daughter as it has happened on many occasions and these are also totally recommended and positive experiences.
CAN I START WHICHEVER DAY I WANT TO?
The volunteer programs begin on two Fridays each month, this is done for a logistical reason, and that way you will also start your volunteering the same day as many other volunteers. You can find a program start calendar on the web.
WHAT CAN A VOLUNTEER PROGRAM IN THAILAND GIVE ME?
All the volunteer programs can give you great personal satisfaction, show you a different way of seeing the world and teach you about different realities and cultures while giving you a chance to support a population in need. I leave you the link to an episode of the podcast where I talked about the advantages of volunteering.
- Choose your program, destination and travel dates.
- Send the form. From the moment you fill in the registration form for a program in Thailand, your place is reserved for 7 days.
- To definitely confirm your place, you must pay a €150 deposit within those 7 days. Once the deposit is paid, your place will be guaranteed and you will formally become part of the Adventure Volunteer family. Also, as soon as you make the payment of the program deposit, we will send you an email to confirm that your place is guaranteed.
- The rest of the payment is made one month before you join the project. After that, you will receive another email with additional information explaining everything you need to know to prepare your trip correctly and providing you with information about your arrival in the country.
Would you like to listen to Sergio talking about volunteering in Thailand? Podcast ”The Journey of a volunteer”, Volunteering in Thailand