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Is South America cheaper to volunteer in And why?

Updated on October 6, 2016

Technically, yes.

But to get a more accurate specific answer, I would now like to ask and answer a few follow-up questions:

1. South America is a huge continent, are all the countries in it cheaper to volunteer in?

No. Most of the cheaper countries to volunteer in are the least developed countries that lay on the west side of the continent, bordering the ocean - with the exception of Bolivia which is also pretty cheap.
You would find that Brazil and Argentina, for example, don't offer the same cheap volunteering fees that Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Costa Rica do.

The continent of South America

2. Will there be extra costs affecting my budget (besides the program fees)

Yes. It is nearly impossible to find a volunteering program that its fees include flights and insurance. When flying to a far destination, the flight costs may double how much you've planned on spending - costing as much or even more than the actual volunteering fee.

3. Is it really cheaper?

As you read the answer to this question keep in mind that it addresses to the total cost of the trip including volunteering trips, flights, insurance, visa, accommodation and food expenses.
If you search for volunteering projects in the countries mentioned above compared to Volunteering projects in Brazil (South America), Tanzania (East Africa), China (Asia), and Norway (Western Europe) and so on - you would find big differences in the total costs.
Less developed countries - the old the soviet union (Eastern Europe) and Western South America - tend to be cheaper to volunteer in. Not including flight costs, there are relatively cheap volunteering fees in China as well - unlike Thailand which is expensive on both accounts: fees and flights.

4. Where does the difference lay?

Usually, the lower the volunteering fee is, the more chances your accommodation and food will not be paid for - which means you would have to independently fund your own place to stay and be in charge of finding and buying food on your free time. Although it is a hassle for most, if you're fit to deal with the challenge it can save you quite a bit of money. Why is that? Because the food and housing in those underdeveloped countries are considerably cheaper than in developed countries.
I will further explain in the following table and give a few examples:

An estimation table

A table to roughly estimate the cost of your cheapest volunteering trip depending on destination. Fill in your own data and find out.
A table to roughly estimate the cost of your cheapest volunteering trip depending on destination. Fill in your own data and find out.

Notice the "please note" on the bottom

A table featuring the fees for a volunteering project in Ecuador.
A table featuring the fees for a volunteering project in Ecuador. | Source

Hou to use the table - Example number 1

Let's say I want to volunteer in Norway (Northern Europe). according to the table, the cheapest volunteering project I could find would roughly be around 600$. The table also says that I should factor in my flight costs. From where I live, flying to Norway would cost 520$.
My insurance would probably be around 50$ for 2 weeks.
I do not need to get a special visa permit.
Food and accommodation should be included (unless mentioned otherwise in the specifics of the program I chose). Now I will calculate 600+520+50=970$
Taking into account that the table isn't bulletproof I will estimate that volunteering in Norway for 2 weeks with the data I've put in would cost me 1000$.

Example number 2

This time, I want to volunteer in Zimbabwe (Eastern Africa). according to the table, the cheapest volunteering project I could find would roughly be around 900$. The table also says that I should factor in my flight costs. From where I live, flying to Zimbabwe would cost 780$.
My insurance would probably be around 75$ for 2 weeks.
I need to get a special visa permit which would cost me 30$.
Food and accommodation should be included (unless mentioned otherwise in the specifics of the program I chose). Now I will calculate 900+780+75+30=1785$

Got the hang of it?

Remember!

Everything that I have written above and addressed in the estimation table is the cheapest of the cheap. It probably won't be what you're currently dreaming of, and you would need to do correct and thorough research to reach these very cheap projects.

If you google "volunteering in Africa" the first results coming your way would be volunteering fees of 1500$ and more - so keep that in mind.

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