A voluntourist is the name given to those who choose volunteering as a way to explore an overseas destination. By working with, and living in, the local community the volunteer can really get to know the country, its culture and its people. All the countries listed below offer heaps of volunteering opportunities whether they be law internships, medical placements, volunteer teaching, work on environmental projects or work in social and community projects. Here are the reasons why – other than the stimulating and rewarding work – volunteers are heading to these 10 voluntourism hot spots.
Brazil is a country of unbelievable geographical, cultural and economic diversity. Contrasts abound, typified by the majesty of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the misery of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas below. The city’s cultural diversity is showcased in the famous carnival but Brazil also offers great sandy beaches, stunning cloud-topped mountains, pristine rainforests, plains, savannahs and the mighty Amazon River.
If the hustle and bustle of Hanoi does not hold you then Ba Vi National Park offers plenty of chances to take in panoramic views, seek out wildlife and hike in splendid isolation. Vietnam also has some truly chilled beach spots such as those on the island of Phu Quoc.
Nepal is the ideal location for those who love adventure and the outdoors. There are plenty of opportunities for activities like white water rafting and extreme mountain biking. It is undoubtedly the lure of Mount Everest and the opportunities to trek in its foothills that draws many volunteers to Nepal.
Mongolia appeals for its remoteness and difference. Around a third of Mongolians belong to nomadic herding tribes living a life unchanged for centuries. With natural sights ranging from bio-diverse mountains to the evocative wilderness of the Gobi desert, Mongolia is a great place for those who love to get away from it all.
Moldova is a small, beautiful country where Romanian and Russian influences mingle. It is like stepping back in time to when life was lived slower, people were friendlier, food was organic and the countryside unspoilt. Whitewashed homes, sunflower filled fields, inviting caves and serene lakes are all part of its many attractions.
With the lifting of the tourism boycott in 2011, now is an ideal time to discover this previously hidden country. Make sure to visit Burma’s relatively unknown Angkor Wat at Bagan where there are more than 4000 evocative historic Buddhist temples.
7. Sri Lanka
While for many looking to volunteer India springs to mind it is worthwhile considering Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka offers palm-fringed beaches, tea plantations, deliciously sweet mangos and rickshaws in abundance. Much smaller in scale and more manageable than India, the island is an increasingly popular choice.
Bolivia lies at the heart of South America but a long way off the tourist trail. There are opportunities to trek in the Andes, relax by the shores of Lake Titicaca, visit volcanoes and salt lakes, or explore the tropical forests of the Amazon Basin – all of which you will be able to do far away from the tourist crowds.
This laid back South Pacific island is for those who love palm-fringed white sand beaches and diving or snorkelling opportunities aplenty.
Lovers of reggae can make a pilgrimage to where it all began and try and grasp the cultural and social forces that led to its creation whilst they get to grips with the patois and language of the Jamaicans.