Congratulations! You’re about to embark on a life-changing experience! Volunteering abroad is meaningful but preparing for it can be stressful, especially if you don’t have prior experience. If this is your first time, or you’d like to be better prepared, don’t worry: we’ve got you covered!
Here is what you need to be aware of before travelling to volunteer in Asia:
Mind Over Matter
So, the first thing you need to prepare for this new adventure is your mindset. Without sounding too cliché, it is important to mentally prepare before embarking on your volunteer mission. Also, ensure you will be volunteering for a cause that you vouch for, whether it’s related to animal welfare, environmental impact, or teaching English to underserved communities.
There are a lot of different kinds of volunteering programmes for you to do! The demand for volunteer work in Southeast Asia and other places are endless. Your contribution will be beneficial for whatever cause you choose to work for. Many families, small businesses or even NGOs offer accommodation for volunteers to help them with a variety of specific tasks.
SOLS 24/7, for example, provides accommodation and daily meals for their volunteers. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to select the best organisation that meets your needs, as this will make or break your entire experience here. You don’t want to travel halfway around the world to have a half-baked experience, right?
What do I need before joining a volunteer programme in Asia?
You will need to make sure all your documents are in order. Check the VISA requirements with your home country, and the country you want to volunteer in. Depending on where you are and where you will be travelling to, there might be certain rules and regulations you will need to be aware of. Make sure you are on the safe side of the law before travelling.
It is also important to make sure your passport is not expiring any time soon and that it has enough empty pages left, if not, it might likely be necessary for you to renew it before applying for the VISA successfully.
You can usually obtain this information online or by visiting your country of origin’s embassy. Otherwise, the organisation that you choose to volunteer for might be able to give you a detailed description of the actions needed.
Vaccination and flight timing
So what now? You have cleared any potential issues regarding your VISA and you are good to go. The next step is checking up on what kind of vaccinations you should get. It might be a bit pricey but is a must for you to get. Think of it as part of your health insurance plan.
Different countries or areas have different threats, and depending on the duration of your stay; different needs apply. It is also possible to get any vaccinations abroad, but we recommend you get it done before leaving. Give your local doctor a call and get the guidance you need.
With your cause, visa, passport and vaccination in check, it’s time to consider booking your flight ticket.
By the way, before flying you should also remember to get travel insurance! This is also a must, if not an extra precaution. Of course, we hope nothing will happen and that you will be safe and sound throughout your whole stay, but accidents do happen. This is why we always recommend travellers to have good insurance in case of emergencies.
Adequate travel insurance will normally cover your belongings as well as your health in many matters. If you already think you have an insurance that has you covered, make sure that it is applicable for the country you are visiting. Better to be over-prepared than under-covered.
Volunteering abroad is a far cry from a luxurious, resort-style experience but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to explore. Asia is rich in history, culture and culinary delights – you should definitely bring enough money for that. It is always good to have some savings on the side as you never know when you might need it.
Since you are volunteering, we know you are not there for the money, but for the meaning, but as an unpaid volunteer worker in Asia, it’s safer to be prepared financially.
If you decide that you want to travel around or do any kind of activities besides your volunteer work, this would be from your own pocket. If you do not have any savings right now, you can consider working for a while to save up a decent amount to bring with you. Do your research and decide the appropriate amount that you’re comfortable with.
Researching for cultural, travel or packing purposes
We do recommend that you conduct your own research from a cultural perspective. This can help you get a better understanding of the people you will live amongst; their traditions, lifestyle, and habits. The way other cultures go about their day and their attitude toward certain topics or areas of life might be completely different from yours. That is why knowledge is power for you.
Travelling as a volunteer worker is usually done with good intentions. Going abroad to foreign territory is a great way for you to develop character and experience life from a different angle which can have a huge positive impact on you as a human being. However, cultural differences are also known to cause a clash in certain scenarios. This is usually due to lack of knowledge, communication, misconceptions and so on, and is rarely ever something that was wrongfully intended, but misconceptions can happen.
To avoid and prevent this as much as possible, it is a great idea to familiarise yourself about the country, culture and people you are visiting. Since you will be their guest and not the other way around, it is your responsibility to adapt to them. Give respect to earn respect.
We are not mentioning this to scare you off because many of the communities will be grateful towards you and the experience you bring to the table. Asian culture is also recognised worldwide for being very respectful and hospitable towards foreigners.
Read more on Malaysian culture here.
If you consider travelling in and around the region – think of the budgeting, preparations, and guides. When you are abroad, don’t be shy to ask for any advice or help from the friendly locals. Reviews and blogs from other travellers can also give you a sense of how things work but just keep in mind that people have various opinions. Your perception may be very different from your actual experience.
Okay, so now; let’s say everything is clear and the only thing left to do is to pack your bag for your new big adventure.
What you should remember
First and foremost, make sure that you’re choice of daily clothing doesn’t offend anyone. We know that it is hot in Asia, and you might want to wear as little clothes as possible, but this may not always be the best idea. Make sure you wear something socially acceptable in regards to the place you are going to work at.
Besides appropriate clothing, some medication would be a good idea. Bringing along something to soothe your stomach would be ideal as you might go overboard on the spicy food – too delicious to say no to!
Oh, and don’t forget the mosquito spray. You can thank us later.
If you have any doubts, again; research, research, research! Most of your questions will be answered online or can be provided by your hosts.
Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoyed our blog and found it helpful! If you’ve made up your mind that you want to spend the next couple of months volunteering for a cause you believe in, check out the following articles:
- Volunteers: Does your work matter?
- Voluntourism – What’s wrong with it?
- 5 Benefits of Volunteering in Malaysia
- 7 Things You Should Know Before Volunteering
- Top 13 Organisations to Volunteer With in Malaysia