Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Thailand
A backpacker favourite for decades, Thailand has a wealth of volunteer projects to match all budgets. For those that want to keep their costs down self funding volunteering is much cheaper here than it would be almost anywhere else in the world.
First, Here’s One Worth Paying For
Sometimes volunteering is about the experience and that experience is worth paying a little bit extra for. Here is our pick for Thailand:
I absolutely loved our time at this park, near Kanchanaburi. It stands out as a highlight of not just this trip, but of all our travels. Deirdre didn’t enjoy herself quite so much as she thought almost every animal wanted to eat her, but still had a memorable time. This isn’t packaged voluntourism but real, if very enjoyable, work and I felt
we other volunteers were being of real use in improving the living conditions of the animals at the park. There are two programmes available. Working with the park’s lions, tigers and leopards on the Big Cat Team or opt for the Zoo Volunteer Team if you are unsure of your favourite animal. Prices have gone up a little since we were there so Safari Volunteers falls outside our criterea for cheap volunteering – largely because not volunteering in Thailand is so cheap anyway – but we feel this project is well worth splashing out a little extra money and is still reasonable for this type of project anyway.
Where: Near Kanchanaburi.
Accommodation & Costs: Four weeks on the Big Cat Programme costs 47500thb. The Zoo Programme is cheaper.
Grassroots Volunteering in Thailand
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
Thai Animal Sanctuary
Thai Animal Sanctuary is a self funded and donation based organisation working for the protection and care of animals in North West Thailand. Volunteers are needed to help out around the sanctuary by walking dogs, grooming, medicating, assisting with the treatment of animals, cleaning, maintenance, bamboo building, fundraising, raising awareness, teaching on the Education programme, helping with accounts, updating the website, volunteer recruitment, and more.
Accommodation & Costs: No fee. Directly opposite the sanctuary is the volunteer house, which all volunteers are welcome to stay in, depending on available space. The cost to stay at the volunteer house is 150TB per night. Free meals are available to all volunteers in the school. Otherwise there is cheap food and accommodation available locally.
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Happy Dogs Koh Chang
Volunteer for homeless street dogs on Koh Chang. The main goal is to spay and neuter stray dogs and cats to control the population in an ethical and humane way. Relying entirely on donations, they need help and support from animal lovers such as yourself. Veterinarians, veterinary nurses are always welcome and this is also a great opportunity to gain experience in veterinary care for veterinary students too.
Where: Koh Chang.
Accommodation & Costs: Accommodation and one free meal a day are provided.
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Every year John, a full time professional photographer based in Belgium, commits himself to volunteering to help an animal related organisation via photography. In 2017 he worked with Headrock Dogs and (you can see some of his photos here) told us a little about the organisation. Run by Verity Cattanach Poole, from the UK, and Suthep Samkuntod, from Thailand, they not only dedicate their lives to more than 70 dogs, but are constantly active in several projects outside Headrock’s as well. Their goal is to provide shelter for dogs in need, heal them and ideally to relocate them to a new home. Volunteers commit to a minimum of ten days.
Where: Bang Saphan, at the beginning of the south of Thailand.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteers should be self funding. Beach bungalows – a 30 minute walk along the beach or a short motorbike journey away – cost about 400 baht a night. They may be more expensive in the high season, but Headrock will usually get a discount for their volunteers.
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Care for Dogs Foundation
Travel volunteers are welcome to help out around the Care for Dogs’ shelter. The work can include socialising with the dogs, cleaning and bathing and walkies. A four day minimum commitment is required. After four days volunteers may set their own schedule, volunteering half or full days on Monday and/or Wednesday through Saturdays.
Where: Around 13 km south of Chiang Mai.
Accommodation & Costs: Care for Dogs is a fee free programme – though donations are always appreciated. Otherwise volunteers pay for their own food, accommodation and transport. An inexpensive homestay within walking distance can be arranged with a Thai family frp 250TB per night. Other accommodations in the area provide discounts to Care for Dogs volunteers.
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Lanta Animal Welfare
A non-profit organisation which aims to relieve the suffering and pain of the animals on Koh Lanta island through sterilisation and care. A love of animals is essential but you’ll also need to be hard working, motivated, friendly and mature, regardless of age. it is hard work including cleaning, gardening, maintenance and animal welfare duties. You’ll meet loads of great people and have lots of fun, but the animals come first. There is also a media volunteer role. The minimum stay is one month and the maximum three months, although this can be extended in certain cases. Volunteers should be at least 20 years of age.
Where: Koh Lanta.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteering with LAW costs 1000thb (around £240) for the first month, free for the second month and 4500thb for the third month. Where possible, volunteers are welcome to stay in on site rooms, near the animals – though these are first come, first served. Water, tea and coffee is available and volunteers now also receive homemade meals Monday to Friday. Off site volunteers pay a little over half the above fees.
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Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation
Volunteers are welcome to help out at this Koh Samui animal shelter, whether it is for an hour or a year. They have two shelters: a small one in Chaweng and a larger one in the south west of the island. Tasks can include painting walls, spraying, de-ticking or bathing some of the 350 dogs and looking after the 100 cats. Those ready to devote two days a week in the office to deal with some of the foundation’s paperwork are very welcome to stay there.
Where: Koh Samui. They have two shelters: a small one in Chaweng, and a larger one at Ban Taling Ngam in the south west of the island.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteers should be self funding, including finding their own accommodation.
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PhaNgan Animal Care
PAC provides nursing and veterinary care for the island’s stray and unwanted animals. Running an animal care facility requires the completion of a multitude of tasks, so there are always jobs available for a willing pair of hands. Vets and nurses are particularly welcome, as are long term travellers to Koh PhaNgan able to stay for three months and willing to train and work as a clinic assistant. Applicants must be at least 21 years old.
Where: Koh PhaNgan.
Accommodation & Costs: PACS may be able to offer discounted accommodation, depending on availability, to long term volunteers for around £60 per month (£100 for couples), including wifi, electricity, drinking water, tea, coffee & milk.
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The Content Castle
Words pay your rent at The Content Castle. As a resident, you’ll get your own private room and two meals a day, as well as access to writing workshops and one on one tuition. In exchange, they ask for 7,500 words per week. You’ll get real-world experience writing for clients large and small around the globe, and make great connections with like minded writers.
Where: Ko Samui.
Accommodation & Costs: There is a non refundable $200 USD deposit that covers some of your supplies while you’re with us. Otherwise, there is no other money involved.
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When we read where they say they provide a tuk tuk to get to work we thought: Best. Job. Ever. As a volunteer you are given the chance to help build and become a team member of a quickly emerging rural development project. You can apply your knowledge in various fields such as agriculture, medicine, sports, construction, and education. They need volunteers all year round for all the different tasks. No qualifications are required but first aid certification, TEFL/CELTA certification, Thai language classes, previous teaching, farming or NGO experience are all welcomed.
Accommodation & Costs: Vol.
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Father Ray Foundation
The Father Ray Foundation cares for and educates 850 underprivileged children and students with disabilities. FRF want enthusiastic volunteers to come and get involved, and have a lasting impact on the lives of their students and children. Volunteers work across all of their projects. You could be teaching English at the technological college for people with disabilities, then playing some English games at a school for children with special needs. In the afternoon go to their school for the blind and take some of the children for a walk on the beach, then on Saturdays make yourself useful at a children’s village where the kids will run a riot for two hours. Other volunteers work in a day care centre, helping youngsters from some of the poorest areas of Pattaya. FRF emphasise this is not a nine to five Monday to Friday job, nor is it a place where volunteers turn up for two weeks, take some photos with some children in the morning then chill out on the beach in the afternoon. A six month commitment is expected, either April to October or October to April.
Accommodation & Costs: No fees are requested, except around $30 to pay for t-shrts. Accommodation and meals are provided.
Hostel Work Exchanges
Many hostels use help exchange networks (see below) to find volunteer staff but the following either advertise on their websites or are particularly noted for taking on volunteers:
This growing group of hostels owned by three young American brothers offer a free stay through their Creatives Program. They are open to content collaborations with all types of creatives including bloggers, YouTubers, photographers, models, DJs and – crikey! – even us!
Other Opportunities to Volunteer in Thailand
Many of the animal shelters listed above require flight volunteers. Often the shelters themselves are founded by foreigners wanting to do something to help Thailand’s many street dogs but most people falling for the dogs just want to take one home with them. Action For Dogs, set up by the founder of Safari Volunteers (see listings above) after she took her own dogs home after nine years in Thailand, specialises in helping these new owners get their newly adopted animals home. Potential flyers for hire can also find out more via their Facebook page.
There are plenty of things volunteers can do to help the communities in which Asian Oasis operate, from preserving the environment to teaching English or service skills. Their lodges also offer an opportunity for tourism students who wish to practice their skills in the hospitality business. Asian Oasis provide boarding to all interns and volunteers while working with the community.
We haven’t heard back from our last email to Issara, the owner of At Home Sukhothai, confirming these details but when we stayed in his guest house in 2013 he told us he regularly invited someone to work in his garden and reception area for a period of up to two months. In exchange, he provides a room with a fan and outside bathroom, some meals and a bike. More details can be found in this short post on our The Working Traveller blog.
Travellers are often asked what they are running away from so why not go the whole hog and join the circus. Spark! Circus seeks an international team of volunteer circus teachers and performers for its upcoming tours around the country. More information and latest tour dates from https://sparkcircus.org/light-the-fire/volunteer-application/.
Help Exchange Networks in Thailand
More Volunteering in Thailand Resources
Volunteer Work Thailand – An excellent source of volunteer ideas and free volunteer work in Thailand.
Monk Chats in Chiang Mai – Travellers can help young Monks get better at speaking English. This post gives a little background to what is involved and locations around town where you can join a Chat.
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Thailand
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free Airbnb credit from us here.
Volunteer Work in Kanchanaburi with Safari Volunteers – Our own experience volunteering on a safari park near Kanchanaburi, including taking a lion for a walk.
Eco-tourism in Thailand – a Straw Bale Hostel! – Yara Coelho volunteered with Clayzy House on Koh Lanta.
Volunteering with Animals Abroad – Our Week at the Dog Rescue Project in Thailand – Amy and Andrew find the perfect volunteering opportunity during their trip to the Elephant Nature Park where they help out with their Dog Rescue Project.
Our time at Elephant Nature Park – Giselle and Cody help to care for a new born baby elephant and for over 2000 dogs rescued from the illegal dog meat trade.
Kanchanaburi Safari Park – A couple of volunteers pitch up to help out at a safari park located on the site of a former diamond mine.
The Day I was Involved in an Elephant Funeral – Sadie shares her experiences in Thailand where her love affair with volunteering began. She strongly recommend The Surin Project to anyone looking to spend time with elephants.
You Love The Animals, You Love The Poo – A Week On Safari! – Ashleigh cleans up wild animal droppings and has her photo taken with Thai policemen.
Effective Microorganisms, a Beaver Dam, and Other Tales – After their pictures of a luxury resort cause a bit of confusion, David and Caroline reveal the reality of their WWOOFing stint on Ko Pha Ngan.
My Week as a Pai-rate: Working at a Hostel With Workaway.com & How You Can Travel For Free – A $30 one year subscription to a work exchange website led Tina to a hostel job in Pai, a hippie town two hours from Chiang Mai.
Thailand: Saving Dogs from Becoming Dinner – At the Soi Dog Foundation, in Phuket, volunteers help save man’s best friends. Chantal Briere and husband Bob are two volunteers helping to care for Bangkok Bob, Danish, and other dogs rescued from the dog meat trade in Southeast Asia.
Snakes, Scorpions, and Permaculture Farms – Flora Baker volunteers on a permaculture farm in Thailand and takes a picture of a rice husk covered mound of poo.
A Week In The Life Of An Elephant Nature Park Volunteer – Lucy recommends including a volunteering placement in your travels and believes it is one of the best decisions you could possibly make. She describes her time at the Elephant Nature Park, near Chiang Mai, as life changing.
Headrock Dogs – Part 1: Hands – Each year John, a full time professional photographer based in Belgium, commits himself to volunteer work and also to help an animal related organisation via his photography. This year he volunteered with Headrock Dogs, an animal shelter in Bang Saphan, Thailand.
“One of God’s Own Prototypes” – Eggbananatravels tell us about their experiences WWOOFing at eccentric “Ted’s” permaculture centre in Thailand.
If You Don’t Build A Nice Place For The Chickens, They Will Leave – More tales from Eggbananatravels as they continue their road trip around the north-western part of Thailand.
Mae Taeng, Pun Pun and You Sabai Organic Farms, Thailand – Cristen and Miguel set off on a motorbike road trip from Chiang Mai and end up at a couple of nearby organic farms.
Volunteering With WWOOF – A WWOOFers’ impression of her volunteering experience on the Three-Generation Farm in Mae Rim, Thailand.
Phangan Animal Care (PAC) – Ross Fairgrieve shoots a video for a charity dedicated to caring for the stray animals of Koh PhaNgan.
They Gave me a Machete: A True Story of Corn-Cutting – Diana hacks away at a field of corn to feed elephants.
Safari Volunteers, Working with Exotic Animals – While cruising the work exchange site Helpx, Wil stumbled upon Safari Voluteers and enjoyed an amazing experience he’ll never forget.
Eco-tourism in Thailand – A Straw Bale Hostel – After a bad volunteering experience Yara Coelho enjoys a better time volunteering with an eco-hostel, made of mud, bamboo and straw bale.
The Joys of Free Volunteering in Thailand: Tiger Piss, Fur Balls and Excrement – One of a series of posts by Turner Barr on his time working at the Tiger Temple.
The Reality of Tiger Temple: My Final Thoughts on my Volunteering Experiment – Mixed emotions push Turner Barr to move on from volunteering at the often controversial Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi.
Wildlife Volunteering at the Safari Park Open Zoo in Kanchanaburi, Thailand – Jennifer volunteered to improve the lives of animals living in the Safari Park Open Zoo in Kanchanaburi.
Day to Day at the Safari Park – Tom feeds baby lions and cleans up monkey poo. Just an average day when volunteering at a safari park in Thailand.
Daily Responsibilities and Activities at the Surin Project – Mindy picks up elephant poo and does the chicken dance.
Volunteer in Koh Lanta Thailand – A Disaster! – Yara Coelho puts up with a poor Workaway host.
Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park: What’s It Like? – Amanda planned her entire Southeast Asia trip around volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for injured and abused elephants in northern Thailand.
Life on Lanta – The clock is ticking on Koh Lanta’s chill factor and affordability, say Melissa and Craig, but by helping out at a little happy hippy guesthouse they managed to secure both.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Images courtesy Emily Hooton, Franca and Dale and Bodega Hostels