13 handy items for your volunteer trip abroad

Whether you are planning to volunteer for your gap year, six months or two weeks, there always comes that moment when you realize there is something you forgot to bring with you on your volunteer trip abroad. So, to make your life easier, we asked our volunteers a simple question.

“What essential item could you simply not live without on your trip abroad?” From their answers, we put together a list of 13 essential items.  Bookmark this page as it will serve as a useful guideline when preparing for your volunteer trip abroad.  

1. Universal Plug

This might seem obvious, but make sure that the universal charger you purchase is usable in all countries.  If you are planning on volunteering in South Africa then make sure that it states South Africa on the charger pack.  If you plan on volunteering in other African countries, ensure that the charger is compatible as we have had instances when volunteers bought universal charges and were unable to use them.   

2. E Reader

You might think that uncapped Wifi will allow you to download and stream movies on Netflix during your stay, but the internet speed might not be the same as you are used to. It is advisable that you bring an E reader with you which contains all the books that you would like to read already downloaded onto it. This item is essential as it makes your volunteer trip easy and enjoyable, especially on those days when you just feel like being on your own and reading a book in your room.  Volunteering overseas and an E reader work well together so plan your trip accordingly.  

3. Hand Sanitizer

It’s always good to come prepared especially when volunteering with children as well as volunteering with animals.  Hand sanitizer is your best bet to keeping your hands clean at all times.  When you arrive at your destination the chances of you going to the volunteer project you have decided to work with on the same day is very possible and therefore it’s good to have this with you before you arrive.  

4. Backpack

Travelling to and from the volunteer projects is a definite, so let’s just look at some of the things that you will be taking with you every day, one being hand sanitizer, your meals and fruit that you eat during the day, your notebook, water and an extra top just in case the weather changes.  Henceforth it is vital to have a backpack you can use every day to carry everything that you will require.

5. Combination cable lock

There are various ways in which to safeguard your luggage and a combination cable lock is a good place to start. Everyone wants peace of mind while volunteering or travelling abroad.  The cable is suitable for any zip, so if you like this option then go for it.

6. First Aid Kit

Whether this is something that you put together yourself or you buy from a store it is always important to prepare for unexpected injuries when volunteering overseas.  Accidents happen so it’s good to be prepared.

7. Refillable Water Bottle

Wherever you plan on volunteering, whether it is in Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zanzibar or South Africa, all our locations provide clean drinking water so bring a refillable water bottle.  Save money by having to buy water all the time and also save rubbish.   

8. Hiking Boots / Comfortable Sneakers

 Weekend or day hiking trips, while volunteering abroad is a definite.  Hiking boots or comfortable sneakers that will enable you to walk long distances without injury is good to have so make certain that you have this ticked off on you checklist. 

9. Small alarm clock/ Stop watch

Even though most people will use their phone, your battery can die or there might be no power and you would still need to be on time for your volunteer project.   Besides waking up earlier it is always a good thing as it gives you time to think about your day and prepare your backpack.  A stop watch can be used while volunteering with kids at a sports project, especially if you are student studying sports management and are doing a sport internship.  

10. Money Belt

A money belt is a small pouch you can wear around your waist and underneath your clothes.  This is essential to have so that you may keep your valuables close to you at all times.  There are also different types of money belts that allow you to carry all your important documentation such as your passport, debit and credit cards.  Travel safely and securely, money belts is your key to peace of mind. 

11. Bug Repellant/Spray  

Mosquitoes and insects are always an issue while travelling abroad. You might decide to volunteer with wildlife, at a big 5 conservation or a lion and big cat sanctuary where bug repellant/ spray is an essential item to have.  You also have the option of getting a bug repellant wristband which you can wear around your wrists or ankles. 

12. Sunscreen

Sunscreen, also known as sunblock, helps protect against sunburn, this will be handy while volunteering at the project especially when it is really hot.  If you love spending time on the beach, or to bake in the sun then be sure to check this item on your list. 

13. Specific Medication

If you use specific medication then it is advisable to get them before your volunteer trip abroad especially if you use a preferred brand as they might not be available or hard to find in some or more rural areas. 

There are a number of other items that you might have thought of packing and we have discussed this at length in previous article entitled,  9 travel tips for your volunteering, gap year or service learning trip abroad & everything but the kitchen sink,  but the above 13 items are essentials that will make your trip abroad enjoyable and easier.    


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Volunteer World
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