Tourist Or Volunteer...The Differences

Visiting a country as a tourist or as volunteer. What are the differences?

There are quite a few differences between visiting a country as a tourist or participating in a structured volunteering program.

Schedule and Responsibilities
games with childrenIf you are part of a volunteering program you will have some kind of schedule of where and when you need to be at your chosen project. There there will be certain responsibilities placed on you as well.

As a tourist you won’t be stuck to a set schedule, unless you are travelling in an organised group. You can go as you please and spend your days visiting tourist attractions.

As a program participant generally you will have more time in the country of your choice so you don’t need to rush to do activities and see all the sightings you want. You can choose to take a weekend off and explore the surroundings with other volunteers without planning everything as you would as a tourist..

Your living situation
As a tourist you will most likely stay in a guesthouse or a hostel. The place you will stay in is organized and most likely full of other travellers who are there for a short period of time.

As a volunteer you will most likely live in a house or host family with other volunteers. Whether it is in a shared volunteer house or host family set up; you will actually experience living somewhere instead of just passing through. 

Time spent in one place
There is a big contrast between tourists and volunteers when it comes to time spent in one place. As a volunteer you are most likely to bind yourself to a place for a longer period time.

As a tourist you move on after you’ve seen enough of the place you stay in. You are not bound to responsibilities so you are free to pack your things up and leave.

When you stay longer in one place you will get to know the city a bit better and develop some kind of bond with certain people you meet. As a tourist the chances of actually developing a lasting connection with local people are more slim.

Making local friends

When you are traveling you are most likely to do this with your friends or family so you already have a set group of people around you. Even if you are travelling alone the fact that you are only staying in the same place for a few days will make it difficult to develop friendships with locals. When you are staying in the same city for a longer while, naturally this will be easier.

Importance of language skills
As a tourist you will do fine with the basics of another language. As long as you can ask for directions to the nearest bathroom you will do just fine.

As a volunteer it might come in handy to actually learn to speak the local language as it will help you achieve more with the local folks.

Types of expectations
It’s important to think about what you want to get out of your experience abroad. If you want to develop yourself and others around you while absorbing the local culture and take your time to see the main attractions, become a program participant.

If you just want to see everything (which is perfectly fine) the free schedule of tourist travelling suits you perfectly.

Finances are always a major concern while travelling. There are plenty of strategies to help you to use money wisely while abroad, but your budget will look somewhat different depending on whether you are a tourist or volunteer. Although many feel volunteering can be expensive it actually is quite a bit cheaper then traveling as a tourist. If you add up the costs of transport, accommodation, meals you send as a tourist you will see that all together volunteering is a lot more affordable then you think. On Zanzibar in Tanzania for example, volunteering is actually a lot cheaper then staying at the cheapest hostels and having 3 meals a day, while as a volunteer you live with locals, experience the place from a totally different angle and actually make a contribution to the community.

So for your next trip  to Tanzania, Malawi, South Africa or Zimbabwe; consider an affordable way of experiencing a country and come volunteer!


FREE Volunteer Travel Guide

Get our Volunteer Travel Guide for absolutely FREE!

Volunteer Travel Guide Cover Pic

Send My FREE Guide!


Have any questions?

Let us call you and we can have a chat!

trust badge
volunteer project khaya
provincial visitor experience