Best Working Away Programs
Many people want to be able to travel for longer periods of time and to be able to do so without spending all of their money. This might seem like an unattainable dream, but today we’re going to look at my top 5 gap year and working holiday programs that help you just do this. These companies all help people volunteer or work abroad, usually with a preference for people who can stay for at least a few weeks in one place, all the way up to a year or more away.
What we’re talking about here is a working holiday, or a “work away”. So yes you’ll travel and be able to experience something new and exciting, but you’ll be doing that by doing some form of work, whether that’s for your room and board or for pay.
Work or volunteer hours can also range from just a few hours for 3-5 days a week, to more like full time working hours. So depending on what kind of experience you’re looking to have, this can be quite flexible.
#1 Work Away
One of the first companies I looked at while researching this list is called Work Away. Work away connects people looking to travel, and people who can provide some kind of volunteer/work opportunities, usually in exchange for room and board, although through their advanced search filter you can look for paid positions as well. Just keep in mind that accepting a paid position in most counties will require a special visa, whereas usually just volunteering won’t, depending on your own passport.
Work away boasts having over 40,000 hosts in over 170 countries, so there really are a lot of options for you. Some of the most popular countries people search for include Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Mexico, and others. To use work away you need to be 18 or older.
Cost of Work Away
It does cost up to $44 USD to use the site, or $56 for a couple or two friends to sign up together.
All other costs depend on where you are going and for how long, as well as what your host provides for you.
For example, I know someone who did work away in Vietnam for about 6 months, living and working at a café. Room and board were covered, but he paid to get there and back, and paid to rent a motorcycle, and eating outside of the café was an added cost as well.
#2 Go Abroad
The second company I took a look at was Go Abroad. Go abroad helps people study, volunteer, intern, or teach abroad. They also have a specific gap year program that lets you find work in your own industry, or something new. This company has options for younger people still in high school, as well as many options for adults.
For those looking for something a bit more exciting in their life, they have a section called Adventure Travel Program, which caught my eye immediately. Their adventure program includes things like volunteering in Africa and South East Asia working with big animals like elephants, giraffes, and rhinos.
Another one of their popular placements is for marine conservation in countries like Costa Rica, Madagascar, and Fiji. Go Abroad has options for experiences as short as a few weeks to as long as a year for those looking for something longer.
Cost of Go Abroad
Go abroad is a free-to-use service, but you pay specific companies that have partnerships with Go abroad. Go abroad simply helps you find programs in places that interest you.
I chose an example trip from their Adventure Travel section that interested me. To do 10 days in Vietnam that includes activities like kayaking down a river that you get to live beside, visit places like Ninh Binh, Ha Long Bay, Dragon Mountain, and more, costs between $100 and $300 USD per week. This includes airport pickup, 10 days of adventure, 9 nights accommodation, meals, your group leader, and transportation, but does not include flights and health insurance.
#3 Go International
Our third company is a helpful one for my fellow Canadians in particular. Go International is a Canadian company that helps young Canadians volunteer or work abroad for a working holiday.
Their volunteer program includes locations in Canada such as national parks and animal rehabilitations, which is really cool because there aren’t a lot of companies out there offering gap years in Canada.
Their internship program has placements in Brazil, Ecuador, and France.
And their work and travel program include Australia, Germany, France, Japan, New Zealand, UK, and the USA.
This company is again for adults, but you have to be 30 or under to apply. Lengths vary depending on what you want to do but most options look like 3-6 months with options to extend.
Go International Costs
Costs vary but for most countries, it looks like you have to have at least $3000 Canadian saved up. For example, the Japan Working Holiday Experience costs $199 + 5% GST CAD, to sign up. This includes a working holiday visa application by an expert in Vancouver, step by step visa support, pre-departure info on living in Japan, and the legal right to live and work in Japan for 6 months. This does not include airfare, accommodation, or any personal costs.
#4 Go Eco
The fourth company I looked into is called Go Eco. Go eco is a company focused on leaving a place better after it’s been visited by tourists. To do this they partner with organizations around the world to help travellers volunteer by giving humanitarian aid, wildlife rehabilitation, and ecological conservation.
Go eco has opportunities in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, Middle East, North America, and South America.
This is one of the only companies I have seen so far that offers options for families that want to volunteer together. Pretty cool family vacation if you ask me!
They also have options specifically for people who are over the age of 50, proving that working holidays and giving back while you travel isn’t just for university students. They also offer experiences from 1-40 weeks depending on what you’re looking for.
Go Eco Costs
This company has competitive pricing, with a section also for affordable volunteer programs. These have options as low as $590 for places like Thailand and Cambodia. The Thailand Recycling and Sustainability workshop costs $590 and includes accommodations, three meals during the week and two on weekends, airport pickup, orientation, and access to pre-departure info and help as well as 24/7 emergency help via Go Eco’s hotline. This is a minimum one-week commitment and involves gaining hands-on experience working to reduce plastic pollution while traveling to different cities and villages and enjoying various extra activities. This price does not include flights or insurance.
#5 Plan my Gap Year
The last company I looked at is called Plan My Gap Year.
Plan My Gap Year offers volunteer experiences in 15 different counties throughout Africa, Asia, and South America.
This company also has experiences available for people under 18 years old, but for most of their placements, you need to be an adult.
Programs through PMGY include things like medical and healthcare (for students studying a relevant field), childcare, teaching English, wildlife, under 18, family, and more.
They offer lengths of 1-40 weeks but many of their programs are around one month long.
Plan my Gap Year Costs
Prices seem to start around $450 for their programs, plus their registration fee of $249, and your flights.
To help save the turtles in Sri Lanka only costs $300 plus their registration fee, and flights. You get to stay for 1-2 weeks and help protect and rehabilitate sea turtles. This involves providing care and giving medication to sick or injured sea turtles, spreading awareness about endangered species, and releasing baby turtles safely into the ocean. The program fee includes accommodation at a volunteer house, three meals a day, airport pickup, in-country orientation, and transportation to project sites. The registration fee includes 24-hour emergency support, dedicated PMGY travel mentor, email and phone support, volunteer guide handbook, financial protection, and a certificate of completion.
These companies all offer something a bit different, and depending where you want to go, and what you want to do, some might be better than others for you. If it’s your first solo trip and you’re a bit nervous, then the last three might be better starting places for you. If you’re a seasoned traveler and looking for a bit more freedom in where you go and what you do, then the first two may be a better fit. But whatever you choose, remember that motor travel is always a good choice!
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