The Ultimate Packing List For Volunteering Abroad

Seeing the world AND helping others? What could be better? Not a whole lot. While traveling around the world is one sort of a great experience in itself, traveling around the world to volunteer is completely different. Therefore, when it comes to packing, it is important to approach your trip with these differences in mind.

You probably won’t be staying in posh hotels and galivanting around beautiful cities (most of the time). Instead, you should be prepared to do some hard work, maybe get a bit dirty, but still have an incredible time. So, without further ado, Rakbo brings you the ULTIMATE packing list for volunteering abroad!

Before you start packing, you should do a couple things:

  • First, do some research on the part of the world you will be helping. It is important to make packing decisions based on climate and culture. Pro-tip: If you are unsure how culture may affect appearances, its best to pack more modest clothing. Shirts and pants that cover your arms and shoulders, for both males and females, is the best way to go, even if you are working in the blazing Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Make sure to research the kinds of power outlets your destination uses and other technological challenges you may face.

Now that you know what to expect, you can start packing!

  • Important documents. These include copies of your vaccination record, health insurance, traveler’s insurance, passport and all identification. These are SUPER important, because, if you lose the originals, it can be extremely difficult, if at all possible, to replace them. Also, two lists of emergency contacts.
  • Two pairs of shoes that you can walk in and get dirty. Depending on where you go, one pair of close-toed shoes and one pair of sandals.
  • Four to five shirts that you won’t mind getting ruined.
  • Two to three pairs of pants. Remember, pants can be worn, like, a DOZEN times before they really need washed.
  • One or two jackets. This is dependent on where you travel. If the place you’re headed to has a rainy season, maybe it is best to bring a rain jacket and also a lighter one, or a light jacket and something heavier in case it gets cold.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Small medical kit.
  • Reusable water bottle (I’m a huge fan of my Nalgene bottle, personally).
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Hair brush.
  • Enough shampoo, conditioner and soap to last for the duration of your trip. Depending on where you go, you may not be able to purchase your brand of choice. This applies to all toiletries.
  • Camera or GoPro.
  • This is optional. Having a cell phone abroad is always a tricky matter. Often times, it can be expensive to even text outside of your home country. Also, there are some countries that you just may not be able to get service in, like Tunisia or Algeria. If you are determined to have cell phone while abroad, I would recommend looking into Google Fi.
  • Small gifts or donations for volunteer project. Before you decide on this, it is crucial that you ask your program coordinators about this first. Sometimes, if you are staying in a small community, it is recommended or encouraged to bring small gifts. Others will tell you that it is a total no-no. A donation of school supplies or toys to the community or project you are working with is usually deemed better, but may also take up a lot of space. It’s always best to ask first, in this case.
  • A small backpack or bag for day trips.
  • Sun glasses.
  • A hat for sun protection.
  • Again, check before packing to see what the climatic and cultural restrictions on dress are, especially swimsuits. In some places, women may not be allowed to swim, or may have to be covered much more than what you are used to.
  • It may be better to convert this cash into the local currency before you arrive at your destination, as you may be unable to one you land, depending on where you go.
  • Bug repellent.
  • Personal skin care products.
  • Travel journal.
  • Shaving razors.
  • Pads and tampons (for women). Many periphery and semi-periphery countries do not use these kinds of products, so it’s best to make sure that you have PLENTY, unless you want to live like the local women and go all natural.

A major pro-tip for packing: culminate everything you think you will need… and then cut it in half. This ensures that you will have plenty of space and not be taking unnecessary items.

Once you have everything packed, and then cut it in half, and then repacked… And probably repacked again… then you are ready to go out and help the world! Packing for this sort of trip can be a daunting task, but with a little research and intuition, it is definitely do-able.

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Allyson Smith

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