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Information for Volunteers

Read this section for useful information that will enable you to make the correct decisions, ask the right questions, and ensure you have the best experience possible!

Becoming a Volunteer With ISV

Why should I volunteer abroad?


Volunteering abroad is your chance to be more than a tourist and connect with the culture and environment of another country in an unforgettable way. You can travel and impact your world at the same time! By giving of yourself abroad, you are able to make an important contribution to your planet and its people, all while having a great time and making new friends. Volunteering will build your skills, confidence and global perspective, and you will be amazed at the difference you can make in the lives of others.

Why should I choose ISV?


Here are great reasons for you to travel with ISV:

  1. Travel with up to 25-50 people who share your passion for volunteering and adventure!
  2. ISV provides 24-hour support while you are on your program. So should something go wrong during your trip, we have the staff and support to help you out, so you can enjoy your trip to its fullest.
  3. Professional ISV Project and Tour Leaders guide you through your entire volunteer and adventure experience.
  4. ISV personally selects and works with host organizations and local communities to ensure your project is safe, fun, meaningful and sustainable.
  5. ISV has been an industry leader in running the most professional, responsible and exciting adventure tours on the planet for nearly 30 years!
For a more detailed breakdown of why you should volunteer with ISV, please visit this page.

How do I become an ISV volunteer?

  1. First, take a look through our website and read up on our host countries, volunteer projects and adventure tours to learn what we offer and find out what interests you. 
  2. Next, submit an application to volunteer with ISV. You may complete this online or via one of our representatives on your campus.  There is no obligation involved with the application, it is just an expression of interest and lets us know you would like to be considered for our program. ISV will review your application and contact you within 7-10 business days to let you know that you have been accepted or if we need further information. ISV will accept anyone that we feel will make a valuable contribution on our program. 
  3. Once you have been accepted, you can then confirm your space on the ISV Program by submitting your agreement and non-refundable, non-transferable deposit. Final placement on the program may be dependent on a review of any medical condition you have to ensure we are able to meet your needs while abroad. ISV will place you on your country and departure date within 7-10 business days of receiving your agreement and deposit. 

What is the deadline to apply? What is the deadline to confirm my space?

There is no official deadline to apply or confirm your space, however it is best to apply early and confirm your space as soon as you are accepted, as spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Many host countries and departure dates fill up within a very short period of time, so we urge you to complete your documentation and confirm your place as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. 

Can I travel with a friend? How do I inform ISV?


Yes, you can travel with one or more friends. You will need to list one another’s names on your applications to be placed together. If you have already applied and didn’t list your friend, or if you now have more friends you are traveling with, please email the ISV office to inform us.

Do I have to be a student to participate?


No, you do not have to be a student. ISV offers programs for high school students age 15-18, college and university students age 18 and older, as well as non-students age 18 and older.

How do I know what country and date I'll be placed on?


ISV will place you on your country and date by referring to the preferences you list on your application and program agreement. Spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and ISV will place you on your country and date within 7-10 business days of receipt of your agreement and non-refundable, non-transferable deposit.

How do I request a specific country and date?


If you are only available for limited countries or dates, please mark a choice for only those options on your application and agreement.

How do I request the project I want?


You can indicate conservation, community development or no preference for your preferred type of volunteer project on your application. We will send you a project preference form to complete so that you can let us know what kind of project you would like to be involved in. This information is passed to our Project Managers in your host country to assist with allocating you to your project

When will I know my project?


ISV will place you on either a conservation or community development project and email you a project summary about 55 days prior to departure, which will contain a brief introduction to your project. Then, your specific ISV Project Overview will be emailed to you 30 days prior to departure, which will include detailed information on your project location, host organization, tasks, goals, accommodations, etc. 

Program Information

What is the structure of the ISV Program and what are the additional options?



Program Types:

  • The Ultimate 4 Week Program (most popular)- consists of a two week volunteer project followed by a two week adventure tour in the same host country. 
  • Two Week Volunteer Program- consists of a two week volunteer project only, without an adventure tour.
  • High School Program- consists of a volunteer project and educational adventure tour for high school students ages 15 to 18. High School Programs are offered for specific host countries and departure dates. The High School Program is three weeks in length for students from Australia and New Zealand, and 18 days in length for students from the USA (High School Programs not available for students from other countries at this time).
  • Group Trip- consists of 10 or more volunteers who are already part of a group, such as a service club, special interest club or a skilled group (such as pre-vet, medical students, etc.). The length of the trip and the number of volunteer projects and adventure tours may be customized based on the needs of the group. 

Additional Program Options:
  • Spanish Language Program- This option is highly recommended by past participants as it gives you time to settle in to your new host country and learn Spanish so you can communicate with the locals during the rest of your program. It is a very quick and effective way to immerse yourself in a new culture. During the Spanish immersion, you will be able to:
    • live with a host family
    • learn Spanish
    • take cooking and dance lessons
    • adjust to the culture of your host country
    • experience sightseeing and cultural visits… all before your volunteer project begins! 

If you are traveling to Costa Rica or Dominican Republic, you will be automatically signed up for the Spanish Language Program. You will have the chance to opt out if you prefer not to participate.  
  • Optional Activity Package (OAP)- The OAP is a package of additional popular activities in your host country that ISV offers to maximize your adventure tour experience. If you add the OAP to your tour, you may for example, add an entirely new activity such as surf lessons, or upgrade an activity such as black water rafting to five hours. About 95% of participants choose to add the OAP since it adds such great value to the tour. The OAP activities take place during the Adventure Tour and do not add any length to your trip. The package must be purchased as a whole, and the activities are listed on each host country page. 
  • Optional Excursions- Depending on your departure date and program type, you have the opportunity to add an Optional Excursion such as Fiji, Wild Africa or Ancient Cambodia. Optional Excursions are generally about one week in length and take place after your Adventure Tour in your host country. Spaces for excursions are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. More information about excursions is located on each host country page. 

How and when do I sign up for the additional options?


You can confirm for the Spanish Language Program and add the OAP in your host country on your Flight/Options Form by selecting them and making a deposit. All volunteers are required to submit a Flight/Options Form which is available on the ISV website. The Flight/Options Form is due by 105 days prior to departure.

Where will I be staying?


Accommodations vary according to the specific volunteer project and may range from home stays within the local community to national park huts, bunkhouses to tent-camping, and more. On the adventure tour, accommodations range from hostels to eco-lodges, hotels to jungle cabins, tent camps to resorts, and more. The size and style of rooms vary; on project you may be staying singly or with another volunteer in a home stay, while on tour, you may have 3 or more other volunteers in a hotel room, or your entire group in a large cabin or bunkhouse. Depending on the facilities available, the accommodations may be co-ed or may have separate rooms for male and female volunteers.

What are the meals like?


Meals will be filling and healthy, though you may find there is less variety in food than what you are used to at home, depending on the variety of seasonal foods available in your host country. Vegetarian diets can be accommodated.

Three meals a day are provided on your volunteer project and generally reflect traditional local fare and the culture of the region. At least half of the meals are provided during the adventure tour, which allows you to explore the local cuisines at your leisure for the remaining meals. ISV will send you a Travel Manual for your host country 30 days prior to departure, in which the meals provided on the tour will be noted with B, L, D (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner).

Meals once at the project site are included, and Tour meals as per the Tour itinerary. Meals transiting from the airport to/from Project or Tour are the responsibility of the participant.

Do I need vaccinations?


ISV does not recommend any specific vaccinations, but we do advise that volunteers visit their physician or a travel medicine clinic for recommendations. In your ISV Travel Manual , a list of the commonly advised vaccinations for your host country will be included, as well as information about entry requirements that certain countries may have, such as proof of yellow fever vaccination. 

Is the ISV Program safe? Are the host countries safe?


ISV’s commitment to the safety and well-being of every leader and volunteer takes top priority in the planning and operation of each international program. 

  • Each host country is selected with safety as the first priority. 
  • ISV has a global risk management plan and emergency routes and medical facilities are designated for each of our locations. 
  • ISV maintains our own staff in each host country to provide support for the program. 
  • All programs are overseen by a locally-based ISV Country Coordinator, and professionally trained ISV Project and Tour Leaders supervise each project and tour group.
  • Volunteers attend a mandatory orientation meeting in their host country before the start of the project and the tour, in which safety is thoroughly discussed. Volunteers are trained to use any tools needed for their project tasks.
  • ISV maintains a good relationship with the local communities we serve. 
  • ISV provides emergency contact phone numbers for volunteers (and their families) to call in case any emergency arises during the program season. 
  • ISV will not run a program or activity if we deem it to be unsafe.

How are host families selected?


For the Spanish Language Program option, host families are selected by the Spanish school. For volunteer projects that have home stays, the host families are generally selected by the project host organization. Host families are local families who are well-respected in their community. Their homes are inspected to ensure that they have the basic necessities to ensure you are comfortable. Each host family can accommodate one or two ISV volunteers at a time, depending on the size of the house. Getting to know your host family is one of the most incredible and rewarding aspects of our Spanish Language Program (and some Costa Rican projects). Many families have hosted international students before and they are all caring families ready to share their home and culture with you.

How can I contact home while I'm on my trip?


In general, ISV recommends using email to contact home, as that is the easiest and least expensive method. You can also choose to purchase a pre-paid international calling card after arrival in your host country. Your ability to contact home during the volunteer project (first two weeks) depends on the remoteness of your project and the facilities available. You might not be able to contact home during those weeks, or you might only be able to contact home on the weekends.

During the adventure tour (second two weeks) you will have access to public phones and the internet to contact home usually every couple of days. The ISV main office staff, your Project and Tour Leaders, and the ISV Country Coordinators will maintain communication with one another throughout the project and tour.

Flights

Are flight costs additional or are they included in the ISV Program cost?

International and in-country domestic flights are not included in the ISV Program cost. If you are on the group flight to your host country and need a flight to the international flight group departure airport you will be responsible for the cost.

What is the additional in-country domestic air transportation?

In-country domestic air transportation refers to flights within the host country. Most participants on Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Thailand Programs must take one or more in-country domestic flights, and the airfare will be added to the participants invoice. The ISV country staff arranges all the necessary in-country domestic flights for the program.

How do I book my international flight through ISV’s partner travel agency?

Submit an ISV Travel Options Form by 120 days prior to departure. Participant will receive an email with the link to the Travel Options Form and flight booking instructions.

What are the benefits of taking a flight booked by ISV?

Peace of mind!
Take the guess work out of where and when tfly.

Fly with other ISV participants
Get tknow fellow ISV participants on the way tyour host country.

Safety in numbers.
Travel with the group from start tfinish – a great way tset everyone’s mind at ease.

Let professionals handle the logistics.
Ensure that you arrive in and depart from the correct cities and countries for your program. By booking flights with ISV's flights department it will take the stress out of booking a flight on your own!

Group flight itineraries.
Our flights department negotiates the best possible international group flights on reputable airlines, departing from major international airports in the USA.

Coordination with your program.
Our group flight arrival and departure logistics are scheduled in accordance with our program project and tour logistics.

Help if flight delays or changes happen.
Don’t be on your own when problems arise! Our Flights Department provides a 24 hour emergency line for our group flights and helps you with flight re-booking, personal transportation and/or a hotel if your flights are delayed, changed or cancelled on the day of your departure.

Avoid or minimize additional expenses.
If the group flight is delayed, ISV adjusts our program logistics in-country. If you’re on your own, it’s your responsibility tcatch up tthe rest of your group, and arrange and pay for separate transportation or even a hotel.

Personal assistance.
Our Flights Director can work with you individually if you have special requests for, or questions about, your flights.

Do I have to take the international flight organized by ISV’s Flights Department?

Yes, ISV requires all participants to take a flight organized by our partner travel agents, for the international flights to their host country, to ensure the smooth running of the program. If you have special requests for your itinerary, our partner travel agents are able to work with you individually and can often accommodate special requests.

If you have extenuating circumstances, and need to book your own flight separately and not through ISV's partner travel agents, then you must first submit the ISV Travel Options Form, and then send an email to the ISV office, requesting the instructions for booking your own flight.

*For participants doing Fiji Excursion – Those that are participating in the Fiji Excursion are required to book all of their flights through ISV without exception. Booking their own flight is not an option.


Do I need to arrange and pay for my own personal transportation to the departure airport for the international flight?

Yes, as ISV participants are coming from many different locations, it is your responsibility to pay for your personal flight or ground transportation to the designated departure airport for the international flight. ISV’s flight department can assist you if you need to have a domestic flight booked to the departure airport.

Do I need a passport?

Yes, you will need a valid passport to travel internationally. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your trip return date. It may take up to two months to receive your passport from the time you apply for one, so you should apply for one as early as possible.

Do I need a tourist visa?

You may need a tourist visa, depending on your citizenship and the countries to which you will travel. It is your responsibility to arrange any visas you require for your ISV host country or any country that you transit through. It may take months to get a visa if you need one, so be sure to apply for one far in advance. Please contact our office with any specific visa questions you have. You may also require other additional visas, such as transit visas.

Money Matters

What is included in the costs?


The program cost includes your accommodations, all meals during the two week project, at least half of the meals during the two week tour, ground transportation within your host country, a minimum of five activities during the tour, your project leader and tour leader, project host organization fees, administration and recruitment, program set-up, orientation in your host country, Travel Manual and ISV T-shirt.

The program cost does not include international or domestic flights, passport or tourist visa, insurance, vaccinations, academic credit, spending money, Spanish Language and Culture, optional activities or optional excursions.

Can you give me an estimate on the pricing of flights and optional packages?

We have created a Pricing Breakdown document that will help you determine your program costs. Please contact our office to request last season’s pricing, which you can use as a guide. 

What other costs should I be aware of?


Every volunteer is responsible for the cost of their international flight to their host country, medical and cancellation insurance and spending money (for those traveling on a two week volunteer project only). 

For those undertaking 4 week volunteer and adventure program, please add on non-included meals during the Adventure Tour.

For those adding options such as Spanish Language Program, OAP, Excursions, undertaking academic credit and other non-ISV activities you might choose to take in-country, these costs need to be considered.

For those requiring a visa or vaccinations, these costs need to be added.

What are the payment deadlines?


Balance payments are due 65 days prior to your departure. You can make payments prior to that time as often as you wish, in the amount that you prefer. Contact our office for information on payment plans that are available.

How can I fundraise?


Look over the fundraising tips on our website and then start making a list of your family, friends, co-workers, local businesses, clubs and organizations, etc., to which you have a personal connection. Next, start contacting these potential sponsors to let them know about your trip and your need for their support. Once you are signed up for your host country, you can then take advantage of the sample letter to sponsors, and the other fundraising materials ISV provides to you. Get together with other volunteers in your area to host fundraising events, or ask a friend or family member to help you. Start fundraising early!

How much on average do people fundraise?


Fundraising varies depending on the individual and how much time and effort they spend on fundraising.  Many past volunteers have fundraised all of their program costs.

Do I need to exchange currency? How much money should I exchange?


You should exchange some money into the local currency of your host country. ISV will send you a Travel Manual and Project Overview 30 days prior to departure, which will have more details on how much money to bring. 

What happens if I have to cancel?


Be sure to get travel cancellation insurance as soon as you book your trip, so that you have better coverage in case of unforeseen cancellation. If you have to cancel your program after you have been allocated to your country and date, you must email our office right away.

ISV offers you a travel voucher (in the amount equal to your non-refundable, non-transferable program deposit) valid for you towards an ISV Program within the next two years. Additionally, you may contact your travel cancellation insurance provider to make an insurance claim. Deposits and donations are not refundable by ISV.

What kind of insurance do I need to have in order to travel with ISV?

You will need to have both medical insurance that covers you while abroad on the program, as well as travel cancellation insurance that covers your ISV trip.

If you do not already have appropriate medical insurance, you can consider using a travel insurance policy that combines both medical and cancellation coverage ISV will provide you with further insurance information once you have been allocated to your country and departure date.

What is travel cancellation insurance?


Travel cancellation insurance protects you against last minute cancellation, provided that the reason for cancelling falls within the terms and conditions of the policy. Travel cancellation insurance often covers other items such as trip delay, trip interruption, baggage loss, baggage delay, international medical coverage and more. All volunteers are required to have travel cancellation insurance.

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