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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. Should something unexpected happen during your trip, we have staff to support you, so you can enjoy your trip to the 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 details about why you should volunteer with ISV, please visit this page.

How do I become an ISV volunteer?

  1. First, browse our website and learn about our host countries, volunteer projects and adventure tours to find out what programs interest you. 
  2. Next, submit an application to volunteer with ISV. You may complete this online or with an ISV representative on your campus. The application does not commit you – it expresses your interest and lets us know that you want to be considered for our program.
  3. Then, ISV reviews your application and contacts you within approximately 5-7 business days to let you know that you have been accepted or if we need further information. ISV is looking for applicants whom we feel will make a valuable contribution on our program. 
  4. Once you have been accepted, you can then reserve your space on the ISV Program by submitting your Participant Agreement along with a non-refundable, non-transferable deposit. On the Agreement, you will be able to choose your host country and departure date. ISV emails your country and date placement to you within approximately 7-10 business days after receipt of your agreement and deposit.

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

There is not a specific deadline to apply or reserve your space. However, it is best to apply early and reserve your space as soon as you are accepted, because spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some host countries and departure dates may fill up within a very short period of time, so we urge you to apply and reserve your place as soon as possible.

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

Yes, you may 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 college and university students age 18 and older, non-students age 18 and older, and high school students age 15-18.

How do I request a specific country and date? How will I know what country and date I am placed on?

You will be able to choose your host country and departure date when you submit your Participant Agreement. ISV emails your country and date placement to you within approximately 7-10 business days after receipt of your agreement and deposit. If your availability or country preferences change after submitting your Agreement, email our office to request a program change. We do our best to accommodate change requests.

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. ISV also sends you a link to the 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 given to our Project Manager in your host country to consider when placing you on 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 approximately 80 days prior to your departure, which will contain a brief introduction to your project. Then, your specific ISV Project Overview will be emailed to you approximately 30 days prior to departure, which includes details on your project location, host organization, tasks, goals, accommodations, and more.

Program Information

What are the types of ISV Programs?

  • Ultimate 4 Week Program (most popular) - a two week volunteer project followed by a two week adventure tour in the same host country.
  • Two Week Volunteer Program- a two week volunteer project only, without an adventure tour.
  • High School Program- an 18 day educational volunteer project and adventure tour program for high school students age 15-18.
  • Group Trip- Group trip participants may be members of a service club, sports team, university club, sorority or fraternity, pre-vet students, medical students, etc. If you have a group or 10 or more participants who want to travel with you, please email our office with your group trip request.

What additional options can I add to the program?

  • Spanish Language Program - Past participants highly recommend this optional week as a quick and immersive way to practice your Spanish experience the local culture. You’ll live with a host family, converse with the local people, take Spanish classes, take cooking and dance lessons, adjust to the culture of your host country, and sightsee… all before your volunteer project begins! 
  • Optional Activity Package - 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 takes place during the two week Adventure Tour and doesn’t add 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 chosen host country, departure date and program type, you may be able to add an Optional Excursion such as Fiji Islands, Wild Africa or Ancient Cambodia. The Optional Excursion begin after your two Adventure Tour in your host country ends, and is approximately one week long. Excursion spaces are limited and 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 add the Spanish Language Program, OAP and Optional Excursion in your host country on the Travel Options Form by selecting them and making a deposit. All participants are required to submit a Travel Options Form by 120 days prior to departure, and ISV sends an email once the form is available online.

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 participants may stay singly or with another volunteer in a home stay, while on tour, participants may stay 3 or 4 share in a hotel room, or the entire group in a large cabin or bunkhouse. Depending on the facilities available, accommodations may be co-ed or may have separate rooms for male and female participants.

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 the host country. Vegetarian diets can be accommodated. If you have more specific dietary requirements, please be prepared to bring or purchase additional foods to supplement the included meals.

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 55 days prior to your departure, which notes the meals provided on the tour with B, L, D (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner).

Meals once at the project site are included, and Tour meals as per the Tour itinerary. Meals while in transit from the airport to/from Project or Tour are the participant’s responsibility.

Do I need vaccinations?

ISV does not require any specific vaccinations. In your ISV Travel Manual, there will be a list of commonly advised vaccinations for your host country. We strongly suggest that you visit a physician for additional recommendations. Be aware that some countries may have entry requirements, 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. 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 participants (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?

Getting to know your host family is often one of the most incredible and rewarding aspects of the program! 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. Depending on the size of the home, host families can accommodate or two volunteers. Many families have hosted international students before and they are all caring families ready to share their home and culture with you. For the Spanish Language Program option, host families are selected by the Spanish school. For volunteer projects with home stay accommodations, the host families are generally selected by the project host organization.

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

Email is the easiest and least expensive method to use to contact home. You can also ask your wireless carrier about available international calling or data plans. Past participants have sometimes opted to buy a pre-paid international calling card after arrival in their host country.

How often you can contact home during the two week volunteer project depends on your project location and the facilities available. You might not be able to contact home, or you might only be able to contact home on the weekends, depending on the project. During the two week adventure tour, you will have access to public phones and the internet to contact home every couple of days. The ISV office, Country Coordinators, and Project and Tour Leaders maintain communication with one another throughout the program.

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 flights department?

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 flights department, 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 flights department is 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 flights department, 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 program cost?

Click here to view and download a pricing inclusions/exclusions sheet.

The 4-week program cost includes all housing accommodations, all meals during the two week project, at least half of the meals during the two week tour, ground transportation within the host country, a minimum of five activities during the adventure tour, an ISV Project Leader and Tour Leader, project host organization fees, administration and recruitment, program set-up, orientation in the host country, Travel Manual and an ISV T-shirt.

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

Yes, please contact our office to request the pricing sheet.

What is excluded from the program cost?

The program cost does not include international or domestic flights, in-country domestic air transportation, passport, tourist or transit visas, medical and cancellation insurance, vaccinations, academic credit, or spending money. Participants on the 4-week program will pay for some non-included meals during the Adventure Tour. Costs for options such as Spanish Language Program, OAP, Optional Excursions and non-ISV free time activities are all additional to the program cost.

What are the payment deadlines?

A minimum of $1,500.00 USD ($1,950.00 CAD / £1,155.00 GBP / €1,350.00 EUR), in addition to the non-refundable, non-transferable deposit, is due 90 days prior to departure.

All remaining balance payments are due by 65 days prior to departure. You can make payments prior to that time as often as you wish, in the amount that you prefer.

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 supporters to let them know about your trip and your need for their funding. Once you are signed up for your host country, you can then use the sample letter to supporters, 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 some or 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. Generally, you will spend little on your volunteer project and more on the adventure tour (meals, optional activities, shopping, etc.).

We recommend that you bring approximately $200.00 USD ($250 CAD / £150 GBP / €150 EUR) for each tour and excursion week. This is a general estimate so do consider your own spending habits. Are you going to buy lots of souvenirs? Are you a picky or expensive eater? Do you want to participate in additional non-included activities?

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. All cancellation requests must be made in writing by the participant.

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. ISV is unable to refund deposits or donations.

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

You must have both medical insurance that covers you while abroad on the program, and travel cancellation insurance that covers your ISV trip.

ISV partners with Travel Guard to offer an insurance package for our participants (plan availability depends on your place of residence). You are welcome to compare policies from different providers and choose one that fits your needs and the ISV insurance requirements.

If you do not already have appropriate medical insurance, consider purchasing a travel insurance policy that combines both medical and trip cancellation coverage.

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 participants are required to have travel cancellation insurance.

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