Volunteering and adventure travel

Information on how to stay safe and healthy during travel abroad.

Planning your activities

You should plan before any trip abroad, whether it’s volunteering, adventure travel or other experiences abroad. This page includes useful advice and information to help you get ready to have a safe trip.

Check our travel advice for the country (or countries) you’re going to. You’ll find the latest information and advice on topics such as safety and security, entry requirements, local laws and health.

You can also check our foreign travel checklist for useful advice to help you prepare for travelling and staying safe abroad.


Voluntary work can be very rewarding, but a successful volunteering project requires careful planning and support.

Before you agree to a volunteering opportunity, do your research to make sure you’ll be volunteering with a genuine organisation and your work will have a positive impact. For example:

  • check that the organisation is correctly registered with the local authorities (where required)
  • check the organisation’s history and track record in leading groups to volunteer abroad
  • if your trip is planned through a sponsor organisation, find out more about the local associations they partner with, including how projects are monitored and quality-assured
  • make sure you understand the main parts of the itinerary, including travel arrangements, accommodation, any insurance cover provided for you, and what support would be available if you needed to return home early
  • make sure you have appropriate insurance
  • speak to past volunteers to find out about their experiences and any complaints or concerns

Charities and university student services may provide more advice and guidance on volunteering abroad, and on finding the right project for you.

If you’re considering any volunteering opportunities in challenging environments or that may bring you into contact with vulnerable people in difficult circumstances, also consider the risk to your own mental health and welfare. Reputable organisations should be able to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring volunteers’ safety and wellbeing, as well as that of the communities in which they work.

Volunteering with children

Many volunteer projects directly or indirectly contribute to improving the lives of children and young people abroad, and these can be popular among travellers.

In some countries, you can volunteer in or visit orphanages, or other child facilities. This can have serious unintended consequences for vulnerable children and communities. A regular turnover of volunteers without relevant training and experience can be harmful to children’s development and emotional wellbeing.

Some organisations that invite volunteers are profit-oriented, not charitable. Some dishonest organisations have deliberately housed children in poor conditions to attract financial support from visitors. Poor safeguarding practices also increase the risk of abuse. By volunteering in or visiting such organisations, you may unknowingly contribute towards child exploitation, and you may put yourself at risk of accusations of improper behaviour.

If you’re considering any volunteering opportunities with children or young people, consider these additional risks and safeguarding issues carefully in your research and planning. This also applies when volunteering to support adults with disabilities.

The International Forum for Volunteering in Development has developed a Global Standard for Volunteering. This aims to help volunteer organisations provide responsible and impactful volunteering and prioritise community needs. Organisations adopting the Global Standard commit to promoting child-safe volunteering in all environments, which includes not facilitating visits to orphanages or other residential care facilities for children.

The UK government recognises that institutionalisation (the housing of children in an orphanage or other residential institution) harms children’s physical, emotional and psychological development. In line with the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care for Children, the UK government is working towards the long-term process of de-institutionalisation.

Adventure travel

Whether you or an organisation make the arrangements directly or through a company, you must consider safety to plan and manage a successful adventure travel trip.

Check safety standards

Check safety standards:

  • if you choose an organisation that prepares properly, you are more likely to stay safe
  • do not assume that safety is well managed: check with whoever makes the arrangements and find out what safety standards the organisers adhere to
  • read the contract you are offered and be clear about who is responsible for all parts of the venture, including any outsourced elements, and how these are checked. Ask about who is responsible for what
  • find out how British companies must properly manage risks on adventure trips abroad in the Royal Geographical Society British Standard for field safety BS 8848, which includes a rigorous framework

Make sure you get appropriate insurance that covers you for all the activities you want to do.


We welcome your views on the support we provide, to help us to identify what we do well and what we could do better. Contact us using our feedback contact form.

Alternatively write to us:

Consular Feedback Team
Consular Directorate
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH

Or telephone +44 (0)20 7008 5000


Read the disclaimer relating to this guidance.

Published 8 June 2015
Last updated 22 December 2023 + show all updates
  1. This guidance has been reviewed, with updates throughout.

  2. Guidance fully reviewed and updated.

  3. Full review and update of guidance, including additional information on volunteering overseas. Information on gap year, volunteering overseas and adventure travelling has also moved to one central place.

  4. First published.