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Thought Piece

The Complete DO-Pack Guide for Overseas Volunteers

By Mikey
Successfully sending volunteers abroad for 10 years

We’re eagerly continuing on from our previous article on what not to pack for a volunteer abroad trip. We thought it might also be helpful to know what you DO need to pack as well as the things you don’t need. Pair the two guides together and you’re on to a winner while you’re volunteering!  

We’re going to cover all bases here so that you can concentrate on having the best, most enjoyable experience when you’re on an international volunteer programme.  

Do you love to pack everything including the kitchen sink, or are you a minimalist packer? Either way, we’ve got you covered and this ultimate guide for packing is all you need to succeed. Let’s take a look… 

Do a little bit of research  

With the internet and a wealth of information at your fingertips these days, it’s so easy to find some tips on what you might need to pack while you’re on your overseas adventure.   

There are also some things that you can work out for yourself, but consider the following points, and if you need to do some more research on them, then go right ahead and find some extra info: 

1.     What is the culture like? Is your placement a more liberal place, or are the clothing rules stricter?

2.     Are you arriving in the summer/winter season? Will it be rainy or super-hot and dry?

3.     What does the temperature do during sunset and set rise?

4.     What are the religious and social norms?

5.     Are you going to need certain footwear for activities or trips while you’re away?

6.     Are you going to need clothes to meet the requirements of the project you’ve signed up for?

7.     Do you need to take clothes that will cover more than one season? *Side note: Being prepared doesn’t always mean you need to have endless supplies of clothes.  

What documentation will you need?

1.     Passports are required to have a minimum of six months validity after the last day of your trip, so if your dates expire before this time, then make sure you get a renewal.

2.     Will you need a visa for your volunteer adventure? Applying for one ASAP is essential if you do as applications can be a drawn-out process sometimes.

3.     Give your bank the head’s up so that they are aware of your plans to go aboard. The last thing you want is a frozen bank account to deal with while you’re away.

4.     Leave a printout copy of all the important docs you need, including your passport, travel insurance, itinerary, medical documentation (this includes medical certificates/ prescriptions) with a friend or relative at home. Also, keep digital versions of each doc stored on your phone too.

5.     Have a list of all the important numbers you might need, such as contacts for project placements and team leaders, guides/coordinators, etc. You might lose Wi-Fi at times, so having them readily available is important.

6.     Keep all of your travel documentation in a folder or wallet so that you can slip it in with your carry-on luggage so that you know where it is at all times.

How do you make light work or packing?

You know what you will need to pack because all of your research was done beforehand, and you’ve got your documentation sorted too. So, now that you don’t have to worry about these things and you have some extra info on what needs to be in your main bag, things are easier to handle. You can now use this broad guide to packing light so that you can still jump for joy about volunteering!

Your handy clothing list:

1.     Culturally appropriate and practical clothes for the programme you have signed up for

2.     Trousers x 2

3.     Knee length dress/skirt

4.     Tops x 4 - Loose-fitting and shoulder-covering, are a good idea

5.     Underwear x 4 (see the clever tip in our previous article!)

6.     Socks x 4

7.     Towel (Swimsuit) – If applicable

8.     Lightweight (warm) jacket – Keeping warm is often essential even when you go to hot climates, just in case of a turn in the weather conditions. Make sure it’s waterproof too.

9.     Shoes x 2 – Trainers and sandals/flip flops (also add specific footwear for your project/excursions)

Your practical tech list:

1.     An unlocked smartphone - So that you can use it abroad

2.     Camera or GoPro – For capturing your experiences

3.     Adapters and chargers

  1. A multi-plug for charging all of your devices at once – Share your sockets and instantly make new friends!

5.     Head-torch  

Your convenient toiletries list:

1.     Personal medical kit – Should include; insect repellent, pain killers, ibuprofen, antihistamine, diarrhoea sachets, powdered electrolytes, scissors and tweezers, plasters, antiseptic cream, (plenty of) sunscreen, lip balm, and any personal medication (double the amount you will need in case of loss, damage, or if you stay longer)

2.     Travel size shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste

3.     Toothbrush

4.     Deodorant

5.     Hairbrush

6.     Hand sanitizer

7.     Biodegradable baby wipes/soap/shower gel 

Be as ruthless as you can with your packing. It’s a hard one, but you’ll be thankful you did when you’re carrying half the weight around! 

Your essential carry-on bag list:

1.     A change of clothes – Long-haul flights can be more enjoyable when you can slip into fresh clothes. Also, covers you in case there’s a mishap with your luggage.

2.     Water bottle – You can use this throughout your trip; staying hydrated is an absolute must at all times.

3.     Required medication

4.     Pain killers, sachets/tablets for upset stomachs

5.     Ear plugs, eye mask and headphones – these will help to improve sleep

6.     A book

7.     Baby wipes

8.     Lip balm

9.     Neck pillow

10. Sunglasses

11.   A pen – in case you need to fill any documents out

12.   A clear zip lock bag - For any liquids (under 100ml) that you are taking with you in your carry-on luggage. 


You’re now ready to go. Have an amazing time and make some unforgettable memories!

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We've always got plenty going on, so why not check out some of our other latest news and thoughts? Or perhaps you're ready to gt stuck in yourself? If so, Apply Now to get in touch with one of our specialist trip advisors.

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