Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

10 Safety Tips for Female Volunteers

The overwhelming majority of people that take part in international volunteer projects are women. In our own Friends for Asia Programs, 80% of our volunteers and interns are women. As most volunteers and interns take part in programs individually, there’s a lot to be aware of before jumping on a plane to the other side of the planet.

The places people go to volunteer and intern abroad are normally safe, and very, very rarely do travelers experience major issues to safety, security or health. So, don’t let the below items scare you into never leaving your hometown.

Travel, volunteer, engage, connect with new people and see the world! But, make sure before doing so, you follow some simple rules for making sure your trip and program is safe, smooth and successful.

Also, even for you have traveled before, it’ll certainly make your mom feel better, if you rattle off some of the items below before you leave.


10 Safety Tips for International Female Volunteers and Interns

1. Will There be Other Female Volunteers with You?

Volunteers normally want to create friendships and connections with members of the local communities in which they serve. However, feeling comfortable and having like-minded company is also important. Ask the placement organization you are connecting with, how many other volunteers will be on-site with you. Where are they from? How many other women will be with you. Being dropped into a small village hours from the closest city, that doesn’t have anyone that speaks English is intimidating for anyone. But such a situation can actually be dangerous for young, single women.

2. Does the Program Team have Female Staff?

Ideally, all international placement organizations should have bilingual, well-educated and well-trained programming staff. These individuals will be your key to program success and connecting with the local community. Having local women, that speak your language and understand where you are coming from will help you to adjust to your new surroundings, feel comfortable, and make new international friendships and connections.

3. General Safety of Area

Crime can range drastically between cities and even between small areas in cities. A quick online search can provide statistics and advice from travel experts on what areas and cities are safest, and which should be avoided. Check to see if the areas that you’ll be volunteering and staying in are places where other foreign visitors feel safe. Although hopefully covered in orientation or pre-departure info, do check other online sources for things to be aware of while visiting or staying in the area that you plan to volunteer.

4. Hosting Organization’s Security Protocol

While corresponding with recruitment staff and applying for programs inquire on what safety and staff support is provided in the case of an emergency. Will local staff be there to assist you 24 hours a day? If so, how? Will you be minutes, hours, or days away from the local support staff in the case of an emergency? Nobody wants bad things to happen, but if they do, you want to make sure that there are local staff there to assist and support you at a moment’s notice.

5. Being Vigilant

The person most responsible for your safety while traveling and volunteering abroad is you. Be sure to follow all the common sense rules of personal safety and security: Do not walk alone by yourself at night. Do not drink heavily far away from where you’ll be staying. Follow all the same safety rules you follow at home. In some places, you’ll find that you can do things that you can’t do back at home. There’s certainly going to be a reason for that, and remain mindful of this. If its against the law to drive a motorcycle at home without a license, helmet or any training whatsoever, you probably should do it abroad either.


6. Safe Transportation

In the developing world, transportation safety is not held at the same importance and standard as it is elsewhere. Getting horribly lost, or involved in an accident when traveling can ruin your entire program and trip. When possible, take taxis that appear to have proper registration and seat belts. Use app/mobile taxi services where possible. Stay away from motorbike taxis, and private cars with no registration. These options may cost more than local rickshaws, motorbike taxis, etc. However, forking out a bit more for your safety here can really make your trip and experience a lot smoother, safer and enjoyable.

7. Trust Your Gut!

Observe how locals deal with the new environment you find yourself in. What do they eat (and not eat) and making clear, good decisions about how to interact with your new environment will help you navigate this new cultural atmosphere. If something feels off, or not right about a situation, then make changes, and make them fast. If a taxi driver or local hired guide is giving you an uncomfortable feeling, then change things up. It’s important to be respectful while becoming a part of a new community, but it’s more important to keep yourself safe from situations that can potentially be dangerous. If you don’t want to look or create an uncomfortable situation due to refusing something or escaping a situation, come up with a few excuses that will work in most situations. Here are a few…

“I just noticed my phone battery is getting low, and I am expecting my boyfriend to call me here soon”.

“Actually, I am having some trouble with my stomach, and think it would be best to get back home.”

8. Nearby Quality Medical Facilities

Nobody wants to get sick or hurt, especially when they’re far away from home. But, unfortunately, these issues do sometimes occur. Whether it’s an upset stomach, or something much more serious, it’s important that you are near medical care that you trust. Since we started hosting volunteers in 2008, we’ve had three volunteers that have come down with appendicitis. In all three cases, the volunteer was quickly cared for, and provided with the urgent medical attention they needed. These situations could have taken a very different turn if the volunteers were a very far distance from a medical facility, or if the medical care wasn’t at such a high level. Your health and well-being is important, and should be one of the major things you keep in mind when planning to be overseas for extended amounts of time. We also suggest that all volunteers and interns possess proper travel / international medical insurance. Packages are very reasonable when traveling, and will provide extra peace of mind in the event of illness or a medical emergency.

9. Safe Accommodation

Being comfortable and feeling safe and secure in your accommodation is really important. Beyond simple creature comforts, being in an uncomfortable sleeping space can ruin the entire experience. Confirming what type of accommodation you will be provided during your program is important. Are meals included? Does your bedroom have air conditioning or heating? Are their cooking facilities available? Do you receive a private room, or do you share sleeping space? If you do share a bedroom with other volunteers, are they women as well, or is it mixed? Naturally, we would suggest that women do not room with men they do not know. Checking to see if the accommodation has simple items like fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, etc. can seem over-the-top, but may also be a reflection of the overall support you will receive while partaking in the program.

10. Clear Communication

When you correspond with your program placement organization, are they quick to get back to you? Do they clearly answer your questions in a professional and friendly manner? If it takes a week for a program staff to get back to you with a simple question about your upcoming program, then this does not bode well with what in-country support may be upon arrival. Having phone and data service during your program will be very helpful with connecting with other volunteers, knowing where you are, and connecting with programming staff if there is a problem, or even if you just have a question about booking an activity or the best way to get somewhere.