Hello everybody!

I wanted to write here to rant about the companies that prey on people when you want to volunteer. I have just returned from Tanzania. The poverty i witnessed shocked me beyond belief. I worked in an orphanage, and they had nothing. I was meant o be teaching them, but it is hard to teach with no black board, no desks, no pens, pencils, reading books, note books…nothing.

I went with a company called REAL GAP’. The brochure says they give to the place where you work, so they can buy ‘‘much needed materials’‘. Indeed. Real Gap does not give anyhting. I am currently trying very hard to get money back for everyone that has been lied to, using the trade descriptions.

To anyone that wants to go and teach, or work in a hospital, etc. i beg you, PLEASE do not go with REAL GAP. I have seen their accounts, they make so much money, it is just terrible. And they do not give so much as a pencil to the places where they really need it. There are ways do go DIRECTLY. PLEASE, real gap should not be used.

if real gap had only done what it says it does it would make the world of difference. apart from the obvious educational stuff it could buy, it would also enable them to be able to afford to find out if they are going to die of AIDS or not.

PLEASE, PLEASE, do not go with real gap.

please pass this message on.


oh my god, I was so close to booking with Real Gap before I found your post, thank you SO much!!? How do they actually get away with that…bastards

Have you used any other honest volunteer companies? An alternative you can recommend?

thanks, Vic xxx


Hi I’m going to Zambia with Real Gap and can not believe i am now after reading what you posted.

Avatar for Nicky999

Total Posts: 43

Joined 2007-01-23

Hi guys I spent 12 weeks volunteering on a medical project in Malawi with Real Gap.  I would totally agree that they take all your money with minimal going to the people who really need it.  They con you with a fancy brochure & website and at the end of the day they are just a travel agents making money.  When you visit countires such as Africa you see how cheap it is to live there so our money ceratinly isn’t going towards food, accommodation etc.

But then the question is how do you travel to and volunteer in developing countries without organisations such as Real Gap.  Don’t let this put you off, I still had an utterly amazing experience & Real Gap made this possible.  I will definately be returning to Africa in the future but not with an organisation which charges a fortune & takes all the money for itself…... I am yet to find one!!


Avatar for Questoverseas

Total Posts: 37

Joined 2007-01-22

Hi all,

Just a quick one as I have noticed a lot of comments on the messageboards about the high cost of volunteering organisations and that people should all go direct to charities overseas etc.

I work for Quest and have done for the past 4 years - so yes - I am of course biased. However, I do really sympathise with anyone who is trying to decide what to do and just wants to do volunteer work that has a genuine impact on the communites overseas. It is a nightmare trying to get through all the sales and marketing that all companies/charities produce. When I did my Gap year there was only about 10 different companies, nothing like what it is now!

Start off by checking out this website: it’s independent so not affliated to any volunteer organisation - but just gives you tips on what to look for and what to ask of any organisation. 

Secondly -ask LOTS of questions about where your money goes to and what you get for it. Exactly how much goes overseas to support the project and how much stays in the UK.

You can go directly to charities overseas which can be fine and work very well- but in some cases, people don’t want to do this, as it means you aren’t covered incase anything goes wrong whilst you’re over there. If you get seriously ill, or break something or get a nasty disease then you may well not have the help and support you need.

Also - it depends if you want to be part of a team with a leader, and whether you want some pre-departure support, training and advice. Some people don’t and are happy to do the more independent route which is great - but some people want that support and back-up.

Also - bear in mind that the charities overseas do need your money as well as your help. If you go directly it might be cheap - but bear in mind that if you want to build, repair or develop something then you will have to raise funds to pay for it. This is really what the charities need, as well as your willing hands and enthusiasm!

All I want to say really is that not all volunteering organisations are the same! Some act as ‘agents’ for charities overseas, some have their own project bases and some work with partner NGO’s/Self-help community groups.

Quest has a few long-term local charity partners who we have worked with in Africa and Latin America for 12 years now. We specialise in team projects, led by experienced leaders and ask you guys to pay Quest an amount to manage the trip + a sizeable donation which you pay direct to the charities we work with to fund all the materials for the project work you will do and local labourers to work with you plus provide on-going financial support for the charity once you leave. We are really clear about the two exact amounts you pay/donate.That’s why we are more expensive and proud of it!

Anyway - good luck with it all and please don’t be dishearterned. There are some really good volunteer organisations out there - just bear in mind they are not always the cheapest - so if it feels like you are paying over the odds, make sure you ask why and where your money goes to!

B :D


Most of the big boys really are a rip off. They charge you upto £1500 for a month volunteering, and hardly any of it seems to go to the Project.
I use Bolivia Volunteers for my yearly visits to the orphanages in Cochabamba. They have a placement fee of about £500 for a month, which gets you everything. Accom´n, food, taxis to the project, internet access, weekend trips, the lot. AND, every penny left over goes to the Orphanage
They´re at if you fancy having a look.
Hope you get something sorted.  Jiggers.  xXx


Heya guys yep the big companies are a rip off!

I’ve recently returned from 5 months in Nepal with Oyster Worldwide and they were fantastic! Being a small, personal company meant that they were supportive the whole way and included loads of extras like trekking and safari.
They do many trips around the world from 3 to 6 months or just a few weeks in the summer if you dont want a gap year.

Take a look at
Leah xxx


hi im going to ghana in october with projects abroad can any one tell me if they are any good or a rip off? your previos posts about real gap etc have got me a bit worried


I had a less than fantastic experience with another company.  The only thing you can do is write them and warn people not to use them.  You can post a review here:


i would also suggest having a look on i was also looking at the various other companies until i heard about them on real radio not sure where i want to go or what i want to do yet though


thats shocking, and i was going to waste my money on them last year.
Lucky i didn’t!

Avatar for Sarahbee85

Total Posts: 39

Joined 2007-04-08

Hi guys,

I’ve already left a couple of similar posts on the gap year forums but thougt I’d just spread the word. Yes, many agencies try to charge you for organising voluntary work on your behalf but I know you’ll find lots of free opportunities in Cambodia when you arrive and there are plently of posters in the backpacker area asking for help with local organisations.

I lived in Cambodia for a year working as a teacher and during my time in Phnom Penh I also volunteered at SCAO orphanage which provides a home for almost 20 kids and free English tuition for around 100 kids in the local area. Unlike some bad, or at least questionable, establishments this place is run by a friendly and genuine couple who aren’t attempting to scam tourists out of cash. Your time is just as valuable to them as your money.

SCAO is based just 15 mins drive north of the main backpacker area so you can easily visit for a couple of hours or do as I did and commute there daily if you want to spend more time helping out. They recently finished building a basic room for volunteers to stay in return for a small donation for food and giving English lessons to the kids.

If you’d like to make a donation to a local organisation I’d recommend taking cash or finding out what provisions are needed most. Obviously local people can buy rice, pens and books for much less than a tourist so your money will go further if you let them buy things or at least take someone with you to the market to negotiate prices. The kids will appreciate food (but not sweets or unhealthy foods which cause tooth decay), organising a football game, singing or dance lessons far more than toys which are quickly broken or lost.

You can find out more about SCAO at or I’m happy to answer any questions or provide more information if you contact me directly.

Good luck with your trips!


Total Posts: 1

Joined 2014-03-20

Hi smile i’m darren and i was browsing through the message boards and saw this one about real gap. its a real shame you didn’t enjoy your time in tanzania but i wanted to say that when i travelled to sri lanka last year with real gap - aside from the country being AMAZING - i thought the service i got was brilliant. i spoke to someone about sri lanka and they had visited the project i chose (elephants). they were so passionate that the decision was an easy one and my only regret is that i didnt start my travelling sooner. everyone’s experience is different but mine was wicked so it would be a shame to put people off cos they may miss out on the best thing they’ve ever done. Since i travelled with Rg my brother and best friend have also jumped on the band waggon and had similar amazing trips! raspberry