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Which ILP Countries Are Best If I’m On A Tight Budget?

Posted by Emily Henkel on 12/7/22 10:15 AM

ILP India

If you're wanting to save the most money but still have weekends full of adventures, you'll want to check out our most affordable ILP countries. 

Just because you don’t have an unlimited budget doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer abroad for a semester. That was me — looking to travel the world for a semester as a recent college graduate who didn't have money to burn but still wanted to do a lot of traveling. I'm so glad I found ILP who had an affordable program (and more affordable countries) that let me travel around on a budget. 

Every semester, ILP sends hundreds of college-aged volunteers to teach and make a difference in countries all over the world. While we really can’t pick favorites when it comes to our countries, we can pick out which ones can be the least expensive to travel around and live in. 

All About Affording A Semester Abroad 


We’ve outlined a couple of pointers when it comes to picking a country, then highlighted our top three choices for volunteers looking to experience a semester abroad without spending too much. Luckily for you, we have affordable programs and countries spread around the globe, so you can choose a part of the world that's the best fit for you (and your wallet). 

Consider Program Fee Pricing 

ILP has a couple different types of programs, and no matter which you choose all ILP program fees include the same things: your roundtrip international airfare from the US, airport pickup + drop-off, visa, housing, at-home meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), WiFi, pre-departure + in-country training, and support throughout the entire experience, as well as cultural experiences

As far as pricing goes, in our Exchange Programs, you're teaching English to children of families who can afford to help subsidize your costs of going abroad, which lends to a lower program fee for you. 

For our Humanitarian Programs, that fee isn't subsidized, but these countries are often home to the most affordable in-country costs: we're talking very affordable vacations, transportation, activities, and other expenses that can be higher in other countries that may have a less expensive program fee. Some volunteers end up spending more overall in an Exchange program that's located in a more expensive part of the world (meaning more expensive vacations). 

You can compare our different types of programs here.

 ILP Adventure

Our Most Affordable Programs

Explore Mexico

Oh, Mexico. We love you for gorgeous beaches, the best food around (don’t tell our other countries!), and for all the adventures … but we’re even more in love thanks to the low prices all of these things come with, including our lowest program fee of $2,670. 

Mexico is the ideal country for someone looking to do a lot of traveling on weekends and have a ton of experiences, for not a lot of money. ILP volunteers live conveniently close to numerous adventures (how about spending a weekend at a hot springs in the mountains?).

You can easily and cheaply get to a handful of our favorites cities on any weekend and save your vacation time for southern destinations, which means you may get even more adventures than other volunteers do in other countries while sticking to a budget. A bus ride to a neighboring city may cost you $5 or less! You seriously have it all in Mexico

Another huge perk? The food in Mexico is not only delicious, it’s beyond inexpensive. Think strawberry aqua frescos, horchata, fresh fruit with chili pepper, quesadillas, churros, elote and others,  plus or minus $1.50. Street food here is incredibly delicious, made even better thanks to the low price tag. 

Really, the biggest thing volunteers spend money on are flights to the beaches in Mexico. If you plan it right, you can spend your vacation days experiencing some of the hidden gems inside the country, then head to the beach on one of your longer vacations so you’re not racking up a lot of money on flights … though you can get some cheap flights in Mexico on occasion.

This country is home to some serious bucket list adventures without the need to spend an arm and a leg — Here are a few of our go to adventures spots you can do for super cheap: 

ILP Mexico

ILP Adventure

A Trip Of A Lifetime In India 

Have you been dreaming of the chance to see a world wonder ... specially, the iconic Taj Mahal? Then a trip to India has to be on your itinerary! India is one of the most captivating countries I've ever visited — palaces aplenty, temples galore, colorful spices swirling, and experiences I didn't know I could have in India. 

India is on this list of most affordable ILP countries for a few reasons. For one, the in-country costs for things like snacks, local transportation, and temple entry fees is very (very) low. Our volunteers in India are taking weekend trips to the dreamy mountain town of Manali on a public bus that costs about $1, and have gotten pretty good at bargaining the best price for souvenirs like shoes, brightly dyed fabrics, jewelry, leather bags, and more. Snacks and fruits that are in season are just a couple of dollars, and you can always split the $1 rickshaw ride with a couple of people in your group! 

Another perk of India when it comes to your budget are how vacations work in this country. Here, ILP volunteers are working with an in-country travel team who have a whole list of vacation packages all set up for you: location, transportation, lodging, etc. are all planned for you! . 

When choosing your vacation, each location has a proposed budget making it easier to stick to your budget because many of the surprises are taken out of the equation — no emergency bus rides because you missed your train, no surprises due to the language barrier and paying extra for a ticket you didn't necessarily need, etc. While vacation costs in India are similar to our other programs, you're getting more for your money. All the planning, private transportation, guides, and insider tips are included in these vacation costs. Keep in mind that where (and how) you vacation has a huge sway in your vacation costs, similar to every other ILP location. 

All of this is waiting for you in India! 

ILP India

ILP Adventure

Discover Nicaragua

We always say that Nicaragua is today what Costa Rica was 20 years ago ... yet to be discovered and free of tourist crowds (and tourist prices).  You get all the Central American vacations that you're dreaming of but often at half the price of what you'll pay in Costa Rica. All of that is true, but there is something so unique about Nicaragua that totally makes it it's own country — a loving and kind culture, our favorite Nica adventures, chapters of history still found in the architecture of the cities, untouched islands and waterfall hikes, and of course, the food. 

So if you're looking for more of a Humanitarian experience but want to keep things affordable, this is exactly what you are looking for. Nicans are oh so friendly and your friends from back home will be asking where in the world you are when you start posting your photos of gorgeous Nicaragua!

Here's some of our favorite Nicaraguan destinations (and some you can even just do over a weekend since you live so close):

Surfing Turtle, Nicaragua-1

ILP Adventure. Nicaragua

Island Life in the Dominican Republic

One of the things we love most about this location is that because it's pretty expensive to travel to nearby islands, from the time we opened the program volunteers have always opted to stay in the country for their vacations. And they've found more than enough places to keep you busy for an entire semester. You're just an affordable bus ride away from anywhere on the entire island and every corner is seriously unreal.

Top picks to go explore in the DR:

Paradise Island Dominican Republic Snorkeling


Want to see more about a semester abroad in these countries?

We're always sharing pictures volunteers are posting on our account — it's an easy way to get a glimpse of what these countries have to offer. Plus, you can learn a bit more about vacations, the students, tips (like any discounts), and other info to help you decide which country to choose. Come check it out!

Find Us On Instagram




Topics: Asia, Central America, Saving Money + Fundraising, Caribbean

Hey friends!

We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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