FAQ: What you need to know about volunteering with help2kids in Tanzania and Malawi
Leaving behind the comfort of home to travel to Africa can be daunting, especially when you don’t know what to expect from volunteering in Tanzania and Malawi. We want to make your trip as smooth as possible, so we have put together this list of frequently asked questions from former volunteers.
Here you can see the cost of our volunteer programmes: Volunteer general Information / Price list 2018 (last page) and here is what you need to know about Volunteering in Tanzania and Malawi with help2kids. Ready to get involved? You can sign up here.
Do you offer short-term programs? If so, is there a minimum duration required?
Tanzania/Malawi: Our volunteers can choose to stay from two weeks to three months or more (two weeks is the minimum required). Note: Stays of longer than three months require a more complicated visa process.
When does the Programmes start?
Tanzania/Malawi: Our volunteers can choose to start on any day/month. There are no specific start days for each Programm. Usually, it is good to have 1-2 days / or the weekend time to relax at the Guesthouse before starting your volunteering. (But of course, this is depending on your flight / arrival)
What will I be doing as a volunteer in Tanzania or Malawi?
- Teaching English and assisting the children with their homework
- Teaching reading, writing, mathematics, computers, sports,
- Singing songs and playing games, or using other fun learning tools
- Assisting with classes at Bajeviro Primary School
- Teaching English to the Kunduchi community at English Corner
While here you will go to the projects on weekdays and be free on Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.
Malawi: Our volunteers usually eat breakfast between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and leave for the morning project around 9 a.m. You will usually return by 11:30 and lunch is served at about 1 p.m. The afternoon projects typically run from 3 p.m. - 5 / 6 p.m.
What is included in the costs of volunteering?
Tanzania/Malawi: The costs include accommodation, most meals, room cleaning, 24/7 in-country support, administration, and security. Here you can see all our rates: Volunteer general Information/price list 2018 (last page)
Private rooms, airport pickups, Internet, laundry, and language lessons all come at an extra cost.
Travels costs, visa, permits, and insurance are at the expense of volunteers.
Is it possible to change my selected project while I am there?
Tanzania: We do our best to place you in the project where you feel comfortable and where your skills are most useful. You can always discuss changing projects with the Volunteer Coordinator so that you get the most out of your stay.
Malawi: Each week a new schedule is made for the volunteers. We're flexible and it's easy to experience all the projects here in Lifuwu. You can choose to be on the same project or a different project every day and to switch from what you had initially selected on your Application Form.
Is it possible to extend my stay?
Tanzania/Malawi: As long as we have availability you can extend your stay with us. We can easily organize this while you are here.
If I decide to leave earlier than planned or I travel between my volunteering time can I get a refund?
Tanzania/Malawi: Unfortunately we do not provide any refunds if you decide to end your volunteering time with us earlier than your original departure date or you go traveling some days between your volunteering with us.
Do you organize trips or activities during the evenings or weekends?
Tanzania: During the week, we can recommend restaurants where you can go for dinner or even take part in trivia nights. During weekends, we can help arrange trips such as safaris, visiting Zanzibar, or adventures closer to home.
Malawi: Volunteers relax in the evenings reading, writing, watching movies or playing card and board games. You're welcome to bring games with you or a hard drive with movies/TV series. It is possible to go for a drink or a meal in the local area, as well as watch football games at the ‘cinema’ in the village. On the weekend, volunteers go hiking, to church, to the craft market or relax at the nearby resort by the swimming pool. If you decide to go on a weekend trip, we can help you with all the information you need.
Where will I arrive and how do I get to the Friendly Gecko?
Tanzania: You should book your flight into Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. We will arrange for you to be picked up from here and driven to the Friendly Gecko, which is a one-hour drive away.
Malawi: We can arrange a taxi to pick you up and bring you to Lifuwu for $100. Alternatively, you can take public transport:
- Take a taxi from the airport to ‘Salima turn off’ for approximately $25.
- Then jump into a minibus going to Salima which costs MWK 2,000.
- Once you arrive in Salima, take another minibus or a car going to Senga Bay but tell the driver you want to get off at ‘Lifuwu turn off’; this will cost MWK 400.
- From the turn off take a motorbike to Lifuwu village for MWK 700, or if you’re lucky jump into a car or open bed truck.
- Most of the motorbike drivers know where the house is and will drop you here or direct you to the house.
What kind of visa do I need?
Tanzania: To volunteer in Tanzania you can request a tourist visa on arrival. The cost is $50US for most countries ($100 if you are from the US) and it is valid for three months. You don’t need to do anything in advance before you leave home. DO NOT ask for a business visa – this costs $250 and is not required.
When you arrive at the airport, you will need to purchase your visa at one of the desks in the arrival hall. Once you have paid, officials will take your passport away to be stamped. You may have to wait for an hour or more for the visa to be processed, at which point your passport will be handed back to you. It can be a stressful process but just be patient and you will be fine!
For stays longer than 90 days you will need to follow a different (and more expensive) procedure. Contact us directly if you would like to find out more about this.
Malawi: You will enter on a Tourist Visa. This costs $75 for a single entry. You will have to pay in US dollars. If you are staying longer than 30 days, you will have to go to the immigration office in Salima and extend either for another 30 days for 5,000 kwacha or 60 days for 10,000 kwacha.
Can I pay for the visa with a card or do I need cash?
Tanzania/Malawi: You will need to pay for your visa in US dollars.
Should I bring US dollars?
Tanzania: You will need to bring US dollars to pay for your visa, and you can also pay for your airport transfer to the Friendly Gecko in dollars ($30). However, apart from this, it is not necessary to bring US dollars with you, unless this is how you prefer to manage your money. If you choose to bring US dollars, remember that only notes issued after 2006 are accepted, and larger bills ($50-$100) will give you a better exchange rate.
Malawi: You will need US dollars to pay for your visa on arrival. We recommend bringing some USD with you to pay for the pick-up and to exchange on your first days. It is also possible to pay in USD at the tourist resorts.
How can I exchange and/or withdraw money?
Tanzania: There are currency exchange offices in the airport, or alternatively you can exchange money once you arrive in Mbezi Beach.
There are several ATMs at the airport where you can withdraw money immediately. There is also a shopping center called Shoppers Plaza about a 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk from the Friendly Gecko, and here you can find several ATMs where you can withdraw money. These accept Visa, Maestro, and MasterCard.
Malawi: The currency in Malawi is Kwacha. When you land at the airport there is a Foreign Exchange Bureau where you can exchange money. There are several ATMs in Salima and also several banks that can exchange money for you.
How much will I spend in a week?
Tanzania: Your main expenses apart from the costs of volunteering will be transported to and from the projects, lunches, beer, and weekend activities.
Here are some examples of everyday costs (in TSH):
- Bajaji to Children’s Home/Bajeviro: TSH 2000
- Daladala (local bus) trip to Kunduchi: TSH 400
- Packet of pasta: TSH 3000
- Bar of chocolate: TSH 5000
- Jar of Nutella: TSH 10500 (for a small jar)
- Cereal (for breakfast): TSH 10000
- Jar of pesto: TSH 11000
- A bottle of beer: TSH 1500
- Meal in a ‘mzungu’ (Western) restaurant: TSH 15000 – TSH 30000
- Meal in a local restaurant: TSH 3000- TSH 5000.
- You can get a great burger or pizza at a restaurant nearby for 7000! (Just ask us where to go).
- Entrance to Kunduchi (local beach resort) TSH 10000, which includes two soft drinks
- The boat to Mbudya + island entrance fee: TSH 36000
Malawi: As we are located in a rural village life can be very cheap. Your main expenses will be your evening meals, snacks and drinks, and weekend activities.
What is the accommodation like?
Tanzania: The Friendly Gecko is in a safe neighborhood not far from the beach. We have a comfortable living room, a breezy terrace, and a fully equipped kitchen. There are three dorm rooms with shared bathrooms and two private rooms that have their own bathrooms and air-conditioning.
Malawi: We live in a one-story house which has two dorm rooms with six beds each, one private en-suite room, a bathroom, a kitchen and a large dining and living area. It has a very ‘homey’ feel and we have a large outside area for sitting, eating and relaxing. On the same property, we also have the private cottage and the staff rooms, as well as the office.
Who will be at the Gecko?
Tanzania: As well as the other volunteers, a few staff members live on site, and occasionally guests also come to stay. We have two dogs and of course the friendly team of Mamas to look after you!
Malawi: You will be living with the other volunteers in the shared house, as well as any guests that may be staying. The Field Manager and the Volunteer Coordinator also live on site. Other members of staff will be here during their working hours and you will get to know them, as well as our three dogs.
What about electricity?
Tanzania: Although we experience occasional power cuts here in Tanzania they are usually only for a few hours at a time.
Malawi: Malawi does experience electricity cuts and interferences, almost every 24 hours. We highly recommend bringing a torch and a power bank to charge your phone. We do have solar power, which provides light in the evenings and sometimes a little charge through the sockets.
What about drinking water?
Tanzania/Malawi: The Gecko will always have drinking water available for you.
Do you have Wi-Fi?
Tanzania: Internet costs a little more than $1 a day in Tanzania ($35 a month).
Malawi: We do not have Wi-Fi at the Gecko. We recommend making sure your phone is unlocked and buying a local SIM card. We will show you how to buy a data bundle to connect to the internet - it is simple and cheap.
What vaccinations do I need? And what about malaria prophylaxis?
Tanzania: An important thing to know about volunteering in Tanzania is that we can’t tell you whether you should or shouldn’t take malaria tablets – we strongly advise you to make an appointment with a travel doctor and discuss your trip with them, then make a decision based on their advice. Your doctor can also recommend different vaccinations you may need.
Whether you take tablets or not, you should bring a good insect repellant and make sure to use the mosquito net on your bed (all of our beds are protected by nets).
It’s also worth remembering that malaria can be easily treated – if you fall ill during your stay we will accompany you to a nearby clinic as soon as possible for a diagnosis.
Malawi: As we are situated on the lake there are many mosquitos, especially during the rainy seasons. We recommend volunteers take precautions against malaria and mosquitos and suggest you speak with your doctor about the best prophylaxis and vaccinations.
If you fall ill you can go to the local clinic for mild conditions, or for more severe illnesses you can be treated at the District hospital in Salima, or in Lilongwe at a private clinic. We recommend purchasing medical and/or travel insurance to cover you in the event of illness or accident.
Although Bilharzia has been found in some parts of Lake Malawi, we have not had any issues here in Lifuwu or the areas we visit. If you do happen to contract Bilharzia or any other disease, treatment is readily available.
Is volunteering in Tanzania/Malawi safe?
Tanzania: Tanzania is generally a safe place to volunteer. When you arrive we will brief you on some simple steps you can take to help make sure you stay safe during your stay.
Malawi: Malawi is one of the safest countries in Eastern Africa. We have never had any safety issues in Lifuwu, however we still advise volunteers to practice common sense and a reasonable degree of caution.
Do you accommodate different dietary requirements (gluten free, vegetarian, etc.)?
Tanzania: There is a set menu in the Gecko from Monday to Friday. Two meals are vegan, one is vegetarian (includes eggs), and the other two have chicken or fish. We often have vegetarians stay with us and can easily accommodate this, and some of the meals are also gluten-free.
If you have very strict dietary requirements or allergies though, you may have to provide some of your own food for breakfasts and dinners.
Malawi: We have a set menu here at the Gecko. You will get breakfast every morning (toast, cereal, eggs, rice porridge, pancakes, or mandazi, a traditional breakfast bun). You will get lunch Monday to Friday (rice and beans, rice and meat/vegetables, nsima (maize meal), pasta with tuna/vegetables, chicken and chips). We can easily cater for any dietary requirements, just let us know!
If you want to shop for food you can buy vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, cabbage, and potatoes from the local market, as well as eggs, bread, rice and dried beans. Depending on the season, fruits will also be available such as mangoes, bananas, papaya. We also do a weekly shop in Salima where you can buy most food items.
What kind of clothes do I need to wear?
Tanzania: In the Gecko you can wear all Western-style clothing, including shorts and tank tops. However, while at our projects or visiting Dar es Salaam it is important to dress a bit more conservatively and wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders. Bikinis you can wear them at all resorts and hotel & beaches.
- For men: Shorts and a t-shirt is fine, we do recommend a pair of ‘smart’ trousers for days on Outreach and at the Primary Schools.
- For women: Loose fitting skirts and dresses below your knee. For sports-based projects, you can wear loose-fitting trousers and shorts below your knee, or leggings with a longer t-shirt that covers your bottom. For swimming in the lake, you will also wear a t-shirt and longer shorts/leggings. Bikinis are not culturally accepted although you can wear them at local resorts and hotels.
What is the weather in Tanzania and Malawi like?
Tanzania: Has a tropical climate with a hot, humid and rainy season. The heaviest rains are from mid-March to May. From late October – December there are lighter rains. Even though there are rainy seasons, it can still rain at any time! It’s always a good idea to pack a rain jacket just in case.
Malawi: Malawi has a tropical climate with a hot, humid and rainy season from November to April, a cool, dry winter season from May to August, and a hot dry season from September to November.
Do I need to bring a towel?
Tanzania/Malawi: No, we will provide you with bath towels.
Still have questions? You can find out more about volunteering in Tanzania or Malawi on our volunteer information page, or you can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you soon.