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 2020 (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 programmes? 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 do the programmes start?
Tanzania/Malawi: Our volunteers can choose to start on any day/month. There are no specific start days for each programme. Usually, it is good to have 1-2 days / or the weekend time to relax at the Volunteer House 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 Pwani 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, some meals, room cleaning, in-country support, administration, and security.
Private rooms, airport pickups, Internet, laundry, and language lessons all come at an extra cost.
Travel 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 your schedule 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: We can recommend restaurants where you can go for lunch and dinner or even take part in trivia and karaoke nights. During weekends, we can help arrange trips such as safaris, visiting Zanzibar, or cultural events and adventures in and around Dar es Salaam.
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 have to apply for a ordinary/tourist visa before arrival. The cost is $50US for most countries ($100 if you are from the US) and it is valid for three months. Our Volunteer Coordinator will provide you with all necessary information about how to apply online. Don't ask for a business visa – this costs $250 and is not required.
When you arrive at the airport, you won't have to line up at all the counters. Just show your visa to an immigration officer, get a stamp in your passport and you are ready to go!
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: You will need to pay for your visa online before coming to Tanzania.
Malawi: You will need to pay for your visa cash in US dollars.
Should I bring US dollars?
Tanzania: You will need to bring US dollars to pay for your airport transfer to the Friendly Gecko (unless you have Tanzanian Schillings already). 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: The currency in Tanzania is Tansanian Shilling. There are currency exchange offices in the airport, or alternatively you can exchange money once you arrive in Kunduchi.
There are several ATMs at the airport where you can withdraw money immediately. There is also a shopping center called Kibo Complex directly at the main road easily to reach by bus, here you can find several ATMs where you can withdraw money. These accept Visa, Maestro, and MasterCard. Another shopping center called Shopper's Plaza with ATMs available can be found at Mbezi Beach.
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 transport to and from the projects, food, water, and weekend activities.
Here are some examples of everyday costs (in Tanzanian Shilling):
- Daladala (local bus) trip to Kunduchi: TSH 300
- Daladala (local bus) trip to Pwani Primary School: TSH 400
- Pikipiki (Motorcycle) to Kunduchi: TSH 2000
- 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 2000- TSH 5000.
- Entrance to Kunduchi (local beach resort) TSH 10000, which includes two soft drinks
- The boat to Mbudya + island entrance fee: TSH 37000
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 located on the help2kids Campus not far from the beach. Volunteers live on the upper floor of the office building. There are three dormitories with shared bathrooms and one private rooms as well as a kitchen for everyone to use. Next to the building we have a nicely furnished outside area only for our volunteers.
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: All our international volunteers stay at the Volunteer House as well as the Volunteer Coordinator. As the Friendly Gecko is located on the help2kids Campus, you will always see other staff and some kids around.
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 minutes or 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. While out you can buy drinking water everywhere at the street.
Do you have Wi-Fi?
Tanzania: Internet at the Gecko 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 repellent 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 mosquitoes, especially during the rainy seasons. We recommend volunteers take precautions against malaria and mosquitoes 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: We serve breakfast seven days per week: Toast, butter, jam, peanut butter, tea and coffee. You can get lunch at the Campus, where our mamas cook local meals for the staff and kids from the Children's Home, only few of these meals are vegetarian.
If you have very strict dietary requirements or allergies, you may have to provide some of your own food for breakfast and lunch.
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: 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. You can wear bikinis at all resorts and hotel & private beaches but you will need to wear a t-shirt and half long leggings or bathing trunks that cover your knees when you go to public beaches (for example with our kids on Sundays).
- 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: 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 but you should bring a beach towel.
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 email@example.com. See you soon.