Thailand

Global Vision International (GVI)

I am currently a university student studying Environmental Science (hence the relevance to my amazing summer). I went to Thailand, Phang Nga base for a total of 6 weeks and did the short term internship, earning myself a leadership qualification out there. This was my first summer solo travelling, having not taken a gap year and it was everything I had dreamed of and more! I went on this trip alone and it was the best thing I could have done, it benefitted me in ways I didn’t even imagine – cringe but ‘I found myself’. I gained more self-confidence and developed my people skills; communication to people of all ages – from teaching school children to making friends with the older volunteers.
GVI and the programme itself was amazing, they were so accommodating and made me feel at home for my summer, the base felt like home and the staff were friends. It’s not like being at school as you are all on the same level and treated equally, if you have a suggestion whether it be for around base or an activity you would like to do they will always try to accommodate it. GVI Phang Nga hub has 2 other programmes being run from the same hub so there will always be a group of people there, this is great for your weekend travels. While on programme every other weekend is a long weekend (free from Thursday evening to Sunday), this means there is plenty of time to explore southern Thailand and perhaps even further with your new friends; I visited Khoa Lak, Khoa Sok, Phi Phi islands, Phang Nga Bay, Phuket town and even Patong!

The marine conversation programme has such a variety of activities meaning every week is different, even after being there 6 weeks I was still doing new activities. Every week you visit the turtle conservation centre twice – cleaning tanks, treating their wounds and collecting data for a wider database. Along with the turtle project you do; beach cleans, butterfly surveys, bird walks, working in national parks, teaching conservation/English lessons at local schools in the community, mangrove surveys on canoes, once a month there is a week-long trip off base to stay on 2 islands doing camera trap work and whole hub Friday projects including: village cleans and teaching at English camps. Even in your down time at base there’s still optional extras to do such as cooking classes, weekly Wednesday night quizzes, early morning sun rises and movie nights. Before getting to Thailand I had my doubts and worries about the teaching aspect of the program as this is usually something I would shy away from however it was one of my favourite projects, along with the turtles of course, but the children are so keen and happy to learn and have so much respect for you. You are not forced to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing while on project however there is plenty of opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone, if you’re not already out of it in Thailand!

Food is great, people are fab and the experience was one of a kind. There is something for everyone.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Feb 7, 2020
Overall:
10
Support:
8
Value:
9

Global Vision International (GVI)

Volunteering with GVI in Phang Nga was the most rewarding opportunity! I spent two weeks teaching English in a small rural village in southern Thailand. Even in the short time I volunteered, I managed to make long-lasting friends and experience so much more than your average traveller. GVI have an amazing relationship with the community and you can tell the local villagers respect the development and education they offer. Aspects were challenging but this made the project increasingly worthwhile and humbling. The atmosphere on base is so friendly and I would love to volunteer with GVI again in the future!

Program: TEFL
Location: Thailand
Posted: Sep 7, 2019
Overall:
8
Support:
8
Value:
9

CADIP

First of all it was an incredible experience and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to do something meaningful and enjoyable. I volunteered in Thailand. The greatest aspect of the project was living among the local people and taking part in their customs and traditions. They are very intriguing and very kind. Despite the language barrier they very quickly became our friends, and it was very sad leaving them behind. Our camp leader was very catering to all of our needs (sightseeing and what not). This was my second volunteering with CADIP and I look forward to working with them again!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Aug 20, 2019
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

I have a lot to say on frontier, mostly because I bought a 30week program with them... Southeast Asia trail 10 weeks, Fiji marine 10 weeks and central America trail 10 weeks (which turned out much less if you continue reading). The whole 30 weeks cost around 13k plus additional $1700 for open water and advanced diver certifications. So we can average out around $4400 per 10 weeks. I'll be working in US dollars for this review. I'm going to round and estimate but I think it's pretty accurate still.
First off I just want to say, let me be your lesson on this... Avoid Frontier at all costs. I made the terrible decision to go with frontier so hopefully I can at least pass on some knowledge to prevent others from being swindled. I truly believe they are a fradulant scam. This is only a highlight of some of the more major issues as I would have to write a whole book on all the complete failings.
Southeast Asia (Sea) trail: Oct to Dec 2017.
If going on your own for 10 weeks and you spend 5k, you're probably only going to spend that much if staying in nice/private hotels, eating out a lot or doing expensive activities. With frontier you get none of that, with is fine because thats not how I prefer to travel however, what you get is a whole lot less than what is promised and fasley advertised. First off, I've been to many hostels good and bad. The ones frontier goes to are largely in the not good category (though I admit some were fine or good). The budget is for $10 a night. Even at 10 weeks that's ($10/night x 70 nights)=$700 . Okay that's a major expense for any traveler. Next their website claims meals are provided. When arrived, find out some meals aren't provided, no drinking water is provided, the budget is roughly $3 a day minus weekends so $3/day x 5days/week x 10 weeks)= $150. Also the guide wouldn't pay for your meal if you got "western" food. This was not a real rule but one imposed by this guide (as were many other rules she made up in her head). Investment in the project which in this case was teaching English in Cambodia by frontier =$0! It was extremely awkward on the first day of meeting the school administrator when she told us this. Many in the group immediately wrote emails to frontier demanded an explanation. It was ambiguous and completely non transparent business practices. Basically they state that they never promise to spend the money on your project but they can choose to spend on anything such as other projects, "administration costs" and lawyer fees. If you actually want your money to support the cause you choose, stay away from frontier. The school has since dropped frontier after for their deceitful practices, both to us as volunteers /consumers and themselves. Website claimed several activities included, guide denied this. Eventually the group persisted and indeed the guide was forced to give us a refund for certain activities. Other things the guide made up... Can't jump in waterfall because too dangerous (as 10 year boys were jumping), limiting alcohol... She made up random rules like 2 drinks per evening, no more then 2 times a week. This was also protested and guide was told that's not a rule. Curfews... Couldnt go out after 6pm without signing out or having a buddy. I'm 30 years old, and getting treated like a children. Not to mention this guide could not speak any local language, had no experience leading group travel and had only lightly traveled that region before so was more or less useless thus minimal. I can't remember all the travel fees but it's safe to say they weren't in the $3000 range, probably like $500. So you're getting possibly the value of $1000 but getting charged $5000. That is straight awful. A couple folks dropped out (one for medical issue, another due to complete disappoint with frontier), most on the trip agreed it was terrible value and would never use frontier again but nothing we can do about it. Several sued or tried but it's prohibitively expensive trying to go against on your own (remember all those lawyer fees??) so I don't think anything came about. That being said I did get to meet some cool people and see some cool places. My advice... SEA is pretty well traveled so it's simple to go it alone as you'll meet plenty of people at hostels. Or travel with a reputable and reliable company (definitely not frontier) for a short time until comfortable to go alone or meet some friends and travel. Or find a local NGO to work with and know your cause is actually getting your money. There was a girl at the school that just did this and volunteered for free, even got free room to stay for teaching meanwhile we shuffled thousands of dollars to a corrupt company instead of a well deserving school for impoverished children.
Fiji marine: Jan to mar 2018.
So another ten weeks here, 4.4k paid. Additional $1700 for padi courses. So the situation here was different than SEA, which was more travel based. While Fiji was a more permanent camp, not really any travel included. The living conditions were pretty bad here. It was quite remote and self sustained living a lot which personally I do kjnda enjoy. However, if you're paying for a suite and get a dump you'd be upset, rightfully so, this is kinda like that. Obviously I didn't expect a suite, but the water would constantly break, camp was falling apart. Barely a workable shower when I got there. The solar panel was broken so nearly zero electricity. We had one light in the camp that worked. Everything else was personally brought by volunteers /staff such as mini solar lights and panels for charging phones /cameras etc. Obviously no wifi (again knew that and didn't really care) though can occasionally get signal on local Sim card. The kitchen and all equipment was in pretty rough shape. The living conditions in general were disagreeable. Beds were a one inch foam mattress, my back was agony the whole time and extremely difficult to get anything resembling good rest on. The food was cooked by staff and volunteers on camp, typically. The food that came out was surprisingly good most of the time but that's because I suppose we had some good cooks. Meals were typically rice, canned beans/veg. Once a week we'd get fresh fruit, veg, bread, eggs but that would always run out quick before next supply. As far as the diving goes... Fiji has superb diving BUT getting certified was a nightmare. Ideally open water and advanced can be finished in a week. Sure there were lots of additional challenges so they even say maybe 2 or 3 weeks. It took me 8 weeks! You're basically paying for the diving here since as we discussed you're not getting much value from the lodging or meals. So to be low balled on diving was a major issue. Essentially I got 11 dives outside the training dives, which could be seen as the most expensive dives in the world compared to how much the project cost. There were many issues some directly frontiers fault, some indirectly, only one reason was neither (evacuated for hurricane, which at this point shouldn't be surprising to hear that we were forced out of camp and off the island to the mainland at our own expense and actually charged by frontier for using their mainland lodging! That is some reprehensible behavior!). FYI the other reasons were frontier failing to pay for their dive insurance, constant boat and air compressor failures, dive instructor getting sick and requiring surgery on the mainland (I say this is indirectly frontiers responsibility because they should have had a backup plan rather than delaying training for another week). All that said the staff in general here were better, more experienced, and they were quite a few of them. Also the people I met here were mostly cool.
Again I enjoyed Fiji and locals and most of the other volunteers but again it is not even close to being worth going with Frontier. Fiji is very easy to travel solo or find an NGO that won't rip you off.
Central America trail: Jan to Mar 2019.
This was more travel based like SEA trail but again was a disaster. It was so bad it was aggressively canceled by frontier (since we were exposing their lies) and they refused to provide any refund at all. If you thought the other trips above were bad, this time I had enough. Arrive in Mexico on day one, our guide (again someone with limited knowledge /experience but could at least speak Spanish), states frontier won't let us go through Nicaragua due to potential conflict. Okay we were never given any indication of this issue even though it was clearly known ( they pulled this same stunt the previous year) and states in their terms and conditions that they are required to notify us of any major changes and we can choose to agree with those changes or receive refund. This never happened. Guide says frontier will provide transport from Honduras to Costa Rica to avoid Nicaragua (via flight). Volunteers say okay, not ideal but we're already here and can't do anything about it. A week before this flight this guide says actually what he meant that first day was that we have to pay the flights completely out of pocket (about $400 at this point). Volunteers say no that's not what you said, frontier and guide both lied about the origins of this "no going through Nicaragua rule," claimed they told us before which is most certainly false ( they even said yeh we have an email we sent you, we said where, they said ohh we can't find it... That email was sent the week we were moving servers and it doesn't show up now. Well that's not how email works,) and that they have the right to cancel without refunds because of this immient danger situation. It's almost hard to argue the stupidity that comes out of the frontier office as the danger has been known about for over a year, they are required to notify us and give us options, well yeah none of that happened. They canceled around the 4 week mark effectively scamming us out of over the trip. Also this guide frequently lied to us, failed miserably to communicate what we were saying since they wouldn't answer our direct emails, and kept saying "oh well I'm not English native speaker so maybe you didn't understand me" which he used as a cover for the lies. Again also no experience leading group travel and was quite terrible at it in all regards. He also made frequent creepy and unwanted advances towards one of the other volunteers to the point she wouldn't feel safe near him or if alone with him. He also made frequent "jokes" in very poor taste (jokes about things like teen prostitution, indicating he might have taken part on other trips he's done). It was embarrassing, creepy and offensive, even to me, and I'm not one to get offended easily. I was looking up legal documents and talking to lawyers while on this trip to find out if they are acting illegally. Could you imagine doing that when you're supposed to be traveling and exploring the world? In the end, the fight of one versus an international corporation based in another country was too much for me but I really hope they are exposed and taken down, it won't be soon enough. In the meantime I hope to warn as many people as possible of this company.

All in all, I cannot overstate how bad frontier is, and I don't think I'm exaggerating at all. I have dealt with them over the course of 2 years, actively spending about 24 weeks with frontier. Please learn from me and never book with frontier. They are dishonest and misleading, possibly fradulant. Be careful because they spend a lot of money on advertising and If you want to take the chance like I did then good luck but you'll likely regret it.

Program: Gap Year
Location: Cambodia, Central America, Fiji, Thailand, Vietnam
Posted: Jun 27, 2019
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

CSA - Center for Study Abroad

Finally I've found a great site about study abroad. It's been my dream to be able to study abroad to learn other nations culture and language. With CSA I have so many choices of schools/college around the world that suits me. Thanks to it's 20+ years of experience I finally be able to learn Thai language which is important to me, since my parents do a lot of businesses with Thailand people. CSA offer a very informative data so you wouldn't be confuse and if it isn't enough, you can always email or call their office to get the information you need. I personally non-US residence but I'm very happy with the service they gave me, from the moment I found the site, how I search for schools/college I want, payment also very easy and secure, until I arrived in Thailand and finished my study, it all can be arrange through CSA. I can assure you, if you want to study abroad there is no mistake to choose CSA as your partner.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Feb 21, 2019
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Projects Abroad

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Aug 30, 2018
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
9

Globalteer

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Aug 26, 2018
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Thai-Experience

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Apr 16, 2018
Overall:
9
Support:
7
Value:
10

Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Dec 1, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Thailand
Posted: Nov 25, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
9

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