Thailand – Akha Hill Tribe Experience

Please Note: This program is temporarily unavailable. Check out our alternative programs in Asia or schedule a one-on-one call with one of our expert volunteer advisors.


This project provides the opportunity to volunteer for the Akha tribes of rural Northern Thailand. As a volunteer, you will experience and learn about their unique culture and traditions. The aim of the project is to support the Akha way of life while promoting sustainable cultural exchange between the local community and the international volunteers.


Program Highlights:

  • Promote sustainable, positive cultural exchange
  • Discover a new culture and its traditions
  • Assist in the village while respecting the Akha way of life
  • Visit local markets, the White Temple and more
  • Enjoy a homestay with a local Akha family once per week
  • You can enhance your Thai experience by adding our “Thai Culture Week” for an additional cost. If you book together with this program, you will receive a 50% discount off the culture week’s full price! *Discount will be applied to your final balance.


Your Schedule at a Glance (Minimum one-week commitment):

Day 1, Sunday: Arrive at Bangkok Airport (BKK) or Don Mueang Airport (DMK). You will be picked up from the airport, meet your fellow volunteers and take an overnight bus to Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand.

Day 2, Monday: Volunteers will transfer to the Akha village on this day after a visit to a local dam to have breakfast and swim. Following lunch, volunteers will tour the Akha village before dinner.

Day 3, Tuesday: Following breakfast, volunteers will take part in teaching, construction or agricultural activities. Following lunch, there will be Akha language lessons before volunteers visit the local evening market.

Day 4, Wednesday: Volunteers will begin this day with breakfast and a trek into the jungle. Following lunch, volunteers with visit a natural hot spa or go kayaking on the lake nearby.

Day 5, Thursday: Breakfast and volunteer work in the morning. The afternoon brings another tour of the village and Akha culture lessons & activities. Volunteers have the option on this night to stay in a homestay with an Akha family.

Day 6, Friday: Breakfast and volunteer work in the morning. Volunteers will visit a pool or go canoeing after lunch, and prepare dinner the tribe. A farewell party and ceremony follows dinner.

Day 7, Saturday: Volunteers will head back to Chiang Rai and visit a waterfall before visiting the White Temple and local market. Following dinner, volunteers staying for only one week will return to Sing Buri for departure. Free day in the village for volunteers who are extending.

Remaining Weeks: Volunteers staying longer than one week will participate with fellow volunteers Monday-Friday and have weekends free. All departures are on Saturdays.


Location icon Location of the Project:  Various villages around Chiang Rai & Northern Thailand

Project length Project length: Minimum 1 week – Maximum 6 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Bangkok International Airport (BKK) or Don Mueang Airport (DMK)

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work:  Cultural exchange, renovation, agriculture and environmental work

Age Age:  18-80

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Up to 10 international volunteers

Important Note Important Note: This is a remote project location and the site can only be reached via overnight bus ride (cost included in placement fee).


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Volunteer center in a shared room. Homestay available for participants one night per week.

Food Food: Three meals included per weekday and two per day on weekends

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers:  Airport pickup is provided upon arrival

Support Support: Comprehensive and professional pre-departure travel guidance, 24/7 GoEco emergency hotline, experienced local field team.


What’s not Included

Flights, visas (if required), travel health insurance, lunches on weekends, return airport transfer, personal expenses

The project takes place in various hill tribe villages around Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai province covers some 11,678 square kilometers with a population of 1.23 million people. The average elevation is 580 meters above sea level. Myanmar borders on the north, and Laos borders on the north and northeast. The provincial capital is 829 kilometers north of Bangkok.

The Akha are a hill tribe of subsistence farmers known for their artistry. The ethnic group may have originated in Mongolia around 1,500 years ago. Most of the remaining Akha people are now distributed in small villages among the mountains of China, where they are considered part of the Hani by the government, though this is a subject of some dispute among the Akha themselves; Laos, where they are considered Lao Sung; Myanmar, Burma; and northern Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes.

The Akha began arriving in Thailand in the early twentieth century and continue to immigrate, with about 80,000 now living at high altitudes in Thailand’s northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Many of these villages can be visited by tourists on trekking tours from either of these cities. They speak Akha, a language in the Loloish (Yi) branch of the Tibeto-Burman family. Akha has a very closely related language with the Lisu and Lahu peoples, as they once belonged to the Lolohunter tribe that ruled the Paoshan and Teinchung plains before the invasion of the Ming Dynasty (A.D 1644) in Yunan, China. The practice of their mythology includes ornately carved village gates made of wood where the guardian spirits are said to dwell. They have an extensive recollection of ancestors going back 15 generations that they exhibit in ritual chants.

Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Meng Rai and was the first capital of Lanna Thai (Kingdom of a Million Rice fields). The province contains Thailand’s northernmost point at Mae Sai, which is well known for its crisp mountain scenery and hill tribes. North Chiang Rai falls within the region known as the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge.


Volunteers will enjoy a meaningful cultural exchange while working with organizations that support the Akha minority. The work is very diverse from construction to teaching to gardening; it will all depend upon the needs of the community at the time and on your personal preferences. You will also visit local markets and help to sustain local initiatives.


This volunteer program requires cultural sensitivity, flexibility and an open mind in order to work and interact with the Akha people. The work is very physical and you will definitely get dirty helping the community. Some of your responsibilities may include:

  • Help with construction projects including bricklaying and building water run off trenches and possibly clay house building
  • Help with agricultural work
  • Establish better access to portable water
  • Help with building projects at the school and teaching English

Internet icon Internet: There is no Internet available in the village.

Laundry icon Laundry: Volunteers should expect to wash clothes by hand.

Accommodations icon Accommodations: The volunteer house is designed to fit with the local, rustic lifestyle of the villagers. You and your fellow volunteers will share a large shared room with thin traditional Thai mattresses on the floor. There is an outside bathroom with a toilet and cold shower which volunteers will be expected to share. You also have the option to spend one night in a homestay. If you choose this option, you will be sleeping on the floor in basic grass and wooden huts. You will share this space with a family and will eat and live with them, taking part in their daily chores. All participants are expected to be environmentally aware and to use all resources with restraint, especially water, paper and electricity. You will be expected to clean up after yourself and to play your part in keeping the accommodations neat and organized.

Food icon Food: During your stay, three meals a day are provided during the week, and two on weekends. The meals will be typical Akha & Thai fare, including plenty of rice dishes. Volunteers will learn to cook by helping to prepare the meals.


Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • Good level of English
  • Motivation to work with new culture
  • Immunizations (please consult your doctor)

Culture Week (Highly Recommended):
This week is a great opportunity to learn about Thailand and meet other international volunteers. It offers you tours around historical areas (Ayutthaya historical park), Thai language lessons, cooking lessons, taste-testing (Thai BBQ), school visits, sightseeing (Wat Phra Phutthabat Temple, known as “Buddha’s footprint”)  and so much more! This week will ease you into your volunteering experience by providing you with an better understanding of the history, culture and customs. Please note that the schedule can change at any time based on the weather conditions.

The program offers free trips in the area to ensure you get the most out of your experience. Included in these may be an overnight jungle trek and guided tours to White Marble Temple, Black Handicraft Museum and the Khun Kon waterfalls.

In your free time, you will have the opportunity to learn about the Akha culture, attend traditional ceremonies and events, learn the local dialect, visit natural hot springs or trek through the hills.

Travel Extras:
You can extend your stay in Thailand with one or more great program add-ons for an additional fee. Here are the opportunities we recommend and please request a full list of options upon registration.

  • Thai Boxing: Sign up for authentic and traditional Thai boxing classes under the provincial champion of the Sing Buri district. Learn the basic principles and foundations of the exquisite art form, Muay Thai.
  • Hua Hin Beach & Volunteer Week: This jam-packed week will help you make the most of your experience in Thailand. You will have the chance to go on cultural excursions to learn about Thai Buddhism and assist monks with daily chores. You will also have the opportunity to teach local children with some time dedicated to beach conservation. On a few afternoons you will have free time to relax at the beaches of Hua Hin!
  • Jungle Trek: Get ready for adventure as you trek through the tropical forests west of Sing Buri. You’ll have the opportunity to sleep under the stars, trek to spectacular waterfalls and caves hidden in the jungle and more!
  • Thai Buddhism Immersion in Wang Nam Khiao: During this week-long program you will be introduced to Buddhism. You will have the chance to discuss Buddhism with a local monk and enjoy a two-day stay at the Wat Suptawee Temple to learn walking and sitting meditation forms as well as experience the daily life of monks.

Volunteer Experiences

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