Frequently Asked Questions by Volunteers Regarding Life In Mumbai


Where will I live and who will pay for it?

You will not be living in the slums. The AVSAR Home Base provides above average accommodations for you, with Western amenities, prior to your arrival. In exchange for the extensive and comprehensive support offered by AVSAR (please see FAQ), you will be expected to pay for your own accommodations (approximately $250 - $350 for the month). AVSAR keeps costs low for volunteers by seeking donations from friends, family, and enthusiastic supporters. If you know of someone who you would like for us to approach who may be interested in helping subsidize this expense, please contact us at (e.g., private donors, physicians, community associations, Rotary Clubs, cultural organizations, major philanthropic resources, etc…). If you would like to be a part of the email campaign to help raise funds, please let us know.


What if I have relatives with whom I would like to stay?

The AVSAR experience is an experience of intensive service to the underprivileged. We think that the value of an AVSAR volunteer is that he/she is interested in this experience for the simple purpose that it is about providing service to the community; and not about “development tourism.” There is a very important role in the nonprofit sector for such programs, but AVSAR chooses to focus on an experience of intensive service. We do understand that volunteers may need to rest and recharge by taking some time for themselves or to visit nearby family, but volunteers are expected to budget their time appropriately and return to the AVSAR Home Base each evening. In other words, all volunteers are expected to stay together at the AVSAR Home Base and focus on their experience of service (unless it is their Saturday night off during the vacation weekend).


Will this be a safe experience for me?

You are obviously responsible for your own safety. While Mumbai is a big city, it is known to be extremely safe. It is very unlikely that you would ever be in any personal danger during your experience (unless you ignore our advice and decide to cross the railroad tracks, or hang off the train like the local youth). While petty theft is something to be aware of, if you use common sense and pay close attention during orientation (keep your valuables in your front pocket, don’t ever leave your personal belongings in a train station, etc.), you should not have any major problems while you are here. The slum-areas also tend to be very safe and easily navigated by most volunteers.


How will I get around the city?


Two options: Public transportation (bus and train) or car (taxi or private).


Your housing will likely be located in a central area which allows quick access to various modes of transportation to most points throughout the city.


Public transportation can be a great option that saves time and money (considered by some as a rite-of-passage, but one that we help you out with during orientation). Women will have either a separate train or a separate train compartment (which tend to be less crowded). A one-month first-class pass on the train costs approximately $10 - $15. 


Traveling by bus costs about Rs.3 to Rs.10 each way ($1 = Rs. 46). Trains charge Rs5 - Rs.30. Cabs charge approximately Rs.14 per kilometer. Taxis are readily available throughout the city. A one hour cab ride can be as little as $4 or as much as $10 depending on how far you are traveling. In general, though, Mumbai is a small city. The “Auto-Rickshaws” have a minimum charge of Rs. 9.


An a/c car with a driver can be arranged for less than the cost of renting a car in the U.S. (minimum cost is about $250 for the month + fuel). This would have to be arranged in advance.




Computers/Internet - Internet cafés are inexpensive (Rs. 20 per hour) and offer a high-speed internet connection and are readily available. If you bring your laptop, you can connect to the internet through our high-speed cable internet access at the AVSAR Home Base. The computers available at the AVSAR Home Base will be available to AVSAR’s administrative team for office work as well as to AVSAR volunteers for conducting research and working on their projects.


Mobile Phone - You can bring your own GSM mobile phone from the states (be sure to bring your unlock code as well) and buy a prepaid SIM card when you get here. That will allow you to call anywhere in the world for a reasonable price. Or you can rent a phone from us when you get here for approximately $15/mo (including $7 talk-time).


International Calls - “STD/PCO” booths are everywhere and offer very economical means to call anywhere in the world. Also, your prepaid SIM card may be used for international phone calls too.


I don't speak Hindi or Marathi, will that make it difficult for me to see patients or contribute to the group?

If you don’t speak the language, of course it can make the experience challenging; however, the doctors working for our partner NGOs, as well as the office staff and personnel all speak English fluently. They are very willing to translate for you when needed. Also, you will receive some basic language materials to read prior to your arrival into Mumbai. You will also have language-training during your orientation as well as throughout the month (by tutors who are hired by AVSAR).


While language can be a barrier, we hope that it will not discourage you from applying for an experience that you will likely look back on without any regrets.


How much can I expect spend?

Don’t think about it because you WILL have a very unique experience that will force you to realize how fortunate you truly are! And how rich you are!!


If you must have a figure, expect to spend approximately $1800 for one month (depending on the time of year, your preferences in cuisine, transportation, etc…). The ticket will cost approximately $1100 to $1300 from the US, the lodging/program fee will cost approximately $250 per month for volunteers staying less than 3 months, $225 per month for volunteers coming for 3-5 months, and $200 per month for volunteers coming for 6-12 months. The lodging/program fee will be collected from you prior to your departure to India, but might be accepted in US dollars (or traveler’s checks) given to AVSAR personnel upon arrival to Mumbai. Food and transportation typically costs less than $200 per month (possibly as little as $100 per month). Mobile phones can be rented from AVSAR for $15 during the first month (comes ready with $7 of talk-time charged on the phone for your convenience), and then $8 rental fee for each additional month.


I’d like to raise money to help me pay for my volunteer experience. Do you have any suggestions?

Once we have accepted you as an official AVSAR volunteer, we can help you with fundraising strategies and ideas for your trip (Rotary Club, special events, email or mail campaign, etc.). You could even hold fundraisers in the name of AVSAR, in which case you would be collecting tax-deductible contributions in the name of AVSAR.


We thank you for your interest and hope to see an application for the next AVSAR experience with your name on it!


Wishing you all the best,