So You’ve Decided to Volunteer Abroad

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By: Jack Resnik

First of all, a big congratulations to all the new volunteers who were accepted to the summer programs in Peru and Thailand! We are excited to have you, and thankful for your desire to help these communities. Welcome to Healthyouth

What follows is a basic guide for preparing for your trip. From booking the best ticket, to packing and vaccinations, this post is a perfect starting place for all things pre-departure. Keep in mind that this is just one of many, many travel guides and resources available on the Internet; check out the bottom of this post for some of my favorite (and most relied upon) travel sites.

Get ready for a new adventure!

Getting There

This is your highest priority right now. Your bags will (most) likely make the trip, you… must. Once you’ve decided to volunteer, start looking for flights immediately! Kayak is my go-to source for the best deals, but even then it’s not always straightforward.

You’ll have to hunt around. Prices vary significantly by departure day and the airport, so spend some time playing with your options. Summer A begins May 30, but you’ll want to arrive earlier because it’s cheaper to fly on weekdays (the 27th and 28th are your best bet). Since Summer B starts July 4th, look for tickets leaving on the 1st or 2nd.

Boarding time!

Choosing the right airport can also make a big difference. Since you’re flying international, it’s cheaper to find a direct flight leaving from one of the larger international hubs (Atlanta, LA, Chicago, DC, etc.). For example, it’s always cheaper for me to fly from Phoenix to LA, and then catch a flight to Lima from there. Avoid small, regional airports and save big.

The Return Ticket

Unless you plan on traveling long term after the program, you should book a round trip flight. So when should you come home?

The first summer group will finish on June 27th, and the second group on August 1st. If you intend to travel after the program (more on that in a future post), you should plan on spending at least an extra week in country. This is a must if you want to visit Machu Picchu. Here again, you will have to play around with the dates to see what your best options are. If you do not have to return home immediately, I would strongly encourage you to spend two or more weeks traveling after the program. There are so many opportunities, and so many things to see in both Peru and Thailand–you just may well regret leaving so soon!

Health & Safety

At Healthyouth, the well being of our volunteers is especially important

to us. Should any sickness or injury occur during the program, we will make sure volunteers recieve the best quality care available. To prepare for your trip, be sure to stop by a travel clinic (often in university health centers) to be advised about necessary vaccines. The most important thing is to make sure that you are up to date on all your routine vaccinations such as MMR. There are several vaccines recommended by the CDC—in Peru it’s Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, and Typhoid; for Thailand, those three are also recommended along with Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies. Please do not be alarmed by the idea of so many shots, just because one is recommended hardly means that you will be infected should you skip out on the vaccine. These vaccines are not all mandatory, so it’s best to talk to a doctor or qualified health professional about your options

The peace of coverage!

Finally, you should also register for traveler’s insurance. These policies are affordable, and can be bought online for the exact duration of your trip. They often cover not only injuries or health emergencies, but also costs incurred for a cancelled flight, emergency evacuation, and theft. There are many different providers, so be sure to search around for a policy that fits your needs. Finally, when you have purchased a policy, be sure to bring a copy of the details with you! Along with copies of your passport, IDs, and bank cards, this is another essential document to carry. I have included a link to my preferred provider below.

What To Bring

Ah, packing. The eternal fight between the things you need, and all the other stuff you will bring anyway. What to pack or how much are best learned the hard way (I can vouch for that!), but the more carefully and critically you consider your needs the better off you will be. When making such decisions in the comfort of your home, there is a certain traveler’s angst: a desire to take more than you need, to play it safe and pack anything and everything within reach. Fight this feeling!

What you don’t want to do!

Though I could fill volumes with packing advice, there are more than a few websites that have beat me to the punch far more comprehensively. The best I’ve read is from Travel Independent, which you can find below in the links sections.

Budgeting Abroad

Nearly everyone will find themselves asking, “How much money should I bring?” The truth is, there is no exact amount, no itemized budget for all things abroad. While some of our activities have definite costs, the rest–particularly how much you choose to splurge on souvenirs–is largely a matter of your own spending habits. Speaking from my own experience, it is entirely possible to go five weeks in Peru or less, but that will not fly for everyone. We will endeavor to provide you with as much information as we can about pricing in both countries (coming soon to a blog near you), and in the meantime, try to cut back on some of your excess spending–that money will go a lot further in Peru and Thailand than it will at your local Starbucks.

In a similar vein, it’s also important to think about how you will carry your money while traveling. Having USD$ can be extremely useful, but also has some important caveats. For one, the dollars need to be crisp, preferably new and in good condition. Currency exchanges are notorious for refusing even slightly torn notes. Many people are also nervous at the prospect of bringing large propecia not working anymore propecia online amounts of cash into a foreign country. With proper precaution (dividing the cash into different compartments, not flashing large amounts in public, etc.) there is nothing to worry about.

ATM cards offer their own advantages and drawbacks as well. Most cities and towns have ATM machines that will accept nearly any foreign card. Money can also be withdrawn in the local currency which saves you from having to also make a trip to the exchange. ATM cards have their own security issues, and its especially important to not use ATMs that are unguarded or open to the street and to save all bank receipts. Finally, unless you bank with Charles Schwab, you will also likely incur a fee for every ATM withdrawal which can add up. Ultimately, some combination of cash and bank cards is best, and allows for maximum flexibility with your travel.

Get ready for an amazing adventure!

Helpful Links

  • http://www.kayak.com — My go-to site for booking flights

  • http://www.travelindependent.info/america-south.htm#Peru –A traveler’s guide to Peru

  • http://www.travelindependent.info/asia-southeast.htm#Thailand –A traveler’s guide to Thailand

  • http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list –Info from the CDC about travel and health

  • https://www.worldnomads.com/ –Travel insurance provider

  • http://www.travelindependent.info/whattopack.htm –A fabulous resource for how to pack for your trip

  • http://wikitravel.org/en/Main_Page — A completely crowd-sourced travel guide

Jack Resnik is the Global Health Fellow and Peru Coordinator for Healthyouth. He is currently living in Huancayo, Peru, working with schools and medical centers to improve adolescent health through education and health campaigns. Interested volunteers should email info@healthyouth.org for fatality that the lou gehrig’s disease brings: taking a closer look.

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