WHAT TO EXPECT
Traveling to a developing country is an adventure! The rural expedition villages provide wonderful opportunities for service, however it’s important to realize that expeditions are not tourist vacations.
- You should be physically and mentally prepared to face frustrating and disquieting circumstances while traveling, working, and living in impoverished, primitive areas.
- Village access is often along bumpy roads and may require a short hike.
- While permanent bathroom facilities and/or heating may or may not be available, bathrooms with basic facilities will be.
- Sleeping arrangements will likely consist of sleeping on the floor of a rustic building, or if preferred, you may bring your own tent for increased privacy.
- Food is simple but plentiful and is prepared according to strict sanitary standards.
- Bottled water will be available in the village. When traveling through cities, always ask about drinking water and ice. Do not brush your teeth from a tap unless you have verified that the water is purified.
- Electricity may be available via a generator for part of the day to charge camera batteries, but in general, plan your day around not having access to electrical outlets.
- Flexibility is a key characteristic to remember. Things operate on “local time” which is all part of the experience!
View pictures on the Photo Galleries page of what to expect.
A passport is required for each expeditioner to enter and exit Guatemala. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of proposed entry into the expedition country. Check your passport’s expiration date ASAP. If you need to apply for or renew your passport, do so as soon as possible on the U.S. State Department website; the process can take up to three months (see Processing Times on their website for more information).
According to the State Department, processing times can vary depending on workload and occcasional unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters. During busier times, such as the summer travel season, individuals traveling in less than 10 weeks are are encouraged to expedite their applications.
It is recommended that you leave a copy of your passport in a location at home and to pack a second copy in a safe place in your luggage. A copy of your passport needs to also be provided as part of the registation process.
IMMUNIZATIONS & MEDICATIONS
No vaccinations are required for entering Guatemala and Nepal. However, we recommend getting a Hepatitis A shot. For individuals planning to work in the medical clinic, the Hepatitis B series is recommended.
We also strongly recommend that you visit your doctor at least four to six weeks before traveling to assure that you are up to date on all routine immunizations and to allow time for any necessary shots to take effect. If it is less than four weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. It might not be too late to get your shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.
TRAVEL & MEDICAL EVACUATION INSURANCE
Medical evacuation insurance (with coverage at least $25,000) is required for all expeditioners. FHe is not responsible for medical care costs or medical evacutation, should you need to be transported home.
Standard travel insurance and trip cancellation insurance is recommended. Suggestions for travel insurance include:
3300 Business Park Drive | Stevens Point, Wisconsin 54482 | (800) 826-1300
PO Box 641070 | Omaha, Nebraska 68164 | (800) 228-9792
Paragon Office Park | PO Box 14468 | Des Moines, Iowa 50306 | (800) 282-4495
Insure My Trip
100 Commerce Drive | Warwick, Rhode Island 02886 | (800) 487-4722
Also, check with your credit card company, as some offer travel insurance for free or at minimal cost (ensure that this is insurance and not simply insurance consultation).
For students and faculty, medical evacuation insurance is available with the international youth/study/faculty I.D. card ($20). Check with the study abroad office if you are attending a university.
Items listed on the suggested packing list will help make you more comfortable during your stay. Many items are not readily available in Guatemala and the Polocic Region is even more remote. Things to keep in mind:
The deep red soil in the Polochic Region often finds its way into clothing and can be difficult to remove. Please keep this in mind as you pack your belongings. Also, due to the humidity in Guatemala, it is recommended that you pack quick-drying/Dri-FIT clothing, as they dry more quickly than cotton. Cargo and hiking pants/capris are ideal. Due to the mud which is often present during the rainy season, waterproof hiking boots or old tennis shoes are recommended (although be aware that stains on tennis shoes from the dirt in the Polochic Region might not come out).
Open toe shoes such as flip-flops are difficult to wear throughout the day, but can be helpful when taking showers. A poncho or windbreaker is also recommended. Hats and sunglasses can be helpful for sunny days. Please be respectful of the villagers, who follow a more conservative dress standard. Tank tops and shorts are discouraged.
Comfort foods in particular will make your experience more pleasant. The food there, while delicious, is often not as familiar. Having a supply of snack foods you enjoy is particularly helpful for times in-between meals or if meals are delayed. This would be especially helpful when traveling with children.
NO GIFTS FOR VILLAGERS
We support CHOICE Humanitarian’s no-gifting practice. As a general rule, please do not bring candy or food for the villagers, as there is not enough for everyone, and we do not wish to create a handout-mentality in our attempts to build self-sustaining communities. We cannot bring supplies that the villagers have not requested through the in-country staff or other village authority. This includes clothing, amongst other items. Any requested supplies must be routed through the in-country staff or other village authority. Contact us if you have items you would like to donate to the community.
What Youth Can Expect
Youth can expect to have a highly interactive and cultural experience while on the expedition. FHe Youth Coordinators will help the youth find projects and activities that interest them and keep them engaged, and will encourage them to journal and take notes about their experiences. Most days, the youth will participate for two to three hours in the workshops and building projects taking place in the villages. The youth will get more personally involved with the local children in group games like Frisbee and kickball, sharing of talents and crafts, art projects, and hikes.
We encourage all youth to think of their talents and how they can share them in a group setting on the expedition. Ideas include: playing a harmonica, showing others how to make friendship bracelets, demonstrating how to draw something, etc. Following the afternoon activities, youth will be encouraged to spend time with their families having dinner and relaxing, writing in their journals, and sharing photos about the day.
Safety is always a concern when traveling and living in developing countries. Conditions there may result in circumstances beyond FHe’s control.
FHe has been operating successfully for several years and are familiar with the areas to which we will be traveling. Be assured that your safety and security are a priority to us. In addition to following any instructions your expedition leader gives you, you should remember to avoid walking, traveling, or being out after dark in urban or rural areas. If travel is necessary, do not go alone.
Also, when in city areas, be sure to keep a very close watch on all of your belongings. It is recommended that participants protect themselves from being targeted by thieves by not packing or wearing nice jewelry or expensive-looking watches.
CODE OF CONDUCT
FHe defers to CHOICE Humanitarian’s standards of personal conduct, with adaptations made for FHe:
All participants are considered ambassadors for our country, humanitarians in general, and the organization. There is a high expectation for participants to respect the reputation of trust and consideration that has been established through years of interaction with villagers and in-country directors. All participants will be expected to maintain high standards of conduct as well as honor, morality, respect, graciousness, etc. while in the villages and in the countries where we serve.
There is a strict “NO GIFTING” policy. Our gift to them is the project; their gift to us is their hospitality. Participants will be expected to abstain from tobacco, narcotics, non-prescription drugs, and alcohol intoxication. We reserve the right to terminate a participant’s involvement, without reimbursement, at any point of the expedition if there is failure to comply with these conditions.
MANUALS & RESOURCES
The attachments contain a wealth of information that will help prepare you for the expedition.