What form of identification do I need?
You are required to have a passport. If you do not have one, you will need to obtain one as soon as possible. Most post offices are full service passport providers. In most cases it takes 4-6 weeks to obtain a passport, but sometimes there are delays. Plan accordingly.
You can find more information on US passports HERE.
Am I required to get shots and/or take medication?
We highly recommend you see your doctor before going on a mission trip. We do ask all short-term missionaries to get a tetanus shot and all routine vaccines (ex. flu shot). You are not required to take anti-malarial medication for most trip; however, it is strongly suggested.
Specific vaccines or medications may be suggested or even required depending on which country you visit. A very valuable resource is cdc.gov. On this website, you will find specific vaccines to consider getting based on the country which you are traveling to. We recommend you check this website three months before your departure date.
Should I take insect repellent?
Yes, bring some! It is important to take insect precautions at all times. Use an insect repellent under 28% DEET, anything more doesn’t add any more protection, just skin irritation.
What about traveling sickness or diarrhea?
Talk to your doctor about bringing along antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea. Also visit cdc.gov/travel to find more information on safe food and water, special needs travelers, and information on insect protection. Some medicines to keep in mind when talking to your doctor are: Zithromax, Cipro, and Levoquin.
Do I need to know the language of the country I will be visiting?
No, but it is extremely helpful to learn basic words, sounds, and phrases such as ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Where is the bathroom?’ Attempting to learn even a little of the language also communicates respect to the locals. You can purchase simple, inexpensive, pocket-sized books at local book stores, Half Price Books, and on Amazon to provide some of the basics.
Is the water safe to use and drink?
The water is NOT safe to drink in most places. We strongly recommend you drink only bottled water. This includes brushing your teeth and rinsing out your mouth. We even recommend you keep your mouth closed in the shower.
Is where I am going safe for Americans?
- We always travel in groups. Don’t wander off alone or even with another person. Always let people know where you are and never walk around at night.
- Don’t wear fancy or expensive jewelry.
- Do not carry cell phones in your back pocket.
- Make sure money/cash is never exposed.
When in-country, will I be able to communicate with people in the US? Will I be able to use a cell phone?
Yes. We typically stay in places that have Wi-Fi available. Most cell phone carriers will charge extra fees to use cellular data. While we do encourage you to communicate with loved ones and supporters regularly to let them know how your trip is going, we also suggest that you do not spend too much time on phones and computers, since it can detract from your overall experience.
Is it OK to go to places alone at any point during the trip? Can I be adventurous outside the group?
Team members are encouraged to never go anywhere alone and must always inform a team leader about their whereabouts. Most, if not everything you do will be done together as a team.
Please stay with the team as much as possible and be respectful to your team leader who is in charge of and accountable for knowing where you are. This is for the safety of the team.
Am I allowed to give money or gifts to the locals?
Yes, absolutely! When giving gifts, particularly money, we would appreciate you speaking with your team leader and the local pastor/leader before offering the gift. The local person will best know the needs of the people you encounter, and be able to suggest what gifts may and may not be helpful or appropriate.
Although smaller, inexpensive items (toiletries, school supplies, etc.) are generally ok to give anytime, we still prefer you first check with your trip leader, as well as the local/national leader.
Am I allowed to receive gifts from the locals?
Yes, absolutely, as long as the gift is reasonable and nothing extravagant. You may find that people want to give you something to thank you for your visit and service. It communicates gratitude and respect to accept small, inexpensive gifts from the locals. However, if you are given food or beverages that are homemade, we strongly urge you to use caution, as they may not be safe to eat or drink.
Will our team have a detailed plan?
Typically there is a plan for the day, but that may change depending on what comes up on any given day. Last minute changes should be expected and flexibility is very important no matter where you go. Keep in mind that other cultures view time different than we do. For example, your definition of being punctual may be much more strict and literal than the definition of punctuality in some cultures. Remember where you are.
What kind of transportation will I be using in-country? I.E. motos, motorcycles, buses, etc.
Typically, we travel in vans and buses. We rarely use public transportation because it may not be safe. We do not want trip participants to use public transportation during free time unless your trip leader has deemed it safe.
Can I bring electrical devices such as hair dryers, electric razors, CPAP machines, etc.
Yes. We will inform you well in advance whether you will need a converter. We also recommend using caution bringing computers, tablets, and other expensive electronic devices, as they are typically worth much more in Latin America than what you paid for them in the U.S. Generally speaking, if you can live without it, do not bring it. When deciding what items to bring on the trip, keep in mind that the local church is not liable for lost or stolen personal property.
What if I have food allergies or am a picky eater?
Please let your team leader know in advance and in-country if you have food allergies so we can accommodate your food needs for all meals. We ask that you be open to trying the food that is prepared for the team. In some cases, locals are volunteering their time to make meals for mission teams.