Five Essentials To Remember Before Traveling to Volunteer Abroad

By Samantha Silverman on 28/07/2019

So you’re volunteering abroad sometime soon? That’s awesome! You’ve got your plane ticket and travel plans ready? Great! What about your visa and legal documents? How about your vaccines? You didn’t know you needed vaccines? Okay hold on, let’s take a moment and start from the very beginning. 

You have always wanted to go to your destination of choice and now you are! Whether it was the community, the scenery, or the culture, you chose us to help you find a great nonprofit organization where you could share your skills and it doesn’t stop there. You are choosing to integrate yourself into a community and make a real difference! You’re about to gain a whole new perspective and outlook on the world, but before this, we are here to help you check off all the important boxes necessary to get you prepared and have a successful trip.

 If you want to take another look at more volunteer opportunities abroad, head to the link below and get started on your personal search.  

 

1. Passport and Visa 

It is essential that you have a valid passport when volunteering abroad. More importantly, check the expiration date and make sure it does not expire within the time span you will be returning from your time abroad. If you need to renew your passport, do this as soon as possible because it can take a few weeks; however, if necessary, in many countries you are able to expedite this process with an extra cost. In addition to your passport, we would recommend that you carry printed photo copies of your passport.

On top of your passport you might be required to apply for a visa when visiting your country of choice. Although most countries allow you to travel for up to 90 days without a visa, every country has different visa requirements so it is best you call up your closest embassy or do your own research regarding the country’s requirements when travelling abroad or for a duration longer than 90 days. 

2. Vaccinations and Medicines

Visiting places outside of your home country can expose and leave you to vulnerable diseases and infections that are not typical of your home country. It is recommended that you are up to date with your routine vaccinations, but to also meet with your health provider so they can best prepare you and your body for traveling to a foreign environment. In addition, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to visit a travel doctor depending on your destination.

In addition to vaccinations, make sure that you have the correct amount of both your prescribed (if any) and unprescribed medications to last you through your time abroad . Have your prescriptions correctly labeled to steer clear of any issues. Something else that can help during your time abroad is bringing the basics, such as a pain reliever and a stomach remedy, to avoid being empty handed if an issue were to arise. Foreign foods contain different spices, dairy products, and ingredients, which could easily lead to an upset stomach.


3. Phone and Communication

Before travelling abroad, it is crucial that you determine what form of communication you will have with your friends and family. There are a variety of options to choose from depending on your cellular plan, where you’re travelling to, and for how long. Contact your mobile service provider to determine what the most reliable, easiest cell phone plan is to avoid unnecessary issues and costs. Also, it would be helpful for you and your close ones to download Whatsapp, Skype, or any other communication app as an alternative.

More importantly, make sure you have a list of emergency contacts to provide for your organization, in addition to where you are staying. Have multiple copies of this and always keep one on you, as well.

4. Money 

It is hard to determine how much money you will need abroad, but you’re definitely going to want to have access to your accounts and extra cash! If you can’t already, make sure you will be able to log in to your bank account online from your phone or computer, if accessible.

IMPORTANT – Make sure you are able to use your credit card internationally and let your bank know that you will be travelling abroad to avoid any fraudulent accusations or other red flags. If not, it would be helpful to look into an alternative credit card for your destination if you’re staying for a lengthy time. 

Have extra cash on you! Depending on where you go and for how long, there might not be an ATM sitting around the corner from you. Because of this, make sure you begin your travels with extra cash kept in a safe place for back up. Most banks make this very easy and can even exchange money for the foreign currency at a very low rate before you leave. 

Once you have all of this covered, it’s time to pack! 

 

5. Packing 

Depending on your airline and how long you will be gone, you may bring anything from a carry on to two luggages. Try and pack as minimally as possible to avoid the unnecessary cost and annoyance of extra bags. Before putting clothes aside, look into what the typical weather is for your destination and plan accordingly. You also are going to want to pack clothes that are culturally appropriate and not disrespectful in any way. Along with this, you might need certain clothes or materials specific for your service responsibilities, so we recommend contacting your organization to ask them if they have any suggestions.

In addition to clothes, go through your daily routine and make sure that you pack any products that you need and want. Every country is different, and although most countries have the basics, you might want to make sure you have all your essentials before arriving.

Other Packing Recommendations:

  • Electric converters and adapters
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra Towel
  • Reusable water bottle 

Now that you’re all packed, it’s time to relax and mentally prepare yourself for the amazing journey you’re about to go on! 

Traveling to a foreign country is an incredible opportunity, but it can be overwhelming and come as a culture shock to many people. It would be a good idea to do some research on your own regarding the culture and standards of your destination to make sure you present yourself in the best and most respectful way. In addition, be prepared to be put into situations you have never experienced before and get excited to try things you have never experienced yet.  

Go in with an open attitude! Things might not go exactly how you expect them, but this could be a good thing. If you want to get the best volunteering experience, stay open-minded and go with the flow. 

Take care of yourself. You will be on your feet a lot in an environment unlike your own. Stay hydrated, eat well, maintain your hygiene, and get enough sleep. 

Lastly, have fun! Yes, you are there to work, but enjoy every moment while it lasts! Build relationships with the people around you, explore the environment, learn the language, and travel the surrounding area. Making a difference in the world, and in someone’s community, is an incredible feeling; make every moment count and have the most amazing time!  

Head to our blog for more helpful tips about volunteering abroad! You can also check out our GivingWay Volunteer and Travel Advice Facebook Page to connect with other volunteers and nonprofits! 😁