Before your trip:
• Start planning early.
• Do your homework. Research your destination as well as the local customs, laws, and dress code.
• Set a budget.
• Find out if your credit cards will work in your host-country and inform your bank you will be using them.
• Ask your volunteer program for contact info of previous volunteers. They will be able to provide you with insight and help prepare you for your trip.
When you get there:
• Make a copy of your passport including the page with your entrance stamp. You may also wish to scan it and email it to yourself in the case you lose or damage your copy.
• Take advice from your volunteer agency about your personal health and safety.
• Valuables are best left at home, however, if you brought a computer, mp3 player, etc, it is best to keep them hidden. Consider putting a small lock on your bags.
• Abide by all laws and observe local customs with respect. It is important to your personal safety as well as your reputation and the reputation of your Volunteer agency.
• You may wish to buy a cell phone while in country. While many phones nowadays will work in various countries, you do not want to have your expensive Blackberry lost or stolen. Most companies offer a cheap basic cell phone model that requires you to enter in a phone card to make calls. I purchased my cell phone in Panama for $10 and a $5 phone card so I could call home.
- Over pack. Talk to you volunteer organization to get advice on what types of clothing to bring. The last thing you want to do is lug two heavy suitcases through the jungle.
- Flaunt valuables (i.e. jewelry, mp3 player, camera).
- Tell strangers where you are staying. Refer vaguely to the area if you must, but there are several tricks con artists use to rob from unsuspecting tourists so it is best not to tell anyone exactly where you are staying.
Forget that you are there to volunteer! It will be exciting to be in a foreign country and meet new people, but remember you are there to work on a project. Enjoy your free time after you finish your daily duties.