Traveling is a disease that is not easy to cure; some say it’s caused by being bitten by a travel bug. Travelers could be those who are going to: volunteer abroad; gap year; study abroad; intern abroad; tourist abroad; career break and boomers abroad. Many of the travelers especially those who are going to stay for a long period of time like for months or years fail to plan. Most volunteers who are abroad plan to: pay the air fare, get travel insurance and for accommodation. They forget about planning for small things that make a big difference like: carrying extra money; bathrooms could be different; having your passport all the time; travelling in the host country; manners and minding locals; and realizing you are the different one not them. Other than these there are more important things you should know that will help you enjoy your volunteer abroad vacation:
Reading the fine print when you are using a travel agent is important because you would want to know who will take care of you when things go wrong. As a volunteer going to work abroad you are most probably going to use a volunteer travel organization that organizes volunteer work. Most of these organizations plus other travel and tour operators have travel policies or terms and conditions. Knowing these will help you to plan how you will take care of yourself when things go south. Things like political coups, racist movements, natural disasters, being robbed, when you fall sick and riots are not common but they could happen. When these things happen you would want to know how the agency will take care of you. You should also find out about the refund policies, something might happen that could make you not to travel and you don’t want to lose your money.
This comes when you are planning where you are going to stay. The most common places to stay are hotels, hostels, and homestays and group homes. Many hotels have minimum set of standards and it’s easy to find out what you are paying for. Choosing a hostel, homestays and group homes are the ones travelers should pay particular attention to. Most people don’t take their time to look into what they are and not paying for. For example in group homes and homestays, they could offer you a bed or a bed mat, a table and electric outlet. In other occasions they could provide you with these things and more or not. Also hostels don’t give out much information on what they will offer you, or sometimes they provide you with false information.
Getting around is hard for the first weeks in a foreign country, especially if you are going to be using public transport to get around. In some countries when you use buses or trains they are normally overcrowded and crammed and this can come as a surprise to you. While you are abroad get maps and book guides of the country you are in. Reading and understanding maps can become useful especially when you are lost. If you plan to ride a bicycle or a car, try to find out the traffic rules. As a pedestrian look out for signs to help you navigate through the city. In some countries motorists don’t pay much attention to pedestrians and extra care should be taken.
Before you travel abroad contact your bank or Credit Card Company and inform them that you are travelling abroad. Inquire from them what their policies are abroad and what happens when you lose your cards either through robbery or bad luck. Ask them how you will be protected against fraud. Before you volunteer abroad ask if their cards can be used where you are going. Some credit card companies provide you with medical insurance; ask them if you also need additional travel insurance. Before you leave, contact a tax expert or accountant about taxation and find out if you will still be paying tax while you are abroad. This is mainly for volunteers who are planning to stay for a long period of time.
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