Tips to Help Prepare You for Volunteer Journey 2019
It’s easy to feel a little culture shock on your first trip to India if you aren’t used to the whirlwind of colorful sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Use top 10 tips to help prepare you for volunteer journey.
1) Start with the sensible visit to your doctor or travel clinic for necessary and recommended vaccinations. Check out a list by the Center for Disease Control. Most important may be vaccines for Hepatitis A and Thyphoid which can both be contracted through contaminated food and water. Though one of your first thoughts is probably malaria, it’s low risk in Southeast India (and the hallucinogenic side effects of malaria pills may not be worth it) but that doesn’t mean the bites won’t still drive you crazy. Be sure to pack a mosquito repellent that contains at least 20% DEET. Brands like Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon are good bets. Still, ask your doctor about your personal risk factors considering your specific travel areas and activities.
2) You need more than a plane ticket and a passport to visit India. US citizens planning to travel in India for less than 30 days must apply for an Indian Tourist Visa. You can do this easily online which takes up to 72 hours to process and costs roughly $70 depending on the exchange rate. Just make sure that your passport is still valid six months after the date of your arrival. When you get to their airport in India, you’ll still have to get fingerprinted, show a copy of your e-Visa confirmation and get your passport stamped with your valid entry dates—good for 30 days after your arrival.
3) Verify your baggage allowances with your airline There are strict weight guidelines for checked bags and carry-ons that may differ from what you’re used to flying domestically.
The cultural considerations
4) Take slip on shoes – Get used to the idea of going barefoot inside Indian homes, temples and some businesses and shops. If you see shoes outside of a door, it’s a good sign you should also remove your shoes before entering. Pack some sturdy slip on sandals or sneakers so you can come and go easily. In smaller villages, walking barefoot all together is the norm. Bring a closed toe pair for long walks (around gritty city streets and natural park areas alike).
5) Wear conservative clothes – Choose what to wear for comfort and respect for the culture—knowing what’s comfortable may not always be respectful and vice versa. Showing skin—especially bare arms, shoulders and legs—isn’t favored among the locals and is even prohibited in temples and other holy sites. Beat the heat with linen and light cotton materials. Think long pants, button downs or collared shirts (not t-shirts) for guys and long skirts (below the knee and preferably to the ankle), tunic-type tops or loose fitting short sleeve shirts that have modest necklines and fall below the waist for gals. A thin shawl or scarf is good to carry for wrapping around shoulders or even protection from the sun in summer time. Shorts and T-shirts may be fine in tourist hotels or at friends’ homes but when mingling in public, you’ll be stared at enough as it as just being a foreigner, so you’ll blend in a wee bit better by wearing appropriate clothing.
The smart traveler stuff
Here’s a list of helpful supplies to have when you’re on the go—for safety, convenience and just to have your days run smoother.
6) Tissues, hand wipes and hand sanitizer. As mentioned above, toilet paper is uncommon so carry your own. Water sources aren’t always hygienic according to Western standards so hand sanitizer and wipes are great for cleansing before and after mealtimes.
7) Electricity adaptor, chargers and extra batteries—for your phone, your camera and your computer (if you bring one). Indian Electrical Powers 230 Volts, 50 Hz with two- or three-pin plugs. If you expect to be in a large city right away, you can easily buy one when you get to India for less money. If you’re taking several devices, consider a universal power strip with a surge protector since brownouts and power surges can happen often.
8) Headlamp. When you need a bathroom break in the middle of the night and don’t want to wake your neighbors or you’re staying in a natural park and hear something go bump in the night, a wearable, portable light source comes in handy!
9) Sun hat and bandana. Outdoor stores carry nylon hats especially made for heavy-duty sun protection. The material itself blocks harmful rays and also usually repels water as dual rainy day headgear. Locals often walk under umbrellas for sun protection but a wide brimmed hat may be easier since it’s hands-free. The roads in India are super dusty and with A/C hit or miss in cars and cabs, a hanky may be handy for keeping dust away from your face.
10) A small backpack or shoulder bag. Take one with a lot of compartments as one of your carry-on allowances. Since travel always brings surprises, it’ll be nice to have a convenient bag to stuff your water bottle, tissue paper, camera, snacks and have space for things you buy along the way.
So there you have it. Not an exhaustive packing list but a few things you may not think of on a typical trip. India is truly rich in colorful sights and experiences, and you’ll have a better time navigating the cultural and developing-country differences with a little extra planning.
Check out excellent volunteer opportunities that require no previous experience www.volunteersindia.org
For more information on volunteer programs in India write to firstname.lastname@example.org