Expeditions FAQ

> What makes an expedition with CHOICE Humanitarian different from other humanitarian service trips?

Expeditions are a rare opportunity for solo travelers, families, friends, and entire organizations to step out of their comfort zone and support one of our community-managed projects volunteering abroad.

Expeditions are a way for individuals, companies, and families to support these projects that are already happening in the community. There are community-run projects managed by community leaders with training and support from our native in-country teams. We are not a hand-out organization; we are a hands-up organization.

Trips are equal parts adventure, education, and humanitarian service. Our approach to expeditions is to work within our Model of Leadership Development, making sure the humanitarian projects that we work on are sustainable. These community-managed projects would go on whether or not an expedition comes to the village, but expeditions are a way for people to plug-in to the CHOICE Model and show support to the village. 

Expeditions are not all about project work but are also a way for people to experience an inter-cultural exchange with community members. We place in equal importance project work and interaction with the community through community celebrations, day-in-the-life activities understanding community village life, and ample opportunities to talk and play games with community families and leaders. 

> Where does CHOICE Humanitarian hold expeditions?

CHOICE Humanitarian holds expeditions in 7 different countries around the world.

 

Bolivia       Ecuador       Guatemala       Kenya        Mexico       Nepal       Peru

 

> How can I sign up to go on an expedition?

Congratulations! We are so excited that you are interested in joining us for a life-changing experience!

First, chose an expedition that you are interested in. For a list of expeditions programmed for the year, click HERE

We encourage you to explore the trip pages, the itinerary, and the community and project details of the expedition. Once you have a decided on an expedition you would like to join, you can then apply for the expedition through the application page. 

The application will require you to input your personal information, including your name and roommate preference, as well as your passport and flight information. You can also add multiple people on your registration if you are planning on attending in a group. If you are not yet sure of your flight information, you can always come back to the application to finish later. In order to complete your application, you will required to pay a non-refundable deposit of $300 per person to secure your spot on the application.

Once your application is complete, you will receive a confirmation email that provides you with a link to create an online account. Once you create an online account with your email and a password, you can to log into your account and pay the remainder of your balance as well as modify any information you provided, including adding flight information once you purchase flights. 

Join the Facebook page for that specific expedition and start getting to know those on your expedition as well as the expedition leaders! Six to eight weeks before the start of the expedition, you will be invited to attend an Expedition Orientation Meeting where you will go over the detailed itinerary of the expedition with expedition leaders and talk about any trip logistics and preparations. 

Purchase flights, medical evacuation insurance, and pay the remainder of your expedition cost. Read over the Expedition Manual and Trip Resources on the trip page. 

And you are ready to go! Pack your bags and get ready for the experience of a lifetime! 

> What does the expedition fee cover?

Expedition fees range between $2,295 - $2,395 per person, depending on the country. This does not include your airfare to/from the country.

In Bolivia and Kenya, expedition fees are reduced to $2,295 because of the visa cost. 

Around 60% of the expedition fees go directly towards the project expenses and materials used on the expedition. The rest of the cost covers everything involved in putting together an expedition- the two nights’ hotel accommodations on the front and back end of the stay in the village, land transportation, village lodging, meals, security, and Certified Trip Leaders

Expedition fees will not cover any additional accommodation needs if arriving before or after the expedition.

> What kinds of projects will we work on while on an expedition?

Each village we work with plans specific projects according to their unique needs and priorities. Depending on their needs at the time of the expedition, volunteers could be working on a wide range of community-managed projects that span from the construction of classrooms, stoves, or hospitals to trenching water systems and constructing school desks. We normally know the project details three to six months before the start of an expedition. However, in some cases, we may not know the specifics of a project any sooner than four weeks prior to the expedition. Last-minute changes to project details can occur when the community re-allocates resources and priorities.

Projects vary by country as well where there are different technologies, resources, and needs. Below are a variety of past projects according to country that different expeditions have worked on- 

  • Bolivia: Community water systems, schoolhouse construction, pit latrine construction
  • Guatemala: Schoolhouse construction, community water systems, health post construction
  • Kenya: Pit latrine construction, desk and schoolhouse construction
  • Mexico: Schoolhouse construction, water cisterns, latrines, family gardens 
  • Nepal: Community water systems, schoolhouse construction, bio-gas digester construction
  • Peru: Family and community gardens, stove construction, women’s health initiative
  • Ecuador: School construction, reforestation, leadership training

> What phase of the project will my expedition help with? Beginning, middle, or end?

The expedition may come in on any phase of the project. The village determines the project and provides labor and materials, meaning that the project could have been going on for several years or just beginning  The magic of the CHOICE development process is that projects will be completed regardless of expedition participation.  

We have learned that in order for humanitarian expeditions to be sustainable, they MUST be part of a larger, locally driven program that exists long before expeditions arrive and the programs must have commitments from every community that lasts long after the expeditions leave. Expeditions just provide a unique opportunity for volunteers and village community members to work side by side and learn from one another while accelerating and/or completing a phase of construction for a specific project.

> When are the next expeditions?

Check out our Expeditions Calendar!

On the calendar, click on the dates of any expedition to move to its respective website to learn more and apply for an expedition.

> How can I fundraise for my expedition cost?

We encourage everyone to fundraise for their expedition. We provide a fundraising platform to make the fundraising process a little easier for our participants.

  • Visit https://expeditions.funraise.org/
  • Click on "Fundraise"
  • Click on "Join a Team"
  • Set up your personal page
  • Search for the country you are fundraising for
  • Set your goal and customize your page

Then share your page with family and friends!

> Should I be concerned about safety while on an expedition?

Both CHOICE HQ and the in-country staff take all necessary precautions to ensure your safety, within practical limits.  But, ultimately, safety is up to the individual’s use of common sense. From the moment you land in-country to the moment you depart, you will be accompanied by CHOICE in-country staff and Certified Expedition Leaders through all transportation, hotel, and travel logistics.

With them, you will be traveling in private transportation through trusted agencies. We stay at safe, clean, trusted hotels that have been pre-approved by CHOICE staff. It is typically very safe in the village and there is little to no crime. We do not hold expeditions in any areas or villages where there has been a history of crime. Your belongings will be in closed-off sleeping areas. You are advised to not leave personal belongings (such as cameras and sunglasses) lying around outside this area.  

Prior to and/or after the expedition, participants are on their own and we encourage taking necessary precautions to ensure personal safety.

> Are there age requirements to join an expedition?

While there is no set minimum age requirement, we encourage families to exercise some caution when bringing very small children. In most circumstances, children over the age of 8 are a good fit for expeditions, with one or both parents/guardians accompanying them. In some cases, younger children can join; if for example, they were the youngest of 3 children and the whole family was going on the trip. 

We will be in very rural and rudimentary lodgings and areas at times, and we want to make sure that everyone is aware and prepared for that. Some good questions to ask are whether the child-

  • is a picky eater?
  • is flexible with sleeping in new locations, using latrines, etc?
  • can handle extended travel under rough conditions?
  • likes to camp?
  • is mature enough to handle 3rd world poverty and culture?
  • has traveled internationally?

This is a case-by-case situation, and we trust parents to make the best decision. Please reach out to our Expeditions Team with specific concerns about this.

If a child under the age of 18 wishes to attend an expedition without a legal parent of guardian, a Parental Release document will need to be signed and notarized by the child’s legal guardian(s).  Parents will also need to authorize an adult member of the expedition to be their child’s legal guardian (this will usually be the expedition leader). This authorization is included in the Parental Release document. 

> Is the cost of an expedition deductible?

Yes! The whole expedition fee is tax-deductible. 

> Will I need to apply for a visa to travel to the country?

This requirement varies by country.

In Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico a visa is not required for stays under 30 days.

In Bolivia, Kenya, and Nepal, a travel visa can be purchased in the airport upon arrival. Depending on the country, a visa can be also purchased ahead, if desired. See your country embassy website for instructions: KENYANEPALBOLIVIA

> What are the required or recommended immunizations or vaccinations to travel on an expedition?

While there are no required immunizations or vaccinations, CHOICE recommends that all volunteers be up-to-date with routine vaccinations (MMR, DPT, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid).

We suggest that each volunteer consult with their health care provider or an international travel clinic for professional medical advice regarding recommended travel vaccines and immunizations. Please allow plenty of time between entering a country and getting your immunizations. We recommend scheduling an appointment at least 6 to 8 weeks prior to departure.

You can check out the Center for Disease Control website for any further questions in respect to immunizations. Choose your country from the drop down list, then press “Go” to read more. 

> Where can I purchase medical evacuation insurance?

CHOICE expeditions take place in rural locations across the globe where medical services are often unavailable. Therefore, CHOICE requires all expedition participants to purchase medical evacuation insurance that will provide coverage while traveling overseas. CHOICE requires at least $25,000 in medical evacuation insurance to cover proper transportation to a hospital or clinic during medical emergencies. You must provide proof of this coverage to CHOICE as part of your registration. This cost is in addition to the expedition fee.

In addition, CHOICE encourages all expedition participants to purchase standard travel insurance and trip cancellation coverage due to unforeseen circumstances that might cause trip disruptions or unexpected flight cancellations. 

Several companies provide the above insurance policies. CHOICE provides a few suggestions:

Travel Guard
3300 Business Park Drive Stevens Point,
Wisconsin 54482 (800) 826-1300
www.travelguard.com

Travelex
PO Box 641070
Omaha, Nebraska 68164
(800) 228-9792
www.travelex-insurance.com

Major credit card companies also provide free and/or low cost travel insurance to cardholders. Please be sure that such coverage is actual insurance and not just insurance consultation.

If you are a student or faculty member, the least expensive way to acquire emergency evacuation/medical insurance is the international youth/student/faculty I.D. card ($20). Most universities offer these through their study abroad office. You will need to provide proof of current school enrollment or faculty employment and a passport-sized photo.

> What are the physical requirements to participate on an expedition?

We recommend that you are comfortable traveling to remote, rugged areas, sleeping on an air mattress or cot and using latrines.  However, for the purpose of the project, physical capacities are not a major concern. We find responsibilities for each member of the expedition from the youngest to the oldest. 

The most important objective of the trip is not the just project, but the connection created between people. For every participant, there will be a variety of activities available depending on interests and physical abilities.  All projects will include options of intense manual labor, such as digging latrines or building schoolhouse walls; less intense manual labor, such as hauling bricks or mixing cement; and non-strenuous activities such as teaching English, playing games, passing out water, or interviewing villagers.

> How can I make flight arrangements?

There are two options: 

  1. You can arrange your own flights and we can provide you with other group members’ itineraries so that you can try to match theirs. 
  2. CHOICE can refer you to several travel agents who arrange CHOICE staff travel. One of those is Blair Greene through CV Travel. Her contact information is below.

Blair Greene
1(205)-484-2029
blair@cvtravel.com

Please note, airfare costs are different for every country and vary depending on time of year. We encourage each participant to purchase airfare with anticipation to the expedition as flight costs are normally lower when purchased with anticipation to departure date. 

> What are the options for in-country touring before or after the expedition?

Depending on availability and country, CHOICE offers some optional tours. These are optional and are not a set part of CHOICE expeditions. In some cases, the expedition leader may opt to plan and lead additional touring. Check with the Expeditions Coordinator to see if this is being planned for your expedition. In all other cases, CHOICE can offer suggestions of places to tour and agencies to use.  

Please note, the costs of in-country touring are NOT included in expedition costs. 

Optional tours offered by CHOICE depending on availability: 

  • Bolivia: Machu Picchu in Peru, usually before the expedition (helps you acclimatize). You can also visit Cochabamba and the Salt Flats. 
  • Guatemala: Expedition usually spends its last night in Antigua, a beautiful historic city.  Further travel can then be arranged to hike Volcano Pacaya, visit Lake Atitlan or Tikal.
  • Kenya: Safari. May be before or after the expedition—depends on the trip.  Other options include visiting Lamu, a historic Muslim city, hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, or fishing at Lake Victoria. 
  • Mexico: Guanajuato, an old Spanish Colonial silver mining town, usually after the expedition.  Mexico City tour of the historic old town.  
  • Nepal: Trekking in the Himalayas, usually after the expedition. Tours in Pokhara. Tours can also be arranged for the National Royal Forest Wildlife Refuge in Chitwan (elephant rides), white water rafting, mountain biking, and flights to Mt. Everest.  
  • Peru: Machu Picchu Tour and tour of Sacred Valley in Cusco is offered usually before the start of the expedition.
  • Ecuador: Galapagos Tour, Eco-tourism Tour in Banos, Quito Full-day Tour, Cotopaxi Full-day Tour

> How can I plan a private expedition with my family, friends, or company?

We plan and host both public and private trips for any groups, families, organizations, or businesses who would like to plan their own private expeditions. Keep in mind the minimum number of participants for a private expedition is 15 participants. 

With private expeditions, the itinerary can be much more flexible with planned activities specific to the needs and interests of the group. Please reach out to our Expeditions Team if you would like to know more about planning a private expedition.

> What are the required documents I need to travel on an expedition?

You will be required to fill out an application for any expedition. Applications are available on the trip pages. 

Medical evacuation insurance covering at least $25,000 is required for each participant. Please see the Expedition Manual for more information.

A passport is required for entry to all countries where CHOICE expeditions venture. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the expedition return date.

> Are there any discounts available for expedition costs?

Yes! Check out the discounts below to see if you qualify!

10% discount for all parties of 6 or more - use discount code 10GROUP when registering the members of your group.

$50 discount per person if complete fee is paid upfront with submission of application and $300 trip deposit - use discount code 50FULL. 

Student discounts are also available - please apply HERE! $250 off for students who fulfill certain requirements (does not stack with the group discount). ​Upon review and approval from CHOICE, you will receive a discount code to reduce the fee.

Members of The Village are also eligible for additional expedition discounts. Please visit choicehumanitarian.org/membership to join and learn more!

 

Don't see your question here? Please reach out to our Expeditions Team with any questions or concerns through email- expeditions@choicehumanitarian.org.


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