International flights

International flights are not included in the program tuition.

We work closely with The Travellist Co. and recommend that you book your flights with them. They have all of the flight requirements for our programs and we will put you in touch with them when it comes time to purchase your international flights.

The Travellist Co. is a full service travel agency that can arrange everything from flights and pre/post trip accommodation to comprehensive travel insurance for our students. They offer 10+ years direct industry experience, enabling them to create and deliver independent and expertly cultivated journeys. Learn more about the services or send them an email to discuss your flight needs.

 

Optional Extensions

Our program will give you the skills - and most likely the inclination - for future travel, and you may like to continue your adventures at the program's end, either independently or with others in your group. At the time you make your international flight bookings, it is okay to inquire about the options for extending your time or a stopover elsewhere on your way home.

Tips for purchasing international flights

If you are making your own flight arrangements, please read the following before you do:

  • Have all of your flights linked on the one ticket. We often have students purchase international flights from hub airports/cities and then purchase local connections separately. While this can sometimes be less expensive, if a flight is delayed, the airline is under no obligation to re-book you, and you may have to purchase another flight. Additionally, separate tickets can cause you to incur additional baggage costs and make your connections more complicated.
  • Allow plenty of time for connections. Make sure that you have at least two hours lay-over per connection. This layover gives you leeway to still make your next flight if the arriving flight is delayed. Allow at least 3 hours for connections where you have to clear customs (e.g. returning into Los Angeles, ahead of a connection to your home city).
  • Check the flexibility of the ticket. How much does it cost to make a date change? What is the luggage allowance?
  • Having an agent advocate for you. For example, if there is a storm in the Northeast that cancels lots of flights, there is an enormous backlog of travellers all trying to get out. If you have bought your flights through our travel provider, you will have the support of a travel agent working with the airline to get you re-booked. If you’ve purchased flights online, you will be at the mercy of the airline staff. In our experience, having an agent working on your behalf with the airline results in faster recommencement of your journey.
  • The least expensive flights available are those offered directly through airlines or online sites such as Kayak. However, in our experience saving a small amount of money by buying online is false economy. There is a lot of value in having the support of an agent if you have a problem – (missed flight, cancelled flight, overbooking, missing luggage, date change, etc).
Kerry Giaz 1
Yum! Spicy cucumber snacks

“Pacific Discovery is a young traveler's dream. You travel with like-minded people who become some of the best friends you'll ever have.” You get to do exotic things that most people only dream about like riding elephants, trekking to remote villages and home staying in floating ones, scuba diving with sharks, swimming in phosphorescence - the list goes on. You'll have a fantastic experienced, knowledgeable, and fun leader. Not to mention it's the most affordable company you'll ever travel with. You don't just feel like you're passing through - you get the chance to give back, from speaking with Burmese refugees and Cambodian high school students to improve their English, to building bio-sand water filters so people can have safe drinking water, to taking impoverished kids in Phnom Penh to a water park for a day of fun. You'll learn to appreciate your own culture more through learning about theirs and you will understand that we're all really the same. This trip has made me change the way I see the world, and has made me very thankful for everything I have in life.” Read more Kerry Gaiz, 2007
Menlo College

Passport & visas

Travel abroad requires a passport. If you don’t have one, you need to apply for one as soon as possible. US Government Passport website: http://travel.state.gov/passport/

If you already have a passport, it must be valid for 6 months after your program's end and return flight, Otherwise, you need to get a new passport issued before joining the program, please do this as soon as possible.

We will typically arrange any visas required during the program for you. However this does vary depending upon the program, what country you are from, and if you are choosing to travel before or after the program.

If we require you to arrange your own visa, we will send you clear and detailed information about how to do this.
Prior to program start, we send out comprehensive pre-departure information that clearly explains the arrival details and rendezvous procedure.

Kurtis Adams
Kurtis, ready to face the waves on a kayak, Australia

“Astonishing, breathtaking, extraordinary, and incredible are all understatements for Pacific Discovery.” It's funny to remember waking up in the morning and thinking, "What awesome thing are we doing today? This program provided an opportunity for cultural immersion, physical and mental challenges, and personal growth. Through volunteering and traveling around New Zealand and Australia, I've gained an appreciation for the environment and life itself, and I am so grateful for the experiences, memories and new friends as a result of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.” Read more Kurtis Adams, 2013
Daemen College

Travel insurance requirements

  1. Pacific Discovery requires all students to have a comprehensive travel insurance policy for the duration of the program.
  2. Proof of travel insurance must be supplied to the Pacific Discovery office prior to program start by uploading a copy to your portal of the confirmation from the travel insurance provider showing: your name, policy number, and dates of the policy.
  3. We require your travel insurance policy to cover your medical coverage while on program, trip cancellation, and trip interruption. Please reference our refund policy and terms and conditions to make sure your insurance policy is adequate. Our Terms and Conditions are on this page- click the Terms and Conditions Tab.

 

Why do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance provides cover in the event of medical expenses due to sickness or accident, and emergency medical evacuation abroad. Travel insurance may also include cover for loss of baggage or personal effects, personal liability, and trip cancellation or trip curtailment.

When buying your travel insurance policy, it’s important that:

  • Your policy covers you from the date you depart your home, until the date you return home, not just the Pacific Discovery program dates.
  • Your policy offers coverage for the adventure activities included in the program you are participating in.
  • Declare any medical or mental health conditions in your application and be clear what cover you have/don’t have for existing medical/mental health conditions. If you have a medical condition before your travel and do not inform the insurance company, your travel insurance is unlikely to pay for medical treatment or the costs to get you home. If you want to be insured for the condition, tell the insurance company before you go and they will advise you if they can cover the condition or not.
  • Please read any insurance policy thoroughly to become familiar with the cancellation circumstances that may be covered. These vary greatly from policy to policy.
  • Policy terms and coverage varies by state in the (USA) and by country. It is important that you check your policy carefully.

Pacific Discovery is not responsible for any travel insurance actions, exclusions or omissions.

 

How to get travel insurance?

To make things easy for you, Pacific Discovery has partnered with The Travellist Co., a full service travel agency that can arrange everything from flights and pre/post trip accommodation to comprehensive travel insurance for our students. They have all the travel insurance requirements for our programs and offer 10+ years direct industry experience, enabling them to create and deliver independent and expertly cultivated journeys. Learn more about the services or send them an email to discuss your travel insurance needs.

 

Insurance Advice

Travel insurance is easy to buy but policies can be difficult to understand. The insurance industry would like everybody to read the policy they’ve bought or are about to buy, but insurance companies know that all too often people don’t bother. If you are only going to read one thing about travel insurance, read this now and act on it; it could save you lots of money and distress.

Key considerations/things to ask when speaking with each organization:

*         What is the specified time frame for purchasing coverage (must be purchased within X days of initial 'trip' payment)?

*         What is the specified time frame for cancellation (e.g. 48 hours prior to scheduled departure)?

*         What % of non-recoverable expenses is covered? 75% reimbursement of non-recoverable expenses seems to be the standard.

*         Can the coverage be purchased as a stand-alone policy or is it only available as an add-on or upgrade as part of an overarching travel insurance plan?

*         Does the policy provide benefits for interruption for any reason (after the 'trip' or program has already begun) or only cancellation for any reason (prior to departure)?

*         Is there a cap on the dollar amount for covered expenses?

*         Does this policy apply to my state of residence? Policies can vary greatly depending on which State you are from

*         Does this policy cover the adventure travel activities listed on my itinerary?

Health

If you have a medical condition before your trip and do not inform the insurance company, your travel insurance is unlikely to pay for medical treatment or the costs to get you home. If you want to be insured for the condition, tell the insurance company before you go and they will advise you if they can cover the condition or not. Relatedly, most travel insurance does not cover claims for expenses related to mental health conditions.

Policies will often pay for you to cancel your trip or come home early if a close relative becomes ill. If you know of a relative's condition before the trip you must tell the insurance company before you travel so they may decide if they will cover this or not. Check carefully to see who the policy calls a 'close relative', as policies differ on this.

Doing something risky?

Most policies do not cover you for activities such as caving, diving, or bungee jumping unless you have told the insurance company before you go and they agree to cover you. Certain travel insurance policies, such as an AIG Travel Guard policy & World Nomad's Explorer Plan cover all included activities on our programs for example. The best thing to do is to check your policy before you leave to check that it covers all the activities you hope to experience on your travels. If you are unsure, contact the insurance company and ask.

Be careful with your possessions

Don’t rely on your insurance. They may not pay your claim if you have not taken enough care in looking after your things. Always act as though you do not have insurance, and look after your possessions. Check the limits on your policy for individual items and money. If you are planning to take expensive items such as cameras, laptops and other valuables with you then you should check the amount covered in your plan. If you cannot afford to lose an item, leave it at home! Don't leave your possessions where you couldn't act upon someone taking them, and don't leave items in a locked car.

Get proof of your loss

Always keep receipts to help you prove your claim. If something is stolen or you lose it, you need to report it to the police. When travelling independently, contact your hotel/hostel and carrier as soon as possible and get a document from them to prove that you told them about the incident. While on the program our instructors will support you in this process.

Remember the helpline

Every travel insurance policy has a 24-hour assistance helpline. The helpline can provide you with a lot of assistance, so be sure to call if you need it (and have this number on you when you travel). If you have a medical problem abroad, most policies require you to call the helpline to make sure any medical treatment is covered and will be paid.

Ethan Blonder
Let loose with a machete! Ethan chops up lunch for elephants in Northern Thailand

“As someone who very much expected to have an office job before going on PD Thailand, I am now lined up to teach English for a year in South Korea, then hopefully work on an sustainable, organic farmstead in Hawai'i. Thanks to Pacific Discovery for making all that possible.” Ethan Blonder,
College of William and Mary

Health & vaccinations

There are no specific health or fitness requirements to participate in our programs, however, our programs are physically active. If you have concerns about your physical ability please contact us to discuss this.

We recommend that you carry a personal first-aid kit as well as any personal medication with relevant prescriptions. Please be aware that for legal reasons, our program instructors are prohibited from administering any type of drug. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.

Our program orientation will cover information on how to keep healthy – diet, rest, and education about disease vectors, mosquito borne illness and rabies.

If you have any questions regarding specific health recommendations before you travel, please contact your doctor, or a travel doctor, to discuss this.

Food Allergies

If you have food allergies we recommend that you purchase an allergy information card to carry with you from Select Wisely . Choose the card that matches your allergy and select the language you'd like on the reverse side of the card.

Vaccinations

At least 3 months prior to departure, please see your physician or a travel doctor, to discuss vaccinations and your health while on the program. This is also the time to get a prescription for anything you need for your personal first aid kit (antibiotics etc) - refer to the packing list for what you need to bring in your personal first aid kit.

Malaria, typhoid, rabies…they all sound scary but keep in mind that the risk of contracting a serious illness is low. In 15+ years of running programs we have not had a single student contract a serious illness, a mosquito borne illness, or be bitten by an animal suspected of being rabid.

We are not qualified to advise you on what vaccinations you should and shouldn't get. Doctors are also reluctant to say 'get this', 'don't get that', because often a risk is present, even if it is very, very low. Ultimately, you need to weigh the benefits of vaccination against the level of risk and the costs - this is a personal decision. What we can say, is that if you continue to travel, you will not regret investing in vaccination, as most vaccines provide years of protection and these illnesses are prevalent throughout much of the world.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the US government agency that all doctors refer to when they are prescribing vaccinations. The CDC have a website with clear information and it is easy to gain an overview of a destination and the risks of various illnesses to make informed decisions regarding vaccinations.

New Zealand, Australia, Pacific Islands

Check routine vaccines are up to date. No other vaccines required.

Central America (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica)

The CDC highly recommends vaccination for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. It also recommends that your routine vaccinations are up-to-date.

There are other illnesses that you will be at a much lower risk of contracting to also discuss with your travel doctor. These include:

Malaria

As far as we can ascertain from the Center for Disease Control's online information…
Mexico: Malaria unlikely to be present
Belize: Only risk is Belize mainland, days 27-29
Guatemala: The only malaria risk area is days 29-30
Nicaragua: Malaria unlikely to be present
Costa Rica: Malaria unlikely to b present

The risk of contracting malaria on all these programs is very low but is present. Anti-malarial medication is in the form of oral pills that are taken while in malarial areas. Modern anti-malarial meds have very few side-effects.

Zika Virus

Zika virus is present throughout Central America and is now in the United States also. Zika virus is spread to people primarily by mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of Zika are flu-like - fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. The current concern with Zika virus is the potential risk to pregnant women of the virus causing birth defects. This is only a risk if the virus is contracted during pregnancy and has no long term effect (e.g. if becoming pregnant after previously having the virus). The best prevention is insect repellent and not being bitten.

Dengue Fever

Students are probably at greatest risk of contracting dengue fever, another mosquito borne illnesses for which there is no vaccination. We recommend students bring a good insect repellent and the program instructors will brief the group on best practice to avoid bites. All of our accommodation has insect screens or mosquito nets.

Rabies

The risk of being bitten by an animal in Central America on our program is low. We brief students to stay away from dogs, monkeys and bats. If a student was bitten by an animal and had not had the rabies vaccination, this would impact their program experience, as they would have to travel urgently to a major center, for a shot of RIG (rabies immune globulin) and then a series of rabies vaccine shots over a two week period. If they have been vaccinated, they would still need a shorter series of post exposure shots (widely available) but would not need the RIG, meaning that their program experience would not be as disrupted. The benefit of vaccination for rabies has to be weighed against the cost as the vaccine is expensive.

Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia)

The CDC highly recommends vaccination for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. It also recommends that your routine vaccinations are up-to-date.

There are other illnesses that you will be at a much lower risk of contracting to also discuss with your travel doctor. These include:

Malaria

As far as we can ascertain…
Southeast Asia Semester: Students will be traveling in areas that malaria is present: In Laos and Nth Vietnam – about 15 days in total, on days 18-32 of the program; Possibly in Southern Cambodia for 8 days, days 42-50.
Thailand Summer Program: Very low malaria risk only in Khao Sok National Park portion of program for 4 days, days 21 – 25.
Vietnam & Cambodia Summer Program: Low malaria risk present

The risk of contracting malaria on these programs is very low but does exist. Anti-malarial medication is in the form of oral pills that are taken while in malarial areas. Modern anti-malarial meds have very few side-effects. As you plan your treatment, consider the windows of time before and after exposure that you need to take the medication (varies by option).

Dengue Fever

Students are probably at greater risk of contracting dengue fever or chikungunya, two other mosquito-borne illnesses for which there is no vaccination. We recommend students bring a good insect repellent and the program instructors will brief the group on best practice to avoid bites. All of our accommodation has insect screens or mosquito nets.

Japanese Encephalitis

The risk of contracting Japanese encephalitis, another mosquito borne illness is very low. There is a vaccine for this.

Rabies

The risk of being bitten by an animal in SE Asia is low - dogs are placid and we brief students to stay away from monkeys. If a student is bitten by an animal and has not had the rabies vaccination, this would effectively ruin their program experience, as they would have to travel urgently to a major center - Bangkok, Hanoi, Saigon or Phnom Penh for a shot of RIG (rabies immune globulin) and then a series of rabies vaccine shots over a two week period. If the student has been vaccinated, they would still need a shorter series of post exposure shots (widely available) but would not need the RIG, meaning that their program experience would not be as disrupted. The benefit of vaccination for rabies has to be weighed  against the cost of the vaccine.

Nepal and Tibet

The CDC highly recommends vaccination for Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Rabies. It also recommends that your routine vaccinations are up-to-date.

There are other illnesses that you will be at a much lower risk of contracting to also discuss with your travel doctor. These include:

Malaria

As far as we can ascertain, students will be traveling in areas that malaria is present for a period of 7 days in the Terai region of Nepal. The risk of contracting malaria is very low but is present. Anti-malarial medication is in the form of oral pills that are taken while in malarial areas. Modern anti-malarial meds have very few side-effects. As you plan your treatment, consider the windows of time before and after exposure that you need to take the medication (varies by option).

Dengue Fever

Students are probably at greater risk of contracting dengue fever or chikungunya, two other mosquito-borne illnesses for which there is no vaccination. We recommend students bring a good insect repellent and the program instructors will brief the group on best practice to avoid bites. All of our accommodation in lowland areas where mosquitoes are present has insect screens or mosquito nets.

Japanese Encephalitis

The risk of contracting Japanese encephalitis, another mosquito borne illness is very low. There is a vaccine for this.

Rabies

We request that students on the Nepal and Tibet Semester are vaccinated for Rabies. The risk of being bitten by an animal in Nepal (monkeys) and Tibet (dogs) is reasonably high. We brief students to stay away from monkeys and to carry trekking poles to ward off aggressive dogs in Tibet. If a student was bitten by an animal and had not had the rabies vaccination, this would effectively ruin their program experience, as they would have to travel urgently to a major center such as Beijing, Bangkok, or Singapore for a shot of RIG (rabies immune globulin), which is not reliably available in Nepal or Tibet, and then a series of rabies vaccine shots over a two-week period. If they have been vaccinated, they would still need a shorter series of post-exposure shots (widely available) but would not need the RIG. We have not had any students bitten by an animal in Nepal or Tibet.

South America (Peru & Ecuador)

The CDC highly recommends vaccination for Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Yellow Fever. It also recommends that your routine vaccinations are up-to-date.

There are other illnesses that you will be at a much lower risk of contracting to also discuss with your travel doctor. These include:

Malaria

As far as we can ascertain…
South America Semester: The only malaria risk area is the Amazon Jungle, 10 days, days 39-48.
Peru Summer Program: The only malaria risk area is the Amazon Jungle, 6 days, days 16-21.
Ecuador & Galapagos Summer Program: The only malaria risk area is the Amazon Jungle , 6 days, days 16-21.

The risk of contracting malaria on all these programs is very low but is present. Anti-malarial medication is in the form of oral pills that are taken while in malarial areas. Modern anti-malarial meds have very few side-effects.

Zika Virus

Zika virus is present in Ecuador, and is now in the United States also. Zika virus is spread to people primarily by mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of Zika are flu-like - fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. The current concern with Zika virus is the potential risk to pregnant women of the virus causing birth defects. This is only a risk if the virus is contracted during pregnancy and has no long term effect (e.g. if becoming pregnant after previously having the virus). The best prevention is insect repellent and not being bitten.

Dengue Fever

Students are probably at greatest risk of contracting dengue fever, another mosquito borne illnesses for which there is no vaccination. We recommend students bring a good insect repellent and the program instructors will brief the group on best practice to avoid bites. All of our accommodation has insect screens or mosquito nets.

Rabies

The risk of being bitten by an animal in Peru or Ecuador is low. We brief students to stay away from dogs and monkeys. If a student was bitten by an animal and had not had the rabies vaccination, this would effectively ruin their program experience, as they would have to travel urgently to a major center - Lima or Quito, for a shot of RIG (rabies immune globulin) and then a series of rabies vaccine shots over a two week period. If they have been vaccinated, they would still need a shorter series of post exposure shots (widely available) but would not need the RIG, meaning that their program experience would not be as disrupted. The benefit of vaccination for rabies has to be weighed against the cost as the vaccine is expensive.

Meals

Local Cuisine: An essential part of any travel is to experience the local culture through cuisine, which in itself may be daunting for many students to leave their regular food comfort zone. We encourage students to understand that their regular snacks and meals may not be available in the country they’re traveling to. We encourage our students to join us with an open mind to trying new foods. Also, keep in mind that the variety of foods you’re used to eating at home might not be available in some of the areas we visit, so you might be eating the same kinds of foods each and every day. 

Student-led cooking: On some of our Pacific Discovery programs, the group will be involved in student-led cooking for a portion of their time. In small groups the students plan, budget, and cook for the others, teaching them planning and cooking skills, as well as managing a budget. Our instructors will be there to lend a hand with the planning and suggest recipes suitable for the group. We find that the student-led approach is a great step in personal growth and development, especially in preparation for college life.

All meals are included in the program cost. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians can be accommodated.

Vegetarian or vegan – No problem, we will happily cater to your dietary needs.

Food allergies – We are happy to work with students with food allergies. However, we cannot guarantee non-exposure to allergens and require students to be involved in menu planning to ensure they are not inadvertently exposed to allergens.

Picky eaters - It is easy to work with you if you don’t like tomatoes or don’t like cheese, but on occasion we have had students who basically only eat pizza, or don't eat vegetables, or only eat fried chicken the way their mom makes it. If you are one of these people, please be aware that you will need to step outside of your comfort zone and expand your diet while on our program… Start practicing now ;)

Thailand Program - cooking workshop
Tanner finding his inner chef in Chiang Mai, Thailand

“I had such a great experience growing and learning about myself. I got an in-depth view of what it’s like to live in Thailand and be apart of a new culture, especially during home stays and visiting rural villages.” Not only did I get to travel for almost 3 months and see all the beautiful things that Thailand has to offer, I have also seen the hard truth of a developing country and was able to deepen my global perspective. I was challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone and I’m so grateful I got to experience everything I did.

I would say this program was life-changing and exciting. Not only did I grow as a person, I made lifelong friendships and learned how to deal with situations in group settings. I’ve learned how to be a leader and how to adapt in a new setting, as well as how to be a global citizen and accept new cultures and values. This was a life changing experience not many people will get to have in their lives, and I’m so happy I got to be a part of the lucky few.”
Read more Tanner Barnes, 2021
Thailand Semester Program

Spending money

Spending money usually goes towards drinks and snacks, personal shopping, laundry, internet and entertainment. We recommend that you budget approximately $10/day. Some days you will spend more but other days you'll be on expedition or on a service project and won't spend anything. The amount of spending money you bring really depends on your budget and shopping habits.

We recommend that you bring US$200 cash with you, and have the rest of your spending money on two cards (it is essential to have a back-up in case your first card gets lost or damaged). Debit cards, credit cards, or prepaid travel cards can be used to withdraw local currency from an ATM.

You need to bring this money yourself. You don't need to buy any foreign currency before you leave home.

What cards to bring?

We strongly recommend that students bring two cards carried separately to access money from ATM machines in case a card is eaten by an ATM, damaged, lost or stolen.

Debit cards: If the ATM card from your home bank isn't connected to the worldwide Cirrus or PLUS networks (look on the back of the card for one of these logos), you will need to look into getting a MasterCard or Visa debit card. While they look and can be used like regular charge cards, they actually debit your checking account the same way your ATM card does.

Credit cards: Avoid American Express cards for overseas travel. They are not widely accepted.

Pre-pay travel cards from Visa or MasterCard: These may be offered through your bank and can be used to withdraw cash from ATM’s abroad. If you get one of these, set it up and try it at an ATM before you leave home.

If you are ordering a new card, make sure to allow sufficient time to get it set up, get a pin loaded and test it, prior to program departure. We have had many families rushing to arrange cards a few days ahead of program departure and many students have problems trying to use new cards that have not been properly set up.

With all cards, call the issuing bank and let them know that you’ll be abroad, so that they don’t block transactions.

Security

During program orientation our program instructors discuss budgeting with you and share advice and tips on how to be prudent with money.

They also talk about strategies for keeping money safe, avoiding pick-pocketing, checking for skimming devices inserted into ATM’s and withdrawing funds in a secure location.

In the event that a student loses their wallet, Pacific Discovery can charge a parents credit card and then have the program instructors advance cash to the student, less bank fees and currency exchange losses.

Dominick Baruffi
Dominick, living the dream on the Whanganui river, New Zealand

“The past two months have taught me more about travelling and camping and hiking and adventuring than I ever dreamed possible. However, I am ten times as grateful for the things I've learned about myself. At times I was challenged, frustrated or scared and these lessons will never leave me. Thank you for an amazing two months that I will remember for the rest of my days.” Dominick Baruffi, 2009
Eastern University

Communication

There are many ways in which you can keep in touch with your family and friends while on a program. There will be a group photo album and blog posts on Facebook that your group will post to during the program for family and friends to follow. We will provide instructions for this ahead of your departure.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is available for free at many of the places we stay. During our programs you should be able to access free Wi-Fi at least once a week. You may like to consider bringing a compact Wi-Fi device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Expect the Wi-Fi to be limited – there may not be enough bandwidth for Facetime or Skype calls. Instead, we recommend you use a messaging app for most communication with family and friends.

Tip: Before you leave, go to the website of the airport that you are traveling to and look at the instructions for connecting to the airport Wi-Fi.  Most airports have Wi-Fi but some have strange or extensive login procedures  For instance, you will see the Wi-Fi link available, but it will ask for a user name and password. If you look it up before you depart and screenshot the instructions, it will be easier to access when you land.

Phone

There are two main ways to use your phone abroad. One is to sign up for a ‘global roaming’ plan with your carrier. The other option is to use a local SIM card for each country. We will look at these two options in more depth below. Note: Please look into this information ahead of travel – your program instructors do not have time to sort out phone connection issues for students in-country.

Global Roaming

Find out from your carrier:

  1. Whether your phone can be used abroad?
    If it can’t, your carrier may loan you a phone that can be used abroad.
  2. What kind of global roaming plans they have?
  3. Can they provide service in the country/s you are traveling to?
  4. What the call and data costs are?

Per minute call and per mb data usage can be VERY expensive. The Verizon Global Plan, for instance, costs $40 /month and gets you 100mb of data, 100 SMS texts and 100 minutes of voice calling. Using the ‘Pay as you go’ option, data costs are $2 per Mb and calls are $1.79/min.

Make sure that you know how to turn mobile data off and on, so that you don’t inadvertently use a lot of data. An average young adult with an iPhone will go through several gigabytes in a month at home and will have to drastically alter their device usage habits while abroad.

SIM cards

SIM cards are the link from your handset to a local carrier and take the form of a small chip that is inserted into an unlocked handset. Ask your U.S. carrier if your phone is unlocked and can take a SIM card.  Generally, Verizon is locked, T Mobile is unlocked and AT&T may or may not be.

The way SIM Cards work is that you buy a SIM package that contains a SIM card, a phone number (which will be your phone number once installed) and potentially some bundled minutes and data. Activation varies by country but most vendors can assist you to get up and running. These packages usually work on a pre-pay system and you can easily buy additional calling minutes or data from 7-11 type stores and gas stations etc.

It is very easy to buy a SIM card in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia. However it is more difficult in Nepal, Tibet, Ecuador and Peru as they have to either be registered to a passport or to a local person. This can be both time consuming and impractical given how little time you spend in these countries on our programs.

If you have a locked phone, you can choose to:

  • Buy an unlocked handset – You’ll find a lot for sale on Amazon.
  • Find out if your carrier will loan an unlocked handset.
  • Buy a little unlocked hot spot on Amazon.com for about $40.  Easy to use, fits in your pocket, and connects multiple devices. The benefit to that is that you keep your phone number on your phone and you can share the connection with friends.  The drawback is that it is a little more complicated to set up and you really need to be in a place with good Wi-Fi the first time you use it.  Make sure you set it up before you leave. http://www.amazon.com/Huawei-E5330-Mobile-Hotspot-T-Mobile/dp/B00INXBW3U

(Thanks to Amie Rukenstein for her assistance in compiling this information).

Please note that your program instructors will establish clear guidelines around device-use at the program orientation. This is for safety, cultural sensitivity and group dynamics reasons. You will be discouraged from using your device during activities, service work, expeditions, meal times, and group time.

Tobi Watanabi
Tobi experiences the magic in the ordinary in Quito, Ecuador

“The Ecuador/Galapagos program was hands-down the most incredible thing I've ever experienced. When trying to pick a program, I read many reviews. They all seemed too good to be true ("life changing" "time of my life" "made lifelong friends"). I was skeptical to say the least, but I was so wrong.” I live in Hawaii and have travelled a bit, but nothing compared to what I saw, learned, and experienced on this program. From day one, everyone was hanging out in each other's rooms and getting along wonderfully. You'll be amazed at how close you become with your group in such little time. At the end of the trip, walking each other to our gates at the airport was heartbreaking. Your group members will be incredible, but so will the people you get the privilege of helping. It was so humbling and rewarding. The culture and language immersion was also something that I loved.” Read more Tobi Watanabe, 2014
University of Hawaii

Extending travel plans

An advantage of our semester programs is that they are 10 weeks rather than a full 12-13 week semester which gives students time for independent travel at the conclusion of our programs. Many students choose to continue  their own independent travel adventure once our programs finish, putting into practice travel skills, confidence, and independence learned over the course of our programs.

For each program we have an extension options document with ideas for different post-program experiences and all the information you need to arrange them. We can help with ideas about where to go, what to do, and give some suggestions if you have a particular interest or field that you would like to explore.

Students sometimes struggle to clarify their post-program travel plans ahead of program departure. What we suggest is that students have a flexible return ticket, not lock anything in, and make post-program travel plans with other group members during their Pacific Discovery program.

Emily Vicks
Emily in the glory of snow, Mt Cook, New Zealand

“This experience was a roller coaster of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and unforgettable fun. It was a perfect mix through cities and incredible discovery through the wilderness. This was truly an amazing experience I can't say enough good things about it and how it changed my life.” Emily Vicks, 2012
Middlebury College