International flights

International flights are not included in the program tuition.

We work closely with STA Travel in the USA and recommend that you book your flights with them (if you live in the USA) – 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. You can use the services of STA travel, use a different agency, purchase flights online through an airline directly, or through a site like Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak etc.

Flights from North America to program start and return from program finish

Our groups travel agent will assist you to arrange flights. We prefer you to arrange your flights through our travel agent to simplify arrival logistics, and so that you are travelling to and from the program with others in your group. Pacific Discovery does not charge any fee for assisting with flights – this is a service that we offer to simplify program arrangements for you.

Flights from other countries to program start and return from program finish

We have a group travel agent in the UK, for participants travelling from the UK and Europe. Our travel agent will be able to assist you with flights from your country. You are also welcome to arrange your own flights but please note that it is essential that you arrive in time for program start, to participate in the mandatory program orientation.

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 the likes of STA travel, you will have the support of an STA 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 cools off during a trekking trip in the Nam Ha Biodiversity Conservation Area, in northern Laos.

“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, 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. Pacific Discovery has an umbrella medical and security evacuation insurance. For this to work seamlessly in times of emergency, we request that students purchase a complimentary travel insurance policy for the duration of their Pacific Discovery Program.
  3. Proof of travel insurance must be supplied to the Pacific Discovery office prior to program start by forwarding a copy of the confirmation email from the travel insurance provider showing: your name, policy number, and dates of the policy.

For students within the United States get a quote or purchase your policy now.

For students outside the United States, we recommend that you look at World Nomads "Explorer" level plan to get a quote to cover your needs.

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.

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.

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. For US travelers the Travel Guard policy covers all activities on our programs. 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.

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.

Maddie experiences the greatness of the Angkor temples, Cambodia

“During my senior year of high school I was put into a situation I never imagined would happen to me. I was accepted at my dream school as a February admit. For the first time in my life I had an extended period of free time where I could do anything in the world; and that frightened me.” I knew I wanted to travel to a new place, but not on my own. I discovered Pacific Discovery and knew immediately that this program was the answer I was searching for. From day one it was obvious that this was going to be a life changing experience. We had two amazing, organized, and fun leaders who were ready to push us to get the best cultural experience while also creating friendships. Each day at Pacific Discovery entails a great new adventure. You visit temples, go rock climbing, bathe elephants, bike around ruins, etc. The amount of adventures you have are almost inexplicable, but for me the best part of this program was having these crazy adventures with all of my friends. This program allowed for me to make many lifetime friends that I am still very much in touch with to this day! I cannot recommend this program enough.” Read more Maddie Nunez, 2013
Middlebury College

Accommodation

Accommodation will vary from simple guesthouses with shared facilities, to modern hotels with private bathrooms. Depending on the program, our groups also do homestays in rural villages, camp in stunning outdoor locations, and stay in accommodations as diverse as boats, railway carriages, and private beach houses.

We try to stay in smaller, locally owned establishments so that money spent on accommodation stays in the local community and so that we remain a part of the local community instead of being cut off and insulated from it.

We want our students to be able to return to their rooms and relax so that they can make the most of their time in a location. For this reason, we tend to stay in a good quality accommodations and students are usually pleasantly surprised. However, there will be times when students will be staying in accommodation which is outside of their comfort zone such as a rural village homestay. We encourage our students to embrace these new experiences with an open-mind and gratitude to their hosts for being open to having guests.

Hostels

In New Zealand and Australia the group often stays in traveler hostels. We primarily stay in YHA (Youth Hostel Association) hostels in these countries because the YHA is a non-profit with a commitment to sustainability. Their hostels are professionally managed and are well set up for group self-catering. Hostels are typically 4-share rooms with a shared bathroom.

Guesthouses

In the developing world the majority of our accommodations are in family-owned guesthouses. These are smaller 10-20 room family run hotels. Rooms are typically twin-share and there is usually an attached bathroom.

Homestays

In Nepal & Tibet and South America our groups’ homestay in villages. We have met these families and have no safety concerns. Students are always staying with at least one other student in these homestays. In Southeast Asia the groups tend to homestay in a group house within a village, rather than being split between individual families.

Laundry

Access to laundry facilities varies by program:
New Zealand & Australia - When not on service projects or expeditions, our accommodation will have coin operated washers and dryers.
Southeast Asia – laundry service available in all major towns and cities. 5-6 days is the longest you’ll have to go without access to a laundry service.
South America – laundry service available in all major towns and cities. 5-6 days is the longest you’ll have to go without access to a laundry service.
Nepal & Tibet – laundry service available in all major towns and cities. the longest you’ll have to go without access to a laundry service is 13 days on the trek, 10 days during the service project and a week in Tibet. During these times you will be able to hand wash and line-dry items yourself.

Jennifer spends some valuable time with elephants in Thailand

“The whole program completely exceeded all of my expectations. There was a perfect balance between sight-seeing and educational and voluntary components, and between scheduled group activities and free time to explore. Although I am a confident solo traveler, joining the program gave me the opportunity to have so many experiences I may have not been able to organize, or wouldn't have thought to organize for myself.” This has given me a much more rounded and complete impression of the countries we visited. It also challenged me so much more than I would have challenged myself, and I am coming home a happier, stronger and more confident version of me because of it. The program as a whole has increased my knowledge of the world we live in; different cultures, religious beliefs, and history, and how these things affect how a country functions and views both internal and external affairs. It was in particular the voluntary work, home stays and educational components which did this. I came home much more able to put my life and the things which happen in it into perspective, and much more aware of one human's ability to positively impact the world we live in.” Read more Jennifer Ward, 2014
University of Sheffield

Overland travel

In New Zealand and Australia we use our own vans and luggage trailers driven by our program instructors. Our instructors hold professional bus driver's licenses.

In all other regions we charter private transport with door-to-door service for longer distance travel. This is so that we can maximize the time on the program and provide better personal safety and security of luggage. Taking public transport would be less expensive, but is not as safe, or as comfortable and takes longer.

We plan our travel so that the groups travel during the day and are not on the roads at night.

For shorter distances, if we are not transporting all our gear, we utilize all sorts of local public transport to give students the flavor of the area and to fit in to the local culture and lifestyle.

Jacqui pushes the bus up a sand track on Fraser Island, Australia

“This was without a doubt the best 2 months of my life. It blew my mind how amazing it was and the amount of breath taking places we got to see and explore. I don't think I’ll ever stop talking about this trip.” If I could relive these past few months for the rest of my life I would without a doubt. Doing this program was the best choice I have ever made. Pacific Discovery you were my friends, my family, and my home. I know we will all stay connected forever! No one will ever know just how insane and awesome of an experience we had. We are a few of the luckiest people on the planet. This really was the best 2 months of my life. I’ve learned so much and grown so much and it’s all around made me a much happier person and definitely built up a thirst for traveling and exploring. Even if that means putting on my hiking boots and headlight and exploring through the woods. Thank you so, so, so, much! This program, and you guys are amazing. I will never ever forget a single moment.” Read more Jacqui Ventrano, 2011
Loyola University

Meals

Tasting different cuisines is a highlight of travelling and there are many opportunities on our programs to taste the best of what each region has to offer.

All meals are included in the program cost.

On New Zealand and Australia programs, students self-cater most meals during the program. Meals will fresh, healthy, and varied.  Breakfasts include a choice of cereals, toast, fresh fruit, and coffee.  Lunches are usually sandwiches and wraps. Dinners are varied, from fresh salads and BBQ, to curries and stir-fry, to simple camping meals during expeditions.

In Southeast Asia, Nepal & Tibet and South America meals will either be provided set-menu or buffet style, or you will eat out in cafés and restaurants where you can choose what to order. There will be a good mix of local and western meals.

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 ;)

Paleo diets – If you are health conscious and eat a high protein diet without carbs and starches, please be aware that eating in this way is more expensive to cater for than a regular diet. Our program instructors have a meal budget they need to manage and you may be required to contribute to the additional costs for your meals.

Oliver finding his inner chef in Chiang Mai, Thailand

“My Pacific Discovery program was excellent and I could really appreciate how much thought and experience went into designing the itinerary. The ratio of structured to free time, and the degree of freedom we had felt about perfect.” The program really taught me to be open-minded and adventurous when traveling and also in everyday life, as many of my favorite experiences were parts of the program that I wasn't initially too excited about.” Read more Oliver Hansen, 2015
Harvard University

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, 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 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 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

Packing Lists

For each of our programs we have comprehensive program-specific Packing Lists and Gear Tips. This information is shared with students and families after you have been accepted to a program - along with other important program-specific information such as international flight requirements, health and vaccination updates, budgeting and spending money relevant to your program, an introduction to your instructors, and a helpful checklist for getting ready for your program.

 

Ahladini at Elephant Nature Park, Thailand

“I had travelled through six of the seven continents before coming on this program but this was by far the most amazing experience I have had travelling. The kinds of people that Pacific Discovery attracts are intelligent, aware, curious, open-minded, adventurous and so openhearted.” Being able to experience the rich diverse tastes, sounds, sights, and cultures of Southeast Asia with this type of group made for a truly unforgettable experience. The trip takes you from the rural villages of Lao to the bustling cities of Vietnam and gives you the freedom and independence to get a taste of what it's like in each place we visit. Along the way we also learn about travelling itself and how to be a safe travel, being responsible in regards to both yourself and the places you are visiting.” Read more Ahladini Veerina, 2016
Occidental College

Mental preparation for Travel

Travel is often romanticized, yet the reality of life on the road is that it can be tough at times – broken night’s sleep, strange bathrooms, being tired, unappetizing food etc…’Go with the flow’ is the best advice we can give.

Travel teaches a lot of valuable lessons - how to communicate and relate to people from different cultures; how to be self-reliant; how to assess risk and exercise good judgement; how to be happy with few possessions and a simple life; and how to overcome temporary discomfort, becoming more resilient in the process. Travel ultimately exposes students to the myriad possibilities in the world and their lives and allows for personal growth free from the expectations of family, peers and co-workers.

Our goal is that students will learn the ‘art of travel’ - what to take, how to plan, how to keep safe, how to find what you need in an unfamiliar place, how to get comfortable with discomfort. By the end of a semester program, we expect most students will have learned the skills necessary to travel safely and independently anywhere on earth.

To mentally prepare for the program we suggest three things...

  1. Start a journal, where you tease out what it is you want to gain from the program experience. This will help you focus on your goals during the difficult parts of the program. It is much easier to cope with adversity if you have clear reasons for being there.  You can also journal about what you think you'll find hardest...cultural immersion, physical challenges or traveling in a group. You can then think put thought into how you'll manage these difficulties.
  2. Learn about the region you will be visiting. There is a suggested reading list for your program in the student log-in area. Alternatively, you can online search some of the locations you will be visiting to see images and gain a sense of what it will be like that way.
  3. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise will help you overcome physical challenges, lessen discomfort and will make you feel happier.
Jennifer faces her fears whilst rock climbing in Wanaka, New Zealand

“This was the most emotionally and physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life, but it was so incredible and I wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again.” Jennifer Crandall, 2015
University of Vermont