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Plan a Humanitarian Trip

If you want to follow the lead of John Markowitz and his team from the Upper Valley and plan a humanitarian trip to a less-developed country, here are some things to keep in mind before you go:

  • Get familiar with the local language. Download Google Translator onto your phone in case you can’t get a signal or Internet access when you need it.
  • Research the local electrical current. You will need an adapter to charge your electronic devices if you travel outside North America.
  • Use only bottled water (and other beverages) for drinking and brushing your teeth.
  • Avoid ice cubes. You won’t be much help if you get sick.
  • Eat only food that’s cooked or that you’ve washed and peeled yourself.
  • Hire local guides who speak English. Be clear about where you want to go and your goals when you get there.
  • Be fluid about schedules and travel times. Americans tend to be more uptight about time than locals. You’ll get there eventually.
  • Bring layers of clothing for a range of conditions. Potential weather extremes change not only with latitude but also with elevation.
  • Pack lightly. Laundry is cheap and vehicles may be small. Pavement may be rough or scarce, making lugging bulky bags a challenge.
  • Get local currency from ATMs. Be sure to let your bank know where you’re going before you depart so your card works.
  • Bring US dollars in small bills. If you don’t have local currency, sometimes locals will take dollars.
  • Check your passport’s expiration date. If it’s within six months of expiring, renew it before you go. Some countries will not let you enter if you’re within this window.
  • Check whether you need a visa well before you depart. Some countries require it, and it can take a couple of months to get one.
  • Bring a copy of your passport, inoculation record, and the numbers on your other IDs and credit cards. Store them in a separate place in case you lose the real ones.
  • Check the Centers for Disease Control’s website ( to educate yourself about traveler’s warnings in the location where you are going. You might need shots before you go, which requires lead time.
  • Bring the address and phone number of the American embassy or consulate nearest the place(s) where you will travel, just in case.
  • Consider trip and medical insurance. In case of emergency, your health insurance may not cover you. Local hospitals often ask for payment up front.
 What are your travel tips? Let us know in the comments! 

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