FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

ABOUT MISSION TRIPS TO LA GUAJIRA, COLOMBIA


Is there a minimum age to go on a trip?
Individuals who wish to travel as part of the mission team must be 18 years of age or older. Due to harsh weather conditions, long traveling distances, risk and vulnerability of contracting disease, and the long hours of non-stop work, children under 18 years of age are not permitted to travel with the team during mission days. Children under 18 years of age may come to special events days during our mission trip, accompanied by an adult -parent or guardian. A Responsibility & Permission Form must be filled and signed by the responsible adult(s). We advise you check the airline and border security policies regarding traveling with minors to and from Colombia. Please follow up the rules and regulations to ensure you have the proper documentation.


Do I need a visa?
All U.S. citizens who do not also hold Colombian citizenship must present a valid US passport to enter and depart Colombia. U.S. citizens traveling to Colombia do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist/business stay of 90 days or less. A Temporary Work Visa TP4 may be required if not traveling as a tourist. Please contact us for more information.


What airline should I fly, and how much does the ticket cost?
We recommend Spirit Airlines, if there's flights available from your location to Cartagena, Colombia (COL). They have the best deals; usually prices range between $350 - $500 round trip during low seasons, and $500 - $800 during hi seasons. If you can't make arrangements through Spirit, there are other airlines that go to Colombia, and fly directly to Barranquilla, Colombia (COL), like American Airlines and Avianca.


What should I pack?
Most airlines allow a one-free carry-on. We recommend a medium size backpack that can be useful later on during the mission, to store food, extra clothing, water, and personal necessities. With Spirit, you will have to pay per 40-pound limit luggage. Since the weather is hot and humid, we recommend you pack jeans, shorts, and short sleeve shirts. For the rocky and sandy terrain we recommend you bring your tennis or hiking shoes. Make sure you bring a hat or scarf to cover your head and hair from the sun's heat, and to avoid contracting lice. It's not a bad idea to pack a lice shampoo... you will also need bug repellent spray, sun block lotion, and don't forget your shampoo and conditioner! And, if there's a chance from the busy schedule to enjoy the beautiful ocean, it's not a bad idea to bring your swimming suits or trunks and sandals! You are welcome to bring with you any donations that you may want to give to the children, like pencils, crayons, pencil cases, erasers, flip flops, clothing items, or small toys. Customs allow merchandise in quantities of 15-20 of its own kind. Please remove any tags. Food items will not pass through customs.


Can I bring electronics?
Yes. But keep in mind that while hotels and guesthouses have electrical outlets to charge cellphones and tablets overnight, during a normal mission day you probably won't have access to too many electrical outlets when your battery runs out of charge. We recommend you bring portable battery chargers if you need your devices working the whole day. The same applies to the wifi and cellphone service. You will be able to enjoy wifi and good cel signal in the hotel or guesthouse, but you may experience loss of connection in most mission locations. If you are bringing your cellphone or tablet, we encourage you to take some memorable photos and videos, and document your experience, but we also recommend that you stay focus on the mission and avoid getting distracted by the electronics too much. The less distractions you have, the more effective your ministry will be, and the better relationships you will be able to make during your trip. Also, be aware that electronics you bring, are your responsibility. If your phone is unlocked and can accept a pre-paid SIM card, you can purchase or rent one in either Barranquilla, Cartagena, or Riohacha. Let us know ahead of time you will be needing one so we can include the stop in our schedule.


Is it safe where we are going?
As with any unfamiliar area, there are always inherent dangers, but the majority come from our own lack of information and understanding leading us into potentially dangerous situations. For this reason, we do have some safety precautions laid out for your protection. The areas in Colombia we visit are generally safe, as long as you pay attention to what our staff tell you about what is and is not permitted, and convenient or not to do. Our staff strive to keep you safe so that you can have a fulfilling and effective trip, and leave with a positive impression and experience, but it is up to you to follow their directions! If you decide to go against our safety precautions and instructions, we are not responsible for any injury or negative experience you incur. An update regarding security has come to our attention on January 26th, 2017 about the city of Barranquilla, place where we pack and travel from. The city has been experiencing an outrageous number of armed robberies in main public places, at different hours of the day. We will take additional safety precautions while in Barranquilla, and count with the presence of guards during our stay.


What safety precautions should I follow?
It is exciting to go to a new place and explore, visit, experience, meet people, eat, and shop. And while all this keeps us distracted, sometimes we fail to pay attention to our surroundings. It is important that you follow these safety precautions:

1. Local team volunteers kindly offer to transport the mission team members from point A to point B. We prefer if you stick to riding with them. But, if you decide to use other means of transportation, please never take a taxi cab by yourself. Stay in a group of four or more. Do not pick taxis on the street. Ask a team member to help you call a reputable taxi station to request service safely.
2. With cellphones becoming fancier, more popular, and more expensive, they are increasingly liable to being stolen. Colombia is known for having one of the highest rates of cellphone thefts. For your security, don't take your cellphone or tablets out in public areas, visible to strangers, specially in the city of Barranquilla. Don't leave your device at the edge of tables while eating out. Do not wear apple earphones or flashy headphones. If you become a victim of theft, please do not try to put resistance to armed thieves. Install anti phone theft software. The software enables you to remotely contact your mobile and stay in control.
4. Street peddlers target internationals. The beautiful authentic goods will catch your attention, but will cost you three and four times more if you try to make a purchase by yourself. Shop with the help of a team local.
5. Don't take out of your pocket large amounts of cash in front of strangers. Try to separate your money into small amounts.


What kind of currency do I need?
If bringing cash, it is best to exchange dollars to pesos at a Colombian local 'exchange house' in order to get a fair deal. Our team will schedule a date to visit one in Barranquilla. The exchange right now varies weekly between $2,900 pesos and $3,100 pesos for $1US dollars. The dollar is accepted in airport stores, but at a higher exchange. We recommend you bring your US Visa or Mastercard, in case you have emergencies. Bank cards and credit cards work in all stores and ATMs of Colombia. The ATMs dispense pesos at the current exchange rate. ATM fees are very low.


What about terrorism?
Tens of thousands of US citizens safely visit Colombia each year for tourism, business, university studies, and volunteer work. In more than a decade there have been no reports of US citizens targeted specifically for their nationality by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) or the ELN (National Liberation Army). As of February 1st, 2017, there is no nationwide advisory in effect for Colombia. However, we always exercise a high degree of caution due to the unpredictable security situation. Most rural areas of Colombia have the presence of illegal armed groups. The cities and rural areas we visit are among the globally known exceptions: Barranquilla, Cartagena, and the northern part of La Guajira.


Is the water safe to drink?
In the main cities we visit, Barranquilla and Cartagena, tap water is filtered and treated. Ingesting small quantities when brushing your teeth or taking a bath won't hurt you. Drinking it in large quantities, and from different places, is another story. People in each city have grown immune to the particular bacteria and parasites found in their water, and still, most of them prefer to buy filtered bottled water. Even if you have the boldest of intestines, there's still a health risk when ingesting large quantities of tap water your stomach is not used to. And, in La Guajira the risk is greater. It is not recommended to drink water, unless it is water in a bottle. During our missions we provide cold filtered bottled water to the team. The rest of your stay, if you decide to visit a restaurant, or in the hotel, please practice health safety and spend the extra dollar in filtered bottled water.


What about Chikungunya and Zika Viruses?
The Chikungunya Virus and Zika Virus have affected Colombians for the past 4 years. Both mosquitoe-bite transmitted infections are declining. We still advise you to keep an EPA-registered insect repellent handy and spray yourself daily.


Do I need vaccinations for my trip?
No shots or additional vaccinations are required to enter Colombia. It is up to you to visit a local Clinic or Doctor's office for a consultation, and to get any needed shots or prescriptions before you travel.


What if I get sick?
We provide you with basic first aid supplies. Band-Aids, Alka-Seltzer, antiseptic, and aspirin. In case of emergency, we'll take you to the nearest Clinic and you will be responsible for the costs of treatment and prescribed medicine.You are fully responsible for consequences of any illnesses you contract. Please practice safety and make sure to bring medications you need for any health condition you may have. Some health insurance companies will cover parts of your medical expense overseas, so be sure to check with your health insurance to see what services they offer in Colombia.