Should I pay for volunteering?

Yes and no. First you need to evaluate your attitude.

When travelling to Kenya for the first time, I used two organisations to get there. One German and one Kenyan one. The German organisation prepared me with two seminars and connected me to the Kenyan organisation. The Kenyan organisation connected me to an orphanage and two other projects where I could stay and volunteer.

The opening ceremony for one of the projects was a fundraising. Local officials gave speeches and some women donned them with glittering chains that I just know as Christmas tree decoration. The volunteers, a bunch of slightly overwhelmed graduates from Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Finland had to introduce themselves, and everybody said how happy and grateful they were to be here and motivated to work together.

The fundraising followed the common structure: Somebody announced that they were collecting money to support the project we were all going to work in. Then people went in front and gave out money which was collected in a pot or on a plate. Often, politicians use such fundraisings to make themselves known as supporters of certain causes, as they are also the guests of honour of such occasions and draw attention to the project.

counting money copy

counting money at a fundraising 

When the officials and the project hosts had contributed, something awkward happened:

Continue reading

Advertisements

How I travel on a low budget in Kenya

and why a change in perspective is the key to all richness

Just to warn you: This is much more a blog post on your own attitude and how it can help you deal with the money issue while travelling. It’s not a guide to budget travel. BUT: With the right perspective, money issues become much easier to handle.

I went to Kenya as a volunteer because I didn’t have money. Or at least, that was one of the many reasons. I was fascinated by the African continent and I wanted to get in touch with people instead of visiting the place as a tourist.

In fact, travelling as a volunteer may not be as money-saving as you think.

I paid for my flight tickets, the German organisation that connected me to the Kenyan one, and for them I paid again, for hosting and food. Regardless for me, after finishing school, volunteering was a cheaper option to travel.

It is always good to have a bit of a buffer on your account when going abroad. Many people work extra and save money for their big trip. Tara wrote a non BS guide on how she earns money for travelling

It’s hard earned money. And it’s precious, so you don’t want to waste it.

Continue reading

Keeping your travel tech simple

in order to be a more responsible travel blogger

The [last post of this series] on Responsible Travel Blogging should have helped you to choose the right format for reporting about your trip. You may have even set up your blog already, or opened a group on social media.

Now you wonder what you need to carry in order to keep people at home updated.

The most important thing is to find out about internet access, because for reporting to friends this is often the cheapest way.

Internet

You can check [nomadlist.com ] for a quick overview of big cities worldwide. But if you are travelling to the rural areas, free internet access is not always guaranteed.

I used to take notes for blog posts on a piece of paper, while still on the countryside, and I took it with me when we went to the next town. In the cybercafé the notes became a blog post that had to be sent immediately, because I never knew when I would have access to internet next time.

Continue reading

Choose your format for Responsible Travel Blogging

How and why to publish through email, on blogs, social media or WhatsApp.

My first travel blogs fulfilled the sole purpose to keep my family and friends updated. I just wrote, added some pictures and then published without editing. The posts were long, because I wrote twice a month and a lot used to happen within two weeks. The response was scarce, but friends and acquaintances generally were interested in my journey and I was sure they were reading.

If you are thinking of opening a travel blog, these are the first two questions you need to ask yourself:

Why are you writing?

Who is your audience?

These questions go hand in hand. If you are writing to keep your family and friends updated, they are your audience. But don’t underestimate the bragging power of parents: My dad started sending the links to the blog posts to his colleagues and friends, because he liked them so much. So the private audience quickly became a bunch of people I didn’t even know.

Ask yourself why, how and when they are reading or following you. Are they going to read long texts? Or are short videos better (Periscope)? What about daily quick thoughts and photos (Twitter / Instagram)?

Maybe you are a professional travel blogger, or want to become one. Or you want to journal for your own benefit. Whatever your reason to publish and whoever your audience determines your platform and format for travel blogging.

Continue reading

All you need to carry for your journey: Your Ultimate Packing List

Why packing lightly makes you a more responsible traveller – and how to do it

Some fear it, some love it. Some do it four days in advance with a well-prepared list, some throw everything together in the last minute. We are talking about packing for your trip.

It’s especially hard to pack for a trip to a country or continent you have never been before. We’ll give you the ultimate packing list for responsible travel, which in this case also means light travel.

There are two simple steps for relaxed packing.

  1. You need a bit of time, but not necessarily a list. Go through each room in your house or apartment and pick all the things you think you need from there. Collect them in a bag, box or basket and before leaving the room, already try to sort out half of the stuff. Then pile the rest on the floor or your bed and go to the next room.
  2. Once you have collected all the things you think you need, sort out half of the things again. I know, it sounds hard, but give it a try. You will thank me later.

Carry only things that you will need at least twice every week (That’s a great tip from Conni of [planetbackpack.de].

Digitise!

No need to bring books, guides and journals. They all fit in one slim multipurposeful device.

(Disclaimer: I DON’T own such a device. I’m an old school soul and swear by real paper books and I journal and scrap book like crazy. But I buy, read and leave my books in the country, and I don’t use guide books anyway. And yes, I stopped collecting supermarket receipts and tickets from every single bus ride I ever took.)

Always consider eco-friendliness of your products and baggage.

They are often great in multipurpose usage. There is organic soap for skin and hair (and sometimes even hand laundry), and lotion for body and face, for example.

Carry lightly.

Backpacks are often better than trolleys, especially if you don’t expect smooth and tarmacked walk ways everywhere.

denno

The ultimate challenge

Try to travel only with hand-luggage. Although I have never managed to do that, it’s one of my big dreams and I admire everyone [who already ] [does it]. You have so much more freedom and less stress when travelling and moving around.

Continue reading

All you need to know about transport, logistics, phone and internet when travelling

Transport

Once you know where you want to travel, you may wonder how to do so. Most likely you’ll be flying, but how do you continue afterwards? Guidebooks can be a good option to check different possibilities for different routes within one country and how to get from one country to the next. The guidebook for Kenya by Lonely Planet, for instance, often describes the exact routes of public transport or which line to use to get to a specific sight.

Much better, though, are people who are or have recently been there, and those who live there.

Often it is sufficient to make bookings one day prior to your tour or day trip, if at all.

Try to settle first, for a day or two, in the town where you land. Then you can get helpful information on how to continue. Hotels, organisations and hosts often have contacts and can help you organise the continuation of your journey.

In Kenya, a common means of transport are matatus, small vans with 10 to 30 seats. Depending on their route and whether they operate within Nairobi or carry passengers from town to town, they are pimped and tuned, play the latest Kenyan or Nigerian music very loudly and they may or may not carry excess passengers.

Continue reading

All you need to do to stay healthy on your trip

Vaccination

Before going to a different country, collect recommendations for vaccinations. You will get the best advice at a tropical health institute. Make an appointment early enough and carry your vaccination certificates. Their staff are able to give you exact and up-to-date recommendations specifically for the trip you are planning and your conditions. Some vaccinations may need several refreshment shots, some will interfere with others, so again: Make sure to start early.

You could also ask your doctor and contact people who are travelling there right now or have recently returned.

In order to enter certain countries, for example D.R. Congo, you must prove that you are vaccinated against yellow fever. It is necessary to get that shot and be able to produce a valid certificate. I got vaccinated against yellow fever in Germany, but I could have done it in Kenya, too. If you are doing a longer trip though several countries, find out what the exact conditions are and what suits you best.

Check with your insurance what they will pay for.

A note on malaria

There are a few medications on the market that serve as prophylaxis against malaria. They differ in possible side-effects, doses and prices. I tried one in two different cases and had very few problems. But I have also seen people getting malaria despite taking these pills. I have met people suffering heavily from the side effects. And I have had malaria myself several times and some relatives and friends got it.

Continue reading

All you need to know about visa, flights, travel documents and money

Everything you can prepare for your trip – with helpful printable checklists

In this series we focus on all the technical, pragmatic stuff you should take care of before you start your trip. We tried to keep them as general as possible, but different countries of destination have different processes. Since these things are sometimes overwhelming, you can download and print checklists at the end of the posts to keep track of what you have to do.

Visa

The first thing to check, even before applying for your visa, is your passport and its expiry date. Will it be valid until you return to your home country? Is it damaged? Does the photo still comply with your appearance?

Then collect information about visa requirements for the country or countries you want to visit. Check the websites of embassies, trustworthy guidebooks, blogs or forums. Also check back with people from your own country who have been there. Contact bloggers or websites directly and ask them for specific advice for certain countries.

What are the specific requirements? Do you need certain vaccinations? A certain amount of money on your account? A letter of invitation? (Sometimes it must include specific information or be written in a certain format.) How much does it cost?

Sometimes you can get the visa at the airport upon arrival. Check which currency you can pay it with. If you have time, though, doing it in advance is what I’d advise you to do. It saves you time and stress when arriving. If you apply for visa or other documents in advance, make copies before you send out originals.

In addition to the visa, when arriving in Kenya I always had to fill an entry form. Sometimes marking “voluntary work” as the purpose of entry was a bit tricky. It is often easier to tick “tourism”. A tourist visa may not officially allow you to do voluntary work.

In case you want to travel to several countries: What makes more sense? One multiple-entry visa or several single visa for the specific countries? Compare finances, flexibility and conditions. Will you be able to change your plans if you have the single visas fixed in your passport?

Bureaucracy in your country of destination may work differently. If you continue your trip into the neighbouring country, make sure to find out in advance where you can do that and what documents and procedures are required in that case. Not all border crossing places issue a visa.

Carry all documents you can imagine being helpful, especially if they have a government stamp. Consider that translation might be necessary. And remember: It takes time!

For some countries there are commercial visa agencies you can pay to do the work for you. Be a bit careful and trust other travellers who successfully have used them before.

Don’t risk to overstay the expiry date of your visa. Make sure to start the process for the extension a couple of days in advance.

For perfectly relaxed visa planning download and print this free checklist.

visa screen shot

Flight

If you apply for a visa in advance, you may need to know the time period you will be in the country. I haven’t found a proven strategy for booking cheap flights. But here are some common strategies for cheapest prices:

  • The earlier, the better. Start looking for flights even ten months in advance!
  • Compare prices.
  • Countercheck on the website of the airline you consider flying with. Sometimes booking can be cheaper there than on a platform.
  • Are there cheap airlines from the country you want to go to? Sign up for their newsletters. When do they announce sales?
  • Set up an alert.
  • Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
  • Book at night.
  • Check blogs that provide information about error fares and special offers.
  • Be flexible with dates and location, if you can.
  • Use Privacy Mode or something similar in your browser, in order to avoid cookies and the collection of your data. If the booking platform realises that you are comparing certain flights over and over, they automatically raise the price.
  • Consider consulting a travel agent or a special student travel office at your university.

Consider how much time you want to spend in a transfer. Are there special packages to be able to get a refund in case you have to cancel the flight?

How much luggage are you allowed to bring?

What time of the day will you arrive? Is it convenient for someone to pick you or will you have to wait?

Stress free flight booking works well with this free checklist.

documents print

 Documents

It’s advisable to walk everywhere and anytime with a copy or a registered / certified copy of your passport, including the visa. Like that, you can prove your identity if necessary and if you lose it, you still have the original.

Some countries require you to prove certain vaccinations. Make sure to have those.

Leave copies of all important documents, including front and back of any money cards, at home with someone you could get in touch with while abroad.

Scan your documents and save them in your email or the cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.). If you feel comfortable, give someone else access to these files, in case you are not able to access internet. You can also store the documents on a flash drive that you carry.

These documents include:

  • tickets
  • passport
  • ID
  • international driving license. How to make it international?
  • vaccination certificate(s)
  • insurance policies, forms to be filled by the doctor in case of sickness, phone number
  • PIN / TAN-list for online banking
  • emergency number for the bank
  • (certified) copies of everything
  • any additional documents for special cases: research permit, disability certificate, student pass, invitation from the host, …
  • contact addresses and phone numbers of your host, friend, organisation etc.at the destination
  • passport photos

Some embassies offer registration of their country people in the new destination. If you want, you can let them know that you are in the country, provide them with your address and local phone number.

In case you have donated blood before, you may have a passport-like document showing your blood group. It is a good idea to carry that as well.

Store these things flat, stable and waterproof.

We had a couple of our certificates laminated, because they went through so many hands that they started to get small cracks.

Empower somebody who remains at home to be your legal representative with a letter of attorney, in case something needs to be signed, collected etc.

Don’t fear to forget anything. This printable list is complete.

documents screeen shot

Money and banking

Collect information about the currency in your country. Maybe you can get information from your bank about what is best for your trip.

Check whether your cards are valid long enough.

Not everywhere can you pay with credit cards. Are there ATMs around?

Schedule or pay all necessary expenditures in advance, for example rent, and cancel all subscriptions for the time you will not be around.

Some countries have cultural specifics when it comes to money. In D.R. Congo, for example, people would accept US dollars, but only in specific contexts and only if they looked like freshly printed and were not folded. In Kenya, the best place to change Euros was in the casinos in town because they had the best rates, not the exchange bureaus.

Should you get the foreign currency ahead of time or just change upon arrival? How much is necessary, for example, for visa and transport from the airport?

The best advisors for these cases have proven to be travel websites, guidebooks and especially people who have travelled there.

Yes, we also have a printable checklist for your travel finances. Right here.

Did we miss something? What is your biggest piece of advice? Let us know in the comments below!

 

email signup posts

When you are feeling guilty, do this

Why I sometimes feel guilty in Kenya and what I do about it

When I came to Kenya the first time, something I call “white guilt” struck me. I felt guilty for having been born in a privileged country like Germany. I was wondering: Why had it been me who had been born by a German mother in a German hospital, with electricity and insurance and autobahn and good education? Could not have somebody, who is now living in a slum in Nairobi or in a clay house on the countryside, arrived there on my behalf? Was it not unfair that I had all these privileges and someone else on the other side of the equator didn’t?

And all the stuff we had at home!

Bathtubs and toilet paper handles and several sets of towels and several sets of dishes, a car, canned food for the dog and dry sweets for the guinea pigs, tile roofs and iPads and seven different types of milk. And all the money and access and possibilities to buy them.

And all the stupid stuff that my country and my continent had been doing to Kenya and the African continent: missionary undertakings, colonial expeditions, economic exploitation, geographical fragmentation. And what they still did to it: exploitation of resources and labour, marginalisation, stigmatisation, taking influence with moral, financial and social measures…

I was in the middle of this. Actually, I was clearly from the bad side. So I felt guilty and that numbed me down and made me feel powerless and sad and angry.

Obviously, feeling guilty is the solution to nothing. After reflections, interactions and research and many years later, I have mostly overcome that feeling of guilt and realised that it isn’t all my fault. Nowadays I am very grateful for having been born in a country that enabled me with the possibility and – yes – the privilege, to make these experiences, learn from them and become proactive.

I turned my guilt into my personal responsibility to adapt a certain attitude of awareness, and to travel carefully and respectfully.

This is how in the long run, Bandika Travel Connectors was born.simbi group

If you are feeling similar “white guilt”, here is what you can do:

  1. Recognise the feeling. Don’t just brush it away as home sickness or culture shock or the side effects of malaria prophylaxis. Those are different. If you are feeling miserable because of your origin, accept that and properly examine it.
  2. Examine what you are really sad or angry about, either in your mind or on a paper, maybe in your travel diary. Are they general points or do you have concrete examples? Do you, for example, find it unfair that you can easily get a visa to Kenya, but your Kenyan friend will have to struggle for a German one? Do you generally feel sad about how the BBC is reporting on African issues? Or do you feel plain shame for British colonialism in Africa?
  3. Examine your points and find out which ones you can influence and which ones are beyond your power. You cannot make history undone, for example. But you can try to do some research on it, or plan to do it once you are back in your home country. If you feel that the dumping of second hand clothes from your country in the global South is destroying the local textile industry, you can take action by telling others about it and stop donating second hand clothes to charities.
  4. But before you tell others about it from an expert standpoint, it is crucial to pause. Don’t write an email or Facebook post in the rush of your emotions. Try to talk to others in similar situations first, talk to people you are living or working with, your hosts, other volunteers, maybe your sending organisation. Get other viewpoints and clarification and try to balance your view and expand your emotions to be a foundation of knowledge.
  5. Let go of the guilt for the things you have no influence on and take action on one point you may be able to change. Don’t do it if you only want to calm your conscience. Do it because you realised your responsibility.

Accept that you can’t change the world. But you can move within it in an aware and responsible way, gaining knowledge and sharing experiences.

How do you deal with feeling uncomfortable or guilty while travelling? Let us know in the comments below!


This free worksheet shows you once more how to deal with your own confusion, resistance, and guilt.

12 LC DP

It’s part of our free online course to help you travel consciously, which you can join here. It’s full of helpful videos, curated articles, real life examples and printable prompts for your diary to make you more aware while travelling or volunteering.

join email course banner

email signup posts

How to bargain at the market

I am horrible in bargaining! It’s usually making me uncomfortable and I often pay more than people who are better in bargaining. That’s why I do the little shopping that includes bargaining with Antony, who is great in it and often gets good deals.

But bargaining is an art, and it needs to be approached carefully.

Here are some hints how to do it respectfully. All our bargaining experience stems from Kenya but we imagine that the basics apply to more countries.

What to bargain about

  • Clothes and shoes in markets or stalls
  • Souvenirs and gifts
  • Furniture or anything handmade on the street or in a shop
  • Services like tailoring, repairs, fixing of shoes, although some of them have commonly known fixed prices
  • Household items being sold by street vendors

Asking for a discount

If you buy a big amount of things from one person, you can ask for a discount, that will “make you come back again”. We often get one extra tomato or an extra sweet potato from the vegetable sellers who know us. One chili pepper, for instance, costs one shilling, and if I buy bananas and Sukuma for fourty, Mama Mboga (our vegetable lady) gives me the chili for free. Even our chemist sometimes rounds down the price for tests and medication, if we ask kindly.

What not to bargain about

  • anything with indicated price tags
  • when vendors shout the price
  • food and water
  • public transport (Ask a local friend for the price or other passengers, and before bordering ask the conductor and insist on the amount you know.)
  • goods in the supermarket

How to bargain

  • Be kind and friendly.
  • Make jokes.
  • Bargaining is about finding a price that suits both the vendor and you and not about ripping anybody off.
  • Try it in the local language. You will leave a better impression.
  • Say clearly if you are just looking, and don’t hold or take something you are not absolutely interested in buying.
  • Walk away if you are uncomfortable. Sometimes walking away can also trigger a cheaper offer.
  • Say thank you.

Funny methods

There are some strange insider measures that people use especially for souvenir shopping. You could, for example, get a greater discount by offering a simple pen. A friend told me how she danced and sang a French song with her travel mate somewhere in South East Asia for a better bargain.

Commissions

Guides sometimes have deals with the vendors. If you are brought to a certain market or stall by your guide, he or she may earn a little commission from the vendors for bringing them customers. This commission is included in the price you pay.

Being “ripped off” or a victim of situational discrimination

There is a difference between structural and situational discrimination. Due to structural discrimination, and the fact that the global North still exploits the global South, people from Europe have enough money to fly to Africa and spend some vacation there, whereby many Africans don’t have equal chances.

That is why vendors situationally discriminate possible customers, especially if they are white. For them, white means rich and they can hike the prices for sometimes 1000%. Situational discrimination is not to be confused with racism, because the power structures are very clear:

While you may feel angry or sad about “being ripped off”, in a global perspective you are still privileged.

Alternatives for bad bargainers

If you are as uncomfortable as me when it comes to bargaining, there are several alternatives:

  • Buy things in supermarkets or shops.
  • Ask for help in bargaining from a local friend.
  • Before you go, try to find out the approximate prices for the goods you want to buy and take those as points of orientation.
  • If you stay somewhere for longer, frequent the same vendors and build relationships. You will get to know each other and be able to estimate each other’s expectations.
  • Ask for discount (see above) in a friendly way. And if you promise to come back and buy again – do it!

What are your best tips about getting good deals on the markets in a responsible way? Let us know in the comments below!

There are some more hints, specifically for Thailand, here.


 

Print this worksheet  in order to better understand the concept of structural and situational power and discrimination.

11 TA

It is part of our free online course to help you travel to Africa in a responsible and conscious way.

join email course banner

email signup posts