Here are some guidelines to consider as you go on a group tour.

  • Walk humbly with a genuine desire to learn about a culture without comparing it to other cultures.
  • Be aware that people in other countries may have different concepts of time and thought patterns.
  • Be mindful of how your words, tone, dress, and body language may impact others. Be careful not to cause or take offense.
  • Listen and observe with open-hearted curiosity as you respectfully ask questions, taste novel foods, participate in new activities, and experience new ways of living.
  • Acquaint yourself with local customs and language basics. People are happy to help if they see you’re trying.
  • Work through any physical, emotional or spiritual challenges that may arise with grace. Avoid complaining.
  • New experiences may challenge what you believe about yourself and the world—uncomfortable feelings are not unusual. Reflect on your experiences to deepen your understanding. If you keep a journal, write not only what you saw, but what it meant to you, how you felt, what you learned.
  • Respect the opinions of other tour members as they process their experiences.

While travelling, things may not go as planned – service might be slow, lines could be long, or the culture and customs may seem very foreign. If you can accept these inconveniences with a sense of humour, graciousness, and a spirit of adventure, you are the kind of traveller who will be welcomed and appreciated, and who will have an enriching never-to-be-forgotten experience.

 

If You Are Asked to Help

On this tour, you may be asked to help in one way or another. Some suggestions:

  • Respond courteously without making any commitment in the moment. Say something like, “Let me check with my guide about that.”
  • Consult with someone who knows the local situation well, like your tour leader or local guide, about any requests you receive or gifts you feel moved to give.
  • Let your presence and friendship be the gift to the people you meet rather than gifts of cash, personal belongings, or small items and candy for children.
  • When we visit charitable projects, TourMagination will provide an opportunity to give a donation through trusted organizations that are aware of the local situation.

 

Protecting the Environment in a Host Country

  • Minimize garbage.
  • Be mindful not to waste food.
  • Treat water as precious.
  • Be careful with resources such as toilet paper, paper towels, and other consumables.
  • Stay on paths in natural areas.
  • Do not remove rocks, sticks, flowers or other natural items from their settings.
  • Respect wild animals. Keep your distance. Don’t feed them human food.

If you are concerned about the environmental impact of your flight for the tour, consider a donation to Mennonite Central Committee projects that help farmers adapt to climate change and feed their families. US travellers donate here: https://donate.mcc.org/cause/care-creation and Canadians give here: https://donate.mcccanada.ca/cause/care-creation

 

Reading and Listening

If you wish to make the most of your tour experience, you may consider preparing yourself by reading books and articles, watching videos, etc., about the places and the people you will visit. A reading list of suggested titles is provided by TourMagination for most tours to start you off.

Your leaders will provide you with valuable and interesting information as you travel. Please give them your full attention, and understand when they have to break in on your conversation to share information with you.

 

Passports & Visas

Travellers from the USA and Canada must carry proof of citizenship. A valid signed passport with an expiration date at least six months beyond the tour return date is required.

Photocopy your passport’s identification page and keep it separate from the original when you travel. For added security, we request that you forward a copy to our office, and also to leave a copy with a friend or a relative at home. These simple steps may speed the replacement process if you lose your passport. We also recommend that your passport, cash, and other documents not be kept together while travelling in case of loss where you would then lose everything.

TourMagination will inform you if tourist visas are required for a destination on your specific tour. If visas are required TourMagination will provide the application forms and detailed instructions to assist you in securing your visa(s). It is the responsibility of each tour participant to apply for their visa(s) prior to the departure of the tour according to the instructions provided by TourMagination.

 

Customs

US residents may bring back $800 per person worth of foreign goods duty-free if you have been out of the country for at least 48 hours, and have not already used the $800 exemption or any part of it in the past 30 days. You may mail packages valued at up to $200 to yourself and up to $100 to others, duty free, with a limit of one parcel received per addressee per day. On the outside, identify the package as being for personal use or an unsolicited gift, specifying the contents and their retail value. Mailed items do not count as part of your exemption.

Canadians can claim $800 per person anytime you have been absent from Canada for at least 48 hours. Duty must be paid on all items in excess of this amount. An unlimited number of gifts valued up to $60 each may be mailed to Canada duty-free. These do not count as part of your exemption. Label the package “Unsolicited Gift—Value under $60.”

To expedite the trip through customs, it is important to keep your sales receipts handy and have all your purchases in one bag.

The USA and Canada also have restrictions on the types of items that can be imported into the country. Be careful when making purchases overseas that you will be allowed to take your purchases home with you. For details about restrictions, please visit the following websites:

USA: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/know-before-you-go/prohibited-and-restricted-items

Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/returning/customs/what-you-can-bring-home-to-canada

and http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/travellers/what-can-i-bring-into-canada-/eng/1389648337546/1389648516990

 

Currency, ATMs & Credit Cards

If you wish to check current exchange rates at the time of travel a good website to use is http://www.xe.com/ucc/.

ATMs: ATMs are available in larger cities in most countries. In smaller places, and in some countries, ATM machines are not as prevalent. TourMagination recommends that you check with your bank for more specific details about using ATMs or ABMs such as the network your bank supports, pin numbers, etc.

Cash: If you choose to bring cash that is not the currency of the country you are visiting for exchange purposes, TourMagination suggests you bring dollars in denominations of $20 or less. Newer and clean crisp bills are easier to change and use than older and worn bills. You will be given opportunity upon arrival in each country to exchange your cash for local currency or withdraw funds from an ATM. If local currency cannot be obtained prior to arrival in your country of destination, this will be in the Additional Travel Information for your tour. A money belt worn under your clothing is a secure way to carry your cash.

Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are the most widely used credit cards. Use may be restricted in small towns and country areas, or some shops may have a minimum purchase requirement. Retailers are allowed to charge more for goods and services bought by credit card, but they must display a clear indication if any price increase applies.

Before leaving home, we encourage you to consult with the bank that has issued the credit cards and debit cards you will be using as you travel. Today banks have a variety of fraud detection systems so we advise you to be sure you will be able to use your cards. You should also have an out-of-country contact phone number available in case any cards are lost or stolen.

What to take in your travel wallet: Take only essential credit cards and identification documents that will be used while travelling. Leave your regular purses and wallets at home.

 

Communication

Email: Most hotels provide internet access, some more limited than others. Ensure you have access and know your passwords for your email while travelling.

Phone: North American cell phones are not automatically equipped to make international calls. If you plan to use your cell phone on tour, please check with your wireless service provider for direction regarding international calling.

 

Luggage

TourMagination recommends one checked-in piece of luggage and one carry-on bag per person. Restrictions on size and weight vary by airline.

For most airlines, the checked-in bag must not exceed 50 pounds, and must measure 62 inches or less by adding the height, width, and length. For many airlines, the carry-on bag must not exceed 17 pounds, and must measure 45 inches or less by adding the height, width, and length. We recommend you look at the baggage allowance requirements on your airline’s website.

 

Carry On

It is important to have the following with you on board your flights: passport, cash, wallet/purse, medicines, medical devices, essential overnight items in case your baggage is delayed or lost, and if applicable electronic equipment such as laptop computer and camera.

 

Clothes

Plan to take a variety of casual clothes that are easy-care, comfortable, and don’t show the dirt. Be able to dress in layers so that you can peel off or add as the temperature changes. A hat with shade protection and a comfortable pair of walking shoes are recommended. Leave valuable jewelry and clothing requiring special attention at home.

Be respectful of local culture and traditions in your clothing. You may be asked to remove your shoes on entry to some religious sites. If there are specific clothing requirements for your tour, this will be listed in the Additional Travel Information for the tour.

 

Security

It is important to be at the airport for your international flight at least 3 hours prior to your departure time as security procedures can be time-consuming.

Because of certain restrictions please be sure you do not have sharp objects in your carry-on luggage, such as scissors, pocket knives, nail clippers, needles, etc. Regular quantities of liquids, gels, or aerosols are also not allowed in your carry-on luggage, such as shampoo, toothpaste, hair gel, etc. These items should be packed in your checked luggage.

Exceptions include: Liquids, gels, and aerosols can be brought through security screening provided that the items are packaged in containers with capacity of 100ml/100grams/3.4oz or less, and that the containers fit comfortably in one clear, closed, and re-sealable plastic bag with a capacity of no more than one litre/one quart. One bag per passenger will be permitted.

If you have had a knee or hip replacement, which will be detected by the metal detector, it is advisable to carry a card or note from your doctor to speed the security process.

Anyone who carries an EpiPen for an allergy reaction should notify our office. Ask your allergist or family doctor to provide a medical letter of explanation, making sure they specify that the only recommended treatment is self-injected epinephrine, and that it is a life-saving treatment that needs to be immediately available at all times. Present this letter at the check-in counter.

 

 Health and Prescription Information

 Make sure your routine immunizations are up to date before travel.

TourMagination strongly recommends you contact your health provider or nearest travel clinic to receive their latest immunization recommendations for your location of travel. They will have information on the latest requirements and suggestions for any given geographic area.

If your tour goes to higher altitudes you should speak to your health provider on your risks involving altitude sickness. Those with high blood pressure or a heart condition should be particularly cautious. Your health provider can prescribe medication to assist you while travelling to high altitudes.

It is advisable to take along enough prescription medicine for the whole tour and to carry a prescription that lists both the generic and trade names of your drug(s). This is beneficial in case your medication is lost or stolen and avoids any misunderstanding if your medicines contain habit-forming drugs or narcotics. These safeguards could save you considerable trouble.

Bring a supply of commonly used medications. The most common health problems associated with travelling are diarrhea and upset stomach. Your pharmacist will be able to provide you with suggestions. It is important to carry your own medical kit with you.

 

 Other Items to Take

Suggested items you may wish to bring along: sunglasses, a sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or more, an umbrella, a camera, a travel alarm clock, pen and paper, several safety pins, a travel sewing kit, and washcloths.

 

Photography

 Standard courtesy always applies when taking photos. Please ask permission before photographing people and ask parents if you want to take a photo of children. Most people like having their picture taken. In some countries, taking pictures of military personnel, police, their equipment and installations is prohibited. For reasons of physical safety, some people may prefer not to have their pictures taken. This is particularly true in politically sensitive situations.

 

Electric Current

Most of the countries TourMagination travels to have an electrical current of 220 volt – 50 cycles alternating current (AC), whereas in North America it is 110 volts – 60 cycles (AC). Also, many countries have different outlet plugs. Requirements specific for your tour will be printed in the Additional Travel Information.

Multi-voltage appliances (shavers, hairdryers, curling irons, etc.) are generally available at larger department stores. But if you wish to take the one you already own and it is not designed to operate on either 110 volts or 220 volts by the flick of a switch, you will need a converter as well as an adapter.

Check shops that specialize in selling travel supplies, such as AAA/CAA (American Auto Association/Canadian Auto Association), electronics or small appliance stores, department stores, etc. for converters and adapters.

 

Protecting Yourself

 Guard against pickpockets. Never carry your billfold in your back pocket. An under-the-clothes money belt or pouch is advised for your cash and passport. In crowded busy marketplaces, purse or wallet snatching is a distinct possibility. Keeping things safe in bags or pockets that are zipped or buttoned so no stranger can easily reach in is less hassle than replacing them.

Also use common sense methods to guard against being targeted. Avoid pulling out and counting large amounts of cash in public places. Walk with others and in well lit areas. Take your cues from your tour guide and leaders.

 

Final Word

TourMagination wants to encourage positive connections within our tour groups and with the communities and countries we are visiting. We know that there may be discussions on our tours that touch on political views. We ask that TourMagination people be respectful of the diversity of politics that make up our clients, and respectful of the politics within the country we are visiting.

Our desire is that discussions that touch on politics are viewed as opportunities for learning and understanding between people rather than promoting specific political viewpoints or speaking to the detriment of others.