Challenge: See all the best bits in a 5 day family trip to Sri Lanka

This is not my first time to Sri Lanka but it will be our first trip to the island as a family. I’ll be travelling from Dubai with my twin 9 year olds, Rudi and Sadie along with my husband Nigel, four bags, lots of chargers and an ipad. We are expecting a whirlwind, unpacking/repacking type of holiday with a good few hours of car time so distraction tools and stops will be necessary!

After a thorough look at a map and some great tips from some friends via a ‘do you know of..’ Facebook post, I have concluded that the best option is to start in Colombo, move on to Kandy, go south to Ambalantota and head up the coast road towards Colombo stopping at Galle. We are considering leaving one night free and booking a wild card hotel when we get there in one of the coastal villages on the way back.

How are we going to get there? Where are we going to stay?

I’m a Brit, do I need a visa for Peru?

Peru entry requirements

The below visa information is current based on my research, but may have changed since this post was written, so you should check with your local embassy for confirmation.

passport

Visas

British nationals don’t need a visa to travel if the purpose of the visit is tourism. On arrival, you are normally given permission to stay for up to 6 months.

Volunteers from the majority of countries are automatically given a 90-day tourist visa on entry into Peru. 

If volunteers wish to stay longer than 90-days, they have the option of crossing the border into Bolivia or Chile and re-entering Peru, where they will be given an additional 90 days. Alternatively, volunteers can request an extended visa on arrival to the country. Peru will give visitors as many as 183 days of visa when entering the country in Lima. It is essential that volunteers request this when they arrive in Lima, as once issued, a 90 day visa cannot be extended. 

While you are in Peru…

Lake titi

After we confirmed our place on the volunteer programme to Peru we recieved a email from WEA Worldwide Exotic Adventures in Cusco offering all kinds of tours and activities. They work closely with the Global Volunteer Network to provide adventures for the volunteers. 

Cusco is well-placed to visit some of the amazing sights in Peru. The city is surrounded by beautiful mountains dotted with Incan ruins. WEA offer all types of treks and packages, with something for everyone.I will be travelling with my 9 year old daughter, Sadie so we have opted for a visit to Machu Picchu in comfort by train and stay in a nice hotel. However, if you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie and want the excitement of downhill biking, rafting, bungee jumping – they have it all.

http://exotic-adventures.com/

“5 questions for mum” by Sadie Cooper-Clark

Sadie interviews mum about the volunteer trip to Cusco, Peru 

Sadie and Mum

Sadie: This is an interview with Zoe Cooper-Clark who will be my PARTNER going to erm, Peru and yeah…I’m going to ask Zoe some questions and she is going to answer them. 

Sadie: Ok, here’s my first question. How do you feel about going to Peru?

Zoe: Well, I never thought that we would end up going so I’m very excited and even more excited that you are coming along with me.

Sadie: Yeah I’m excited too. Ok, second question. What would you take if you were never going back home? 

Zoe: I would take my family, my dog and my cat and your hamster. And probably a few things from the house that I have.

Sadie: What few things would they be?

What to take on trip to Peru?

Peru_-_Cusco_Sacred_Valley_&_Incan_Ruins_039_-_textile_handcrafts_for_sale_at_Tambomachay_(7092596219), McKay Savage, CC BY 2.0. Wikim. Comm.

After the excitement of booking the flights to Peru, Sadie and I have a something new to look forward to … shopping!

Here are some of the suggestions from the volunteer organisers, GVN. 

What we may need:

•    A weekly budget of around US$50 to cater for all other expenses like bottled water, transportation for weekend excursions, personal costs, beverages, and entertainment.
•    Duplicate copies of papers, e.g. passport, visa, spare passport photos and insurance policy details.
•    A money belt
•    Journal and pens to keep a diary
•    Soap bar for washing
•    Bedding is supplied at the volunteer house however they recommend a sleeping bag for warmth during the cooler months, as there is no central heating in Peru.
•    Batteries and camera film are expensive to buy, so buy before
•    Flashlight/torch with spare batteries
•    Books to read
•    Playing cards
•    Sunglasses and hat
•    Sturdy comfortable footwear as well as a pair of sandals/jandals for light walking              (I will be doing a post on this in the future, along the lines of ‘where to buy shoes that don’t make you look like an idiot abroad’ or ‘can walking shoes be stylish?’)
•   Warm clothing as Cusco can be surprisingly cold, especially at night during June-July.

Jabs? – No legal requirements

GVN logo

The GVN provide a fantastic website for the volunteers with all sorts of useful and interesting information. I continue to be impressed by the efficiency of the staff and the organisation. 

One of the activities to cross off the list is of course, the jabs. What do we really need? When do we need to have them? And more importantly, where is that certificate that says what I have already had so I don’t need again!  

Here is a summary of the information provided by GVN. Obviously the main point is to consult a doctor first. 

 You will probably need the following vaccinations:

So where do the volunteers stay?

Conservation zoo

I have been informed by GVN that we will be staying in a traditional homestay, living with other volunteers in a Peruvian home which is very exciting.  The host families are carefully selected with the volunteers in mind and most have  had experience hosting volunteers in the past.

Mental note: get a move on with the Spanish lessons, knowing ‘an apple’ is not going to get you very far. Buy some thermals.

Thankfully, all houses have electricity, running water, and a western-style toilet BUT usually have no central heating. We have been advised to bring a sleeping bag or blanket for extra warmth at night!

Laundry can be done by the host family for a small fee.

There are a number of obvious rules like no smoking, drugs or overnight guests and other gentle reminders like:  please do not ‘raid the fridge’, remove anything from the house or bring your mates to hang out in your room

 

Volunteer Checklist

checklist2

 

Just after I booked the Peru trip with GVN, what did I start? A checklist! What do they send me a day later? A Checklist – much better than the one I started.  Including checks like: have you checked your passport is valid for travel, let friends and family know how to contact you, written down your goals. I like lists and I’m impressed.

Insurance, coverage and cost

Machu Picchu

Getting the paperwork out of the way is one of the first hurdles. Insurance is the next task for us and is compulsory for GVN volunteers. GVN recommended that we check with our insurance provider that we are covered during your volunteer placement – as interestingly some policies do not provide cover for volunteering, 

We have the option of taking the GVN comprehensive insurance package (including volunteer cover) which is only available to GVN volunteers and is specially designed for volunteering. It includes medical and accident cover as well as a ‘loss of deposits’ cover which covers fees paid to GVN and airlines. 

The cost of the package option is US$247.00 for the first 30 days of coverage, (minimum 30 days cover), thereafter US$5.00 per day to 180 days (maximum cover). 


How to get a Police Check in Dubai

“As the volunteer work in Peru involves working closely with children and other vulnerable individuals, volunteers need to provide a police clearance document before volunteering commences.” – GVN

This will be a new challenge in Dubai. We have been advised to contact the local police station to find out the procedure. We should then expect to be asked to complete an application form authorizing the check to be done, pay a fee and a few weeks later the check will arrive in the mail. Hmmmm.

According to GVN, it should go like this:

If you come from a country that does not issue police clearances, three character references from reputable sources (employer, justice of the peace, landlord, the minister of your local church, teacher, etc) may be substituted. Your character referees should know you well enough to vouch for your character. Please ask them to write a letter stating who they are, how they know you, give a description of your character and how well you get along with those around you, and to judge your suitability to work in the volunteer program.

The police clearance or letters of reference need to be faxed, emailed or posted (copies only) to GVN at least 4 weeks prior to your start date in Peru.

You will also need to take the original copy with you to present to program staff during the Orientation period in Peru. Failure to provide a police clearance or character references may result in you not being able to volunteer in the program in Peru.

Let’s see. I will post the outcome…