WILL I NEED A VISA?
Normally TOURISTS from Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and countries of the European Union do not need to obtain a visa before visiting Ecuador. Upon arrival at the Quito airport, you will get a free 3 month tourist visa. Other nationalities should check visa requirements at the nearest Ecuadorian embassy or consulate. Please note that any problems our applicants may face with airline tickets, visa or another situation, for whatever reason, either in their home country, during their transit to Ecuador or once in Ecuador, are not our responsibility. Solving any visa or personal problem goes beyond the social nature of our organization. We reserve the right to terminate our relationship or co-operation at any time, if we consider that your real intentions are not of volunteering or Spanish study within tourism.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO WEAR?
Project dress codes are very casual. Jeans, khakis and t-shirts are sufficient. We recommend comfortable dress. One formal outfit is necessary, as invitations to events (such as marriages and family parties) with your host family or local friends usually occur, or if you would like to attend a concert. Nights in Quito are rather cold; we advise bringing a jacket and sweatshirts. Shorts are not usually worn in the city of Quito. However, if you plan to be traveling to the coast, bring your beachwear and shorts. Good walking boots and wet-weather gear are essential if you are thinking of doing any serious walking.
SHOULD I PAY IN ADVANCED? FILL OUT FORMS?
Yes. You must pay in advance through Paypal or bank transfer.
WHERE WILL I BE WORKING AND WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
VE can place you in one or more of the many programs in Quito or the surrounding area. What you will be working on and with whom will depend on the program in which you choose to enroll.
HOW DO I GET TO ECUADOR?
Many airline companies fly directly to Quito from all over the world. Check with a travel agent or your country's foreign affairs ministry or department for the best prices.
DO I NEED ANY SPECIAL QUALIFICATIONS?
We are happy to take any volunteers wanting to work with us regardless of experience or background. Howeve,r we are always in need of English teachers, physiotherapists, those with artistic experience and those with experience working with children.
ARE THERE ANY AGE LIMITS?
There are no age limits; however, the minimum age recommended for working and traveling alone in underdeveloped countries is 16. We have had volunteers over 72 years old and the exceptional case of Kira Alexander, an 11-year-old from Australia.
CAN COUPLES, FAMILIES OR FRIENDS WORK TOGETHER?
Yes. We welcome couples, married or not, families and groups to work together for our organization. In choosing your programs or projects, you are free to choose to work together in one project or to work separately in different projects.
ARE THERE ANY TIME LIMITS FOR VOLUNTEERING?
We require that you volunteer and stay at a host family for a minimum of one month. There is no maximum time limit.
ARE THERE ANY EXTRA COSTS INVOLVED?
The host family cost covers shared bedroom, meals, laundry, internet service and taxes. All extra activities like Spanish lessons, salsa classes and touring the country are at your own cost. You are responsible for your own transportation to, from and within Ecuador. Be informed that there is an airport tax of $48 when leaving Ecuador. You arrive in Ecuador as a tourist. Nationals from those countries listed above receive a 3 month visa upon arrival in Quito. Other nationalities should check visa requirements before departure.
DO I NEED TO SPEAK SPANISH?
It is not necessary. The Spanish classes included in the program will quickly get you comfortable in your everyday interactions with the children and people. Usually volunteers take 20 hours of classes per week. It is quite possible to volunteer and learn Spanish in parallel. Your volunteer work normally is carried out during mornings only.
WHEN SHOULD I COME VOLUNTEER?
We take volunteers year round. Most volunteers, however, come during the spring, fall and winter seasons, bearing in mind that our schools are closed during the summer (mid-July to early September).
WHAT DOCUMENTS DO I NEED IN ORDER TO JOIN YOU?
Upon your decision to join us, you should E-mail a very short CV (resume) and your scanned photo. As mentioned before, visas and any other legal requirements to come and stay in Ecuador are your own responsibility.
WHAT ABOUT RELIGION?
Ecuador is a predominantly Catholic country. People of the Catholic faith support most of the non-governmental organizations' work. We work with volunteers of all faiths. However, one of our few prerequisites is that volunteers be open and supportive of the organizations where they work, regardless of their personal beliefs.
HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I PLAN TO SPEND IN ECUADOR?
The national currency of Ecuador is the US Dollar. We recommend bringing one of the following credit cards only: Master Card, Visa and American Express Card. Others are not recognized. If possible, do not bring travellers checks, as they are hard to cash and the commission is very high. Ecuador is a cheap country in which to live. A normal personal daily expense, excluding room, laundry and board, ranges between US $5 and US $10. Museums, movies, theaters and discos entrance fees fall within this range. Football game tickets range from $20 to $80. Urban public transport is US$0.25 one-way regardless of distance. A modest hostel costs $6-7 per night in a dormitory room, a regular meal $5, drinks at bars from $1.50 to $5 each. There are many interesting places to visit on your own in Quito and the country, especially the volcanoes and the jungle. Such excursions cost $30-50 per day. You will spend close to US$1,000 if you visit the Galapagos Islands for a week. There are bus services between the many cities within Ecuador (US$2.50-$12 one way) and airlines that fly between the major cities, to the Amazons and to the Pacific coast for ($60-110 round trip, including taxes).
IS ECUADOR SAFE?
Tourists are often the target of money scams or theft. However, if you use common sense, you should have no problems. Quito is no more dangerous than many other major cities throughout the world, like New York, London and Rio de Janeiro. Remember that Ecuador is indeed a peaceful country; foreigners are most welcome at any place. However, you should understand that we, VE, will not be responsible for your personal security or for any legal problem and health situations you may face while volunteering as tourist.
HOW CAN I COMMUNICATE WITH MY FAMILY WHILE IN ECUADOR?
There are many options available for you to maintain contact with your family. There are inexpensive Internet cafes in the cities for sending E-mail (usually $0.80 cents per hour). Long distance calls to the USA costs US $0.20 per minute. You can purchase phone cards, use an international operator or dial through the Internet to call internationally. Local calls to cellular phones and international calls from your host family home are not permitted, as they are quite expensive. If you have a smart phone with access to wifi you can download free messaging/calling apps such as Whatsapp. We expect you bring your laptop as we offer unlimited Internet Service.
HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT ECUADOR?
We recommend buying a guidebook for your trip, such as Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador by Rob Rachowiecki and Mark Thurber, or Lonely Planet's Ecuador and the Galapagos. The most comprehensive one, sold everywhere in the USA and Europe, is Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands by Rob Rachowiecki. We also recommend checking out some of the websites about Ecuador, like www.ecuadornostalgia.com, or search the term "Ecuador" in Google.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT HEALTH INSURANCE?
Yes! It is important, as it is our requirement to have insurance. Check with your insurance company before you leave to determine whether or not you are covered during international travel. If not, travellers insurance can be purchased for short periods of time. Check with your insurance agent, or contact your country's foreign affairs ministry or department if you are a student. We highly recommend you taking out at least a basic insurance covering yourself for accidents, health and your property.
WHAT MATERIALS SHOULD I BRING?
You must remember to bring your passport and we request bringing two copies of its main pages as well. Also, at VE we require a passport-sized photograph along with your application. Other recommended items include a Spanish dictionary, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, guidebook, money belt, aspirin, anti-diarrhea medicine, back-up medicine, and eyeglasses (at least a spare one is highly recommendable) and contact lenses, if applicable.
DO I NEED ANY VACCINATIONS?
Vaccinations to prevent tropical diseases are highly recommended. Malaria tablets are very cheap in Ecuador, about $0.05 each. Do not buy them in your home country, where they may cost $50 or more for 15 tablets.
FINALLY, WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TRICK IN ECUADOR, ESPECIALLY AT MY HOST FAMILY, IN ORDER TO BE PLEASANTLY REMEMBERED?
As you will be assigned to a middle or upper-middle class family, please be aware that these families belong to a highly educated social level. They usually havetitles from some of the top universities around the world. Many of them have visited numerous countries around the world as tourists, businessmen or diplomats.
Please act as you would in your own home, remembering niceties like "please," "thank you," "excuse me," "I beg your pardon," and "good night, good morning," either in English or Spanish. Bear in mind that as you come from a developed country, good and polite manners are expected. Your actions at home will be watched and appreciated, especially at the table and during the typical Latin after-dinner conversation. Cleaning your nose at the table is not acceptable. The way you will talk will show who you are and the family you come from. The fact you pay for your stay does not mean that you have the right to demand services as if you were at a restaurant or a hotel. For example, you should respect the meal times set by your host family; you cannot demand your meals whenever you wish and throw away food you do not like without any explanation or making gestures. Simply, from the very beginning, indicate politely those meals you do not take. Most families co-operate with us as donors of what you pay for room and board. This means that they do not need your money and therefore you should act accordingly.
Your room will be tidied every day, as it is in your own home. However, mothers do not accept you keeping your bedroom totally unattended, a mess, with everything upside down. A sign of respect is to keep your bedroom neat. You should turn off your lights and TV set every time you leave your room. If, in your opinion, something is wrong at your host family, you have the right to question it—but do it as if you were with your own parents or family. You have the right to ask for another host family and project if necessary. At your volunteer work place, show devoted co-operation, especially to the children. In some cases, you will find shortcomings, especially in terms of management and cleanness at the centers where you are assigned. In this case, you should address this with your advice and work.