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Dangerous Developing Countries?

Is it dangerous in Africa? In India? In Nicaragua? Ever so often, we get these and similar questions from interested parties and concerned parents. Our answer? NO! It is not dangerous in these or any other country, IF you stick to a few basic rules of which we educate you.
While we do not wish to conceal facts or gloss over concerns, we also would like to do away with exaggerated fears.
You get detailed information about your country of interest as our subscriber.
Here are some points that we wish to mention in advance:

1. Different standards of living

We provide you with options of "Most popular" (average standard), "Comfort +" (locally high standard) and "Adventurer" (simple standard) in most places - different standards of accommodation, from which you can select.
You will not live in a luxury hotel in which everything is of European/US standard. However, most of our participants are positively surprised about our shared apartments and host families. Please have a look at the desciption of accommodation on our website. However, without doubt, for instance the quality of construction and materials might be inferiour to what you know from Europe or the US. The landlords and host families we work with are not hoteliers and in most cases they have never been outside their home country. In any case, when choosing private accommodation, we make sure that everything is in proper condition concerning safety and cleanliness. Should anything not be as you expect, let our local coordinator know and he or she will try to solve it for you.

2. Diseases

During a several months' stay in a tropical country with contact to the local population and local food it is not unusual that a foreigner whose stomach, circulation or immune system is not accustomed to the local circumstances, can get ill. In most cases these are "minor" cases such as diarrhoea that can be easily treated on location. Of course the risk can be reduced by certain vaccinations and precautionary measures, but it cannot be completely eliminated.
Our local coordinator will show you a doctor or medical centre. In India, China, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Morocco and Israel, medical care is satisfactory. In Tanzania, the doctors we recommend at least know more about tropical diseases than most of their colleagues in Europe or the US. So there is no need to panic in the case you get ill. Most diseases such as malaria or gastrointestinal infections, if detected at an early stage, can be cured without any complications at your destination. All medicine is widely available in the country, as there are many international programs fighting certain diseases, financed by the World Health Organization.
An absolute necessity is having an appropriate health insurance. In most cases treatments and medicines have to be paid in cash at the foreign country, and the insurance will then refund the expenses once you will be back to your country of origin. In Tanzania, particularly in rural areas, medical are is insufficient. If you plan to travel to rural areas, you might consider a membership at the AMREF Flying Doctors Society of Africa. AMREF is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and a one-year membership costs at time (depending on the distance from Nairobi) either 20 USD per person (up to 500 km from Nairobi - Moshi and includes the Kilimanjaro region), or $50 per person (up 1000 km from Nairobi - includes Zanzibar, Ikoma, Dar-es-Salaam and Bagamoyo). In addition, there is a short-term membership for 14 days or 2 months. Members receive a free emergency evacuation per year for serious medical need, as well as 24-hour access to the Flying Doctor's emergency phone for medical emergencies.
Clinical elective students and medical interns will get instructed how to prevent infections. The hospitals have HIV Post-exposure prophylaxis services.

3. Crime

Crime due to poverty exists in all developing and emerging countries at different levels. This should however not be a reason for you not to travel. In most cases, it is sufficient to take general precautionary measures which are common sense. They are:
  • Don’t overtly show around valuables and cash. Those who walk around with packets of money, big cameras, expensive mobile phones, jewellery, designer cloths and accessories, of course attract attention. You should estimate how much money you will need and you should not carry with you much more than this. The rest should be stored at a safe place. At certain locations it is recommended not to use mobile phones on the street and to use small photo cameras which can be easily hidden in one’s pockets.
  • Carry your valuables in zipper pockets close to the body; an old plastic bag draws less attention to itself than a stylish camera bag!
  • You should not linger in dark, obscure and deserted areas alone. At night, take a taxi home.
  • Beware of pickpockets, especially at unclear places with large crowds, such as the market or in public transport.
  • Never change money on the street. It is not only illegal, but the probability that you will get cheated or robbed is very high.
  • Avoid conflicts, don’t provoke people.
  • Most countries abroad have more rigorous penalties than European countries for violations against civil and criminal laws, such as the purchase or consumption of illegal drugs. Don't buy and consume drugs!
Our preparation materials provide country-specific information regarding crime and our coordinators instruct you on potential hazards.

4. Women

Female participants can travel to all countries in which we are active without any problems. From more than 600 participants that we had since our start, around 80% were female and many aged 17 or 18 years only. Nothing serious ever "happened" to any of them. Our female coordinators in the countries will tell you what you need to know as a woman. For instance, it is recommended to wear (or not to wear) certain types of cloth, for instance in the Islamic countries, and to consider certain rules of conduct when dealing with men. In many cultures local males can see it as an invitation to become bothersome if women openly speak out about sexuality. Our info documents contains useful information for female participants.

5. Wild Animals

A realistic danger imposed by wild animal only exists for internships which directly deal with potentially dangerous animals, such as being an animal keeper, ranger, vet etc. Your supervisor of such projects will inform you about precautionary measures to be taken which minimise the danger imposed by wild animals. For all other volunteering or internship options there is no realistic danger of wild animals. It is self-explanatory that roaming cats, dogs and other animals should not be petted or approached too close.

6. War/Political unrest

We do not provide internships or travel to areas where there are wars, civil wars and other armed conflicts.

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