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  Need to know what you can and can not bring to the Galapagos Islands? Not sure what to ask your doctor before you leave to study abroad? Want more details about where you will be staying in Ecuador? We're here to help - please review the answers to our Frequently Asked Questions below and consult our Orientation page for more detailed information. Preparing yourself for your adventure is the best way to ensure success, so please take a look around and let us know if you require any other information.
 

GENERAL

Do I need a visa?
If you are staying under 3 months you don’t need a visa.

Do I need vaccines?
Check with your doctor. No vaccines are required but people usually come with typhoid and hepatitis.

Can I extend my stay from Ecuador?
Yes, but expect to pay around $100.

What will it be like in Ecuador? What should I expect?
If you haven’t traveled outside of the U.S., many things will seem very different. You are sure to notice poverty, incredible contrasts, spectacular scenery, armed guards everywhere, smog and traffic, friendly people, and crowded busses. There are plenty of reminders of home as well: shopping malls, Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins, new cars, executives in suits, and high rises. Not very many people speak English.

Can I use my ATM card?
Sometimes, if you are lucky. Some students seem to be using ATM cards all the time and others complain they can’t get cash anywhere. Don’t count on it. Bring cash and traveler’s checks.

Can I buy film, batteries, and disposable cameras?
You can buy all of these but not everywhere and expect to pay more, maybe twice as much for batteries and disposable cameras.
What is the voltage for hair dryers and other small appliances?
Regular U.S. voltage except for on the big ships that use 220 for the bathrooms.

What should I bring?
Comfortable clothes, not for more than a week or ten days. Plan on doing laundry Most people wish they would have brought less and find they need extra space for bringing gifts home.

Are there luggage restrictions?
You are allowed two 70 pound bags and one carry on. You should try to pack the contents of one suitcase only into both bags to allow for purchasing gifts and easy re-packing. Over weight charges are high for return so plan accordingly.

What is the weather like?
Don’t expect the weather to be hot like the tropics. It can be hot in some places some times, but often you will be in high altitude areas where it can actually be cool.

Do I need to bring gifts?
Bring generic gifts for families and other small items for children or used items like baseball caps for guides.

How do I call home?
Call collect, or with a card, or from the Andinatel office which is cheap but inconvenient. You can’t use your family’s account to call and calls from hotels are expensive.

Can I use a phone card to call home?
Yes, if you know the access number. Call the company before you leave. The 800 number listed on the back of the card won’t work.

Will I have access to internet?
There is easy inexpensive access to internet in Quito and sparse or no access elsewhere.

Can I bring valuables?
We prefer that you don’t bring valuables or items you would feel horrible about if lost or stolen.

Can I bring my laptop?
Yes, but you need to keep good track of it since it’s vulnerable for theft. Most people don’t bring laptops since they enjoy going to the internet cafés for e-mail.

How do I get my laundry done?
There are laundry services near the student center though they tend to be expensive. For students staying with families, laundry will be done for you once a week.

To where should my friends send letters?
Andean Study Programs
Foch 721 y Amazonas
Quito, Ecuador

Can my friends or family send me packages?
No. Packages often arrive after students leave or are difficult to access due to customs regulations.

What will it be like the first night I arrive in Quito?
Most flights get in late and you will feel exhausted. Staff will meet you and try to get you to bed as soon as possible. Don’t worry about your host family the first night. Don’t drink the tap water.

QUESTIONS ABOUT HOMESTAYS

Will my host family meet me at the airport?
Yes, and expect them to greet you with a kiss. Go to the cheek on your left if you don’t want to kiss them in the lips!

Do they know English?
Not much.

What will their home be like?
Similar to the U.S., only probably a bit smaller and maybe not as comfortable.

Will I have my own room?
Yes.

Will I have my own bathroom?
Maybe, but probably shared.

How do I get my laundry done?
Your family does it. Sometimes women are expected to hand wash underwear.

Are there any things I should know before I arrive, so I don’t offend them?
Greet people. Say thank you. Keep your room neat. Make your bed. Wear shoes in the house. Latin Americans tend to be more affected by appearances, so try to be neat.

Can you tell me the ages and names of all my family members so I can bring gifts?
No, bring generic gifts.

Can I walk to class?
Probably not. The Andean Study Center is not in a residential neighborhood.

Will someone show me the bus system?
Someone from your family will go with you on the bus to and from class at least three times if needed.

Can I be on my own to go out at night?
Yes, but exercise caution as crime in Quito is on an increase. Don’t walk alone anywhere at night.

Do I need dressy clothes?
Maybe. Especially dressy shoes. You may not need them but if you only bring casual clothes and get invited by your family to a wedding, a fancy party, or a graduation, you will certainly be out of place. Black is in, with nice shoes. Tennis shoes or sandals are inappropriate for dressy occasions. It’s also possible that you will bring dressy clothes and never use them. Better to be safe than sorry.

Will I be given keys?
You should be given keys even though most families do not give their children keys and are more protective than North American counter parts. If you have trouble getting in at night, our family coordinator will solve your problem tactfully with your host family.

Is there a place I can lock valuables and money?
Your family should give you a lock box or locked drawer in which you have the only key. Money should be kept counted with amount noted in an envelope so you don’t forget how much you have and assume someone has stolen it. If you don’t get a key, our coordinator will help solve the problem. We have had very few incidences of items or money missing from host families.

Is there a curfew?
There is no curfew but it is generally polite to be home by 1:00 am and rude to come in after 2:00 am. Most host moms are awake until students are home so coming in late every night is probably an imposition on the family.

Are there special rules?
Yes, there is no curfew but students should always sleep in their own house unless special permission is arranged. This is to avoid undo worry and calls to the directors at 4 am when students are found missing from their beds. Students may not bring partners to sleep over under any circumstances. Breaking this rule will result in immediate dismissal from the home stay with not refund of money paid. Absolutely no drugs or alcohol should be consumed at family stays, unless the family serves wine or beer.

QUESTIONS ABOUT HEALTH ISSUES

Should I bring any medication?
Bring your prescription medication and if advised by your doctor preventative medication for malaria and Bactrim for stomach problems.

Are there any side affects for malaria prevention medication?
Yes, read all the information provided to you in the print out as some students experience serious side effects.

Can I drink the water?
No. Drink only boiled or filtered water.

Can I eat raw fruit and vegetables?
Eat only peeled raw fruit and vegetables or ones that have been washed with treated water.

What happens if I get sick?
There is good health care in Ecuador and we well help you access a doctor.

Do I need to be in good shape for travel to Ecuador?
Yes, you should be in above average shape due to the altitude and strenuous hikes schedules during the program.

Will I experience any difficulty if I have physical limitations?
Maybe. Talk to us about physical limitations before you join the program.

Will I experience any difficulty if I’m overweight?
Yes, if you are obese, the hikes in the forest and Galapagos will be more difficult. Consult your physician.

Will I experience any difficulty if I have high blood pressure or a heart condition?
Maybe. Quito is at high altitude and tends to complicate high blood pressure and heart conditions. Hikes in the forest are also strenuous and conditions should be monitored.

Will I experience any difficulty if I have asthma?
Altitude and pollution in Quito can complicate asthma considerably. Consult a doctor before you come and be prepared to alter your dosage in consultation with doctors in Ecuador if needed.

Will I experience any difficulty if I’m on medication for depression?
No, but sometimes students decide to discontinue depression medication in Ecuador because they are having such a good time and think they don’t need it, resulting in increased depression. The stress of international adjustments can also aggravate depression.

Will I experience any difficulty if I have an eating disorder?
Students with controlled eating disorders have sometimes had set backs in Ecuador due to stress. It is better to advise us of history of eating disorders, especially if you are in a home stay. Because your favorite foods may not be available, problems around eating can become exacerbated.

Will I experience any difficulty if I have a substance abuse problem?
Yes. We advise students with serious substance abuse problems not to come to Quito. All use of illegal drugs is prohibited. If you have problems with alcohol abuse, you need to seriously consider not coming because the environment in the Quito bars and general cultural lack of support for people fighting alcoholism is not conducive to abstinence.

Will I experience any difficulty if I have fear of water or other fears?
Yes, let us know if you have unreasonable fears because sometimes what might seem like a small hike in the cloud forest could end in a hike through a stream. Destinations of the cloud forest, rainforest, and Galapagos all involve water, including canoes.

QUESTIONS ABOUT LANGUAGE CLASSES

Who are my teachers?
We seek to hire the best and most qualified teachers in Quito. Because some of them teach in other universities, all teachers may not be available at all times. Lectures for Biology Programs are hired from local universities.

Do I have to buy books or materials?
You may have to bring a text from home. Materials and books in Quito are usually provided, but often with a deposit or $5 turn around rental fee.

How long does class last?
Spanish classes are often three or four hours but with breaks. Lectures are usually under two hours.

Can I speak English in class when I don’t understand something?
Not in Spanish classes. We have a Spanish only rule because we’ve found that people make the most progress this way. Some of the teachers don’t know English, but after class you can ask questions to your teacher in English if needed. We prefer that you try to communicate in Spanish at all times.

Do we have to speak Spanish all the time?
Yes, that’s the idea of an immersion Spanish program, to be immersed in the language and culture, speaking Spanish at all times. There will be moments of rest from the language, but in general, the more you speak Spanish, the more you will learn.

Will there be exams?
For credit programs there are exams to assess learning levels. In noncredit programs there are fewer exams but students will still be evaluated to assess progress.

What level will I be in?
There is an oral interview as well as placement exam for deciding entering levels. Once you are placed in a class, changes can be made if a student is in the wrong level.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RAINFOREST

How do we get to the rainforest?
Transportation will be by plane, bus, canoe or a combination of all three depending on the destination.

How long does it take to get there?
Expect the bulk of the day to be taken up in getting there, even if you fly part of the way. If you bus, it will be around seven hours from Quito.

What are the roads like?
The roads are partially paved but generally in poor conditions as maintenance is a constant challenge with the quantity of rain and landslides.

What is the weather like?
Expect a range of weather from torrential cool down pours to hot and muggy. Wear breathable long sleeves and long pants for protection from bugs and branches with possibly one pair of shorts and a few T-shirts.

Should I worry about poisonous snakes or insects?
Don’t pick up any insects without consulting your guides. Snakes are shy creatures and usually not aggressive unless they have been surprised. Most snake bites occur with workers clearing brush. You may be lucky enough to see a snake and assume it’s poisonous but it’s unlikely that it will strike you. We don’t know of any cases of any tourists or students being bitten by snakes.

Will I see lots of animals?
A group of twenty students will most likely frighten any animals away. It’s more likely to see mammals at night but in general, Amazon creatures are shy. Birds high up in the canopy are best seen early in the morning with few people and in the quiet.

What are the accommodations like?
Check the web site of the location your group will be staying for more information on accommodations, which range from native Amazonian communities, to Biology stations to educational lodges, depending on the needs of the group. You should have the idea that you will be roughing it and be in basic accommodations.

Do I need rubber boots or a rain poncho?
Yes. In most cases, rubber boots will be provided but if you have extra large feet, bring your own boots. You may want to bring a pair of inexpensive rubber boots that can be donated to a Biology station or native community when you leave.

Do I need insect repellent and sunscreen?
Yes, you need both. We advise putting insect repellent on even when you don’t see or feel the bugs. You’ll often be under the protection of the canopy, but nevertheless, you should wear sunscreen, especially for canoe rides.

Do I need a flashlight?
Yes, even it you are staying in a lodge, there usually isn’t electricity at night. If you need to get up to go to the bathroom, you’ll need a flashlight. You’ll also need a flashlight for night hikes.

Can I buy film, batteries, or disposable cameras?
No, purchase anything you need in Quito.

Can I buy feminine hygiene products?
Women, count on your cycle being off due to travel and the altitude and take extra supplies. Usually the group leader or guide also has these. There won’t be any stores.

Can I take my hair dryer?
There may be a place to plug it in, depending on where we go but don’t bother bringing hair dryers, curling irons, or make-up since you need to be in the rough it camping mode and minimize the extra stuff so as to carry as little as possible.

QUESTIONS ABOUT GALAPAGOS

How do we get there?
The islands are 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. You will take an early morning flight, have a layover in Guayaquil and arrive in the islands at around noon.

What is the weather like?
The weather is arid and dry. Hat and good sun protection area must. August and September are the coolest months with misty conditions and light rain.

Will I have trouble if I tend to get motion sickness?
Yes. Plan on purchasing good motion sickness medicine before you arrive in Ecuador. There are long sea stretches and some students usually get sea sick.

Do I need to know how to swim?
No, life jackets are provided. However, you will be in or around water most of the time so if you have a water phobia, consider not going.

Do I need snorkel gear or wet suits?
No. The boats provide snorkel gear and Andean Study Programs also has several sets that can be used with a small deposit to ensure return upon completion of the cruise. The water is cold so a T-shirt worn in the water is helpful. If you have a wet suit and do a lot of snorkeling you may want to bring it, but don’t go out and buy any expensive gear for Galapagos or for your entire study program. Use old comfortable clothes that you like, and can even donate, if your bags are too heavy upon return.

Will we be diving?
No, unless you are on a special diving cruise requested by your university. Because of all the currents that meet in Galapagos, diving is not for beginners and in order to meet the interests of most students, professors usually prefer not to include diving in the cruise. You can see a lot snorkeling and everyone can participate.

Will I have problems if I have physical limitations (not sure footed, obese, heart conditions, in poor physical conditions)?
Yes. Galapagos is for people in good physical conditions. You will be constantly getting in and out of a small motor boat to get from your yacht to the islands. There are no docks and you will pull up against sharp rocks on the coast where your guide will help you out of the boat or in some cases actually get out of the boat into the water of a sandy beach. You will do a lot of walking and there won’t be places to sit down and rest until you get back to the boat.

What animals will we see?
You will see lots of birds, reptiles (iguanas, lizards, and turtles), and sea lions. Because of the singular characteristics of the islands, some species are only found on certain islands and the distance between islands makes it most practical to sleep on the boat and wake up in a different destination each day. You won’t see all of the islands but you will see a good representation of the best islands for wildlife. You will also see a lot of underwater marine life including possibly sharks, while snorkeling.

Can I touch the animals?
No. The animals can touch you but there is a strict rule on touching animals so as not alter their environment or instill fear in them.

Will I be on a big cruise ship?
There are no big cruise ships in Galapagos so as to minimize impact on the environment. The biggest boats are 100 passenger boats, but you will most likely be on a small boat for 16 to 20 passengers. These rock a lot and you may get sea sick.

Will I spend a lot of time swimming and relaxing on beaches?
You will visit a few white sand beaches but most of the time will be spent on the boat and on strictly guides tours that take around two hours on the islands. You will also be able to snorkel and relax on the boat deck.

Can I buy film, batteries, and disposable cameras?
No, and if they are available on the boat or in a stop in Puerto Ayora during one day of the week, they will be expensive. Plan on bringing enough film and extra batteries.

Can I have my clothes washed?
No, but don’t bring too many clothes because you can re-wear T-shirts and will spend a lot of time in swimsuits.

Are there luggage restrictions?
You can take one bag and one carry on only to Galapagos.