Back in April, I posted an article called “An Honest Review – My Volunteer Experience With IVHQ & Green Lion Bali”. This post has been, by far, the single most visited page on this entire blog to date. I receive several emails every week with questions regarding this program after people read this post, and, while I love to hear from all of you, I thought I would put together a FAQ page with some of the most commonly asked questions – simply to further provide future IVHQers with some good information.
If your questions still remain unanswered after reading this post, please feel free to contact me via email!
Penestanan is Beautiful.
IVHQ BALI FAQ
Did You Feel Safe?
I felt safe 99.9% of the time. Ubud and Penestanan are very safe places to travel…even for women traveling alone. However – you can expect to feel slightly uncomfortable at times if you haven’t traveled to a place like Bali before. There are strange sights, sounds, and smells. People can be pushy. Homes do not have high-tech locks and alarm systems like they might in the West. The road systems are very different, and the craziness of the drivers will make your heart skip a beat at first. If there is a time that you truly feel unsafe, be sure to let the Green Lion staff know, or, if it comes down to it, get in touch with the IVHQ office. I highly doubt it would ever come to that, though. Once you adjust to life in Penestanan, you will be quite relaxed. (Click here to read “What I Wish I Knew About Penestanan“)
A photo I took from the back seat of the car of the traffic on our way from the airport to the volunteer house.
What Were The Other Projects Like?
We participated in the Teaching English Programme, so that is the only first hand experience I received with IVHQ Bali. When it comes to other projects, the only ones I knew people in were Construction and Turtle Conservation.
The Construction volunteers loved their projects, and, to be completely honest, I would probably participate in the Construction Programme if I could do it all again, simply because I feel like I may have been able to make more of a difference in the short two weeks that I had in Bali.
The Turtle Conservation volunteers also really enjoyed their projects. They were with us for the first week of orientation, and then they went to the island of Nusa Penida to work with the turtles. The only semi-negative thing that they had to say is that Nusa Penida is ridiculously remote. IVHQ is very flexible – if you have the time, you could always do the Turtle Conservation project for a week, and then participate in another project on the mainland for the duration of your stay.
How Much Money Did You Spend Per Week?
This question is tough, because obviously it depends what you want to do during the week and during your time off on the weekend. We spent a moderate amount of money – eating most of our meals at the volunteer house (which was included in our fee), but we did eat out for a few meals (like Ibu Rai), spent some time at Kopi Desa Cafe (coffee, drinks, food and wifi), spent some mornings at The Mansion Pool ($3 per person), did a guided weekend hike of Mount Batur (about $30 per person), and had a half-day at the Midas Spa ($50). Throughout our two weeks, we probably spent about an extra $150 each. Some people spent less, some people spent more, but I would say that you could expect to spend around $50 – $150 per one week - more if you plan a weekend excursion to the Gili Islands, etc. (Click Here to see a list of my favourite things to do in Ubud)
Which Vaccines / Prescriptions Did You Get?
We were lucky because our vaccinations and prescriptions were covered by our healthcare plan, so we played it really safe and got everything that was recommended to us, except for Rabies. (I just had to promise not to snuggle every single dog like I do here in Canada.)
The Vaccines / Prescriptions we got were…
-Hepatitis A Vaccine
-Hepatitis B Vaccine
-Dukoral Oral Vaccine(Protects from Cholera and Traveler’s Diarrhea)
-Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine (requires two separate shots)
-Azithromycin (Medication to have on hand in case of Bacterial Infection in the stomach – ie. Bali Belly – we never had to use this)
We did NOT get…
-Yellow Fever Vaccine (Not required unless you have been in a Yellow Fever Risk Country)
-Rabies Vaccine (Recommended but we decided against it)
What Did You Do With Your Valuables?
The only valuables I brought with me were my iPod, cash, camera and passport. While the volunteer houses are fairly safe, there are a lot of people coming and going throughout the day, and it would be wise to bring a lock for your backpack or suitcase for while you’re out, just in case. At the end of the day, a bag lock isn’t going to stop someone from ripping into your pack, but it will at least give you some peace of mind. Try to keep valuables with you when you can, and always carry a photocopy of your passport in case something happens to it. However, as I have said already, Penestanan is a pretty safe place, and I’d be very surprised to hear that something was ever stolen from the volunteer house.
What Kind Of Clothing Should I Pack?
Lightweight, quick-dry clothing is best for Bali. You will be hot, sweaty, and sometimes wet, with limited access to laundry facilities. Volunteer Travel is not a fashion show. I mostly wore activewear and outdoor brands such as Nike, Lululemon and Columbia. You’ll want one or two nice outfits for dinners out, good walking/hiking shoes, comfy clothes for relaxing at the house, and clothes that cover your shoulders and knees for teaching and temple visits. During volunteer week, you are welcome to wear shorts and tank tops.
I Am Traveling Alone. Will I Meet People Easily?
Yes. I have never seen a group of people become as close as our volunteer group did. It’s been almost a year since we all met, and I have them all on Facebook…several of them have actually traveled to meet up with each other again since then! Sean and I mostly did our own thing, but most of the other volunteers were traveling alone, and they bonded instantly. People are friendly, open, and usually in the same boat – the beautiful thing about Solo Travel is that you’re only ever as alone as you want to be.
Our Volunteer Group after the Mount Batur Hike
Do You Feel Like You Actually Made A Difference?
This is always a difficult question to answer. We were in Bali for two weeks on the Teaching English programme, and the entire first week was dedicated to orientation, so we were actually only teaching in a classroom for a week. I felt like I was able to connect with certain students, and I was definitely excited when I was able to teach them something, but I think my overall impact would have been greater if I had had more time with the kids. Like anything, you get out of this experience what you put into it, so if you are passionate and driven to make a significant difference in two weeks, then I am confident that you will. However, for me personally, if I could do it again, I would focus on a program such as Construction and Renovation so that the difference I was making would be more immediately visible. But everybody is different. You will know what to do.
Should I Bring A Lot Of Cash, Or Are ATMs Plentiful?
Bring a little bit of Indonesian Rupiah if you can, just because you’ll be a bit disoriented during your first few days. However, once you get the lay of the land, it’s very easy to walk to one of the several ATMs located in Ubud. They’re easy to use and the fees aren’t ridiculously high. We took additional cash out twice during our two weeks in Bali.
I Am An Older Volunteer. Will There Be Anyone My Age?
Hopefully! During our two weeks in Bali, we met 4 ladies who were all over 40 and traveling solo. It was actually pretty cool to see how some of them gravitated towards women their own age, and some of them were eager to mix in with the younger volunteers. If you’re concerned about having your own space as a mature volunteer, you may want to consider the private accommodation option, which is where 3 out of 4 of the older women we met were staying.
How Does The Airport Pickup Situation Work?
For us, the airport pickup went very smoothly. Well, mostly smoothly. Sean and I were greeted by a very friendly man named Jefri (with our names and “IVHQ” written on a sign), but we did have to wait around for almost an hour for another volunteer who arrived on the same flight as us, but, unfortunately, her luggage did not. This was nobody’s fault, though. Jefri helped us with our luggage to his vehicle and then transported us right to our front door of the volunteer house in Penestanan. We adored him so much that we used him as our driver several more times throughout our stay in Bali!
A picture Sean snapped from the back of a moped in Penestanan (PS – Nobody will force you to ride a moped if you don’t want to!)
Hopefully you found this FAQ article helpful. Please contact me directly if you have any further questions, or if you feel like there’s anything I missed!