Our response to COVID-19
During 2020 the COVID-19 virus and the global response to it impacted our ability to deliver all programs in all locations. We’re very happy to announce that we’ve reopened all 19 of our global bases for bookings and are welcoming new participants again with the aim to continue in our efforts towards making an impact where it matters most. We currently have participants on the ground with us in Seychelles, Ghana, South Africa, Costa Rica and Mexico.
We’ve been able to make the decision to reopen by putting new health and safety procedures and protocols in place that will help us to ensure a safe experience for both GVI staff, participants and local communities alike. Our newly appointed health and hygiene team will make sure that our standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours meet or exceed international recommendations.
GVI also continues to closely monitor the virus COVID-19 (formerly known as novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV) and follow updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UK, US and Australian government travel advice, and local government health advice from our operational locations. Should we find that the risk severity increases, we will take further action and notify our participants.
"I'd just like to take the opportunity to mention how amazing the staff at the Cap Ternay [Seychelles] base have been [in dealing] with this whole situation [of travel restrictions caused by COVID-19]. They were all so helpful and understanding even in a time of uncertainty [...]. Everything ran so smoothly and even though it was a sad time for everyone they always put us first and were there to provide support night and day. Thank you for everything."
Booked and enquiring participants
What do I need to do?
Please purchase travel insurance to cover you for all eventualities that may arise during your time with us. GVI has a partnership with CISI Insurance to offer coverage for any necessary medical treatment in country. Please contact your Support Coordinator to get a quote. You may also wish to take out additional cancellation insurance to cover you in the event you are unable to travel.
Prior to travel please be sure to contact your local embassy for the country you will be visiting in order to receive updated travel information. With updates changing frequently, we encourage participants to receive the most up to date information from embassies directly. Due to the frequent updates for both countries of origin and destination, GVI is unable to provide updated travel advice relevant to each participant. Your local embassy can supply the most correct information.
We are very aware the media and social media have reported a vast amount of false information and so it is vital that you only follow official advice supplied by the embassy in your area.
Please ensure you are tested for COVID-19 72 hours prior to travelling to your GVI program, this is part of our commitment to keeping our participants, staff and community members safe. If this is not possible from your location please contact your enrollment manager in advance of any travel. We will also be screening new arrivals for any signs and symptoms of COVID-19, by conducting temperature checks and requiring all participants to present a medical certificate proving they have not tested positive for COVID-19.
We will assist you with securing a COVID-19 test pre-departure from your GVI program. In preparation for your return journey, GVI will also support you in reaching a COVID-19 testing centre 72 hours prior to departure to your home country. This includes handling all the logistics involved, organising transport and accommodation (if needed) and covering all the costs of getting you to the testing centre. All of this is included in your COVID-19: Health and Hygiene fee so that you do not have any additional expenses apart from paying for the test itself.
Can I change the location or start date of my program?
Yes. From now until the end of 2024, if you have booked onto a GVI program, and you would like to transfer before your program start date, due to COVID-19 concerns or restrictions, we are offering free transfers to any date or location. If you are requesting a transfer for reasons other than COVID-19 then standard transfer fees will still apply. All transfers are subject to availability and any differences in program fees will be for your account if the program you have selected is more expensive. Please see our Flexible Cancellation Policy page for more details.
How have social distancing and increased hygiene measures affected my program and will it still be an enjoyable experience?
Your health and safety is our top priority when volunteering abroad with GVI. So much so that during 2020 we received the Go Overseas Top Gap Year Providers: Safety award. This reward was as a result of reviews from past participants highlighting, amongst other things, the safety measures we have put in place during COVID-19.
We have worked hard to ensure that we have created a safe environment for our participants while still preserving all the elements that make GVI programs enjoyable and memorable.
Who is on base already?
Since October 2020, after careful planning and putting our health and hygiene protocols in place to ensure their safety, we’ve been fortunate to have had participants on our island base of Curieuse, Seychelles. This was then closely followed by welcoming participants to our hubs in Costa Rica, Mexico, South Africa and Ghana in early 2021, where they joined our team of dedicated staff members.
As participants have been starting to return to our bases they have also been sharing some of their photos and stories. This shows first hand what travelling during COVID-19 is really like on the ground. You can hear more about their experiences and see posts live from the field on our bases Facebook pages:
What happens if GVI cancels my program?
In the event that GVI must cancel a program, our first recourse will be to offer you a free transfer to another start date or destination. Please refer to our terms and conditions for additional information.
When will I be notified if GVI cancels my program?
In the event we are unable to run your program, you will be notified as soon as possible by phone or email and offered a free transfer to another start date or destination. Please refer to our terms and conditions for our cancellation policies.
Unfortunately, as the situation is ever changing, we are unable to provide you with a specific date when you will be notified of cancellation, or guarantee your program will run. If you do not hear from us, please note your program is running as planned.
I am booked to travel with GVI, when will I hear from you?
Once booked on your dedicated Support Coordinator will provide you with all the necessary information to ensure that your trip runs smoothly. GVI will again send you a link you can use to check the status of travel to your destination.
6 weeks before your departure date, your Support Coordinator will get back in touch to discuss travel regulations and any necessary steps that need to be taken. Please do not be concerned if you do not hear from your Support Coordinator prior to this. Travel regulations are changing daily, so we only coordinate necessary actions at this milestone.
Where does my COVID-19: Health and Hygiene fee go?
COVID-19 has made life a little more tricky in many ways. While we are thrilled to be hosting participants on base again, this comes with new challenges - and subsequent new expenses. These expenses are incurred in an effort to keep our participants as safe as possible; our number one concern.
So here’s a further breakdown of where your COVID-19: Health and Hygiene fee goes:
COVID-19: HEALTH AND HYGIENE PACK
Upon arriving at your program, you'll receive a GVI welcome pack, t-shirt and your personal COVID-19: Health and Hygiene pack which contains a variety of items that will be used to ensure your safety and maintain the new standards of cleanliness on base. These items are subject to availability and might differ slightly depending on your base location, but will include a personal water bottle, personal cloth face coverings, hand sanitiser and soap, amongst other things.
FACILITATING PRE-DEPARTURE TESTING
In preparation for your return journey, GVI will also support you in reaching a COVID-19 testing centre 72 hours prior to departure to your home country. This includes handling all the logistics involved, organising transport and accommodation (if needed) and covering all the costs of getting you to the testing centre. All of this is included in your COVID-19: Health and Hygiene fee so that you do not have any additional expenses apart from paying for the test itself.
With over 20 years of experience, we are passionate and experienced in providing extensive support throughout each participants’ journey, ensuring the highest safety standards possible. This is why we have also put in place new standards of cleanliness and protocols that meet international safety recommendations. These include social distancing, pre-arrival and pre-departure COVID-19 testing and wearing masks on base, all of which come with their own associated costs.
We want all of our participants to get a good night’s rest. This is why we now only have participants occupy every second bed (when in bunk beds) or have provided adequate room between single beds, in the accommodation facilities on base. This leaves a generous distance between participants while sleeping, in accordance with our strict social distancing protocols. This does, however, mean that we incur the costs of having fewer beds in the available space.
Fully packed airport shuttle transfers are a thing of the past. The upside? Participants now have ample room to themselves when travelling with GVI in accordance with our strict social distancing regulations. The downside? We need to provide twice the usual amount of transport.
Our staff who work directly with participants and community members take regular COVID-19 tests to ensure the safety of all involved. They are also required to quarantine when arriving on base, leaving base, or if they suspect they may have been exposed to COVID-19 in any capacity. As an organisation that prizes participants’ safety, this is something we insist upon, and therefore something we cover financially.
As specialists in their respective fields, no GVI program would be what it is without all of our field-staff members present. So in order to give our staff and participants the necessary social distancing space, costs have gone into providing additional accommodation and transport. The result of this is significantly higher operating costs per program.
“[Curieuse, Seychelles] It’s a magical island, and the basic life was pretty much as I expected, and works well. [...] easy access to neighbouring Praslin means that little luxuries are usually attainable. The attitude towards COVID has been common-sense, and has not impacted my enjoyment of the work on the island.
[...] The animals are magnificent and it’s a real privilege to be able to work almost daily with nesting turtles and shark pups. Jazzy and her team helped me to feel fully involved with the work and are very knowledgeable about the island and its ecosystems. They have also been consistently flexible during this time, adapting their schedules and the work to changing circumstances."
How will I know the status of travel to the country I’m wanting to visit?
GVI continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 virus and how countries are responding to inbound and outbound travel within their borders.
Your Support Coordinator will contact you 6 weeks before your departure date, to discuss travel regulations and any necessary steps that need to be taken. Due to the ever-changing landscape of travel regulations, we also advise that you consult this website.
What if I am restricted in leaving my country to travel?
Changes in lockdown regulations can happen suddenly, imposing restrictions on outbound as well as inbound travel.
In some cases you may have to show proof of essential travel upon leaving your home country. Volunteering and travelling for education are both listed as legally permitted reasons for essential travel. As GVI is both a volunteering organisation and a registered learning provider, we will supply you with a letter confirming the educational and critical work purposes of your trip with GVI which will permit you to travel. We have successfully had participants travel in recent weeks using this documentation at the airport.
What happens if I get turned away upon arrival?
Your airline should have the most up-to-date information for entry requirements for your destination. They should alert you if they expect any issues on arrival before you board your flight. In the event this does not happen, and you are barred entry by immigration officials upon arrival, immigration will likely place you on the next available flight. Contact your GVI Program Manager in country or contact us on our 24-hour emergency line for emergency support.
Please ensure you check your travel insurance provider to ensure they will cover any costs for getting you back home and reimburse your program fee.
What happens if I get quarantined on arrival?
In the event you are advised to quarantine upon arrival, contact your GVI Program Manager in country or contact us on our 24-hour emergency line for emergency support. We will advise you of an appropriate place to quarantine at a nearby local hotel or bed and breakfast where we can support you.
GVI will do its utmost to assist you with transferring your start date to allow you to participate on your program. However, please note this is subject to availability.
While on base
What happens if I’m on my project and the country shuts its borders?
GVI is continually monitoring travel restrictions both into and out of the countries where we operate. Should you be on your project and restricted to leave by the local government, GVI will continue to provide food, accommodation and back up programs (where possible).
GVI receives updates from the FCO, the US and Australian State Departments and will keep participants and their emergency contacts up-to-date while you are on project. Please don’t hesitate to contact your GVI Program Manager in country or contact us on our 24-hour emergency line for support.
Please ensure you have the contact details of your home country’s consulate in the country you are travelling (e.g. The British High Commission in South Africa) and register with them or sign up for updates if available. If you are a US Citizen, you can simply enroll in the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP): https://step.state.gov/
How do I stay up to date with changes while I'm on program?
Our dedicated support staff are continually monitoring all government travel advice, and local government health advice from our operational locations. Our in field staff will therefore be kept abreast of any updates that might affect you and your planned travel and will communicate these changes directly to you.
What support will GVI provide if I’m unable to get home?
GVI will assist with arranging food and accommodation in the event you are unable to get home due to flight cancellations or other restrictions. Our staff will still be available in country, as well as Central Support via telephone to help with any questions.
What happens if my flight gets cancelled?
In the event your flight is cancelled, and you are unable to get a new flight to your program, GVI will assist with transferring you to another date or location free of charge.
What happens if I, or another participant, contracts coronavirus?
GVI has an Emergency Action Plan and a dedicated health and hygiene team for each of our locations to handle any suspected instances of COVID-19. Alongside advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UK, US and Australian Governments as well as local health authorities, we have identified best practice methods to reduce the chance of infection and transmission, including screening, preventative hygiene and sanitation procedures and initial isolation areas for any cases of potential concern on all our bases. For more information on the protocols and social distancing measures we have put in place, please visit our Health and Hygiene page.
For any cases where the patient shows specific symptoms of COVID-19, while in temporary isolation, GVI will contact the local health authorities and act on their advice. Should the patient be confirmed with COVID-19 and/ or need continued self-isolation, they will be placed on a separate part of the base or off-site, depending on each hub.
While isolation can be perceived as scary, the reality is that the patient will be assigned a GVI caregiver who will ensure they have everything they need during this period, including food, accommodation and emotional support.
To prevent the transmission of the virus to other participants, a number of procedures will be put in place in addition to isolation, including the GVI caregiver wearing protective clothing and best practice hygiene and sanitation of the base and isolated accommodation. Please ensure your travel insurance will cover any necessary medical care you may need while in country.
For participants from the United Kingdom
Which GVI locations are unaffected by the red list?
GVI locations currently unaffected by the red list are as follows:
- Canary Islands
If you’re unsure what the red list is or if it will affect your travel plans, please see our answer below.
What is a red listed country, and what happens if I’m travelling from one of those countries to the UK?
The red list countries are 33 hotspots that have been deemed at high risk of the COVID-19 variants and have been shown to have patients with the COVID-19 variant in circulation.
If you have been in or through any country on the travel ban red list in the previous 10 days, you will be refused entry to the United Kingdom (UK) unless you are a British or Irish National, or have residence rights in the UK. However, you will still be required to quarantine in a government approved hotel for 10 days.
You will also not be allowed to use the Test to Release scheme. A process in which you would pay for a private COVID-19 test to find out if you can reduce your quarantine period after international travel.
If you are not a British or Irish National and have been in or through any of the countries listed below in the previous 10 days, you will be refused entry to the UK.
The red list of countries is as follows:
- Cape Verde
- Costa Rica
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- French Guiana
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Please note that you can however still travel to GVI locations currently on the red list, but you will need a letter of essential travel, which GVI can provide to you.
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