If you’re planning on doing an overseas mission trip it’s important to be well-prepared in advance and to make sure you have adequate insurance cover. Overseas mission trips can expose you to all kinds of unfamiliar conditions and customs – and that’s on top of the risks that go with travel generally!
Once you’ve determined the objectives of the trip, the planning needs to start. Considerations include risk assessments, insurance cover, documentation, security, training, itineraries, communication and emergency plans, health checks, finances and more. It might be a good idea to create checklists for your travel plans that you tick off as you go. This helps to ensure you have all bases covered.
The guidelines below should help get you started.
Safety and security:
The DFAT Smart Traveller website provides up-to-date online information on global travel destinations. Smart Traveller also issues four levels of warnings for regions as follows:
- Exercise normal safety precautions.
- Exercise a high degree of caution.
- Reconsider your need to travel.
- Do not travel.
DFAT updates this information regularly. You can keep up to date by subscribing for Smart Traveller alerts.
Customs and laws:
Research your travel destinations to learn about the cultural laws, norms and expectations. This includes checking the protocols regarding taking photos or filming and considering how to dress and behave in destination countries.
Create a comprehensive documented itinerary and make sure everyone involved (including at home) has a copy.
You can also register your trip with Smart Traveller. Doing so helps DFAT get in touch with your contacts back home if anything goes wrong.
Make sure you understand the entry/exit visa requirements of your destinations, and that you have the right documentation in place.
This includes ensuring everyone’s passport is up-to-date and not likely to expire during the trip! Also, take photocopies and / or scans of all passports, visas, insurance policies and any other relevant documentation.
Health and medical:
All members of the travel party should have a health checkup before embarking, and any conditions, allergies and required medications noted. You should make sure everyone has had all the required vaccinations as well.
You should also become aware of any disease risks in destination countries, and create a response plan in case of illness in team members.
In addition, make sure there will be people with current First Aid qualifications travelling with the team.
Keeping the lines of communication open needs to be a top priority.
Considerations here include determining who your main contacts will be while you’re away, and advising church administrators of all trip details. This includes providing your contacts with copies of passports, visas, emergency contacts, medical needs, insurance policies, booking references and any other relevant details.
Overseas travel can be fraught with risks, and even more so in a remote or unstable region. Conducting a thorough risk assessment helps you identify risks, evaluate them and create response plans.
Areas to consider include medical emergencies, theft or loss of belongings, natural disasters, diseases, missed flights and so on. A risk assessment form is available for download from the ‘Forms‘ section to help you with this (scroll down to find it).
Also see our previous article on Risk Management for Churches for tips on controlling risks.
Even with the best planning and risk management things can go wrong, so make sure you have a current travel policy in place.
Travel insurance provides financial protection for a range of risks – such as medical expenses, theft, baggage loss or damage, trip cancellations and accidental death. If you do not have adequate cover you or your family could be responsible for covering the costs.
You should also check with your insurance provider regarding exclusions. For example, your insurance may not cover you while you are in ‘Do Not Travel’ regions.
Get in contact with our team if you would like to discuss travel insurance or get a quote on a policy for authorised mission trips.
Travel tips and advice
During your travels keep informed about security or health matters by subscribing to alerts from Smart Traveller or by following them on Facebook or Twitter.
Smart Traveller recommends considering how you dress and behave while overseas so you don’t stand out, showing respect for local customs and practices, being aware of how you can be perceived by locals and asking permission before taking photos.
You can also reduce the risk of being robbed on your trip by carrying a minimum of cash on you and avoiding wearing valuable items such as expensive jewellery.
Lastly, keep a journal or other written record of your trip, including what actions you took when problems occurred. This information could prove useful for next time.
There are some issues to be aware of on the way back as well as during the trip.
This includes declaring restricted items and complying with biosecurity requirements. Also, if you have visited countries with disease risks you may need to produce a vaccination certificate.
Note that some team members may require debriefing and counselling post-trip – especially if they were exposed to harrowing situations or experiences.
Links for more information
On mission trips it’s important to be able to go about your valuable work while knowing you are fully covered by insurance and have prepared and planned well. Check out the links below for more tips and guidance on overseas travel and travel insurance.
Tags: employees, health & safety, travel, volunteers