Our response to COVID-19
Latest update: November
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, Peru, Thailand, Greece, Canary Islands 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.
Traveling is so important in bringing awareness and understanding to the world and to let fear hold us back from enlightenment is heartbreaking. Impressively GVI has made the entire experience feel safe and functioning from the moment I arrived. I was greeted by kind eyes behind masks and hand sanitizer at the ready, and that level of awareness did not cease. I was welcomed to base by volunteers, interns, and staff, all ready to help me unload my belongings while maintaining a safe distance. From masked community days with social distancing in place, to capacity limits in rooms at base. GVI has made traveling during a pandemic a little less scary. All it takes now is a little bit of courage to see just how small the world can truly be.
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
Get vaccinated for COVID-19, this is often a requirement of some of our host countries or partners and part of our commitment to keeping vulnerable communities safe. GVI requires you to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine that has been approved by the WHO for emergency use against COVID-19 prior to your program start date. Some of our locations may also require participants to be fully vaccinated to partake in all activities, this will be communicated to you if relevant. If you are unable to get vaccinated because of medical requirements, please contact your enrollment manager.
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. Even vaccinated individuals can still carry and transmit COVID-19, so we will continue to screen new arrivals for any signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and will enforce mask-wearing while indoors and social distancing.
If needed, 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 testing centre 72 hours prior to departure to your home country. This includes transport and accommodation in the nearest centre up to your program completion date with GVI.
What Health and Hygiene protocols are being carried out on base.
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 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 what Health and Hygiene protocols where have put in place and why:
COVID-19: HEALTH AND HYGIENE PACK
Upon arriving at your program, we will ensure that you have access to items such as personal cloth face coverings, soap and hand sanitizer that can be used to ensure your safety and maintain the standards of cleanliness on base. These items are subject to availability and might differ slightly depending on your base location.
FACILITATING PRE-DEPARTURE TESTING
If needed and 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.
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.
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, Peru, Canary Islands, Greece and Ghana, 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.
Traveling during covid can be challenging but it's worth it. GVI has done everything in their power to ensure I could still do the program I wanted and has been very flexible with the changing of dates and programs. When preparing for my trip, it got a bit more challenging. Covid did not make it that easy but it is all worth it in the end and preparing this much also makes you feel ready to start your program. Overall I don't feel like traveling during a pandemic has limited me to do things. It has opened up a whole new world for me.
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.
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 destinations are on the red list?
The Department of Transport is continuously reviewing countries on the red list. We recommend checking their website directly for the most up-to-date list. Effective 1 November, none of our destinations will be affected by the red list.
What is the red list, and what happens if I’m travelling from one of the countries on this list to the UK?
Destinations on the red list require you to quarantine at an approved hotel for 10 days and take a COVID-19 test or before day 2 and on or after day 8 after you arrive back home in the UK.
Effective 11 October:
If you are fully vaccinated and have not travelled to a country on the Red List, you do NOT need to quarantine when you return home. You will need to:
Take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2, which must be booked and paid for in advance, and complete a passenger locator form at least 48 hours prior to your arrival which will ask for your COVID-19 test booking reference number.
If you are NOT fully vaccinated, you will be required to take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 upon your arrival in the UK. You must also quarantine at home for 10 days. You can finish your quarantine early if you pay for a private test on or after day 5 of your return home.
*From 1 December, as part of our stringent health and safety standards, GVI will require all participants to be fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine AND a negative PCR test to join a GVI program unless they have a medical exemption with has been approved in advance.
Please visit the GOV.UK for the most up-to-date advice and guidance on current regulations and guidance on international travel.
To help get you on your next GVI adventure, we’ve put together this Travel Smart Checklist to help you navigate travel today. You can also consult our Where Can I Travel page for more information on the status of GVI locations for travel.
When my graduate job was deferred in August 2020, my first thought was, “Where can I travel to?” Initially, travelling during a worldwide pandemic seemed unwise (and near impossible!) But as the world has started to open up again, so have the travel opportunities. And now more than ever it’s important to choose the right experience and travel responsibly.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the course of education and made taking a gap year more relevant than ever before. We all know that COVID-19 has created a ripple effect, causing most businesses and educational institutions worldwide to temporarily close their doors. Here’s more about gap year benefits during the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
Having been restricted by the travel constraints of the 2020 global pandemic, my ambitions to travel have only grown. As a recent graduate who’s just secured a new job, I’m eager to see and experience more of the world and the COVID-19 pandemic has re-established my appreciation of being able to travel freely and to make a sustainable impact while doing so.