FAQsFrequently asked questions
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Why pay a gap year organisation rather than travel independently?
Increasingly people are also looking at shorter periods of time overseas and so structured programmes take away the uncertainty that you might experience travelling independently. You know what you’ll be doing and when, and your accomodation and transport in country will have been arranged in advance.
Structured programmes are also likely to take you places off the well worn backpacker routes, which has an appeal to many looking for something a bit different.
If you are after a specific experience, such as sail instructor training, an internship, language course or volunteer placement, a package is an easier option than trying to source these in-country and ensure they are legitimate and that they have the correct insurances and emergency procedures in place.
But if I am volunteering why should I pay?
How these costs are covered will vary from company to company. Some may ask you to fundraise, others may be charities and raise funds themselves, some may rely on volunteers to manage projects or ask you to organise and pay for things that others ‘package’ into their offer.
Whether the company you travel with is commercial, non-profit or a charity they are all obliged to make sure they are financially secure and your fee will include an element of profit or surplus income that they can use to re-invest in the business or pay out as a dividend to shareholders who have invested in the company.
This should not be confused with operators (either in the UK or Overseas) who are ‘profiteering’, which bascially means they are exploiting your goodwill and possibly the project you are working on in order to make more profit than they could if they were operating responsibly. These are hard to spot simply by viewing their website so be deligent with your research.
You will need to make your own mind up about what seems a reasonable fee in exchange for the service and experience you will receive. You should ask companies about what your fee covers-ask them for a breakdown. You should also find out as much as you can about your volunteering programme, why it is needed and what benefit you will bring.
If you are not convinced, don’t book!
Why travel with your members?
a) If they are UK based we check they are registered with Companies House. We can also see who owns the company, how long they have been trading and if they submit their annual acccounts. For overseas registered companies there is less certainty so we rely more on the evidence they submit to show they have been trading for our minimum period of 3 years and they have to submit accounts to us.
b) Companies also have to submit evidence of their public and employee liability insurance & financial protection (for those that offer at least 2 of these services: activity (eg a volunteer placement or ecpedition etc), flights and accomodation. They also have to submit risk assessments and crisis management plans.
c) We interview the owner or senior staff member about their business to get a sense of their values, exprience etc and we reserve the right to refuse membership until we are satisified that have addressed all our queres and concerns
d) Each year companies to commit to continue to uphold our charter and code of conduct. Although it is no guarantee of compliance, it does give us power to curtail or refuse membership in future if they have been found to be untruthful.
In addition, where participants make make a financal claim against one of our members, perhaps for a part refund for example, we offer an independent arbitration service should agreement not be possible for one reason or another.