Tips for Pilgrims

Read as much as possible about the place you're visiting.  Browse in your public library; read all available guidebooks, and explore background information.  Try to get a sense of the culture, the politics and the religion.  Rent a video – travel videos can teach you a lot about your destination.

  1. Travel light.
  2. Stay alert – read the fine print, listen to announcements, and hang on to your possessions.
  3. Slow down. Relax. Be flexible.
  4. Be discreet – don't flaunt your money. Carry your valuables on your person or keep them in the hotel safe. This is a good time to leave your expensive jewelry at home.
  5. Get a map of the country and become familiar with it.
  6. Bring sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, well broken in.
  7. Try to speak the language.
  8. Follow through after your trip. If a service was particularly good or bad, let us know. You can communicate with using the Survey page.

There is not much to compare with pilgrimage – it will give you more than you can possibly take from it. It will feed your senses and your intellect; it will heighten your understanding and compassion; and it will bestow upon you good friends and priceless memories.

Preparing for Your Trip

Passport. Make sure your passport is current.  If you don't have a passport, get one as soon as possible as passports are taking a long time to process.  To get your passport you'll need proof of U.S. citizenship (a birth certificate, for example), proof of identity (a driver's license will do), two recent two–inch by two–inch passport color photographs, and a completed official passport form.  Passports are valid for ten years (five years if under age 16 when issued), however, it must be valid for 6 months following the return date of the trip or boarding may be denied or entry into the destination may be forbidden.  You can get a passport application and/or a passport renewal application from the US Department of State online at www.travel.state.gov.  Once at the site, click on passports to find an application.

We need your name exactly as listed on your passport!!!!

Visas: If a visa is required for the countries you are visiting, we will advise you.

Guard your passport.  Always carry your passport with you.  Don't hand your passport over to unauthorized persons or pack it in your luggage.  Keep a record of your passport number and the date and place of issue.  Pack a photocopy of the first page of your passport and leave one photocopy with a reliable person at home.  If lost or stolen, immediately notify local police and the nearest American embassy or consulate.  You'll be issued a three–month temporary passport, but you'll have to fill out a detailed report and follow the same procedure required to obtain your original passport.

Record all of the following and leave copies at home:

  1. Passport
  2. Airline Tickets
  3. Itinerary with hotels, phone and fax numbers.

Health Tips

  1. Start an exercise regimen before your trip.  Carrying suitcases, prolonged sitting or standing, unfamiliar beds, and activities you're not accustomed to can aggravate aches and pains.  Build your flexibility and stamina – before you leave home.  Walking and stretching exercises will help.
  2. Try to get as much sleep as possible before you leave.
  3. Bring sunglasses that deflect 100% of ultraviolet rays.  You also may want to bring lubricating eye drops and nasal spray for long flights, and hot and dry environments.
  4. Break in your shoes before you begin the pilgrimage.  Aching feet can ruin a perfectly good pilgrimage.

General Packing Tips

Make a list of all items you want to take. Check off items as you pack.

  1. Place all your clothes for the trip out, and then put half of them back in the closet.
  2. Take half the amount of clothes and twice the money and film.
  3. Pack zip lock plastic bags in varying sizes to hold jewelry, wet suits, cosmetics and dirty laundry.
  4. Do not fill bottles to the top with liquids.
  5. Never pack the following in your checked luggage: money, jewelry, traveler’s checks, travel documents including your airline tickets, matches or cigarette lighters or butane for curling irons.
  6. Pack all heavy items (hair dryer, shoes, and converter) on the bottom. Stuff shoes with socks, hose, underwear, or anything that won't wrinkle easily.
  7. Place belts around the perimeter of the suitcase, where they are easier to locate.
  8. Sweaters are easy to roll up, don't wrinkle (usually), and fit well into the corners.
  9. Fold blouses and men's shirts inside out so the wrinkles are facing inside and not so permanent.
  10. Place the items you intend to use first on the top: pajamas, the next day's outfit, etc.
  11. When husband and wife are traveling, do not pack all her clothes in one bag and all of his in another.
  12. Electrical Converter... check country information to see what you will need.

Carry-on Bag Contents

Keep in mind that you will have to carry your carry-on bag.  Keep it as light as you can.

  1. Passport and tickets
  2. Camera
  3. Medications
  4. Pen and Paper
  5. Itinerary
  6. Essential cosmetics and toiletries
  7. One change of clothes
  8. Jewelry (leave valuables at home)
  9. Inflatable neck pillow
  10. Toothbrush and paste
  11. Eye drops
  12. Bible/Book/Magazine

Wheeled luggage for your carry-on is very convenient and much less tiring to maneuver through airports.

Pack all the items in your carry-on case in zip lock bags for easier identification.  This is especially helpful with the increased security checks at all airports.  Please read the latest Airport Security Information included in your booklet)

Travel Healthy

Prescription duplicates.  Since foreign trade names may be different from those used in the States, ask your doctor or pharmacist for the generic drug name rather than a brand name.  Also, carry a prescription for your eyeglasses.  Your basic traveling medicine kit should include:

  1. Your name and address
  2. Insurance card
  3. Name and address of person to notify in case of emergency
  4. Current medications and dosages
  5. Any drug allergies

Take two of everything "medical" – prescription glasses, contact lenses, etc.

Inoculations: Presently, no additional inoculations are required for Israel, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Germany, Spain, France, South Africa, Russia, Egypt, Jordan or Turkey.  Inoculations are, however, suggested for South Africa and as world conditions and country requirements change constantly, we suggest you check with your own physician and health department for advice.

Maintain your normal exercise regimen as much as possible.  Do simple exercises in your room.

Eating healthy on your trip:

  1. Don't skip meals.
  2. Don’t overdo at mealtime!
  3. Don't be afraid to ask how something is prepared.
  4. Be aware of what you eat.  Steer clear of salads and foods that have been left out in the sun.  Also, avoid dairy products where refrigeration is suspect.
  5. Eat fruit that can be peeled and eat vegetables whenever possible.
  6. Drink plenty of fluids.  Bring a water bottle with you everywhere!
  7. Bottled water is recommended; check to be sure bottles are sealed.

Make the Most of Your Money

Know the currency of your chosen destination, including lesser denominations.  To estimate how much money you'll need, check the exchange rates listed in the financial section of your local newspaper or on one of these websites: www.xe.com or money.aol.com/marketnews/currencies.  Please remember the rate quoted is usually for very large sums of money being exchanged.  Therefore, the rate you actually get will vary.  ATM's provide very favorable exchange rates.  Then, just before you leave, you can ask your bank for the latest rates.

Exchange the bulk of your funds overseas.  If you need cash immediately upon arrival in your host country (say, for a taxi to the hotel), most international airports have exchange counters open at all hours.  Be aware that the rates for converting from cash differ from those for traveler's checks.  It's best to exchange money as needed, because many nations will not re–exchange leftover currency upon your departure or if they will exchange it, the rate is not usually favorable.

Don't get hung up on the exchange rate.  It changes from day to day and is impossible to predict.

Once you have obtained some foreign money, take a good look at it.  Examine the coins and figure out how to tell them apart. Look at the bills.  You want to be familiar with them so that you will be as quick as possible in your monetary transactions.  Travelers often end up with pockets or purses bulging with change, because they are constantly breaking large bills. Change will not convert back to U.S. currency.

Credit cards.  Take only the credit cards you plan to use on your trip.  You won’t need your store credit cards, library card, etc.  It is important to notify your Visa, Mastercard, and other credit card companies that you will be visiting foreign countries on certain dates and will be using your credit cards.  Notification is mandatory by most banks.  Otherwise, the merchant will not get the necessary approval code in order to complete your purchases.  The phone number should be on the back of the credit card.  It pays to make purchases via credit card - you get a better rate of exchange, the protection of the credit card’s charge-back provisions, and often an extra guarantee on major purchases.  If you use your credit card to shop, you'll have a receipt at the time of the transaction, a monthly statement, and a period of financial float before you must pay.

Any foreign purchase made with a credit card will be converted to dollars for billing purposes.  You will be billed according to the rate of exchange effective the day your charge clears in the United States, not the day you made the purchase.

When you charge something, examine the charge slip carefully and keep your customer copy so that you can compare it to your final bill.

ATM Cards.  If your ATM card is part of the Cirrus or Plus network here at home, it may also work overseas where foreign ATMs also belong to that network.  You use the machines the same as at home - by punching in your personal identification number (PIN), and the amount of cash you want (in local currency).

SAFETY CAUTION:  Never use an ATM machine alone.  Always have a member of the group with you when you use the machine and keep your eyes open to questionable characters who may be nearby.

Ask your bank if the Cirrus or Plus network is available in the country you're visiting and if there is a charge for using a foreign ATM.  Make sure your PIN number will be accepted abroad.  Your bank can confirm this, or change your number if necessary.

Cash advances.  Since some countries are now imposing surcharges for cashing traveler's checks, travelers are finding that it often pays to take cash advances against their credit card accounts.

Traveler's checks.  Please be aware that cashing or using traveler's checks is becoming more difficult in most foreign countries.  You may want to take them for emergency use only.  Buy them in U.S. dollar denominations.  Take traveler's checks in both the husband and wife's name for ease in cashing.  Don't exchange a traveler's check for more cash than you'll need for a short time.  That way, you'll lose less in case of theft and won't get stuck with extra currency when you depart.  Don't get traveler's checks in denominations larger than $50 or $100.

Don't wait until the day before departure to purchase your traveler's checks!

Always protect your wallet, purses, passport, and other valuables as you would anywhere.  Consider wearing a money belt or other device to protect your cash, traveler's checks, and passport.

Before Departure

Arrive for your flight early.  Airlines suggest that passengers on international flights arrive a minimum of 3 hours before takeoff.  Breathing time can make the difference between a "bon voyage" and a bad – tempered takeoff!  Check with your leader about airport arrival time requirements.

Leave an itinerary with everyone who might need to contact you while you are gone.

Canceled, Delayed or Missed Flights

  1. Please call Worldwide Pilgrimage Ministries ASAP.  Call our main office at 800-260-5104 or if you are out of the country you will need to dial 904-350-0067.  If the problem occurs after hours or on weekends, call one the numbers and you will hear instructions for emergencies.  Follow those instructions, an agent will be beeped and will return your call within 30 minutes.  Please be sure that you leave a call back number.
  2. Listen carefully to the instructions that the airline will provide and follow them completely.
  3. If the airline has canceled a flight that will cause you to misconnect to another flight, the airline will have to handle the rebooking for you.  The airline will not allow us to book new flights for you.
  4. If you have missed a flight totally because of a delay, again the airline will need to handle the booking, but please call Worldwide and keep us advised of your progress.
  5. Keep your group together and near to the person who is standing in line to rebook.  Some airlines will require that all the group is present before they rebook.
  6. Ask for a supervisor if you are not getting the service you need.
  7. Be sure to tell the agent/supervisor that you are the leader of a group and tell them how many seats are needed.
  8. Worldwide MUST know if your arrival time at your pilgrimage destination has been changed.  We have to advise the ground operator so that your guide and your coach are waiting for you upon your arrival.

On the Plane

Take a sweater and a pair of slipper–socks in your tote to wear on the plane in case it gets cold, as it often does.  Ask the flight attendant for a blanket and a pillow as soon as you are seated.  They may be impossible to get later on.

If an airline loses your luggage, complete the "lost baggage" report with the airline responsible for the loss – before leaving the airport.  Keep receipts for any items you had to purchase while your luggage was lost.  Leave your itinerary with the airline, so that your luggage can be returned to you wherever you are.

Damage to your luggage. Check your bags carefully for damage before leaving the airport and if damaged, report it.  The airline may not honor your claim once you've left the facility.

Your airline flight is often the most tiring part of your trip.  Here are a few suggestions to help you feel much better when you arrive at your destination:

  1. Contact wearers: Airplane air is very dry so you may want to remove your lenses during flight and use artificial tears to help with the dryness.
  2. Move around as much as possible.  Walk the aisle frequently.  Movement minimizes swollen feet and ankles.  Also, while you're sitting, elevate your feet on a small travel bag.
  3. Purchase an inflatable neck pillow.
  4. Avoid excess salt which causes swelling in extremities, especially ankles.
  5. Frequently flex your hands.
  6. Drink plenty of fluids.  Also, to counter the effect of the dry airplane air, use a moisturizer on your face and hands.  Use saline nasal spray and natural tears, and spray your face often with water from an atomizer bottle.

Shopping Made Easy

Bring an extra bag.  Pack a collapsible bag or tote in the bottom of your suitcase to carry home all of your purchases.  Having everything in one place will ease your way through customs.

Keep a log of all your purchases.  Include what you paid in foreign currency and the equivalent in U.S. dollars.  This will make it easier to complete the customs forms.

There may be more to the price than meets the eye.  Know duty charges.  Sometimes the duty rate is so large that it doesn't pay to buy the article and then pay duty on your return.

Before you buy that antique or work of art, make sure you can get it out of the country.  Many nations have laws against the export of such items.

Beware of Duty–free shops.  Most do not offer any real bargains.  One known exception: jewelry at the H. Stern shop in Tel Aviv.

Always check the amount of taxes.  Many countries impose a value–added tax (VAT) on goods and services, but offer a refund to foreign purchasers (usually when the item is worth at least $50–$100).  You will be given a form to have stamped at the airport customs office.  Occasionally, you can get the refund right there, but more often you will be required to mail that stamped form back to the store for your refund.  Exchange rate fluctuations between the time of purchase and actual refund may be unfavorable.  One way to avoid all this is to pay for purchases by credit card. Ask the vendor, who will issue a VAT credit to your charge account, in dollars.

Using the Phone

Find out when discount phone rates apply.  You'll not only save money, but you'll also find it's easier to get through at those times.

Before calling long distance from your hotel, find out if the hotel belongs to Teleplay, an agreement established by AT&T with many overseas hotel chains and local phone companies.  This limits the amount of surcharges the hotel can impose – charges that otherwise can be exorbitant (as much as 30 %!).  It may be much cheaper to call collect or use a phone credit card; even on these calls, your hotel may collect a modest fee for putting the call through.  The best way to call is to place your call from the phone in the hotel lobby to avoid the surcharge altogether.

Tipping Made Easy

Tips for the driver and guide are NOT included in the price of your pilgrimage (unless special arrangements were made by your leader).  Suggested tipping:

Tips for the porters of your luggage, for hotel maids, and for meals provided by WWPM and detailed in your itinerary, are covered.  However, if someone performs a service you appreciate, go ahead and tip.

Take $50–$75 in U.S. $1 bills for tipping.  Most residents of foreign countries appreciate tips in US dollars.  Also exchange some money upon arrival into bills of small denomination for tips that cannot be made with US dollars.

Always ask if service has been included in the restaurant bill.  If it has, it's usually customary to leave your change or an additional 3–10% extra (depending on the service).

Make the Most of Your Sightseeing Time!

Don't feel you have to see everything to get your money's worth.  Worldwide Pilgrimage Ministries is always mindful of how many experiences most travelers can reasonably absorb and plan our pilgrimages accordingly.  However, if you feel you've done enough for one day, stay at the hotel for the afternoon or if, in your free time, you wish to add an excursion, ask your guide to help you plan it.

Accept the customs of the country and being tolerant is more than good manners – it's practical.  Pay heed to the ways of the land you're visiting.

Come Back With Great Photos!

When photographing religious sites or certain foreign people, ask permission first.  Many cultures have taboos against taking pictures, or are simply offended by the notion.  At the same time, some of your subjects may expect a little reward for their posing – particularly in third world countries.  Heed the warning - photos NOT allowed or no FLASH allowed - which you may find in many sites.  Please be sure to abide by the rules of the site.

If you own several cameras, three or four lenses, tripods, etc., don't load yourself down with all of your equipment, "just in case."  You'll only regret being encumbered, and you may lose precious time going through lengthy customs checks.

If you are using a film camera, number your rolls of film as you take them and label your photos as soon as possible upon your return.  Film is usually much more expensive overseas so take plenty with you.  To safeguard your film against radiation at security checkpoints, carry your film in a radiation resistant bag.  You should ask at the security checkpoints to have your film "hand checked," even though security will tell you that their x-ray equipment will not damage your film.  Always carry a spare set of batteries for your camera.  Extra batteries have saved many photographic memories.  Remember: Extra Film, Extra Batteries.

If using a digital camera, you may choose to set your camera for maximum pixel count, which will produce better prints, but will also mean you get fewer photos per memory card.  A suggestion is to bring more memory cards than you think you will need.  It's easier to lower the pixel count later, but impossible to add pixels after you get home.  Experience has shown that memory cards as well as batteries are much less expensive at home than in a foreign country, where they may be much more difficult to find.  Also, remember to bring your battery charger and plug adapters to match the power source in the country(ies) in order to charge the batteries for your digital camera.  At least one extra battery could ensure you not missing photo opportunities between battery charges.  Remember: Extra Memory Cards, Extra Batteries, and Battery Charger with plug adapters.

Remember that Worldwide Pilgrimage Ministries provides a service which allows you to share your photos on return.  See Share and Memories.

Going Through Customs

Be prepared. Take an empty envelope with you and label it receipts.  Each night, place all receipts for purchases in this envelope.  Before you leave the plane on your return to the US, have your passport and the receipt envelope handy.  This will save you valuable time and customs headaches.

Know the regulations.  Generally, each US citizen may bring in $800 worth of merchandise duty–free.  There are extra allowances for items from certain "favored nations" (underdeveloped countries).  If you've been out of the country within the past 30 days and already claimed your $800 exemption you are allowed to claim $25 worth of duty–free goods.

The $800 per person duty–free allowance applies only to items you carry home with you.  All items mailed home are subject to duty.  A package, however, mailed home and marked "unsolicited gift" with a value (also indicated) of $50 or less will not be subject to duty.  Appropriate mailing forms are available at foreign post offices.

When you bring valuable imported goods with you on a trip, bring a receipt or other proof of ownership.  Otherwise, customs agents may try to impose a duty.  (If your jewelry is insured or appraised, a copy of relevant documents may be helpful.)

DON'T BRING HOME FRUITS, MEATS, OR VEGETABLES!!!

Attire for a Worldwide Pilgrimage Ministries Pilgrimage

We are often asked “what do we wear on pilgrimage?”  Pilgrimage attire is mainly casual to allow for comfort.

  1. The most important thing you can pack is comfortable shoes.
  2. Comfortable casual wear that is easily laundered by hand.
  3. Garments that can be mixed and matched to limit the number of outfits.
  4. Garments that can be layered to accommodate the different climates you may encounter.
  5. Take a swimsuit.
  6. One sports jacket, dress shirt, and tie is recommended for gentlemen.
  7. One business or church attire dress or suit is recommended for ladies.
  8. Jean skirts and slacks are perfectly acceptable for ladies.
  9. A backpack and/or a fanny pack is very useful.

To insure that we do not offend the customs of the people or dishonor the Holy sites we visit, Worldwide Pilgrimage Ministries further recommends:

  1. A scarf to cover the head for certain Holy sites especially Israel, Greece, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.
  2. Shorts should be no shorter than just above the knee.
  3. We request that no tank tops are included in your wardrobe.
  4. We request that no sleeveless blouses or revealing garments are included in your wardrobe.
  5. Jeans may be included in your pilgrimage wardrobe.
  6. We request that mini skirts are not included in your pilgrimage wardrobe.
  7. If in doubt, leave it out!!!
  8. PACKING (please read the latest Airport Security Information included in your booklet)

THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL

Travel with an open mind.  When you leave the United States, don't expect to encounter our way of life again until you return home.  Enjoy all the new sights, people, and sounds around you.  Sample the food, make a stab at the language, ask questions, smile a lot, and you will come home a more knowledgeable person with a lifetime of happy memories.