Elective Africa

Frequently Asked Questions


1. What medical precautions should I take?

Students should get the latest medical advice on inoculations and malaria prevention before coming to Africa from their physician. For example, Malaria risk exists all year round in East Africa. Immunization against yellow fever, polio and typhoid are usually recommended, but please consult your physician prior to travel.

2. Is it safe to volunteer in East Africa?

One of the key reasons for using Elective Africa to facilitate and organize your elective or volunteering in Africa is that we will do everything we can to ensure you are safe during your time abroad. We ensure you are placed in safe environment and you will be very well looked after while volunteering in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi. The natives in this destinations are very warm and friendly towards visitors.

3. Do you cater for groups or other specialist volunteers such as professionals?

Yes we do. All of our programs are suitable for any type of volunteer and even those who are traveling as a group. We also tailor programs for groups and individuals seeking to volunteer in specialized programs that may not be part of our standard projects. So whether you are a group, a researcher or a student seeking to volunteer in a specific area, we will design a program for you. Contact us so that we may work with you to develop a program that will meet your specific requirements.

4. Can I do more than one placement?

Yes, you can. For those in their Gap Year or those who will be volunteering for more than 3 months, working in multiple placements can give you a chance to experience different aspects of the country and thus enhances your overall volunteer experience. This is also true for those on their Medical Elective. 

You will incur the transfer costs between 2 split program locations, whether between countries or between locations in the same country. You will also be required to pay an additional placement fee at the second hospital. The placement fee will vary in Tanzania depending on which hospital you will be placed at. Please note that these charges are exclusive and in addition to the US$200 immigration fee.

5. What happens when I first arrive?

This depends on your port of entry. For those placed in Nairobi, we will meet you at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) and take you directly to our student housing. Same goes for those placed in Mombasa if you arrive in Mombasa’s Moi International Airport (MBA).

If you land in Nairobi but are destined for Mombasa or Migori, we will pick you up at the airport. You may choose to rest overnight and depart the following day for your project so we will drive you to Park Side Hotel in the city centre (or any other hotel of your choice). The next day you will take a local flight or bus ride to your program location. Those going to Migori will first fly to Kisumu International Airport before being transferred to the rural program location. Please note that you will be paying the cost of the overnight hotel stay as well as the cost of bus ride or local flight. We cover the cost of airport pick and transfer for both Nairobi and Mombasa airports. Those headed to Migori will pay for the transfer from Kisumu International Airport to the program residence because it is outside the program location. The same will apply at the end of the program.

If you arrive in Tanzania at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), we will organize your transfer to your accommodation. Please note that you will pay the transfer charge from the airport to your residence because the airport is not within the program location of Arusha. The same will apply at the end of the program.

Participants are required to send flight details prior to their traveling dates.

6. Where will I stay?

Our participants live in student housing where they spend time with peers on a similar adventure. The residence is a place that you can call home for the duration of your program. However, we are flexible to make special arrangements on request e.g. accomodation for couples etc.

7. Do I have to speak Swahili?

No you do not. You will get a long extremely well with just English. However, it is helpful to learn some basic words and phrases of Swahili and this is covered during our training and orientation program. We offer swahili lessons to program participants to acquaint them with basic swahili words to ease communication.

8. How is the local food?

Foods served during your volunteer period include traditional East African foods like ugali and sukuma wiki (corn meal “cake” and greens), githeri (maize and beans), matoke (mashed plantain)and chapati (flatbreads). Meals also consist of other familiar dishes such as beef, chicken, fish, rice and pasta. French fries, burgers, pizza etc. are available in restaurants and hotels. Breakfast usually consists of bread, eggs and tea. Fruits and vegetables are plenty in Kenya and feature frequently in menu preparations. Kenyan-grown coffee and tea are common beverages. In the cities you can get pretty much everything you can in Europe and America. You are sure to recognize some brands on the shelves of the larger supermarkets.

9. What if am a vegetarian?

We have enough food variety even for vegetarians. We just need to know your special needs in advance. 

10. Is it safe to drink the tap water?

It is generally recommended that you drink bottled water during your stay in Africa while in the city, upcountry or on a safari. The most common water-borne diseases in Kenya are typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Other less common ones include gastroenteritis and amoebiasis. We have a constant supply of safe drinking water in the water cooler in our student housing. Bottled drinking water is also available in any supermarket and most shops.

11. How can I keep in touch with those at home?

It is cheap to text Europe and America via the local mobile networks; we can lend you a phone or you could get a local SIM card to use with your own mobile phone (as long as your mobile phone is not SIM-locked). As for the internet, you will be provided with wi-fi or you will access the internet using a modem knob on your laptop.

12. Is it possible to stay longer?

Yes. We can normally increase time at a project and accommodation with some notice. However, be aware that a longer stay may necessitate a visa extension and extra costs.

13. What do I get for the price?

Your program fee covers these and more: Organizing your trip including obtaining any paperwork you will need for your school or university, extensive pre-departure support, transfers to and from the airport within the program location, orientation of local area including basic Swahili lesson for Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, shared accommodation, food and water, laundry services, scheduled daily round trip transfers to your placement facility, onground support for the duration of your trip and beyond.

Flights, insurance and immigration fees, both for Visa and special/work permits, are not included in the price. Please note that your program fee is different from your elective hospital fee. The elective hospital fee is paid directly to the hospital.

Additionally, if you choose the Safari supplement, meals taken while headed to and from the safari and any overnight stays before or after the safari are NOT included in your trip. The safari supplement includes ONLY the following:

  •     Full cost of transportation to and from the game reserve
  •     The park entrance fee
  •     Two nights accommodation while on the actual safari in a camp
  •     A driver, guide and van

Any other costs incurred while on Safari are your own costs.

14. How do I get a Visa?

Visa can be obtained on arrival at the airport. Pretty much all foreigners require a passport and a visa to enter these countries.

You can choose to get your visa in advance at an embassy in your country or at the airport on arrival. We recommend getting the visa at the airport on arrival, it is convenient and one less thing to worry about before your flight! Always pick the tourist visa option, it is the cheapest. For your convenience, please be sure to have with you the exact visa fee amount in US dollars before you arrive at immigration since you may not be able to access a bank or ATM prior to clearing immigration.

15. When is my placement confirmed?

Your placement is fully confirmed once you have paid a reservation deposit of US$300. This deposit is non-refundable, but can be credited to your account for use whenever you decide to come for any of our programs if you postpone your program. Payment should be made in full at least 3 months prior to your arrival to enable us to fully set your program before your arrival. A lot of work is done prior to your arrival – arranging airport pick up, securing your accommodation, getting any requirements from the hospital and regulatory or government permits.

16. What will I wear while at the hospital?

Medical or Pre Medical Students are required to come with their lab coats to wear over their clothes and scrubs to wear in the operating room. You are advised to dress professionally at all times.

17. Can I use my credit/debit card there?

They are several bank ATM facilities that accept all major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard). This may be found at the airports or around town. You can also use your card while making purchases at major shops, supermarkets and restaurants.

Please be sure to notify your banking institution that you will be traveling.

18. Is it safe to go shopping?

Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu are the largest cities in Kenya. They have a selection of shopping malls and large supermarkets that will cater for most of your shopping needs. However, like in any big city there are criminal elements and we ask all our participants to apply common sense. While out, do not wear any expensive clothing and excessive jewellery. Avoid dark or isolated alleys and always take a taxi after dark. Common criminal incidents involve snatching of purses, watches and jewellery. It is safe to shop in most sections of the city. We shall recommend and guide you regarding appropriate areas to shop and visit during your volunteer orientation and training.

20. What other safety issues should I be aware of?

There is real poverty in the developing world and you are likely to be more fortunate than most local people you meet. You will probably attract souvenir hawkers as well as street children and beggars. Be sure to take some precautions such as:

  •     Have a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage
  •     Do not walk on your own at night in the major cities
  •     Do not wear excessive or expensive jewelry
  •     Do not carry a lot of cash with you                                            
  •     Do not carry a lot of camera equipment
  •     Wear a money belt that fits under your clothes

 More safety issues will be discussed at your orientation.

21. What clothing is appropriate?

Bring along some comfortable, casual and semi-casual clothing such as sweat shirts, shorts, jeans, skirts, trousers and any other clothing that you would ordinarily wear. Include warm clothing for nights, especially if you volunteer in the rainy season (April to May) or the cold season (June and July).

When out in the community, it is good to follow local etiquette. Dressing in Nairobi is quite liberal, while Mombasa can be more conventional due to religious influence. In general, approach dressing with cultural sensitivity and you will be fine. Avoid excessively flashy or revealing items. Please ask when you are not sure.

Footwear can be any comfortable walking shoes such as sports shoes. It is also advised to carry a pair of open-toed sandals, especially for those who will be volunteering in the hot season (December to February; August to September). Carry a few smart outfits for special occasions that you might be part of e.g. dinners or parties.

22. What do I need to pack?

Volunteers need to bring their own towels, toiletries and other personal effects. Laundry service is available at all of our locations. It is safe to bring your hair dryers, shavers and other electrical products. Other suggested items:

  •     Malaria tablets (consult your doctor)
  •     Adapter plugs and converters for electrical appliances
  •     Moisturizing cream and suntan lotion
  •     Insect repellent (e.g. Tabard, Rid, Jungle Juice, OFF, etc.)
  •     Basic medical kit (e.g. aspirins, plasters, Immodium, antiseptic cream, and anti-histamine cream, etc.)
  •     A journal to document your experience

23. What about the electricity supply for laptops, hairdryers etc?

The electricity supply in Kenya is 220/240 volts/50 Hz (240V 50 Hz D & G). The electric sockets are three-pin square. Countries with different voltages and frequencies will need a power converter. Check your electrical equipment to see if you will need a power converter and/or a plug adapter as incorrect use may damage your equipment. Volunteers may purchase power converters in their home countries or here in Africa. For plug adapters, these are widely available in shops and supermarkets all over the country.