Preparing for your mission
This may be your first surgical mission or your 20th! Regardless of how many you have done, we hope you are excited about joining the Esperança family.
Below is information to prepare you for your surgical mission. We hope that we have answered your questions but if you would like additional information, please contact the Surgical Program Coordinator, 602-252-7772 x114.
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and exit from Nicaragua. Passports may be applied for at a local county courthouse or U.S. Government Passport Office. Each volunteer’s passport must have six months validity from their date of entry.
Nicaragua: Visas are not required to travel to Nicaragua.
Keeping our volunteers during a mission is a priority to us. There are no immunization requirements to travel to Nicaragua. However, we recommend the following: routine, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid fever, and yellow fever. For detailed health recommendations by the CDC for travel to Nicaragua, click here.
If outdoors, prevent mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats; apply DEET insect repellent to exposed skin.
Any person traveling to the tropics should have a physical examination before departure. Since the same diseases that afflict humans in temperate climates can be magnified in the tropics, all travelers should be in good health. Any person with a chronic ailment should not consider volunteering for work in this remote region.
Most infectious diarrhea is caused by fecal contamination; therefore, it is absolutely necessary that proper hygiene be maintained during a trip to the tropics. Regular hand washing is a must, as are precautions with food and drink, especially in public places. Fresh salads and ice should be avoided when eating in restaurants; if it is not cooked, bottled or something that you can peel, do not eat it.
It is best to take an anti-diarrheal drug, effective insect repellent with DEET, SPF35 sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
Click on the link to download a suggested packing list: Packing List. Your packing may vary depending on duration of stay and weather.
Luggage allowance will depend and vary on the airline. Check the airline’s website for the most updated information.
For Nicaragua, we use either United or American Airlines depending on where on your departure city. They both usually allow checked-in luggage to 2 pieces at no more than 50 pounds each at no additional cost.
If you fly business class or first-class, you will usually be able to check-in additional luggage for free.
Generally, customs agents are very supportive of Esperança volunteers. Although some travelers have passed through Customs without opening a single suitcase, one should expect a thorough inspection. Please present the paperwork that will be provided to you before your departure. As our ambassador, please be patient with any delays or extra tasks. Should you confront any issues, please do not hesitate to contact our local staff. Their contact information will be provided to you before your departure.
Volunteers should bring cash for spending money, tipping, and airport taxes. A typical volunteer can take $150-$200 in cash and still have money upon their return, depending on individual spending habits. Dollar bills should be in very good condition, without rips, tears, or markings. You should also bring smaller denominations as they are accepted more frequently. Traveler’s checks are not recommended. Some of the larger hotel and restaurant establishments accept credit card. There is a $25 exit tax for international flights . Volunteers will need to pay for their food and lodging for any layovers in transit to their departure/arrival airport.
Nicaragua: U.S. dollars may be exchanged for Cordovas (Nicaraguan currency) upon arrival at the airport or at a cambio in town. Exchange rates vary but you will receive approximately 24 cordovas for every dollar. There are ATMs available that dispense both U.S. and Nicaraguan currency. There is a $10 entry fee that is paid at the immigration in the airport.
It is always a good idea to contact your banking institutions to let them know of your travel plans. This will help prevent any measures that the bank may take on your behalf, such as freezing your account.
Nicaragua: In Jinotega, volunteers stay at the Hotel Café. Each volunteer has their own private bedroom, private bathroom, hot water and cable. There is a full-service restaurant which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Laundry service is available for a minimal fee. Wi-fi is available at no additional charge.
We take special care to ensure that our volunteers are well fed during every mission. In fact, most volunteers say that they have gained weight by the time that they return home.
Breakfasts are served at your hotel, lunches are served to you at the hospital, and dinners are at a local restaurant. Snacks, water and coffee are provided to you throughout the day.
In Nicaragua, meals typically include a meat, french fries, rice, beans, and plantain.
Avoid eating raw vegetables, fruit, tap water, and ice.
If you have special dietary restrictions or allergies, please let us know beforehand. We will do our best to accommodate your dietary needs. There are vegetarian options at most restaurants although variety may be limited. Feel free to bring snacks from home. You can also stop at the local market or grocery store and buy some snacks.
Your hotels will have Wi-fi and internet access available at no extra charge. There are plenty of internet cafes located within walking distance of the hotels. Many volunteers use online email, online chat, Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, and other applications to stay in contact with loved ones during their missions.
You can make outgoing phone calls from the hotels. To make the most of your money, you can purchase a calling card. Another option is to bring an unlocked GSM cell phone (T-Mobile or AT&T carriers) and purchase pre-paid minutes for just a few dollars.
Nicaragua: Nicaragua uses the 2 blade American style plug at 120V. If your electronics have 3 prongs, you may need a 3 prong to 2 prong adapter.
It is also recommended that you bring a surge protector as both countries have frequent power outages.
We take every precaution to ensure that our volunteers are safe. Our local staff are professional and experienced. Volunteers are accompanied at all times. Hotels are reputable and provide 24-hour security.
We stay on top of travel alerts and warnings that are issued by the U.S. Department of State. When a warning is issued for the country we work in, our policy is to cancel the surgical mission. Local staff will also alert us immediately of any unrest.
For general safety tips when traveling abroad: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1747.html
For safety information pertaining to each country:
Nicaragua: Due to the mountainous highlands of the Jinotega region, the weather has relatively moderate temperatures all year round. The rainy season runs from June to November and the dry season from December to May. The most important climatic factor to remember is that it’s generally wet in the summer and dry in the winter. Casual clothes are good and a light jacket and raincoat is always recommended. To check current weather conditions, go to wunderground.com and type in Jinotega, Nicaragua.
For Nicaragua, staff will meet you at the airport in Managua and you will then drive in a truck or mini-bus to Jinotega which is a 2-3 hour drive from Managua.
Transportation is provided daily between the hotel and hospital. Low fare taxis are always available and walking is another option as both surgical program sites are safe locations.
Emergency Contact Information
A week before your departure, you will receive an email with copies of your flight reservations, hotel reservations, and emergency contact information. We encourage you to pass on this information to family and friends.
We look forward to building a relationship with you as a member of our Volunteer Surgical Program. Your generous donation of time, talents, and resources is truly appreciated. We thank you for joining us in this precious life changing work.