What You Need to Know


In many cases, fundraising is an essential part of paying for your trip. Fundraising ideas and opportunities are provided on this Web site in our online delegate training course. After you have registered for a trip you will be given instructions on how to access online training. The course discusses effective fundraising strategies including letter writing and home benefit parties. Some groups also hold events such as fiestas, concerts, car-washes, silent auctions, etc. Samples and information are provided to support you in these activities if you wish to fund raise to cover your airfare and service fees. Your group may also decide to do larger, joint fundraising activities to cover project costs. One half of the payment is due in March (for summer trips), payment in full is due in April (for summer trips).


Is it safe to travel in El Salvador?

International Partners has been taking teams of teens and adults to El Salvador since 2000. As of 2023, IP has taken more than 800 delegates to El Salvador. All of our teams have been safe and all have had very positive experiences.  However, despite dramatic reductions in crime, the U.S. embassy still issues cautions regarding travel to El Salvador.  As in most countries, crime is more prevalent in urban areas. Government measures in recent years to control crime have been controversial, but have resulted in a significant reduction in gang activity and violent crime over the past two years.

To be safe we take precautions. Our groups stay in rural communities known by local staff. We do not travel at night. We do travel with known drivers, on familiar roads, and lodge with responsible people. Participants are accompanied by team leaders, are expected to stay with an assigned buddy, and are advised on ways not to draw special attention to themselves. However, travel in El Salvador sometimes involves factors beyond our control and consequently, we require participants (and Parents/Guardians of minors)  to sign an acknowledgement of risks and waiver of liability.

The most common health risk is from water borne intestinal bacteria against which participants will be trained to take precautions.  There is also some risk of  mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue or zika. Strategies that delegates can take to minimize such illnesses are discussed during trainings.  All participants should bring their own supply of personal prescriptions.  This is particularly important for participants who carry Epi-pens, as these are not generally available. Most teams involve physical labor in hot and sunny conditions. Some climb trails to work on mountaintops.

Although delegates will be live in remote, rural villages but we have emergency trucks in each village and should be able to get to a hospital or clinic in about 30 minutes. Team Leaders have cell phones to contact help in case of an emergency. We have established relationships with doctors with whom we can consult or visit in the event that medical treatment is necessary. Other risks include the lack of seat belts, travel in open-bed pick-up trucks and a strong ocean undertow at the beach.

Participants are encouraged to review their particular health profile with their health provider and prepare for the trip according to his/her recommendations. Ask your doctor to give you antibiotics and painkillers for your trip; in the event that you need them it is useful to have exactly what your doctor would prescribe. These medications will only be used if necessary and in consultation with a doctor in El Salvador.

After arrival in El Salvador, IP leaders will collect and securely store passports and other valuables; these will be returned at the end of the delegation prior to arrival at the airport.  However, delegates should make a copy of their passport and store it in their carry-on bag.

Delegation participants should consult the Consular Information Sheet for El Salvador posted by the U.S. Department of State at travel.state.gov for further safety information.

Please send additional questions to your trip organizer or email International Partners at director@InternationalPartners.org.

Policies and Guidelines

All delegates must sign a behavior agreement to uphold IP policies and guidelines prior to participation on this trip. The policies and guidelines are intended to insure that delegates remain safe and that the purpose and goals of our service team program are upheld.

Please download and read a copy of the Behavior Agreement and return a signed copy to your trip organizer or to the IP office within one month of your trip.

A violation of this agreement requires the Trip Leader to take appropriate action. A delegate may be dismissed from the program and required to return home early at his or her own expense at such time that the IP leadership determines that it is the best interest of the delegate, community, IP, or the other trip delegates. Send questions to director@internationalpartners.org.

Purpose of International Partners Service Teams

Most people have few opportunities to have a lasting influence in the world, to broaden their understanding of themselves by experiencing life in a different culture, to discover how to handle day-to-day life in poor rural communities, or to make personal friendships across the boundaries of culture, language, and history.

IP Service Teams give teen and adult delegates the opportunity to live and work in a rural Salvadoran village, appreciate resources and abilities that they usually take for granted and to share a meaningful adventure that will have a lasting influence on their lives and identity. IP Service Teams are designed to:

  • Cultivate leadership capacity in service team delegates and people living in poor rural communities in El Salvador;
  • Promote cultural understanding through personal relationships; and
  • Support and empower grassroots community development projects.

Goals for Delegates

  • Be responsible for self-care and self-leadership in unfamiliar settings.
  • Form mutually supportive relationships.
  • Learn to live and work with limited resources.
  • Work alongside community members to improve the community’s quality of life.
  • Appreciate the power and value of one’s own abilities.
  • Plan and implement fund raising for a meaningful project.
  • Respect and communicate with people despite differences of history, culture, and language.
  • Understand Salvadoran history and the US government’s role in it.
  • Leave a lasting contribution that makes a difference (school, clinic, etc.)
  • Feel the bond of humanity with people very different from oneself.

For a complete description of International Partner’s trip guidelines click here.


Air travel To and From El Salvador

Depending on the type, size, and departure place of your delegation International Partners will either:

  1. Arrange your airline tickets, or
  2. Have delegates or your group organizer arrange your own ticket.

Check with your group’s Trip Organizer or the International Partners Trip Coordinator to clarify how this will be handled for your delegation. In either case, delegates pay for their own tickets and must present the Trip Organizer with copy of their ticket within the time frame designated by the Trip Coordinator.

  • IP Arranges Airline — For some delegations, International Partners will arrange your flight. Delegates will pay for the flight as instructed by the IP Trip Coordinator. With delegations of 20 or more there are cost savings.

Additional Information on Airline Travel Arrangements

  • International Partners will designate times and ports of departure for all group transportation. International Partners, the agents selected by it, and the airlines reserve the right to cancel the air transportation arrangement, or change dates, times, prices, and itinerary and to make aircraft substitutions.
  • In the event of changes or substitutions made by International Partners or its agents or airlines, International Partners is not responsible for the costs of domestic airline tickets purchased on the basis of previously published international transportation information.
  • Each participant is solely responsible for any missed connections due to his or her failure to assemble in a timely manner, and International Partners will in no way be liable for the cost of alternate transportation or for any consequential losses resulting from failure to use designated transportation or arrive within the designated time frame.
  • Identification: All participants must be prepared to present a valid passport that matches the name on the passenger manifest. You will have to complete an entry form on the plane for your arrival at customs. Make sure you do not leave that document or your passport on the plane after completing the document.
  • When you arrive at the airport in San Salvador, you will have to pay a $10.00 entrance visa fee, pick up your non-carry on luggage, and go through customs. Porters will carry your bags if you want them to. At customs, they will ask you to push a button. If it results in a green light you go right through, but if red, they do a brief search of your bags. Everyone is friendly. The lobby will be crowded.

In El Salvador

  • IP arranges all transportation once you arrive in El Salvador
  • Chartered buses or cars with drivers will be provided from the airport by International Partners. Your IP Team Leader/Guide will be waiting for us. While loading, people will ask us if we need a cab, whether we will buy lottery tickets, sodas, crafts, and needy looking people may just ask for money. They all accept a clear and smiling, “No gracias.” If someone pursues more, “No hablo espanol” works. Selling lottery tickets is a source of income for poor people (proceeds of lottery go to education), and you may choose to buy one or something else that is being offered. If you do, you may be surrounded by others asking you to buy something from them, but “No” works.
  • Participants are expected to use the transportation provided by International Partners at all times, including between points of departure and return. Requests for alternative arrangements must be made in writing the delegate or, if under 18, by his or her parent/guardian and approved by International Partners in advance.
  • Transportation will always be provided and participants should not need to use a taxi.  In the unusual event that this is required, work with IP staff to make plans and negotiate the price before you let the driver store your luggage or before you enter the cab. If possible, ask someone the likely fare before you approach a taxi. Be prepared at the airport to be approached by taxi drivers. Just say, “No gracias.”
  • No independent travel during the program is permitted without the express consent of International Partners and, if the delegate is under 18, the written consent of his or her parents or guardian. Participants will not leave their assigned area without prior permission of the Trip Leader. No one will travel at night. Participants are not permitted to drive any motorized vehicle.


U.S. Passports

All participants must have a current US passport that will not expire within six months of the date of your trip. You will also need 3 photocopies of it, one to carry with you while in El Salvador, one copy to leave at home with family or a friend, and one to submit to International Partners.

If you do not have a valid passport, apply for one immediately, as passport numbers are needed to purchase medical insurance and airplane tickets. For US citizens, getting a new passport usually takes about three weeks, longer near the holidays. NOTE: In recent months, many people have experienced long delays obtaining passports. Although these delays are reportedly better, you are advised to apply as soon as possible if you do not have a passport. Your nearest passport office is listed in the phone book, usually in the main Post Office or Federal Building. To apply, you’ll need:

  • An official copy of your birth certificate (issued from the city, county, or state where you were born) or other proof of U.S. citizenship.
  • A current photo ID plus another form of ID with your signature.
  • Two identical 2″ x 2″ passport photos (1 3/8″ from bottom of chin to top of head).
  • Application fee plus an execution fee for persons age 16 or over. Money orders and bank drafts are accepted at all locations. Some application sites and acceptance facilities accept other forms of payment, but you should check directly with the site to be sure.

To renew an expired passport, you will need your old passport, the two photos, and the current, required fee. If you tell the passport agency that you are leaving in less than two weeks, they will put a “rush” on your application, but it will still take a minimum of 10 days. NOTE: In recent months, many people have experienced long delays obtaining passports. Although these delays are reportedly better, you are advised to apply as soon as possible if you do not have a passport. If you are applying by mail, it’s also possible to speed it up by asking that the passport be returned to you via express mail, but there are no guarantees on the amount of time it will take.

You need to carry a copy of your passport and the Tourist Entry Card (received upon arrival at the airport) at all times while in El Salvador.>

Go to the U. S. Department of State travel website at: travel.state.gov/passport/ for additional, up-to-date information.

Non-US passports:

If you have a non-US passport, you must research and document the entry requirements for El Salvador and submit that information with your application.