What separates Buffalo Tours from other tour operators in the region?
Buffalo Tours has developed a specialized Volunteer & Educational Travel team of experienced teachers, community development specialists, travel experts and guides that allows you to
1) customize not only your volunteer educational travel arrangements but also integrate these into your group’s core learning objectives!
2) participate in community development projects and activities that have undergone a rigorous participatory needs analysis process
In this way your travel creates the most inspirational impact for all involved.
What should I bring?
The best advice is to bring as little as possible.
To assist an itemized packing list is provided so everyone is well prepared. This list is not comprehensive but provides a good starting point for your preparations.
What about health issues? Should I take Malaria medicine?
We advise all clients to consult their professional health care provider at least 6 weeks prior to departure to discuss any travel health issues.
During your time with us qualified travel staff will be on hand to assist with eventualities. Medical kits and bottled drinking water will always be available. Activity risk assessments and evacuation plans are available upon request.
What about insurance? Do we need to buy travel insurance
Yes, we strongly advise all clients to purchase insurance.
Who will be looking after us on the trip? Will the guide speak English?
We are proud of our guides and Community Education Program Facilitators. All guides are fully licensed and trained. The guides work closely with a Community Education Program Facilitator. Below is an introduction to our senior facilitator who plans the programs and works with all staff to ensure your experience is memorable and educational:
"After 12 wonderful years teaching at high schools, I expanded my horizons with a MSc. in Environmental and Development Education. During my studies I moved to Thailand with EON Foundation to develop rural school building and teacher-training projects at various universities. After leaving the formal education sector I ran research and training programs with an institute promoting sustainable development and poverty alleviation in the Mekong River region. As part of this I developed ‘Sustainable Tourism for the Elimination of Poverty’ learning programs. I now facilitate community-based travel / education programs for Buffalo Tours and love the hands-on opportunity to combine all aspects of my varied experiences."
Graham Harper - Community Education Program Facilitator
How much does a trip cost?
As each program is unique, so to are our tours and costs. As a rule of thumb programs cost between $50 to $100 per day per student and varies greatly due to number of participants, length of program, services required, type of sightseeing and accommodations provided. Our school tours usually include two teachers free of charge.
To provide an accurate quotation we encourage you to contact us to discuss various options.
Does the trip price include the donation for a community service project?
These are two separate budgets - for good reason. Buffalo Tours is a for-profit company. We make profits by providing travel service.
Donations for community service are just that – for the communities. The company does not charge any profits or administration fees for community service project donations! We therefore keep these two very separate and transparent.
How much should we donate?
The donation is entirely up to the capacity and generosity of the giver. In the past groups have typically donated $2500 USD, but have ranged from $500 to as much as $15,000.
How do we know our money is going to a worthwhile cause?
We work with the communities through an in depth needs analysis process. This includes community meetings, interview on on-going relationships. When you work with the community you will see directly where your money goes and the effect it has on the people - there is no greater satisfaction!
Understanding Cultural Differences: Dos & Donts
Respecting Cultural Differences
Enjoy the fantastic experience of cultural diversity while you travel, but make sure to encourage and respect the differences that you encounter, don’t try to change things for your own comfort. Remain patient and calm, more doors will open to you than if you ‘lose your cool’.
Assisting the Locals in their Understanding of Western Culture
The flipside of experiencing cultural diversity is helping locals gain a better insight into Western culture, particularly beyond the superficial attractions of monetary wealth. Respect the locals’ wish to develop economically - everyone has a right to better standard of living and development.
Asian people dress modestly, particularly in rural areas. It is important for travellers to be conservative in their dress, in respect of the local culture. Offensive attire includes not wearing a bra, singlet tops (in some areas) and tight body hugging clothing. Long pants, skirts, sleeved shirts and shorts (that aren’t too short) are appropriate. For temple visits shoulders and legs should be covered while shoes and hats should be removed before entry.
Etiquette – the all important ‘Saving Face’
There are a few general codes of behaviour that apply throughout the areas in which we operate.
• Crooking your finger to call somebody is considered impolite. Asian people generally use a subtle downward waving motion to summon someone.
• Showing affection in public is considered quite offensive - definitely no kissing! Even seeing couples holding hands is extremely rare, especially away from the major urban centres. However it is quite common to see friends of the same sex holding hands.
• It is polite to remove your shoes before entering a house. Look for shoes at the front door as a clue and follow suit.
• Criticism should only be used when put among praise.
• It is inappropriate to express anger in a raised voice. Becoming angry is embarrassing to the local people with whom you are dealing - they will not be embarrassed for themselves, but for you. "Saving face" is a subtle but important standard of personal dignity. Personal candour in Asia is largely a matter of sensibility and face.
The ideal demeanour for the traveller is to be friendly and ever ready to answer questions like Where are you going? Are you married? How old are you?
Such questions in western societies are personal, but Asian people are just being friendly and curious.
If you are uncomfortable try to subtly change the subject. Bear in mind also the different attitude towards privacy in Asia. Here people are used to sharing and living in close knit communities, so try to remember this and be patient if a local person seems to have an over-zealous interest in your books, cameras etc.
Photography – still & video
Sensitivity is the key when it comes to photography/video filming. Always ask permission before taking photographs/videos of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. Minority groups in particular are often unhappy to have their photo taken.
Avoid giving western medicines to local people as they may not understand the medicine, they may have unpredicted side-effects and dependence could occur. Often natural and traditional treatments may be just as effective as our medicine. There are exceptions of course in the case of emergencies, but try to get local medical help as soon as possible.
Donations and gift giving
This is a difficult issue for many travellers who want to assist the local communities but are unaware of the larger implications. There are many ways in which you can have a positive input into the communities that you visit:
• Appropriate donations
Make a donation through Buffalo Tours to one of the local projects and charities it supports. We collect clothing, first aid items and ensure they go directly to the requested charity or project.
Do not give to begging children as it encourages them to make a living this way. You may wish to give to the elderly or disabled as there is no social security or way these people can earn money.
• Ways not to give!
Giving money and goods away at random to individuals accentuates an unequal relationship between locals and visitors, with tourists being seen as purely ‘money givers’. Do not pay for acts of kindness in monetary terms (eg. paying kids for photographs) this encourages the development of a society that equates every human action as a potential money making scheme.
Do not give sweets to children in the villages that we visit. Local people do not have access to dentists and there is the issue of turning children into beggars. Pens, toothbrushes, clothing are best distributed via a local charity, school teacher, or community leader.
Avoid feeling that you necessarily have to give ‘material‘ things, giving something of your friendship, time and interest to interact like a smile, a joke, a sing-song, dance or playing a game - this can be the best gift of all.