Frequently Asked Questions
How is FTWT different from other programs?
Founded by a history teacher who requires students to think “outside the textbook,” Friendship Tours World Travel is dedicated to the principle that a dynamic understanding of our world is critical for student success. In 2005—30 years after the “Fall of Saigon” and with American forces stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq—pop culture began to reflect on the lessons learned from the Vietnam War. Inspired by the gravity of this inquiry and wishing to pose it to a broader audience of students and teachers, Alethea Paradis built an education-service-abroad program focused on Vietnam. By popular demand, the program expanded. Friendship Tours World Travel offers tours and corresponding curricula in five Southeast Asian countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
Balancing the demands of active exploration, volunteer service and cultural immersion, FTWT offers a full-spectrum of travel experiences designed to cultivate our students' global consciousness. Our tours travel in small groups to ensure an authentic and intimate adventure that promotes safety, personal growth and cross-cultural connection. Our philosophy of experiential learning through travel and community service—actively engaging with the history and culture of the countries we visit—builds lifelong understanding of people once dismissed as the “enemy.” After traversing the ground of milestone battles, interactive museums, sacred sites and natural landscapes, students are better equipped to analyze the human impact of the geopolitical strategic concerns of today.
Describe a typical day of travel with FTWT:
Every day of a Friendship Tour offers a unique and enlightening adventure. Rise early to see the sunrise above the ancient, jungle-entwined monuments of Angkor Wat. Spend mornings trekking mist-woven mountains, visiting hill-tribe villages led by a knowledgeable local guide. Stop for a French fusion lunch in Saigon’s fashionable “District One.” Construct an organic orchard for the victims of Agent Orange poisoning at the Vietnam Friendship Village. Enjoy dinners of fresh and authentic cuisine at some of Southeast Asia’s finest establishments. Each destination and active exploration has a lesson, a purpose and a group of unforgettable people with whom we connect and humanize. Our detailed and Upcoming Trips are designed to give students a comprehensive introduction into different cultural histories—learning firsthand the real life implications of US foreign policy and forging a mentality of global citizenship through service-work and travel.
How do I contact the student or teacher traveler during the tour?
The Internet is the most convenient way to stay in touch and will be available at most of our accommodations. During our daily reflection time, students utilize hotel guest computers to upload pictures, blog and email personal reflections back home. In case of emergency, each chaperone carries an international cell phone and can be contacted at any time.
Why do you provide lodging in four and five star hotels and Homestay?
While recognizing that active travel requires physical energy of our travelers, we consistently lodge in places which are restorative and comfortable. All hotels provide convenient buffet breakfast for individual flexibility in the mornings. Typically, student pairs room together separated by gender in hotel suites, sharing a private bath.
Students and teachers utilize modern facilities of the hotel to foster individual reflection and study time. Access to Internet, light snacks, exercise rooms and lifeguarded swimming pools are helpful amenities in this regard. Most of our itineraries offer a balance of overnights in beautiful four-star hotels and in rustic homestay accommodations.
What is Homestay?
Homestay is best described as a rustic Bed & Breakfast with a family. In Homestay, students experience the authenticity of cooking, eating and sleeping in the style of local culture at their destination. In the Mekong Delta, groups can Homestay on the tropical properties of former Vietcong generals, turned orchid farmers. In rural Cambodia, groups can Homestay adjacent to an orphanage dedicated to teaching ancient art crafts to its residents. In Laos, students may Homestay at an old monastery, rising at dawn to live like a monk for a day. Each Homestay option is unique and offers an unscripted snapshot of ordinary life. For lodging, students are separated into two “dormitory-style” rooms with personal beds under insect repellent netting. Group restroom facilities are modest and clean.
Is it easy for a vegetarian or someone with special dietary needs to travel with FTWT?
All travelers appreciate delicious and authentic meals throughout their Friendship Tour and vegetarian diets are easily accommodated. While we aim to offer cuisine options for a variety of food tastes, Friendship Tours World Travel cannot guarantee that all food choices will be without allergens and those with food allergies are encouraged to take any necessary precautions to ensure their safety and comfort.
What happens if a traveler needs medical attention?
Every tour is equipped with standard safety and medical preparations: first aid kits, bottled water and on-call medical-professional staff. All of our Teacher Program Leaders are CPR certified, trained to administer basic first aid, and travel with copies of student medical data forms at all times. Although our solid planning, precautions and safety practices have ensured that no student traveler has ever suffered any injury on our tours, Friendship Tours World Travel is prepared for issues requiring emergency medical care. Our emergency response is supported by quality in-country medical facilities akin to American “Urgent Care” centers. In the unlikely event of an emergency, we contact parents immediately. Friendship Tours World Travel promises clear and candid communication with parents regardless of the severity of the concern.
Bad weather, political upheaval and power outages are not uncommon in developing countries. How do you respond to issues of safety and security if such events occur?
The safety of our student travelers is our top priority. The excellence and in-depth knowledge of our professional guides allows us to take necessary and on-sight precautions and our chaperones are all Red Cross CPR certified. Additionally, Friendship Tours World Travel independently reviews UN reports and NGO updates, keeping close and comprehensive track of the political and social environments of the countries we visit. In case of any unforeseeable problems, we pre-register our tours with the U.S. embassies in each country. Friendship Tours World Travel reserves the right to cancel an itinerary if deemed unsafe.
What vaccinations and health precautions do you recommend?
All travelers should see their physician prior to departure in order to make informed decisions about necessary immunizations and booster shots. Generally, our tour itineraries are classified as “urban and upscale” according to the Center for Disease Control, and present very low health risks to the traveler. Vaccination recommendations will vary according to itinerary destinations, season and personal choice. Student travelers who follow our preparatory “packing list” will be well-equipped for the temperatures and conditions present on their itineraries. Our best practices further minimize the possibility of illness and injury. In addition, every group is furnished with bottled water, anti-bacterial hand wipes, bug repellent and sunscreen on a daily basis.
What rules and regulations ensure constant chaperoning of students throughout the tours? What is the protocol for nighttime supervision?
To ensure overall well-being, students are never left unsupervised when outside of their private and secure hotel rooms. Teacher Program Leaders are always present during group activities and we employ the “buddy system” for brief departures from the group (e.g. to use the restroom). Students are not permitted to leave the hotel at the conclusion of the day’s activities and Teacher Program Leaders conduct random room checks during “hotel free-time.” Students who require a rest day are accompanied by a chaperone—no one is ever left behind.
How do you address the issue of safety for female travelers?
Our no-student-left-behind policy ensures that no one is ever unsupervised. We also prep our female students before departure to dress and behave modestly. Adapting to cultural norms of dress and behavior is the best way to avoid unwanted attention.
How can student travelers earn college credit with FTWT?
Our optional college credit curriculum gives students the opportunity to quantify their learning and demonstrate the breadth of their acquired knowledge.
Our academic credit is issued from California State University, Sacramento. To earn college credit, students must submit a ten-page paper, their travel journal, brochures and other “cultural artifacts” from our Friendship Tour. Students may use the FTWT curriculum and free access to ABC-CLIO educational database to research and write their college credit paper. Teacher Program Leaders are also available to advise student academic focus. Visit www.cce.csus.edu/programs/travelstudy.htm for more details about our Travel Study Program and to download all required forms.
Can I bring my iPod on the trip?
One of the primary objectives of FTWT is experiential learning—actively interacting with a foreign culture through service work and travel. Nevertheless, iPods and other mp3 players are permitted during flights, bus trips and free time.
How much spending money should I bring?
Our tour fee includes all lodging and meals. However, there will be opportunities to shop for souvenirs. We suggest bringing around $80 to $100 per week for personal expenses.
Can I talk to past participants and parents of former travelers of FTWT?
Absolutely. Please contact us and we’ll connect with you the families of our alumni travelers. Learning first hand from previous travelers about their every-day experience is a great way to address any additional questions and concerns.