Katy Hebditch travelled to Liberia on a short contract job, carrying out socio-economic baseline surveys for a large mining project last September:
Travelling to a new country is exciting, and nerve-wracking, especially when you don't know what to expect. Here's my few top tips/things to think about...
1) Attire - Rainy season in the tropics = serious rain + hot + humid. Sometimes an umbrella is more useful than a hot sweaty jacket! Decent, comfy, waterproof walking boots and waterproof liners for bags were incredibly useful.
2) Don't get lost - GPS & maps (& Google Earth) are VERY useful. Plan where you're going - I got quite lost in the jungle several times, and mobile phones don't have reception when it rains. Being able to map is also very useful, not originally in my job description, I ended up mapping all of our surveys and where people visited!
3) Do your research - It's good to have an idea about the history of the country you're visiting - recent wars, troubles, politics, customs etc, and this will help you to be sensitive and avoid offending people. Know someone who's been there? Get in touch with them for advice!
4) Be sensible - Look after your valuables - don't flash the cash etc. Avoid corruption & bribery. standard stuff.
5) Medical stuff - It goes without saying, get the right vaccinations, take malaria prophylaxis, and take medicines you may need, ideally your own first aid kit for the field. You'll be surprised what things you may react to - missionary ants can cause severe allergic reactions, adjusting to a new diet and being exposed to different bugs can cause havoc. If you get the chance to do any first aid training, take it. My university funded me doing an intensive expedition first aid course - great peace of mind.
Most of all, relax, have fun and enjoy experiencing the new culture!!