SHIP Trip FAQs
The Basics: The Mission, Cost, and Logistics
Each SHIP Trip is unique, but we can guarantee that there will be many opportunities to serve. That service might take the shape of working on a construction site to build a home for a local family, helping with vacation Bible school, preaching at an outreach service, or sharing a testimony during a Bible study. You may do one or all of these things. That’s part of the beauty of a SHIP Trip. Each person has the chance to do a little bit of everything, regardless of previous experience. If you’ve never operated a chainsaw but are up for a challenge or if you never acted before but think you might like to help out with a VBS skit, this is your time to try it out.
$800 + airfare. The cost of airfare varies depending on the time of year and how far in advance the flight is booked, but it’s safe to ballpark the cost around $700-$800 (flights are sometimes less than this amount). We will almost always take a morning flight from Houston (IAH) to San Salvador (SAL). If you’d like to get an idea of prices for the dates of your trip, you can go to www.united.com.
Now you know about what’s not included (your flight), but what does your SHIP Trip fee get you? Your $800 gets you a trip t-shirt, in-country transportation, good food, room (with air conditioning, linens, and comfy beds), and an excursion.
Note about flights: We regularly check flight costs and will send out emails to alert trippers of good deals, but (and this is incredibly important) you have to act FAST to secure those deals.
What if I really want to go on a SHIP Trip and feel like that’s where God wants me to go but just don’t have the money?
Good question! If God wants you there, it will happen. Many of our SHIP Trippers fundraise for their trips. This might mean sending out fundraising letters, selling t-shirts, or hosting a fundraising pancake supper. We’ve seen lots of creative ways to fundraise, and we’re more than happy to help you figure out how to do that. Just ask.
Yes! We definitely can. We do this all the time, so we’re pretty good at finding good deals and getting everyone on the right flight.
Preparation & Packing
US residents need a passport. The passport must not be within six months of expiring to enter El Salvador.
Residents of some countries might require a visa for entry, so, if you don’t have a US passport, check on your country’s required documents.
SHIP recommends a tetanus shot, if you have not had one in the last 10 years.
Ask your doctor if he/she recommends any other immunizations. Keep in mind that mosquitos can be a problem in El Salvador and are a source of several illnesses. Malaria medication isn’t usually necessary, but we do recommend using mosquito repellant.
Just let us know ASAP. We can make changes to menus or plan something specifically for your needs. We’re used to these requests, and we want you to enjoy your trip and stay healthy. We’re happy to help!
This is where we have to break the news: You only have a carryon plus a personal item (like a purse or a backpack) to pack in. We use checked bags to take supplies for your team and for the jobs we work on during the trip. Don’t be scared. This is easier than you think. Our SHIP Tripper Guidelines handout has the same info that you see below. This is what we recommend taking on your SHIP Trip:
- Enough clothes for the trip:
- Jeans, capris, shorts with a minimum inseam of 6 inches.
- Shirts: no low-cut shirts/tee shirts.
- Church clothes for Sunday and for Outreach on Monday evening: Ladies, dresses or skirts (no spaghetti strap sundresses, no more than 3 inches above the knees) or nice pants/jeans. Men, dress pants or jeans, with nice shirt. SHIP trip shirts are OK for everyone to wear.
- Shoes: Closed-toe shoes for work site; sandals/flip flops around the SHIP building.
- Work clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty.
- Other things to pack:
- Sunscreen and mosquito repellant
- Toiletries: We have body wash and shampoo/conditioner in the showers. PLEASE do bring your toothbrush, toothpaste.
- Your prescription medicines. It’s usually best to keep these in the original labeled bottle.
- Spending money. Usually $100 or less is adequate. You can use your credit cards at many places (but not the souvenir market), but we don’t recommend it, except in emergencies; notify your bank/credit card company/ID theft service if you plan to bring your credit card.
- Water bottle for personal use
- Charmin-on-the-Go or tissues, just in case.
- Summer trips: Poncho, umbrella, raincoat.
- Nice to have but not required: Flashlight, binoculars, hand sanitizer, cap or hat, jewelry (not flashy, and don’t bring your good stuff)
We can help! If you have any liquids larger than allowed by TSA, place them in a sealed Ziploc, clearly labeled with your name on the Ziploc bag, and drop them off at the designated location.
No problem! If you run out of clothes, you can purchase anything you might need from our on-site SHIP Shop. It’s a resale shop where most items can be purchased for $1-2. If you run out of most other items—shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste—those can be replaced easily with a trip to the grocery store or Walmart (yes, Walmart is there, too!).
The Trip: In El Salvador
One word you’ll hear a LOT is “flexibility.” We all have to be flexible because things change, new opportunities or challenges arise, and we can’t always anticipate every possibility. However, we do have a basic schedule: breakfast and devotional time, work like crazy (at whatever job you’ve taken on), lunch, go back to working like crazy, Bible studies with the neighborhood, dinner, relax, sleep, repeat.
We’ve had to update this answer because times have changed in El Salvador. El Salvador did have a huge problem with gang violence, but as of the this writing (May 2023), El Salvador has incarcerated tens of thousands of gang members, and the country is much safer. It is becoming a place for tourism and has hosted international surf competitions and in 2024 will host the Miss Universe Pageant. It’s not the same place we went to in 2004, but there are still many needs to meet, especially in the area in which we serve.
Even when the gangs were still causing trouble, we did not have problems, and none of our SHIP staff have felt unsafe during the many trips they’ve taken to El Salvador. Mostly that’s because we take safety seriously. We have a good relationship with the community and with our US Embassy in San Salvador. SHIP’s gated property is surrounded by a concrete wall which is topped with concertina wire.