Frequently Asked Questions

Health and Safety

You will have to provide proof of a normal vaccination record (as listed here by the CDC). For travel to Peru, we require that you also get the following vaccines: 

  • Typhoid  (everyone)
  • Tetanus (everyone)
  • Rabies (Those enrolled in the Primate Monitoring and Biodiversity and Wildlife Health specialties need the Rabies pre-exposure vaccine series. This is not required for any other program.)
  • COVID-19 including boosters (everyone)
  • Yellow Fever (everyone)
  • If you have the flu shot for the year, all the better. Find a travel clinic and get your shots EARLY.

FPI requires:

  1. Preflight PCR test no more than 72 hours before departing to Peru.
  2. Rapid antigen testing in Puerto Maldonado is required for all participants before we head upriver to the field station. We will go in small groups to the testing site. The cost for the tests should be around $25. 
  3. Testing 4 days after arrival to the field station. This will be a test kit that you bring with you from home. These presently cost approximately $9.99, and may be available for free at many locations in the U.S.

*It is with these testing requirements that we will provide the safest possible environment for all participants, field station staff, researchers, and also the susceptible wildlife that we work with.

The field station and the course do not provide any medications to students. As such, they must bring a small medical kit for minor issues:

  • A course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin is a common and effective one)
  • A course of antibiotics for digestive trouble, and a small number of pills of immodium (to be used in emergencies only)
  • Electrolyte/rehydration packs (hint: the juice flavoured ones are much nicer than the medical ones)
  • Anti-fungal cream/powder (effective on yeast), particularly if you are prone to these infections
  • Anti-itch medication: over-the counter lotions are ok
  • Camphorated alcohol – a local anti-itch/disinfecting method that we highly recommend  (can be purchased in Puerto Maldonado)
  • Antacids to comfort your stomach
  • Band aids, tweezers
  • An Epipen for any serious allergies
  • Antihistamines for mild allergies (something like Claritin/Zyrtec, and/or Benadryl for more acute reactions)
  • Thermometer to self-monitor for signs of fever, possibly associated with COVID-19
  • At-home COVID test kit with at least 2 unexpired tests. This will be to test out of quarantine on site, and in case you develop any symptoms while at the field station.

Peru is a common tourist destination, with visitors to both the Andes as well as the Amazon rainforest, so health care professionals are well accustomed to advising travelers. FPI does not provide medical advice, and we urge all participants to consult with their doctor or a travel clinic in advance of their trip in order to better understand any health risks. 

If you would like to speak to research staff about what health precautions they personally take for work on Peru, please email us directly at info (at) field projects.org. We have been operating in Peru since 2009, and we are happy to put you in touch with one of our long-term research staff to discuss their experiences, but bear in mind this would not constitute medical advice or recommendations. We do, however, provide a packing list with suggested over-the-counter medications to bring in addition to a first aid kit and COVID-19 tests.

Presently, the government of Peru is not requiring testing for fully vaccinated travelers. However, FPI policy still maintains that participants in our programs must obtain a negative result from a PCR test within 72 hours of their flight to Peru.

Presently, the Peruvian government is not requiring quarantine upon arrival, but we will still be operating with quarantine bubbles and other precautions at the field station. Testing and vaccination will not exempt anyone from COVID safety protocols as established by FPI and our partners in Peru (namely ACCA).

While everyone will have their temperatures taken upon arrival by an infrared thermometer, we strongly suggest that visitors add their own thermometers to the first-aid kits that they bring, and check themselves regularly.

The first signs of suspected symptoms or a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit should be reported immediately to the field station managers and FPI senior scientists. They will have protocols for isolating symptomatic guests, arranging viral testing, notifying those you have been in contact with, and evacuating you to the nearest hospital if necessary. (Note that travel to a hospital and any care there is at your own cost; make sure your insurance policy covers this.)

The nearest healthcare facilities are in Puerto Maldonado, which is approximately 4-5 hours downriver from our field site. In that city, our Peruvian partners have a doctor certified by MINSA (the Ministry of Health). There are also other private and public healthcare options. The private facilities are more expensive (one of the reasons we require participants to have travel medical insurance), but they will likely be able to treat patients faster if public facilities are full. 

The second option would be in Cusco, which is approximately 10 hours by car from Puerto Maldonado. There are more clinics in Cusco than Puerto Maldonado.

If a person must leave the field station to get treatment and recover from COVID-19, they will be permitted to return after 7 days with a negative antigen test. A negative molecular test will let someone back to the station after 14 days. 

Effective December 6, 2021, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship, must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within one calendar day of travel. 

You can get your COVID test in Puerto Maldonado or Lima. In the event that you test positive, your travel/health insurer may be able to cover expenses related to an extended stay/repatriation. You are advised to contact them before traveling to Peru to understand what they cover, recommend, and require.  

Please also review the COVID-19 protocols of the Lima airport.

FPI staff and partners will be able to help you prior to travel and during your stay. Before departure, we will share numbers to contact one another via WhatsApp, which is HIGHLY recommended for your to download before arriving.

The Peru embassy site is also a vital resource for information.

U.S. tourists in Peru may consult iPeru for the latest guidance for tourists.  iPeru has a WhatsApp number that will respond to questions in English: (+51) 944 492 314.

The field station’s safety protocols apply to everybody: staff, researchers, guests, and visitors. 

For every new person arriving at the field station, the science director will go over the COVID-protocol with them personally and explain to them about the mandatory use of face masks, hand sanitizer, table seating, and social distancing. There are planned spaces equipped for maximum distance between people. 

People living or traveling together in a group for more than 14 days can share the same table at the commissary and will be treated as a “grupo de aislamiento,” keeping distance from other guests or groups. Room service and/or separate seating at different tables will be arranged for all others.

The field station also practices “cuarentena laboral.” This means that there are separate working areas, and you will be expected to avoid using workspaces and equipment that is designated for other individuals or groups. 

Negative tests are not an official requirement for those arriving at the field station, but a strong recommendation. Researchers from different institutions and others who are not affiliated with FPI also use this field station, and while temperatures will be taken and screening questions will be asked of everyone, there is no guarantee that an asymptomatic or presymptomatic person won’t be present. This means that masks, social distancing, and other detailed protocols are especially important. In addition, this is why we require all participants form outside of Peru to get vaccinated. 

Our enhanced protocols in laboratory or wildlife handling situations are designed to meet or exceed scientific best practices. They are drafted in conjunction with our Peruvian partners (Conservacion Amazonica), Peruvian authorities (SERFOR) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) of our affiliate research universities. Broadly speaking, they will involve strict use of face shields, N95 masks, and gloves. Participants will receive a detailed procedures pamphlet prior to departing for the field site, and may be required to complete a short online training on our website.

We take the health and safety of all participants very seriously at this site. We look out for each other and take care of our team. The field site has stringent protocols on safety procedures in the case of an emergency that we are obliged to follow. If anyone should need medical help, they can be transported downriver to town in a matter of three hours, where they can be treated or evacuated to Lima for treatment. This is why medical insurance (including coverage for emergency evacuation) that is valid while abroad is essential. Neither the field station nor Field Projects International will be responsible for costs associated with medical emergencies.

Before being accepted to the program, applicants must submit a brief medical history evaluation. This is not meant to discriminate against people, but instead to protect them from being in a situation where they are at a serious or life-threatening disadvantage.

All participants and  staff will also sign a participation contract that includes our sexual and gender-based misconduct policy, as well as an anti-discrimination clause. FPI takes any such violations extremely seriously, and there are systems in place for the confidential reporting of violations by program participants, staff, or management. We want everyone to be as safe and comfortable as possible.

FPI and the field station administrators also require that participants follow all on-site safety protocols, which they will briefed on in detail upon arrival. This will include information on what is essential to carry with you in the field at all times, multiple methods of navigation, what to do if you get lost or encounter difficulty, and an explanation of the sign-out system for anyone departing the field station. Regarding the latter, EVERYONE going into the rainforest for any length of time, whether on or off trail, shall log their expected routes and locations before leaving, including their departure time and especially their anticipated return time. It is essential that you comply with this requirement, or face possible dismissal from the program. 

Preparing to travel to Peru

When booking plane tickets, you should land in Puerto Maldonado EXACTLY on your program start date (this often means you will depart from your home country the day before). Arriving earlier than this date would mean arranging your own airport pickup and accommodation. Arriving later might mean not being able to travel upriver to the field station with the rest of us.

Depart from Puerto Maldonado (PEM) the day AFTER your final program date. The final date of your program is the day that you head back downriver to PEM by boat. You do NOT want to schedule a flight that same day because there may be delays with the boat or other transportation issues that cause you to arrive late. Instead, reserve your flight for the next morning. 

We will have someone meet you at the airport and take you to the hostel where we always stay. This hostel booking will be arranged by us. Very, very early the next morning we will head upriver to the field station.

Yes. We will book and pay for your stay in Puerto Maldonado, both for the first night of your program, and for the last night of your program. We have long used Hostel Tambopata as our favorite place to stay.

The currency in Peru is the Peruvian Nueve Sol. We say 1 “sol” and many “soles.” The currency exchange rate is ~ 2.7 soles to 1 USD.  Changing US dollars in Peru is a difficult thing to do; you will need to bring brand new,high-denomination bills, without any blemishes on them, for a bank to exchange them for you. You can find currency exchanges easily in the airport in Lima as well as in Lima city. In Puerto Maldonado you will have to change currency at a bank (so keep in mind bank working weeks and hours). Thus, the easiest way to get money is to use an ATM via a credit or debit card.

Things to consider: Bring two cards, in case one doesn’t work. Test that your pins work on both of your cards before you come to Peru. You can use an ATM in Lima and Puerto Maldonado very easily. The most you can withdraw in a single day from an ATM is 700 soles or ~$260. ATM charges can apply, including conversion fees, so check with your bank about that. Withdrawing from an ATM is convenient, and prevents you from carrying around a lot of cash, which is always a much safer way to travel.

Traveler’s checks are entirely a thing of the past – just don’t buy them!

You do not need to have cash on you at the station except for possibly 100-200 soles at the very most, for emergencies. There’s nothing to buy, no stores to spend it on; cash, in short, is irrelevant in the rainforest. You only need enough to allow you to return back to town in comfort.

What the field station provides:

  • Electricity every evening
  • Mosquito net
  • Bed sheets & one towel
  • Safe drinking water
  • Showers and facilities

What you will need to bring:

  • Rubber boots
  • At-home COVID testing kit with at least 2 tests (one for testing out of quarantine at the field station, and one in case of symptoms in the field)
  • Binoculars (suggested models/specs: 10×42 or 8×42 Nikon Monarch/Trailblazer)
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Refillable water bottle(s)
  • First-aid kit
  • Ziplock bags
  • Fast-drying clothes
  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Laptop – for data entry, assignments, and practice with software. Also good for internet. Please download Garmin Basecamp prior to arrival.
  • Pocket knife (optional, but handy)
  • DEET-based repellent (natural can used, but we find this most effective)
  • Long-sleeved shirts (lightweight, worn to protect arms from thorns and biting insects)
  • Towel (one spare towel, fast-drying and thin)
  • Shampoo/soap/body wash
  • Day pack (small backpack/flashpack to carry lunch, rainjacket, etc., in the field)
  • Contact lenses if you wear them
  • Warm clothing for cold weather (possible friaje events): sweatshirt/jacket, wool hat, warm socks, gloves
  • Hat or bandana
  • Wristwatch (digital, with a repeat countdown timer)
  • Notebook
  • Prescription eyeglasses (good idea to bring a spare pair in case they get lost or broken)
  • Contact lenses and saline (preferably use contacts that you don’t have to change every day)

*Hiking boots are not needed, but bring comfortable footwear for the station/lab.

*Please read sections below for additional information.

Basics about boots: You will require gumboots (aka wellingtons or muck boots), which are knee-high rubber boots. These are essential for all outdoor activities, every day while on- and off-trail at the field station. You can bring these from home or buy them in Puerto Maldonado. Bear in mind that small women’s sizes can be difficult to find, as well as large men’s sizes. In addition, we prefer that not everyone goes to the market to get and try on boots, since this increases the risk of COVID for program participants and the Peruvian public. If at all possible, our recommendation is to bring your own boots from home, break them in, and make sure they will be comfortable to wear for most of the day, every day.

Tips: Consider insoles to help with increasing the comfort level. Select a natural-colored or black pair, if possible, to not be conspicuous around wildlife. 

Boot etiquette: At the station, it is important to put your name on your boots to avoid confusion. Anterior areas will also be provided so that the boots do not enter and muddy up the bedrooms or common areas.

Notes: A pair of sneakers will come in handy during your travels and for use while at camp itself. You will never wear flip-flops at camp, for your own safety. You may however prefer to bring a pair so that you can wear them to –or in– the shower.

Pack in something you can carry on your shoulders. Suitcases are not very practical (though people have managed with them). We recommend bringing a big duffel bag, or a backpack with most of your things in it. Try to make it waterproof, or buy some kind of waterproof cover. In the worst case scenario, though, you can put your whole bag in a giant plastic bag to keep it dry once you get to Puerto Maldonado. You’ll also need a small daypack when on site.

The most important things you need in the forest that we will not be providing (other than rubber boots) are your daypack, a water bottle, insect repellent, rain jacket or poncho, and a pair of binoculars. Additionally, for those joining us for research programs, a laptop (not a Chromebook) will be extremely helpful. In addition, a digital watch with a repeat timer will greatly assist those collecting behavioral data (see below). Check your packing list for more details.

Some other things to consider bringing include a penknife (check it with your luggage, don’t hand carry – it will get caught), a bandana or hat, and some kind of energy bar as an extra snack.

You will need to use a headlamp with LEDs at this site. This headlamp will be your best friend and is useful since it is hands-free. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife at night, bring one that is bright (high lumens) and that has a red light option, as the red light disturbs nocturnal animals a lot less. We suggest that you bring a rechargeable headlamp, or bring rechargeable batteries. This means that you must also obtain a small battery charger. If you can’t and have to bring regular batteries, please buy energy efficient ones so you use as few as possible, since you will have to take all batteries back with you and recycle them (you cannot leave them at the field station).

Yes. Make sure that you have something extremely reliable as an alarm clock – whether you use your phone or watch is up to you. Please buy a digital watch with a repeat timer – this last factor is essential in allowing you to collect behavioral data. When at the store, please specifically ask if you can set a timer for a specific duration (eg. 1 minute) that will continually beep every minute. That is what we mean by a repeat timer. If in doubt, purchase this watch from Amazon Smile, or something like it.

Passports are valuable items that you want to protect from mold in the rainforest. The best way to do this is to put them in small ziplock bags and then leave them entirely alone.  Do the same with any cash you bring with you also. Paper gets moldy very quickly.

While the weather at the station is typically warm and pleasant (~24C or 75F), we do get moments of cold weather coming in from the Andes. We call these friajes and they can last anywhere from a day to a week. At these times, temperatures can drop as low as 8C (~46F) but tend to be around 12C (~54F). Now a lot of you have definitely experienced temperatures a lot worse than this, but experiencing this type of weather in the rainforest is quite different from anything you have been through. Since the station is designed to keep people cool for most of the year, all the buildings are made of wood and wire mesh (to keep bugs out). Unfortunately, this lets the cold weather right in, so you have to be prepared for this to happen. Bring at least one pair of warm socks, a pair of light gloves and a hoody and some thick sweatpants. If you tend to feel colder than most, bring a little more warm clothing than listed above.

We cannot promise you a friaje but they occur often from May to July, so you have to be prepared for one to happen!

Field Station Amenities

You will be provided with three meals at the field station each day – breakfast (6 – 7 am), lunch (12-1 pm) and dinner (6:30 – 7:30 pm). These meals are healthy and will fill you up, but this being the middle of the rainforest, don’t expect to get all your food groups represented in the same way you try to eat while you are at home. If you are concerned, take a multi-vitamin while at the field station. Every single thing you eat has to be brought in by boat, so there are limitations on what will make the journey. Rice is a major staple of most every meal, with proteins, vegetables, and fruits widely available. The station has fabulous cooks who can make the tasty dishes with basic and wholesome ingredients. Vegetarians will sometimes get tofu and soy meat substitutes. Being vegan at this field site can be difficult (but not impossible).

You will also have access to cookies, crackers, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, at all times during the day (while you are at camp). If you think you will do better with Cliff or Lara bars (or the like), please bring some for yourself. Any additional treats you bring (including precious chocolate) will be fair game for a lot of small rainforest creatures, so bring plenty of ziplock bags in which to place your food. Also avoid leaving wrappers in your rooms because that will attract some curiosity from miniature wildlife.

It is strongly suggested that each person bring their own towel(s). There will also be an option to request an additional one at the station, but it is really helpful to have at least one other while yours is being washed an drying on the clothesline. We recommend bringing a quick-drying travel towel that will take up less space in your pack and will sun dry faster.

We strongly encourage you to bring your laptops to the field station, as well as your cell phones. They will come in handy for data entry, entertainment, and for checking email. Due to the intermittent/slow nature of internet, as well as the need to use Garmin Basecamp software, Chromebooks are not recommended at all.

Electronics have to be treated differently in the rainforest than you would anywhere else. Do not bother to bring a soft sleeve for the laptop with you, because it will suck up moisture from the air and will envelope your laptop in it, which is bad news. We find that simple plastic ziplock bags work better than sports dry bags. We recommend that you purchase at least two ziplock bags that are large enough to fit your computer. You can also purchase silicon gel packages online (Amazon Smile or Jake’s Silica Gel are good places to try, along with local stores like REI). Put a couple of 5 gram packets inside the ziplock with your computer and bring at least 2 more packets with you.

Peru uses a different set of plugs than the U.S. or England. The field site, however, will have extension cords and power strips that accept US plugs. If you want to plug things in while you travel, though, you might consider picking up a small converter for your electronics that will fit plugs in Peru (see here for a full explanation). The Peruvian system uses 220 volts, instead of 120/140 volts as in the U.S. Please CHECK your electronics to make sure they are compatible before plugging them in at the station or anywhere in Peru. If they don’t work at both voltages, you will need to bring a step up converter such as this one.  Also note that you will not find three-pronged sockets in most places, so definitely at least bring a three-to-two prong modifier (such as this) for your electronics.

Electricity at the field station is now provided throughout the day, during which you will charge your electronics as needed. Do not bring a hair dryer, electric razor, or electric toothbrush because those are very much considered an unnecessary luxury at this site. We will prioritize charging absolutely everything else over those items.

Internet access at the field station is wireless, but slow. This means that smartphones, iPads, tablets, and computers of all kinds should be able to connect to the internet.

Please note that since the internet depends on a satellite connection, weather can interfere with it in two ways – one, messing with the signal and two, not allowing solar panels to charge long enough to power the wireless router. Thus, the internet may not be available at all hours of the day. Most likely, neither will you, since you’ll be in the forest fully occupied. We strongly recommend that you do not rely on it to be available to you every single day. See the section on phones to learn about other ways in which to communicate with home from the field station.

The best way to stay in touch with your family is through your phone. The phone network accessible at the field site is called “Claro.” Contact your cell service provider and make sure that you can pick up Claro service while in Peru. Then, purchase an international calling plan, pre-paid minutes, or some kind of international texting plan. This will allow you to communicate with your family at home, as and when you want.

Things to consider: If your phone is not compatible with Claro, you can rent a cell phone in the Lima airport with a local number. You can communicate by services like Whatsapp while you are in Puerto Maldonado because your hostel has wireless internet service, but remember that the internet can sometimes be slow or inaccessible at the field station.

You will do your own laundry at the field station, so bring (preferably) biodegradable laundry detergent from the US with you. You can purchase non biodegradable detergent as well as clothes pins (to secure your washing to a line for drying) in the Puerto Maldonado market.

Update for 2021:

There will be tubs for washing clothes by hand in the common area sinks, but they are not to be taken into the rooms or away from the washing areas. There will be some appropriate soap provided, and a schedule shall be developed for the use of wash basins in shifts.

Additionally, the station will have a new washing machine compatible with their solar panel system. You will not have access to this directly, but field station staff may be able to provide laundry service for $3.00 per kilo upon request. There are many of us, so do not depend on getting clothes cleaned quickly this way.

Ropes will be available in exposed sunny areas, however it is the responsibility of each person to be attentive to the arrival of the rains and to remove their clothes from the clotheslines. It is also important to avoid having your clothes hanging for days, since others will also need to use the lines for drying their laundry.

 

Travel and Stay in Puerto Maldonado

Please make sure to arrive in Puerto Maldonado on the exact date specified for your program.

For departure, you can plan to leave Puerto Maldonado the day after the end date listed for your program (or later, if you wish).

We take the boat back to Puerto Maldonado the day before your end date, and FPI pays for the hostel that night. Any further nights are at your own expense.

If you have any confusion about this at all when booking your flights, please contact us (info@fieldprojects.org).

No, it does not. You will be using either Taca, LATAM or StarPeru to fly the last leg between Lima and Puerto Maldonado. It does not matter which flight you book on that day at all. All flights arrive before 4:00pm and the earlier you fly in, the more time you get to spend in the town and the market.

*Please make sure to arrive in Puerto Maldonado on the date specified for your program. If you have any confusion about this at all when booking your flights, please contact us (info@fieldprojects.org).

You can take a bus from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, but it is a very long journey so give yourself a lot of time to finish this. People frequently experience delays in bus travel from Lima to Cusco, and sometimes from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. Traveling by bus from Lima to Cusco takes ~21 hours non-stop, and tickets cost between $65 and $85 for a one-way ticket. Traveling from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado takes ~11 hours and occurs only overnight at a cost of ~ $30 each way. (These prices are based on bookings at this site – note that we are not responsible for the failures of third party websites) If you are late in arriving to Puerto Maldonado, the scheduled boat might leave without you and you will have to take a local boat taxi to the site. We strongly advise you to give yourself plenty of time if you are planning to rely on bus service in Peru for local transportation.

When all program participants have submitted their travel information, we will collate this information and send you an Arrival Packet. This document will let you know if others are traveling on the same flight/bus as you, and provide you with their email addresses so you can get in touch in advance (if you want to).  You will also receive exact instructions on what to do when you land, and an image of your PIs or team leaders so you can look out for them at the airport/bus station. If they cannot be there, we will arrange hostel transportation and/or a trusted local fixer to meet you. The Arrival packet will also provide you with instructions on what to do if you have been delayed, or if your luggage should go missing. In addition, it will include local contact information for your instructors so that you can get in touch with them if needed to let them know if your travel plans were forced to change for some reason.

Getting to the station: You will travel as a group to the field station on a water taxi. Boats depart from Laberinto, a town ~ 1 hour from Puerto Maldonado. Vans will be arranged to take you from Puerto Maldonado to Laberinto. The journey to the field station takes ~6 hours, going upstream on the Madre de Dios River.

Returning to Puerto Maldonado: Return journeys can happen in less than 3.5 hours, because you will be traveling by boat downstream on the Madre de Dios River. Taxis will take you from Laberinto to Puerto Maldonado.

From the airport, you will be picked up and taken to a local hostel with whom we have partnered for many years. You will likely be sharing rooms with others. Women preferring not to share dorm rooms with men will have their requests honored.  You do not have to pay for this accommodation, as it will be covered by the program fee. You will spend one night in Puerto Maldonado both before you go to the field station, and possibly one more after you return from the station.

Individual lunches and dinners in Puerto Maldonado will not be covered by the program, and snacks are highly recommended for the boat journey to the field station. Meals in Puerto Maldonado are very affordable. For example, a fancy dinner at a very nice restaurant will cost ~$10. Other meals can be purchased for less than that amount. You will thus be responsible for a lunch (possible, depending on your flight) and dinner on your first and last day in Puerto Maldonado. Breakfast in Puerto Maldonado will be provided at your hostel (on the last morning only, since we typically leave for the station too early in the morning to have the hostel breakfast).