Clothing on board is generally conservative yet casual. Please refer to the Mercy Ships Dress Code in the Code of Conduct for more guidance on what clothes to bring. We suggest you bring some nicer clothing for special occasions and church. Due to limited space on board we suggest you bring enough clothing for one week to ten days. We also request you bring at least one pair of closed-toe shoes.
PLEASE NOTE: some positions require the wearing of scrubs / uniform tops / overalls / which are provided.
Bedding & towels
We provide one bath towel, fitted sheet, duvet with cover, a pillow & pillowcase for all crew.
We sell a range of toiletries in our Convenience Store (Pier 99), but the selection is limited and can vary. If you have preferred brands, you may want to bring these with you as we cannot guarantee which brands we will have in stock on the ship.
PLEASE NOTE: fingernail polish, polish remover, hair color or perfumes cannot be shipped to you via mail or container due to hazardous materials regulations
Please bring up to a supply to last the entirety of your stay of any needed chronic medications you need. If serving long-term, please bring a supply to last 6-12 months. We would highly recommend keeping at least a two-week supply in your carry-on luggage when traveling in case your checked baggage is lost or delayed. You can contact our Pharmacist at [email protected] with any questions.
Some people find that weather conditions & the environment in Africa can sometimes make wearing contacts difficult. Please bring a pair of glasses with you. Bring a sufficient supply of contacts for your entire stay; contact solution for soft lenses is not available on board.
Duffel bags are preferred as they are easier to store. Please note that storage space is limited so avoid bringing large items and pack accordingly.
Useful items to consider bringing
- Laundry bag
- Small flashlight/head torch
- Mosquito spray (any brand or DEET content is left to your preference)*
- Sun screen/block (SPF 15 or higher)*
- Sleeping bag/mosquito net/travel hammock (for those who may want to travel off the ship)
- Travel Mug*
- Phone card*
- Hair dryer and curling iron or straightener
- Electrical adapters (all voltage on board is 220v – British plug) Any appliance that is rated for 220, 230 or 240 volts, 50Hz will operate on the ship.
- Travel plug adapter for sockets (typically EU outlets) ashore
- Non-prescription/over-the-counter medications
- Musical instruments – space is limited
- Backpack or secure bag
- Beach/travel towel
- Ear plugs
- Magnets (most walls on the ship are metal)
* Denotes item is also sold in the Convenience Store (Pier 99), subject to availability. Stock cannot be guaranteed.
What not to bring
- Large suitcases
- Large musical instruments
- Firearms or weapons of any sort
- Cordless appliances with butane fuel
- Products containing bleach
- Expensive jewelry and electronics
- Items to distribute as gifts to local people or patients on the ward (toys, dolls, coloring books, etc.). If you would like to donate items for this purpose, please contact our Procurement Department at +1(903)939.7000
- Medications that are not for personal use unless cleared with the Pharmacist prior to arrival. Any questions can be sent to [email protected]
Immunizations and malaria prevention
Required (Mandatory) before arrival for all crew
- Yellow Fever: single dose during lifetime (travel with documentation of yellow fever – WHO card)
- Hepatitis B: series of 3 OR provide evidence of immunity by titer and lab results
- MMR– Measles, Mumps, Rubella: series of 2 OR immunity by titer with lab results OR had the childhood disease plus one adult booster
- Tetanus/Diphtheria (Tdap preferred): within last 10 years
- Tuberculosis skin testing
– Skin test (PPD): performed within 12 months prior to arrival . If there is a history of a prior positive skin test (which is defined as >10mm induration, not simply redness), a PPD test is NOT an option. You must submit a chest x-ray with a report and a TB Questionnaire
– Chest X-ray with report and TB Questionnaire. If you are submitting a Chest x-ray because you have had a positive PPD, it must be within 5 years prior to arrival and must be obtained on a date after the positive PPD
– If you have received a BCG vaccine: A TB screening blood test can be done (Interferon-Gamma Release Assay (IGRA) such as the QuantiFERON-TB Gold or T-spot TB test) in the place of a PPD skin test. The test should be performed within 12 months prior to boarding the ship. Please attach a copy of the blood test report. If you have received a previous BCG vaccine these tests are preferred as they may determine your need for treatment for latent TB. While one of these tests is the preferred screening method, if you are unable to obtain one of these tests, an acceptable alternative is to obtain a Chest X-ray with report (done within the last 5- years) and complete the TB screening questionnaire.
Required (mandatory) immunizations for those working in the Hospital, Dental and Engineering departments:
- Typhoid: EITHER oral within last 5 years OR injection within last 2 years
- Hepatitis A – Series of 2 OR immunity by titer with lab results
Highly recommended immunizations for staff and crew:
A full course of the following (including childhood series and adult booster as required) is recommended for all crew members:
(Discuss this with your local Travel Clinic in regards to the country where you will be serving)
- Typhoid: EITHER oral within last 5 years OR injection within last 2 years
- Hepatitis A: series of 2 OR immunity by titer with lab results
- Pertussis: aka Whooping Cough
- Polio booster: within the last 10 years
- HIB (Haemophilus Influenzae, type B): booster
- Meningitis ACWY: within the last 5 years
- Rabies: series of 3
Parents are required to ensure that their children are up to date with their childhood vaccinations prior to arrival on the ship. They should also seek advice from a Travel Clinic about additional vaccinations that the children may require before joining the ship. Since the schedule and timing of the childhood vaccinations varies slightly based on your country of origin please provide a copy of your child’s vaccination schedule to the ship Crew Clinic.
Note: Due to difficulty transporting certain vaccines, the Crew Clinic may not be able to provide all needed future childhood vaccinations and some will need to be obtained during ship maintenance periods in the developed world or upon returning home.
Yellow Fever vaccination is a mandatory requirement for all children over 9 months of age.
Please note: For those serving while the ship is in the Canary Islands only, only the PPD Tuberculosis Skin test and Tetanus vaccine are required.
Malaria is a common cause of illness, and a potential cause of death, in travelers to West Africa. Prophylaxis medication should be taken to help in the prevention of malaria.
You should begin taking medication as prescribed before arriving and bring at least a three month supply of malaria prophylaxis with you. Mefloquine (Larium) and Doxycycline are available for refill through the ship-based pharmacy.
If you elect to take a different anti-malarial (Malarone), you would be responsible to bring enough with you for the entire period of service.
Remember, anti-malarial medications must be started before arrival in West Africa and continued after departure. Ask your local doctor for details.
Travelers Who SHOULD NOT take Mefloquine (Larium)
The following travelers should not take Mefloquine and should ask their health care provider for a different anti-malarial drug:
- persons with active depression or a recent history of depression
- persons with a history of psychosis, generalized anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, or other major psychiatric disorder
- persons with a history of seizures
- persons treated for thyroid disorder
- persons allergic to Mefloquine
- persons with cardiac conduction abnormalities (for example, irregular heartbeat)
We have some concerns with the side effects of Mefloquine (Larium) while serving on the ship. If at any time you have any of the following complaints, please see the crew physician as soon as possible:
- Trouble sleeping/bad dreams/nightmares
- Unusually depressed
- Frequent crying
- Easily agitated
- Headache/confusion/other mental changes
Other methods of malaria prevention are also very important and should not be forgotten. These include insect repellents (preferably those containing DEET), long sleeves, light colored clothes, and mosquito nets (for those who will be sleeping off the ship).