Traveling

How long are Servas Homestays?
Visits are generally three days and two nights and may be extended only with the express invitation of the host and with arrangements that are mutually acceptable. Hosts offering to extend a homestay beyond the two-night minimum will annotate their host listing with the EVP code, meaning "Extended Visit Possible." Appearance of these codes is sometimes followed by a description of the upper limit for an extended stay, such as "two people or a couple for up to a week" (i.e. 2P/C:1w).
What should I know about Servas host lists?
Servas hosts live throughout the world, in urban centers and in the countryside. In fact, we encourage travelers to visit out-of-the way hosts because they usually have more time and space to devote to Servas visitors and often do not receive as many visits as their fellow hosts in major cities. To see where we have Servas hosts and how many, please review our Host List Statistics sheet which also indicates the year in which the host list or supplement was last published. Travelers usually borrow up to five lists at a time, but if you are planning an extended trip, you may borrow up to ten or even fifteen lists. Servas requires a refundable deposit for the US host list and for each set of up to five country/area lists. Lists are only for approved Servas members and to be used only for their intended purpose. You will doubtless meet many fellow travelers who are interested in the Servas concept and feel free to offer them the telephone number of a local Servas representative. Misuse of Servas hosts lists is ground for immediate termination of membership and possible litigation.
Can families travel together with Servas?
Servas feels it is important for families of the world to meet each other in their own homes and encourages this by allowing children 17 years and younger to travel free with their parents. In the host lists for the US and some other countries, two codes are used to indicate that families are especially welcome: fam (families are welcome for two days and nights) and FAM (families are welcome for two or more nights and may inquire about possibly longer stays). Remember that hosts in many countries do not have large homes and cannot afford to feed many guests. If you travel with several children, you may want to consider day visits with the host, perhaps even taking him or her out to lunch.
What services are offered for people with disabilities?
Servas welcomes the physically challenged traveler. More than half of all US hosts have noted they can accommodate travelers with one or more of the following disabilities: hearing impairment (H), vision impairment (V), various levels of mobility impairment (M), wheelchair users (W), and guide dogs (D). Some hosts can also provide transportation to Servas visitors upon request. Travelers are encouraged to discuss in advance with their hosts any special needs, including dietary restrictions.
How can I be sure it is safe to stay with the hosts listed?
All Servas hosts have been personally screened and approved by an experienced representative of the national secretary of their country. Hosts must renew their membership annually and must keep their information updated in the interim. Each renewal is subject to there being no unresolved or unfavorable reports on file. Travelers are encouraged to report any serious problems they may have encountered on a Servas visit.
What assistance is available to Servas travelers on the road?
There is a designated coordinator for every country where there are Servas hosts, almost always in that country, though not always in the capital city. A list of international coordinators is available to members through the US Servas office. In the US, we have area representatives and host coordinators for each state, whose job it is to help match up travelers and hosts when members encounter difficulty contacting hosts.
Can I sign up outside of my home country?
Signing up as a traveler outside of your country of residence is possible in some cases. Travelers should keep in mind that application procedures, policies, fees and deposits vary from country to country, and special problems such as language barriers and logistics tend to slow things down. Travelers are advised to sign up in their country of residence and to request all the host lists they might need before they begin their trip.
What if I lose my Letter of Introduction?
Copies of all US approved Letters of Introduction are kept on file for just such an emergency. Simply contact the office and we will fax or mail a duplicate along with an official letter verifying your membership to a potential host.
Are there other ways to build peace while traveling with Servas?
There are countless opportunities to contribute to the greater social good while on the road, many of which are listed in the Servas host lists and in the Related Links section of this Web site. Participating in local volunteer efforts can enhance your Servas experience while at the same time promoting peace and social justice on a larger scale.
How long does the application process take?
The traveler registration process usually takes about three weeks. To join as a traveler for the first time, you will need to meet with a local volunteer interviewer and provide two letters of reference. All the forms and information you need are available through this Web site. If the interviewer believes your travel plans and goals are compatible with Servas, s/he will approve your Letter of Introduction and send the materials to the California office. Upon receipt, the office will validate your Letter of Introduction and send back the original to you, along with any host lists you requested. Lists will be sent by first class mail, though travelers may request express delivery for an additional charge. Sample Timeline

Hosting

What if my address or other essential contact information changes?
US Servas produces a host list annually. The annual renewal letters go out in the fall and this is your main opportunity to update your listing. However, if something changes even though the listing in the book will remain the same we can update our database for mailings and place a correction in the US Host List Addendum which is included with each new book that is sent out. If something in your listing has changed contact the Arcata Office.
What is done to insure the safety of Servas hosts?
All Servas travelers have been personally screened and approved by an experienced representative of that Servas country. When screening new potential travelers, interviewers are responsible for: Making sure applicants thoroughly understand the purpose and aims of Servas and are capable of fulfilling these aims. Interviewers evaluate whether Servas is compatible with their travel objectives and make clear what Servas expects of them as travelers and what Servas hosts have a right to expect of them as guests in their homes. Gaining insights from the interview, the interviewer makes an appropriate decision about the prospective Servas traveler.
How can I be sure it is safe to stay with the hosts listed?
Travelers must renew their membership annually and must keep their information updated in the interim. Each renewal is subject to there being no unresolved or unfavorable reports on file. Hosts rely on this screening and approval, verifying that a traveler has a valid and current Letter of Introduction when they arrive.
Must I accept all Servas travelers who request a visit?
Hosts agree to accept travelers without regard to race, creed, sexual orientation, or nationality, but when you choose to welcome travelers into your home is entirely up to you. You should accept travelers only when you have the time, energy and interest for a meaningful Servas exchange. We do ask that all hosts reply to traveler inquiries whether you can host at that time or not. You do not have to give the reason you cannot accept a visitor, just explain that, although you would like to meet her/him, it is not convenient at this time. If you have to cancel on short notice after you have made arrangements, it is customary to try to help make arrangements with another area host or to direct the traveler to your local coordinator for assistance.
Do I need to provide meals or tours?
Your commitment to welcome travelers and participate in a cultural exchange is the basic agreement. Most hosts invite Servas visitors to join their regular meals. But travelers should not expect you to prepare special meals for them—part of the home visit is to learn other ways of eating. You should inform travelers in advance whether you will expect them for any meals. As host, you set the tone for the visit and you determine what you would like to do with your visitors; activities outside the house are optional. You need not go out of your way with special tours or entertainment, since travelers are interested in learning about your usual way of life. Travelers often appreciate your taking them to meetings you would ordinarily attend, which helps them know more about your life and your community.

On the other hand, Servas travelers are often looking for ways to thank hosts for their hospitality. Meals and activities provide excellent opportunities to repay your kindness. Preparing food for a host family is often a good way to express gratitude while conveying some part of one's native culture.

What about language problems? I only speak English.
Hosts and travelers are asked to indicate what languages they speak and their degree of proficiency. These are identified in the host lists and in each traveler's Letter of Introduction, so that both travelers and hosts can match up according to their ability to communicate with each other.

Most Servas travelers from other countries speak some English. Likewise, many hosts abroad speak some English and/or French, German or Spanish. All international host lists are printed in English and use a similar format, codes and abbreviations. (English was selected by the Servas International General Assembly as the language for forms and official communication.)

What does a US host listing look like?
All host listings are in English and arranged in geographical order. Each host listing is organized in the same order, according to the answers each host gave on their host application. Abbreviations are used to minimize space.
How long does the host application process take?
Becoming a host primarily includes filling out the host application and arranging an interview with one of our volunteer interviewers. We estimate around 3 weeks. Sample Host Timeline
How can I receive travelers if my listing does not make it into the printed host list?
The US host list is printed every spring, usually around April. If you submit your host application after January it will not be in the printed host list. In addition to the annual host list, a supplement is printed every few months containing the more recent host applications. A good way to make sure that travelers know your doors are open is to make sure that your area representative, host coordinator and area hosts have your contact information so that they can refer travelers to you.