So you’re getting ready for a trip! Maybe it’s solo, maybe it’s with a group, but regardless there are a few things you need to check before you go, especially if you’re going somewhere that lies off the beaten path of the US or Europe.
I got the idea for this blog after my friend Val randomly decided he was going to India and wanted some tips. I mean India requires a different level of preparation than most destinations but the idea is the same:
1. Visa and passport
Do you need a visa? If yes, what’s the processing time? Do you need to show proof of any immunisations (another point) in order to apply?
If you don’t require a visa, how long are you allowed to stay in the country without a visa? Do you require a minimum number of months validity on your passport to enter the country?
2. Immunisations and medication
Check the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) website to see if there are any mandatory immunisations you need to get and what’s the timeframe within which you need them and any subsequent boosters. If there are no mandatory immunisations, consult your doctor to see if there are any recommended immunisations.
Depending on the part of the world you’re headed to you may also want to consider taking your own medication for illnesses commonly experienced when travelling (travellers diarrhoea for example) or illnesses unique to your destination. Consult your doctor or your pharmacist for recommendations.
3. Travel insurance
Travel insurance is probably pretty easy to overlook until you need it. Luckily I’ve never had to use mine ever (knock on wood) but I always feel better about having it.
I use a really great provider called World Nomads which is underwritten by BUPA (my dad says they’re solid) and covers all manners of sin.
There is a basic package that is well…pretty basic…and an ‘explorer’ option that covers more extreme activities as well as compensation in the event of a potential hijacking, so this is obviously the one I take.
They also give you the option to donate $2 to various charities when you check out.
4. Embassies, consulates etc
If you’re travelling somewhere new and far away, it’s a good idea to do some research as to whether there’s an embassy/consulate of your country in that country, and if not, locate the closest one. Record the address and number in case you may need it.
Also worth asking around to see if anyone has any contacts in the country, official or otherwise.
So if something really bad happens you at least have a number to call that’s closer than your mom (or another responsible parental figure) halfway across the world.
5. Offline maps and languages
There are two map apps I use when travelling, the ubiquitous Google Maps and Here. Both allow you to download offline maps of specific areas. Here allows you to download an entire country while Google Maps lets you get very granular with the area you download.
Google Translate allows you to download languages offline. For languages with other alphabets, you can use the image scanner to decipher the alphabet and give you a visual translation. I should mention though when I used this in Japan it wasn’t perfect by any stretch.
Time to do some research on the currency situation in your destination of choice. What’s the recommended mode of getting local money? Are you converting USD (good luck with finding any USD in this Forex desert)? If yes, then you need to research the availability of cambios or money exchanges in the cities you’re visiting. One highly recommended mode is ATM withdrawals. No USD required and you pay a one-off fee per transaction, so my recommendation is to withdraw as much as possible, or necessary, in one go. Don’t take it for granted that the town you’re headed to has an abundance of ATMs though – one town I visited in Chile had all of three. Make sure you call your bank and let them know you’re travelling so they put a travel notice on your account. This will avoid any embarrassing and inconvenient blocking of your cards while abroad.
So there you have it – the foundation for a successful, relatively stress-free trip. Whatever comes after this is just icing on the cake. I’ll get into gadgets, gear and apparel in another post and maybe show you what I take with me on different types of trips (aim high Ceola…)
Hope I gave you some homework to do for your next trip!