Does anyone else find themselves with an endless “to-do” list before taking an international trip? Take the extra time now to prepare and plan, so you can optimise your time abroad. Wandering through side streets and munching on local delicacies is a lot more fun than worrying about why your phone won’t connect to the foreign network.
Fortunately, we’ve broken it all down into a nine-point plan that will help make your international travel headache free.
1. Check your passport and double-check foreign policy
Before you can start collecting colorful stamps from all over the world, you need somewhere to put them first. Start your passport applications several months before your flight date, especially if you need visas from foreign embassies. Most likely, you will need to apply in person at your local embassy, consulate or visa office. Be prepared to provide proof of citizenship, an extra form of identity, and recent set of passport photos. Check your local office for specific requirements before you head in to fill out the application.
OW-Travel Tip: Some countries a very specific requirements with regards to photo dimensions and background. Make sure you have checked this out.
As soon as you receive your passport, make a couple of copies. Take one copy with you when you travel, worst case scenario if your passport gets stolen, you can still get back into the country, or be able to prove your citizenship. Leave another copy with someone you trust back home and consider making an electronic copy you can store in your email account as well.
OW-Travel Tip: If you do already have a passport, double-check the expiration date! Even with a valid passport, most countries deny entry if it is due to expires within three to six months of travel.
Visa specifics vary for every country, but the bottom line is the same: it’s tedious and it takes a while. Do some research and find out if your country of destination requires a visa. If so, what kind of visa will you need? Sixty percent of the world’s countries require visas for any length of stay, most of these as a regular visitor’s visa. However, if you will be studying or interning for more than a short semester, you might have to sign up for a student visa. If you are planning to work, you will need a work visa.
2. Get vaccinated and stock up on medicine
Depending on where you’re going, you may need to get special vaccines or medications as a precaution against various diseases. Check-in with your doctor, double check and make sure that you have all of the proper vaccinations and that you have renewed all essential prescriptions.
OW-Travel Tip: The MASTA vaccine checker is a great way of checking what you need masta-travel-health.com/Booking/Travel
3. Learn about your destination
No matter how cool and open-minded you are, you’re probably going to experience culture shock. However, it’s always good to go prepared so that your time abroad can be spent exploring and enjoying instead of flipping through new guide books. Research the places you want to visit, any festivals that happen during the time you’ll be there, and events that you can participate in.
In addition, read up about the culture. If the country is more traditional, maybe you will need to pack clothing accordingly.
4. Develop a budget
Before you travel overseas, call your bank and credit card providers to let them know where you’ll be. If the companies see foreign charges with no notice that you’re abroad, they might freeze your cards, which can be quite annoying if you’re in a shop or trying to pay for dinner. Before you travel internationally, be aware of the exchange rate and know how much things generally cost wherever you’re going so that you get some sense of how much you’re going to spend.
5. Make copies of travel documents
Most importantly, have at least one color copy of your passport’s ID page stored somewhere safe and separate from your passport. You should also make copies of any visas that pertain to your current travels. Hotel reservations, train ticket confirmations, and all other travel documents should be copied as well. In this digital age, it is very convenient and eco-friendly to only have digital copies of these documents handy. That’s fine, but be sure that these items are saved to your device locally so that you can access them without an Internet connection.
6. Get all the necessary gear for your electronics
Electrical outlets are different all over the world, so you’ll need to have adapters that allow your devices to plug into foreign sockets. You also need to check the strength of the electrical current wherever you’re going and make sure your devices are compatible—cell phones and computers often are. If you have a device that’s not compatible with a higher or lower current, then you’ll need to buy a transformer or leave that gadget at home.
The following adaptor guide is a great way of checking what you need for different countries: skyscanner.net/news/international-travel-plug-adapter-guide
7. Learn key phrases in the local language
Do memorize a few basic phrases in the language of your destination country like “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Where is the bathroom?”, but the more you can say in the local tongue, the better. If you don’t feel comfortable with your language abilities, then cheat and print out a document with relevant phrases or make flashcards that you can carry with you.
8. Find out how to communicate back home
Even if you’re going on a trip, it’s always good to know your options to get in touch with friends and family back home. Check your cell phone plan has overseas roaming, and if it does this sometimes needs to be activated. If you’re not thrilled with the idea of buying and carrying around a phone card, check into the sim card capabilities of your phone. With modern technology, try free services that you can use with an internet connection such as Skype or WhatsApp anywhere in the world.
9. Get international driving license
If international road trip is your dream then find out whether your country license will suffice or you need international driving license. Not every country accept international driving license but it’s good to have one in case you run into any problem. Usually, car rental company gives you insurance, but for the license, you need to get an international driving license. It’s also smart to familiarize yourself with local driving laws wherever you plan to drive. Contact foreign embassies for official rules and regulations regarding driving.
10. Buy health and travel insurance
Before you travel, check your health insurance policy to see if it includes international coverage. If not, consider buying a short-term policy that will cover you while you’re abroad, in case something will happen. Similarly, a smart way to protect your trip and your money is to purchase travel insurance. Policies and coverage vary from provider to provider, but the basic idea is that you can have your money refunded if your trip has to be cancelled, postponed, or cut short for any number of reasons.
Now that you have organized paperwork thoroughly, completed the bureaucratic procedures, and wrapped up everything you need, you're ready!
OW-Travel Tip: A lot of bank accounts include free travel insurance. If you do have travel insurance included you often still need to set it up before you go away.
Just don’t forget your passport at home!