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Planning on a trip? Here’s what you should keep in mind

December 7, 2011

Planning a trip can be stressful, especially if it covers multiple countries over a long period of time. It surely makes you look forward to that dream vacation you’re about to have or that journey you’ve always wanted to take, and you should do the necessary preparations before you head out. Here are some tips on how to prepare or plan for that next big travel:

Copies of travel documents and IDs

Thefts, mugging, leaving documents/ bags somewhere – all these sound familiar when you’re traveling. In order to keep yourself protected and not get stuck in nowhere land, be sure to make copies of all the important documents – passport, national IDs, drivers license, birth certificates, health insurance cards, credit cards, bank account numbers, travel itineraries, Embassy and Consulate information, airline phone numbers, and ICE (in case of emergency) phone numbers. Hand over the copies to your family members and trusted friends. Keep a copy for yourself tucked away in some hidden compartment in your backpack, and give a copy your travel companion (if you have one). If you are living in a different country than your citizenship, then make copies of the legal documents too.

Passport

A valid passport issued by your country is THE document you will need to be able to travel the world. Sounds like a no-brainer? It actually is! But different countries have different rules for passport validity when applying for visas or just visiting – some countries require that you hold a passport that has at least 6 months remaining before it expires. If you’re on a round-the-world (RTW) trip then having the “maximum number of pages” in your passport is important. While some countries have standard number of pages, others offer an option where you can have more pages in your passport at an extra cost.

More and more countries now require you to have machine-readable passports, instead of the old school handwritten. Ask your embassy or consulate if they offer that, or insist on one.

Visas

Every country has their own visa rules and regulations. You may or may not need visas to the countries you plan to visit; some countries require you to have a visa to enter and others may stamp one on your arrival at the airport. Also, some countries require you to have a visa just to transit through their ports – seaport or airport.

Make a list, check regulations and if possible, take a printed copy of the regulations for entry and transit visas. For example, citizens of India having a valid U.S. visa or U.S. Green Card does not need a transit visa at most European airports, but if you are on Advance Parole, then you need a transit visa. Applying for visas to each country you plan to visit can take anything between 2 days to 2 months. So plan ahead.

Health cards and Vaccinations

Although most governments put up disease-related travel warnings on their state websites, it is a good idea to contact the nearest Center for Disease Control or equivalent and get to know the facts about the diseases and the country or city you are visiting. Not all diseases spread throughout the country, some are diagnosed or found in certain areas or cities. And these can be seasonal as well. For example, the risk of infection during the rainy season from May to October in many countries in Central America is high.

Consult your doctor or government agencies for the required vaccinations for the particular country of your travel and seek medical advice when there. Get medical insurance for the unforeseeable or travel insurance that would cover medical emergencies.

Travel Insurance

This is one extra expense you will be thankful for in cases of emergencies or just for a simple illness. If you’re traveling to countries like United States, travel insurance is a must, considering the high costs of healthcare. Lost baggage? Cancellations of trips? All these are covered by that small amount you’ll incur by getting a travel insurance. Numerous travel insurance companies offer different types of insurance.

Last year, Squaremouth listed top ten insurance companies and by using their aggregation services, you can get the best quote online. More and more companies offer travel insurance for special “events” such as earthquake, volcano, floods, tsunami, etc. Depending on the countries you are visiting, check with the local authorities about the possible dangers in that country or region and get a base minimum travel insurance related to that event or danger. A lot of travelers in recent years have suffered because of volcano in Iceland and Chile, earthquake in Japan and Turkey, or plain simple closures of airport because of snow (yes, we are pointing at London Heathrow). Get a quote. Our two favorite websites to start with are Squaremouth and Worldnomads.

International Driving Permit

With gas prices shooting through the roof, one would think why do I need a driving permit when I can take the local and public transportation in the countries I plan to visit? Here’s why – In December 2010, the workers union in London went on a last-minute strike right after the Christmas day in 2010, because of which the London Tube was shut down for 2 days! Getting a taxi was super expensive and most buses were not running. What do you do then?

You can rent a car using booking websites like Priceline, Expedia or Orbitz for cheap, but you should be eligible to drive and you cannot do so on your country or state-issued drivers license. That’s when getting an international permit is a good idea. They are fairly easy to acquire and not very expensive.

Tips for driving abroad

Medications

Altitude sickness, sea sickness, back pain, headache, first aid kit, bandages, upset stomach, toothache, allergies, or your personal medications – we all need those and assume that your next travel destination may not have them. So go to a pharmacy and get all the pills you need. You can get cheap drugs overseas, but in some cases you don’t know what you’re taking or the source may not be trustworthy.

Currencies

While some countries accept U.S. Dollars or Euros as local currencies, you will need to have the local currency in most countries. The first step is to know the exchange rate and the second step is to know or at least speculate how much will you need on a daily basis, in local currency. More and more local banks these days will provide you the destination country’s currency just by a few clicks.

Here are some tips on handling your money while traveling

Paper Mail

Earth Class MailYou never know what may come in your mailbox while you’re on the go. It’s not good to miss out on bills, eventually receiving calls from collection agencies. Most utility companies have websites to pay your bills online and we, along with them, encourage you to go green by opting in for e-bills. This is the best way to manage your bills without missing out on payments. For auto and home loans, inform your bank about your travel plan and/or make an arrangement to pay your loans. If you’re in U.S. then you can use Earthmail to manage the direct mail while you’re traveling.

Credit Cards

Alert your bank and credit-card company that you’ll be traveling, especially if overseas. Bank-fraud departments are more vigilant about unusual activity on customers’ cards. If they see an ATM purchase in a different country, they typically will call you to verify charges. If you miss the call, your credit card could be frozen. Avoid the hassles by notifying your bank before leaving home.

Most of European nations use RFID (chip and pin technology) for their credit cards, while America and most Asian nations still use the less-sophisticated magnetic stripe system, which is not trusted elsewhere. To avoid your card being rejected, make sure to carry your passport at all times for proper identification. Merchants want to verify that the person using a credit card is actually the one authorized to do so.

Calling from abroad

There’s free Wi-Fi almost everywhere you go – rental apartments, hostels, hotels, coffee shops or airports – and some countries also have internet cafes that provide high-speed connectivity for cheap. And then there are smartphones and application that allow you to make long-distance or international calls to keep in touch with your loved ones. Applications like Skype is the easiest and cheapest way to call home while away. Many internet cafes have headphones but it can’t hurt to buy a decent set with a good microphone. It is so much easier than using land lines and phone booths. Invest in one. You won’t be sorry.

Technology is more advanced than you’d think and many countries have 3G to 4G mobile connectivity for advanced and fast data browsing. And getting a pre-paid SIM card is easy and reliable. In most places you can purchase one at the carrier’s store at the airport or just walk up to any newspaper stands and purchase one. Shop for a plan that will give you the best advantages for your buck.

Camera

There’s nothing worse than coming home from your trip to faraway lands and looking at fuzzy photos. Depending on your interest in photography, anything from an SLR to a good point-and-shoot camera should serve the purpose. Consider getting an underwater camera too! And there will be endless number of pictures, yet that number is small, so get a good hi-speed and high-capacity storage card. If you’re carrying a laptop or netbook make sure to backup the pictures often, because accidents like dropping the camera, getting it stolen or battery running out happen often.


If you have tips to share, send them in comments.



  • Great tips! I’ll bear it in mind next time I travel.

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