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Travelling Abroad
by TeenHelp September 3rd 2015, 07:06 PM

Travelling Abroad
By Haley (Halcyon)

While travelling abroad can be an amazing experience, it can also be quite stressful. Travelling abroad requires a lot of organisation and planning. Things like insurance, passports, currency, flights, and other factors need to be taken into consideration before travelling. Everything must fall into place to ensure a safe and timely trip. Here are some things to consider while planning your journey.

Passports and Visas

Before you think about booking flights, check your passport expiry date. As a general rule, your passport should have six months validity beyond your arrival back to your home country; this is compulsory when travelling to some countries. If your passport does need renewing, do so a few months before you are due to fly, to ensure that you receive it back before you travel. You may also require a visa, in which case it should be applied for well in advance, as it takes time to process. If you are unsure about the prerequisites, check the destination country's rules to ensure that you meet the entry requirements, or ask a Travel Agent.

Scan a copy of your passport (and visa, if applicable) so that you have a record of key information such as the passport number, date and place of issue. Then, e-mail a copy to yourself, so that you can access it anywhere in the world.

Travel Insurance

It is important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether or not to take out travel insurance. Although travel insurance may not be compulsory, some people still choose to take out a policy, as it covers a variety of eventualities such as medical emergencies; cancelled trips or delayed flights; lost, stolen or delayed baggage; personal liability, and more.

All policies differ, so you will need to consider the best policy for you that corresponds with the type of travel you are embarking on. For example, if you choose to go on a skiing holiday (which is considered more dangerous than a sight-seeing holiday) the policy will differ accordingly. When choosing a policy, take into account how often you might travel. If you travel multiple times in a year, it might be cheaper to take out an annual multi-trip insurance.

Foreign Currency

Exchange rates fluctuate a lot, so it's difficult to know when the best time to buy currency is. That said, you can still shop around for the best exchange rate, as a different bank, your local post office, or online company may offer a better deal. It is unadvisable to carry large amounts of cash, however, so consider getting a travel money card that you can top-up. (Always read the small print and be aware of hidden charges.) The benefit of this is that it's not linked to your bank account, so if it gets in the wrong hands, no one will be able to access your money beyond the prepaid limit.

If you are going to be using a credit or debit card, tell your bank beforehand, as any unexpected purchases could be interpreted as fraudulent activity and the transaction could be cancelled.

Flights and Accommodation

Everyone wants the best deal on flights and accommodation. Therefore, it is useful to start searching for deals as early as possible. If you are a frequent flyer, you may wish to consider becoming a member of a frequent-flyer program, whereby accumulated miles can be redeemed for free or reduced price tickets, discounted merchandise, and other benefits such as quicker check-in. You may also wish to use comparison tools to find the best deal.

When looking for accommodation, think about its location in relation to amenities and attractions, and weigh up the pros and cons. For example, staying in the city centre would mean that you might be closer to places of interest and you won't need to spend as much money on public transport. Staying further away could be cheaper in terms of accommodation, but you may need to fork out more for public transport. Staying further away could also mean that it's less noisy in terms of cars on the road, but you can never predict what the noise levels will be like from other guests staying at the same accommodation.

If you have decided not to stay at a hotel with a well-known chain, read recent reviews on websites such as Trip Advisor. You might also want to consider renting an apartment, if travelling with a few people.

Packing and Luggage Restrictions

Different airlines will have varying luggage restrictions, and some will allow you to check in more luggage for an additional cost. Therefore, it is important to check what the limit is before you start packing. Check the weather forecast at your destination country and pack accordingly. If you are going somewhere hot, it is worth bringing an extra jumper in case it does turn cold, if you don't want to spend money on clothing while you are away.

Pack only the essential items, and make an inventory of your belongings. Some hotels offer a laundry service, or you can pack a small amount of laundry detergent to hand wash your clothing, so that you don't need to pack clothes for every single day spent abroad. Many hotels also offer complimentary toiletries, so there may not be any need to bring your own. Remember to leave some free space if you're planning to bring back souvenirs.

Carry-on luggage has its own set of rules. Typically, only smaller bags are allowed, so check the dimensions of your bag, and don't pack it too full as there are weight restrictions as well. If you need to pack toiletries in your hand luggage, make sure that any liquids are in bottles of 100ml or less, as you will be asked to throw away anything that exceeds this limit. If the container is larger than 100ml, but the contents is still only 100ml or less, this will still not be permitted. There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, for essential medical requirements, or sealed items bought in duty free. Sharp items and blunt instruments are disallowed, as well as other items for security reasons, so do familiarise yourself with the rules before packing.

Communication

While it's perfectly okay to update you friends and family on social media such as Facebook, be aware that other people might see the updates (and could be a potential invitation for opportunists) if the post is not limited to friends only. It is important to strike a balance - don't spend all your precious time posting updates, as it could get annoying to your folks back at home, and you could be missing out on the local attractions and other experiences.

Contacting family and friends online is probably the most convenient and easiest way if you want to keep in touch. If you have a smartphone, you can save money by connecting to free WiFi zones, which many hotels, coffee shops and other retail shops will have. Mobile applications such as Skype will allow you to make voice calls for free, and WhatsApp will allow you to text for free, provided that you are connected to WiFi. If you don't have a smartphone, there are Internet Cafes or some hotels offer a computer facility. Be wary when using public facilities, especially when travelling alone. Research all the options before travelling. You may wish to purchase an International SIM card, or a Pay-As-You-Go SIM when you reach your destination.

Planning an Itinerary

Researching where you want to visit before you travel will save you precious time when you are actually abroad, so you don't have to waste time deciding where you want to go. If you prefer to be spontaneous, it is still worth researching the attractions to get an idea of what you want to visit while you are away. As well as popular tourist attractions, there might be hidden gems that might be of interest. Speaking to friends or family who have already been to your chosen destination may be beneficial.

Other Considerations
  • Visit your doctor for health and medical advice in ample time before your travels. You may need to be vaccinated, depending on your destination, and some vaccinations require multiple doses over a course of a few weeks.
  • Research the local customs and cultural differences to avoid offending natives.
  • If you are travelling to a country where the main language is not your mother tongue, you may wish to invest in a phrase book and learn some useful words and phrases beforehand. There are also plenty of smartphone applications that can help you learn some simple phrases.
  • If you own any pets, ensure that they will be properly cared for for the duration of your trip, either by contacting a holiday home for pets, or friends and relatives.
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