Embarking on an adventure that’s going to last months, or even years can be incredibly daunting. The run up is, of course, filled with excitement but also with stress. Ensuring that you’re as organised as possible for your enjoyment and more importantly, safety, while you’re away is crucial. What exactly do you need to figure out before you head to the airport, besides the obvious flights and luggage?
Potentially the most crucial item on this list, you must ensure that you’re up to date on all the vaccinations you need. For me, this simply required a trip to my local doctor who asked for a list of the countries I was visiting and then compiled a list of the necessary and then optional vaccinations. On the NHS some of these are free, such as Hep A and Typhoid. Others can cost, with the Rabies vaccination at over £100 for the full course. You can, however, use the fit for travel site from the NHS if you’d prefer to sit and figure it out yourself (http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/)
- Medication; including destination essentials and pre-existing prescriptions
If your visiting areas that have high or moderate malaria risks, it’s worth taking malaria medication. Again, speak to your doctor about which brand would be best for you. I, personally, decided to take Malarone because although it was the most expensive, it has the least side effects. It does, of course, entirely depends on you. Have a shop around to find the best price, I found that the price of malaria tablets can vary by hundreds of pounds between high street pharmacies. Also make sure that you have all prescription medication, including contraception, that you will need for the duration of your trip. Check that all medication will be in date for the duration also. I was also advised to take my prescription with me, just in case I was asked about medication at border crossings.
You can get a lot of visas on arrival at airports or land borders but do make sure before you leave. Don’t make the mistake that I did when I arrived in Laos with no idea that I required a visa for entry. Some countries, such as Vietnam, will have shorter visa lengths when applying on arrival, so if you’re planning to stay longer it may be worth getting a visa before you fly. Take a sheet of passport photographs with you for on arrival visas too.
It may be tempting to save some money here but don’t skimp on insurance. As careful as you may be, thefts and accidents are ultimately often out of your control. Obviously, have a shop around to ensure you get the best value for your money but please don’t travel without it. Check that the insurance covers you for existing medical conditions, for any valuables you’re taking with you and for any activities your planning on participating in, such as skiing or diving.
The easiest way to deal with money when away, especially if you need numerous different currencies, is the currency card. Make sure you order one a few weeks before you leave to ensure it gets to you in time, again this is from experience. There are many different cards available but the one that I found worked best for me was Revolut. (https://revolut.com/) Working through an app it’s incredibly easy to use while on the move, you load it up with your local currency, so GBP for myself, and then use it as you would a debit card, with it working in the currency of the country you are in. It allows you to take up to £500 out of ATM’s fee free per month as well which is very helpful. I took one of my English bank cards with me too, which I kept in my locker of my hostel dorm, in case anything happened to my currency card. This actually came in useful as for a few days the app was down and I couldn’t transfer money over to my Revolut card. If you do use your bank card though, make sure you tell your bank that you’ll be abroad.
Personally, I just took my ordinary phone and English sim card, using wifi to contact people through Skype or Whatsapp. However, I know that many people prefer to have a phone that will work fully abroad. Ensure that your phone is unlocked before you fly if this is the case and purchase a local sim card from a shop when you arrive.
It may seem obvious but it always helps to be able to speak a few simple words and phrases in the local language, even if they speak English. There are also numerous translation apps that work offline for those countries with a bigger language barrier. Make sure you know any important phrases, for me having a nut allergy meant that it came in incredibly useful to be able to ask if a certain dish contained nuts.
- Photo Back Up
There is nothing worse that having your phone or camera stolen and realising that you’ve lost all your incredible travel photos. I installed dropbox onto my phone to ensure phone photos were backed up. I also took my tablet with me so that I could slot in my cameras memory card to back up photos onto dropbox also. I found that I had to wipe my cameras memory once a month or so for space, so I’m so glad I had a way to back the pictures up! Others I know use private albums on facebook, the cloud or even email them to themselves, whatever works for you, just make sure you do it!
Most of all make sure you enjoy it, once you have the basics sorted go with the flow, enjoy the experience and make some incredible memories!