So, you have made the decision to travel and see the world. But before all the excitement starts there are some more mundane tasks that you need to attend to in order to make sure that you get off to a smooth start. Nothing kills that carefree travelling vibe more than having you card cancelled in your first destination or being turned back by immigration because you didn’t know you needed to apply for a visa before leaving your home country. Here are 11 of my top tips to help make sure that you have taken care off all the major things before you Quit.Pack.Go.
1. Inform your bank of where you will be going and for how long you are likely to be away.
There is nothing that puts you more in the mood to leave it all behind than dealing with the bureaucracy of modern living, but sadly this step is vital. These days there are a number of security measures that banks will take to protect us from fraudsters. One such measure is to block your card where unusual activity has taken place. Live in London, but suddenly withdrawn £200 in Bali? If you don’t give your bank a heads up, it will be last withdrawal you make until you convince the bank it was you.
The best way to avoid this is to call your banks customer support number. Let them know of your plans. Give them list of countries you will be visiting and any dates you know of. This can be difficult if you plan to take things as they come, but if you let them know you will be in south America or South East Asia that is usually enough to keep you safe.
Don’t forget to contact your bank again if you extend your trip, otherwise you might end up with your card blocked at the end of your original trip dates.
2. Open a travel account
Many banks offer accounts specifically designed for travellers. Having a card that doesn’t charge you additional fees for foreign ATM withdrawals or purchases can save you a fortune over time.
It is also a very good idea to have at least 1 spare bank card with you. This secondary account can be a lifesaver if you lose you main ATM card or it gets stolen, blocked or swallowed by an ATM. Remember not to keep these cards together. If you lose your wallet, you don’t want to lose your back up plan too. Try keeping your emergency card in your document wallet along with your passport. Yes, you will want to be getting a document wallet too.
The accounts what we chose were from Nationwide. By taking a Premium Credit Card, we were also about to open FlexPlus accounts. The FlexPlus account came with a debit card which has zero fees for ATM use, whilst the Credit Card has zero fees on overseas purchases. You can read about these cards on Nationwide’s website.
3. Research any Visa requirements
How tricky this turns out to be will depend on where you are from. Holding a British passport has meant that we have been able to get visas on arrival in almost every country that we have been to in South East Asia. There are however, some notable exceptions such as Myanmar. Emily’s parents were not allowed to board their flight due to a minor error on their pre-admission application.
Countries like Sri Lanka or the US also have procedures which need to be complied with in advance of your visit, so have a quick google before you leave home.
TIP: Before you leave home, get yourself 10 passport sized photos printed and keep these in your document wallet with your passport and backup ATM card. Nothing is worse that trying to find passport photo machines in a foreign country. Well not nothing, but its a pain.
4. Get your vaccinations
I do not kid you when I say there is some nasty stuff out there. Rabies is 99.9% fatal if not treated in time. Getting the vaccine buys you some extra time to get the necessary help you need. If you need any further encouragement, search the word rabies into Youtube and watch any of the videos that come up. You do not want any part of this. Find out what you need to get and get it. We had some of our jabs on the NHS and the rest from Nomad Travel in London.
I have personally seen GPs and hospitals in a third world country. Trust me. You don’t want any part of those either.
5. Purchase a decent first aid kit
Are you going somewhere remote? Consider buying a first aid kit which also contains antibiotics. I can’t tell you the amount of times that having this kit has saved us. We bought this kit, from World Nomad. It contains just about everything you could want from rehydration sachets to burn and anti-fungal cream.
This medial kit also includes a sterile injection kit for use by medical professionals where sterile equipment is either in short supply or contaminated by reuse. Remember that such kids will needs to be in checked luggage when flying.
Is this overkill? Maybe. But I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
6. Pick your pack
The pack that you choose will depend on the length of your trip and your level of fitness. If you struggle to carry heavy bags, then you might want to consider a rucksack with wheels. If you need to pack tents and camping gear, you may want a 90L backpack.
One thing I do recommend is that you choose a pack with a detachable day sack. This has come in far more useful that I ever thought it could be. The bag that I chose is the Farpoint 70 by Osprey. This is one of the best investments that I made for this trip. One of the best features of this bag is that it is side opening, like a suitcase. This means that you don’t end up with stuff rotting away at the bottom of your bag and it makes it much easier to pack and unpack.
Take a visit to your local outdoors store and speak to one of the staff to help find a pack which is right for you.
7. Do I need a guide book?
There are so many great travel books out there but do you need one? Sadly, there is no right answer to this question. But you might want to consider if the area you are going to is likely to have mobile phone signal or wifi connection. If so, then you might want to take the analog option.
If you decide you need a guide book there are a number of options. If you are taking a tablet or kindle then you might want to consider the option of taking an e-book version of the guide. Personally, I find these hard to use and prefer the paperback option.
If you are going to multiple destination, you can often find a general book that deals with the area. This means that you will have less to carry, but it often means the guides are less detailed than the books which deal with a single destination.
8. Get the right travel insurance
If there is anything that makes banking administration seem like a good time, its talking about insurance. But TRUST me, the stakes are too high not to think about it now. I got a throat infection in Myanmar that turned into an abscess in my throat. In the end I needed to fly to Singapore for treatment and 3 days in hospital. The bill for this? Over £4000. If you break a leg or need serious surgery the bill could be tens of thousands of pounds.
- Consider getting specialist backpackers insurance as they understand the realities of travel.
- Remember to specifically declare any high value items you have, such as laptops or phones, or they may not be covered.
- Be totally honest with you medical history. If it turns out you haven’t been honest, this could cost you in the long run.
9. Download the right apps
There are 100 of great apps out there but make travel so much easier than it used to be. From booking flights, to finding hotels or helping you order your dinners, apps have transformed the way we travel. Some basic ones to get you started are:
- Agoda / Booking.com
- Trip Advisor
- Banking apps
- Google translate
10) So what about your mobile phone contract?
If you are like me and you have had the same number forever, you probably want to keep the same number whilst you travel. Many phone companies offer roaming plans, but in my experience it always works out cheaper to buy a local sim card once you get to your destination. These are usually sold in airport arrival lounges and sea ports and usually offer you the best way to get online. Data speeds in South East Asia have been largely comparable to the UK.
But there is no need to be paying for a phone contract you won’t be using. Try and move to cheapest plan you can. You won’t be using your phone, so you won’t be needing those anytime call minutes. Network won’t let you do this? Consider moving networks. You can always move back when you home.
Remember to get you phone unlocked if you intend to use local sim cards as you travel. I have managed to move to GiffGaff and select a £5 per month tariff, saving me £45 per month. And trust me, it goes a lot further once you get to where you are going!
You can follow my travels on Instagram at @Quit.Pack.Go
You can also check out my travel fitness blog and backpacker’s gym guide at Gyms of the World.