As I was preparing for my next trip, 6 weeks in central and eastern Europe, I started to think about all the things I needed to check off my list before I went. Basically getting everything in order so that I could enjoy my time abroad and not worry too much. Here’s my checklist below, so that you can make sure that you’re ready to travel.
Passport and Visas
First of all, everyone should know where their passport is at all times. Then you should ensure that you have plenty of pages and it’s not expiring any time soon. Next check the regulations for where you are traveling to. If you are traveling for a while, you need to know how long you can stay and if you need a visa. Then if you do, make sure you can get it on arrival (sometimes you have to pay for this, like in Cambodia) or send in paperwork or visit a consulate if you need to apply before the trip. Also know the consequences for overstaying, as some countries will charge you a fine, and others take overstaying a visa very seriously and could arrest you. In all cases you want to play it safe and not put yourself in a spot of trouble—while still staying for absolutely as long as possible :)
BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE. I don’t care if you think you need it, or if you never get injured: because the second that it comes into use, it is so helpful. I highly recommend WorldNomads. I’ve bought insurance through them for my last few trips and it is the best choice on the market that I can find. Basically you put in the details of the trip (your home country, what region you are traveling to, with how many people, and for how long) and you get a personalized quote, that covers you for a certain amount of weeks. Then you view the coverage for specific areas and can choose between the Standard or the Explorer plan. I usually choose Explorer, even though it’s a little extra because it covers more adventure activities and the coverage for lost or damaged items is higher—this way I know my electronics are covered. When I was in Asia, there was an incident where my phone got wet, and was fried. Although I went the rest of my trip without a phone, WorldNomads covered the entire cost of a new iPhone, with relatively little paperwork.
This may surprise some of you, but I think that everyone should consider whether they need to visit a doctor before they travel. First off, if you are going to certain areas of the world that are very different from where you live, you may need vaccinations. Many backpackers question whether they need malaria pills, vaccines for dengue fever, or more. They think that with a spray of bug spray, they’ll be fine for a few weeks. I think it is better safe than sorry—also, many of the vaccinations last for a while or you only need them once, protecting you longer than just one trip.
I also recommend going to a doctor if anything has been bothering you or you have a mysterious rash, etc. Get all of the small stuff checked out before you are overseas and it is harder to find a doctor or get your insurance to cover it. Traveling is best when you aren’t worrying about such things.
Lastly, if you have any prescriptions, either pills or monthly/daily contacts, order what you need a few weeks in advance. I can say from experience that paying for express shipping and calling companies to ensure that these things arrive in time can be nerve-wracking, so the earlier you order them the better.
Of course, you say, I need to have enough money to travel and live abroad. But preparing your finances can mean more. Pay all your bills and make sure you can pay in advance or electronically while you’re on the road. Make sure none of your credit or debit cards expire while you are away. Lastly, you should not forget to call or swing by your bank and tell them where you are traveling to and for how long. This is important to make sure that your charges are not blocked when they come from foreign countries. There is nothing scarier than not having money in a foreign country, so simply make sure your accounts are accessible.
My last step for getting ready to travel is by far the most exciting. Because researching where you are going to be soon prepares you for the cost and the changes in culture, giving you a taste of what is to come. A ton of research is not necessary, you will hear of good restaurants or places to go when you are at your destinations. But figure out basic customs and words of greeting and thanks. also check to see where currencies change, so you know when you need to get new money. If you don’t plan on paying for a taxi, save a public transportation map and screenshot or write down the directions to your accommodation. A well-researched trip helps everything go smoothly and makes those tiring travel days easier.
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