Having successfully completed a year abroad with very few hang ups, no criminal convictions or arrests, and arriving home in one piece, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about taking care of yourself whilst abroad.
I am Shefali, a [soon-to-be] fourth year Business, Management and French student at the University of Manchester. Up there with music, youth work, cheesecake and Disney’s The Lion King (I. Am. Obsessed. Help me!), travel is something I am also very passionate about. I love sharing what travel has taught me thus far, and will do so right here, through the Bright Network. So for starters, here are some basic travel tips.
The very thought of escaping into a tropical paradise after the stress of exams and non-stop revision, is enough to have anyone leave caution to the wind. But in their haste, tourists have committed the most heinous of travelling crimes, including overlooking passport expiry dates and forgetting to tell their bank that they were going abroad. But fear not! With this quick tips guide to being travel savvy, you can make the most of your well-deserved break.
1 – Transportation to Destination
Great! You know where you want to go – now what’s the best way to get there?
- Cheaper flights are more likely to have stop-overs, connecting flights and long waiting times in-between – double check the journey details before you book it!
- If your schedule is less restrictive, consider last minute flight bookings, which can go for a lot cheaper, as airlines want to fill up the plane.
- Travelling around the country or the continent? Consider which destinations will be cheaper to fly to and return from. You can save money simply by changing the order of countries or cities you visit.
- Are there any hidden charges should you wish to change your ticket? Airlines often offer more flexible tickets, but not always, so it is always a good idea to read the small print.
2 – Avoid extra airline charges
Nowadays airlines are charging customers for the most trivial of things, so look into the following:
- Check luggage allowance. Airlines can charge up to £40 for overweight luggage, and £80 for an extra piece of luggage.
- Do you need to check in online and print your boarding pass before coming to the airport? Some airlines charge up to £260 (yes – £260!) to check in at the airport, and up to £60 to print your boarding pass at the airport. I recommend checking out the Civil Aviation Authority website for more information (www.caa.co.uk).
3 – Your right to entry and protection
Will you be able to enter your destination with just your passport? Best to check far in advance...
- What necessary documentation do you need to enter each country you plan to visit? i.e. do you require a Visa? Are you planning to work and will need a work permit? Leave ample time to sort this out.
- Travelling extensively? Get travel insurance! Better to be safe than sorry and make sure it covers you for all relevant travels (i.e. snow sports cover for those more adventurous).
4 – The Wish List
So now all the hard stuff is out of the way – what do you actually want to do when you are there?
- Consult guide books (I recommend the Lonely Planet series and Routard books), friends and family as well as reviews.
- Online peer recommendations, such as Trip Advisor, can be very helpful for impartial advice.
- Have at least a rough idea of what you want to, you can always change your mind when you get there.
- Whatever you plan to do, have a back-up, especially for activities dependant on particular weather.
5 – Breaking News
Whilst this may not affect all countries, I recommend keeping abreast on what is going on in the country you’re visiting. Any news about social unrest? Upcoming strikes? National or local events which could disrupt your plans? Prepare to avoid unfavorable circumstances.
6 – Health…
The last thing you want is to fall ill on your travels so I recommend you go as prepared as possible.
- Get necessary vaccinations to protect yourself from diseases by seeing your GP. You may require medication to be taken whilst you are out there.
- It may sound obvious, but the basics like sun cream, painkillers, plasters etc. will see you through any extended periods of travel.
7 – … and Safety
You don’t want to spoil your holiday by getting into any bad situations, so look after yourself. A good general rule is to not do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
- Only take licensed taxis and hotel transport at night.
- Who are you travelling with? Locals may offer to take you around for a smaller fee than tourist operators – if you find them trustworthy, remember to let someone know where you are going for your own wellbeing i.e. the hotel reception.
- Keep valuables out of sight.
8 – Food
One of the amazing experiences of travelling is sampling all the local delicacies. There are a few things to watch out for though…
- Be wary of street food, particularly if you can’t see where the ingredients are coming from/being prepared.
- In countries where there is a threat of water-borne diseases, it’s best to snack on fruit you have to peel and dry food in sealed packaging, like crisps and nuts.
9 – Money
You will not get very far without it so try and keep your funds as safe as possible.
- Let your bank know where you are going and how long for.
- Don’t carry more cash at one time than is necessary.
- Be wary of security deposit boxes in hotels – they are not always that safe.
- You can purchase money belts/purses that hide under your clothing to keep it away from opportunist thieves.
- Avoid using ATMs at night and in unsafe areas.
- Make provisions for emergency cash should you lose money or your bank card. Travellers’ cheques might seem out-dated but can be a real life-saver.
10 – Emergency Contacts
It is always good to make a list of any key contacts you could need during your travels. You never know when you might need them and you will be glad you did if you do…
- Take note of numbers, emails and addresses you may need whilst abroad. This can range from your airlines, to your bank, to your nan… just to let her know how you’re getting on.
- Make copies of all your key documents like your passport, tickets, and insurance documents.
No, it’s not as exciting as your Christmas list, but it could be just as rewarding. Making sure you go over all the necessary aspects of your trip, ensures you do not jeopardise the fun and happy memories you’ll create. Happy Travels!