If you are going on a long trip, booking your flight and some accommodation are only the first steps of your preparation. I have already given some advice on what to pack so now it’s time to shed light on things like visas or vaccinations. If you want to know how to prepare for a big trip, read on!
Vaccinations are number one on this list because you really need to think about them first. Why? Some vaccines are given in a series of shots days, weeks or even months apart before they are fully efficient. Sometimes you can get two shots for different diseases at the same time, but not all vaccines can be given together with another one and you generally have to wait two weeks before getting vaccinated again. It also takes some time for the vaccines to work so you definitely shouldn’t leave the doctor’s appointment till the last day.
Of course, when it comes to developed destinations like Europe, Australia, the United States or Japan, you generally won’t need any travel vaccinations. On the other hand, if you are travelling to certain parts of Africa or South America, there will be mandatory vaccinations, such as the yellow fever (meaning you won’t be allowed in those countries without the required vaccinations). And then there are recommended vaccinations, which are useful to have for certain countries but it’s entirely up to you if you get them or not.
I recommend making an appointment with your doctor first (or go to a specialised travel centre) and get informed about your options. BUT don’t get bullied into getting every single vaccine just because they tell you so – half of them are probably unnecessary so do some Internet research as well. I know some people don’t get any travel vaccinations but you never know… If nothing else, Tetanus and Hepatitis A shots are the very minimum anyone should have.
So… which vaccinations did I take care of before travelling to Southeast Asia?
- Tetanus – Tetanus is a routine vaccination you need to have whether you are travelling or not. You should get a new nose every 10-15 years and the vaccination is free (covered by your health insurance) in most countries.
- Hepatitis A – Both Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are recommended. They can be useful everywhere in the world, including your home country. There are two shots for Hepatitis A, given six months to one year apart. However, you are already fairly protected after the first shot.
- Hepatitis B – Chances are, you got this vaccine as a kid (I did) and are still protected by it (lasts about 20 years). Check your vaccination card or ask your doctor. Alternatively, you could also get a combined vaccine for A+B (3 injections, several months apart).
- Typhoid – You get one shot which gives you protection for 3 years and it’s usually recommended when travelling to tropical destinations.
- Rabies – Personally, I wasn’t planning on getting the rabies vaccine at first but it’s recommended for areas with a lot of stray dogs or roaming monkeys (Southeast Asia). If you get bitten and are nowhere near a hospital, you’re in trouble since rabies can be fatal. Better safe than sorry, I guess. The vaccine is given in 3 shots over 21 days.
Don’t forget: Vaccinations cost money. Make sure you budget for them.
This obviously depends on your destination, nationality and the length of your trip. If you are travelling for tourism only, sometimes you don’t need any kind of visa, sometimes you’ll be granted one on entry, sometimes you can quickly apply online and other times you really need to fill out some forms and make that trip to the embassy. Working visas get a little bit more complicated.
The best advice I can give you is to always check the visa situation in advance and always read information from an official source. The Foreign Ministry websites usually have the most accurate and up-to-date information. You can also check your visa requirements here – you just fill out your nationality and destination and it will tell you what you need. (Just don’t buy your visas through this website, it might cost you more.)
Tip: If you know you will have to get some visas on arrival, have several passport-type photos taken before your trip and carry them with you. It might save you some time and money.
Never underestimate your travel insurance. You might think you are spending money on something you don’t need. And most of the time you really won’t need it. Until something unexpected happens – and when it does, you really don’t want to be without any insurance. Hospital stays, stolen belongings, cancelled flights, lost or delayed luggage, natural disaster or even an emergency trip home. Those are all things that can ruin your trip but are covered if you have the right insurance.
Don’t travel without insurance. Just DON’T.
I personally use World Nomads for long trips. They allow you to extend your insurance while you are already on your trip; you can both apply and claim online and they even have a 24-hour emergency line if you’re absolutely stuck and don’t know what to do.
They are many types of insurance to choose from. Just do your research and whatever you do, don’t get the cheapest one! It probably won’t cover much apart from some basic accidents and you’ll just end up with a very little payback.
Money can be a bit of a hassle while travelling. All the currencies, exchange rates, ATM withdrawals, etc. Here are a few tips:
- Prepare both cash and bank cards for your trip.
- Don’t rely on just one debit card. Not only can you lose your card or have it stolen, but it might not be accepted everywhere in the world so it’s always good to have a backup. I recommend opening a bank account with several different banks. That way you can transfer money between your accounts if one of them fails you.
- It might also be a good idea to let your bank(s) know you’ll be travelling and give them approximate dates and countries on your itinerary. That way your transactions on the other side of the world won’t be seen as suspicious and you are minimising the chance of your card being blocked.
- Always have some emergency cash, preferably in a strong and widely recognised currency like US dollar. And from what I have read, visas on arrival are often paid in US dollars so it’s good to have them anyway.
- I’m sure you know this, but exchange rates and fees can differ a lot so don’t go to the first bureau you see (unless you are desperate, of course). Sometimes it can even be cheaper to get your foreign money straight from an ATM.
Download Offline Maps
You never know if you’ll be able to access the Internet easily in your destination. Be prepared and save offline maps to your phone before your trip. We all know arriving in a city you have never visited before can be a bit confusing at first. Having a map you can access anytime will give you the extra peace of mind.
Photocopy Your Passport
ALWAYS have a copy of your passport’s photo page. It’s actually best to have a few physical copies (kept separately from your passport) and one in your Google Drive or email. Doing this can save you a lot of trouble in case you lose your passport. You can do this with all your other important documents, too.
These are just some of the basics! I hope it helps you prepare for your next trip 🙂