I love to travel, so I wanted to share some tips with you that I have learnt over the many trips I have gone on. Travelling allows you to constantly be learning which is great – but use these guidelines, to help prepare you for international travel! I have added in some photos from my travels in amongst these tips as I thought they are more inspiring than photos of shoes or credit cards or medicine!
The internet is your friend. You no longer need to buy travel guides – GOOGLE GOOGLE GOOGLE. Do your research on social media (search on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram – its all there! Learn from others who have been there before. Search on Pinterest! For our trip to Vietnam, I downloaded infographics on what to see and do per town we visited, as well as easy Vietnamese to help us get by… we didn’t use it.. but the intention was there! Blogs are really, really informative – learn about all the best spots to go to, where to stay (use Tripadvisor and check all the reviews!) and you can also ask the bloggers any questions you may have.
Research about their culture/ customs as you don’t want to upset people by being disrespectful, research how to travel internally – download their metro map, have the address of your accommodation or where you need to go so you can show your taxi driver if they don’t speak English.
ALWAYS carry the address of your accommodation with you. If its a hotel, take their business card from reception (lots of them) and always give to your taxi driver/tuk tuk driver to make sure you get back to where you need to go.
Do you need a visa? Do some research and check – the last thing you want is to discover last minute that you need one and not have enough time to get one! Luckily some countries allow you to do them online, others at the airport, others require you to go apply at the embassy. These are often expensive, many are over R1000 so make sure you include this in your trip budgeting.
Always check what inoculations you may need have in order to enter a country. Some require yellow fever, for example Zanzibar – so call your nearest travel clinic to find out what required inoculations are needed for your next trip. The yellow fever one last for 10 years so thankfully you don’t need to go through it too often! If you are going somewhere that could be dirty, or unclean in places – tetnus is always a good one to have had before travelling.
Always check the weather. You will not believe how many people I know who have arrived in a country without checking the weather and had not packed sufficiently!
Make sure that you are very careful with having roaming on your phone. Many, many years ago I went to Greece on a girls vacay and I put my phone on roaming for emergencies only. i bought phone cards and used those to phone home when I needed. I got back after an awesome 3 weeks in Greece, after sipping cocktails on the beaches of Santorini, exploring the ancient Acropolis in Athens.. only to get a bill for close on R30k for having my internet running in the background – I had been completely oblivious to this. It was a very hard lesson to learn for me. So make sure you turn off your data so that you don’t come home to any surprises! Most places you will travel will have wifi anyway.
ALWAYS travel with a good pair of shoes. When we travel, we do about 10km of walking each and every day so its imperative that you have a good pair of shoes to protect your feet! I have chosen good looking shoes over good walking shoes in the past, and have bruised and bleeding feet as a consequence. So do yourself a favour and make sure you look after those feet of yours. Please!
Take some over the counter meds with you. Plasters, Savlon, pills for vomiting and diarrhea, headache pills, mosquito repellent. And lots and lots of Dettol wipes. We use them all day everyday, as you are never sure what you may find! Travelling through China, I used about 20 wipes a day so well worth bringing loads of packets with you. When we went to India, we also took Re-hydrate sachets with us and probiotics which worked like a charm. If you are on prescription medication, make sure you bring enough to carry you over until you return home. We swear by taking Airmune while we travel. I have been unlucky enough to catch all sorts of sickness from the airplane trip there or back home so try take vitamin C to boost your immune system and take an Airmune effervescence tablet every day and you will be all set for a sickness free holiday!
Just remember the international limits for liquids – so ensure all your carry on luggage is under 100ml – creams, shampoos, perfumes etc. I have had a perfume confiscated before and it was a very sad day for me. Picture tears as my (brand new) perfume was put into a rubbish bin.
Accommodation. Check that wifi and breakfast are included in your per night cost. I booked accommodation in NYC and wifi was not included and was exorbitant – big mistake on my side.
Laundry. If you are going for a long holiday and don’t want to pay for laundry to be done every few days, take a container of washing powder with you. In some countries its so cheap, like Vietnam or Thailand so we do washing every few days, other places we wash our underwear in the hotels and dry in the bathroom. Personal preference but some hotels will change you over R100 to wash a pair of panties and that is just crazy! When we went to Vietnam for 3 weeks, we took enough clothes for one week and just washed the whole time.
Universal / country specific plugs. The last thing you need is to land in a country and you can not charge your phone, laptop or camera. It will be a colossal problem so do your research, make sure that you have the correct plug to take with you. You can buy the plugs at travel luggage shops usually, or from Takealot.
Medical aid cover and travel insurance. If you book your flights with your FNB Gold card, you get free travel insurance! In case you lose your bag or something happens, this is really good to have. If you are on Discovery (if not, check with your medical aid), you let them know you are traveling and then give you a letter saying you are covered and what that entails. Also, important to have – you never know what could happen.
Taking your credit card is the easiest way to travel. Make sure you phone your bank to get them to authorize it for international use. And for cash, you can buy at the airport – just make sure you leave enough time for this. we have queued once for over an hour to get forex and it was a waste of time, so if you can rather get it delivered prior to your travel, do it.
Customs. If you are taking your ipad, laptop, camera etc, go through customs before flying and declare your items. The last thing you want is for customs to pull you over when you arrive back in SA and they think you bought this all new overseas. will only end with you paying out more money. Keep those documents from customs for your next trip – they are valid for a certain period of time PLUS then you can just copy the info from that sheet to the next one so you don’t have to pull your camera or laptop apart for the serial numbers again.
Passports. Don’t travel with your passport on you. Keep it in your hotel safe. The last thing you want is to lose it, be pick pocketed etc and run into issues. Your passport is your most important possession, keep it safe people! Bring certified copies with you – and rather carry that. Then, if something does happen to your passport, you have this copy you can take to the Embassy. Having a digital copy saved in your email would also be a good option.
Enjoy your upcoming travels! Hope this information has assisted you and made you ready for what is to come.
Take in everything about travelling, enjoy the people, stretch yourself – do things that scare you, try new food, immerse yourself in the culture and make new friends!