Triple Check the Visa Requirements
The last thing you want is to have a non-refundable plane ticket and hotel reservations only to find yourself stuck at the border, unable to cross into the country you’ve been oh so wanderlustin’ to visit.
So, before you book a flight, check and triple check the visa requirements for each country you plan to visit.
You can start by checking out our BYG (Before You Go) Guides for the countries you plan to visit, which detail visa requirements, max number of days you can stay, and more.
Some countries require an advance visa, either physical (via a consulate) or electronic (e.g., ESTA); while others allow you to purchase a visa at the border. Be sure to bring the correct amount of cash or an accepted credit card to cover any visa fees at the border.
Some countries also require a certain amount of time left on your passport, generally at least six months. So triple check both your passport expiry date and a country’s visa requirements before you head to the airport.
Additionally, some countries require proof of certain vaccinations before you’re allowed across the border. For instance, South Africa requires a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. Be sure to have required vaccination certificates at the ready when you arrive at the border. A good place to keep it is in a passport holder alongside your passport.
Register with Your State Department
If a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other catastrophic event occurs in the country you’re visiting, you definitely want your country’s state department and the local embassy to know you’re there.
If your country offers a traveller registration service for its citizenry, definitely register at least a week before you depart.
You’ll have to provide your travel dates, overseas contact information and general travel itinerary.
Put a Travel Notice on Your Credit and Debit Cards
The last thing you want is to find yourself overseas, unable to get cash or pay for anything because all of your cards have been frozen.
A week or so before you’re slated to leave, contact each of your banks and credit card companies (for the cards you plan to take) via phone or an online form to let them know you’ll be traveling out of the country. They’ll ask for your travel dates and the countries you plan to visit.
Note: This is slowly becoming less of a pre-departure requirement with the advent of micro-chipped charge cards that, purportedly, offer a higher level of security. As such, some credit card companies are no longer requiring travel notices, but for now, you should still contact each of them to be on the safe side.
Map Out a Communications Plan
We live in a digital age that has, in many ways, made the world smaller and more navigable, especially via a mobile device.
However, unless you already have an international phone plan with rates you can stomach come bill time, you definitely need to figure out how you’re going to call, text and web surf when you’re abroad.
Will you get a local SIM card upon arrival? If so, from where and for how much?
See the mobile data speed for the countries you plan to visit, and the best local wireless carrier, in our BYG (Before You Go) Country Guides.
Will you use international calling cards?
Will you just rely on access to wifi in hotels, public libraries, metro stations, coffee shops, etc. And if so, will you be okay just calling and texting for free via WhatsApp, iMessage, Skype, etc., whenever you’re in a wifi zone?
The answers to these questions will be unique to you, the locales you plan to visit, and the extent to which you need to be connected during your trip.
- If you don’t plan to use your existing phone plan overseas then, before your plane takes off, put your phone on airplane mode and keep it that way till you put in a local SIM card… or your plane lands back on home soil. The last thing you want is a huge phone bill due to international roaming fees.
- If you plan to use local wifi, definitely get a solid VPN plan before your trip so you’ll have optimal online security when using open wifi networks.
Save Copies of Your Cards and IDs
Credit cards can get lost, passports stolen. Worse yet, during a catastrophic event, all or most of your important travel documents, money cards and insurance cards can go M-I-A.
In such rare cases of emergency, it’s uber useful to have easy access to photocopies of:
- The ID page your passport, with the passport number clearly legible
- The fronts and backs of the credit and debit cards you plan to take with you. The rear of the cards have an international number you can call if you need to replace a lost or stolen card.
- Your medical Insurance card and your travel insurance card. If an international contact number is not on the card, be sure to notate that somewhere
- Your driver’s license or international driver’s license
Bring a photocopy of each with you onto the plane and keep them under lock and key during your trip—ideally in something that looks boring and innocuous.
Also, save a digital copy of each in a secure and private Cloud folder (e.g., Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive) in case your best option in an emergency is to access the information digitally. Just be sure to remove it from the Cloud when you return home.
Additionally, either give a second photocopy of these documents and IDs to a trusted friend or family member back home (ideally someone who is consistently listed as your emergency contact); or give them shared access to your private Cloud folder. This can be of extreme importance in an emergency, especially in cases when you’re unable to advocate for yourself.
Just be sure you know this person’s phone number by heart in case your phone goes M-I-A and you don’t have access to email or the Internet.