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Travel for beginners: The top ten basics for your first trip

Travelling overseas for the first time can seem like an overwhelming prospect. Especially if you’re going to a country with a different culture, there’s a lot to think about. So, work through our checklist of the basics to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

  1. Have you got a visa and passport?

When you travel to another country, it’s possible their government requires you to ask permission to visit. A quick Google with your country name and the name of the country you’re visiting to usually yields the website of the visa application place. Just make sure it’s legit as there are scams out there.

Check your passport is valid and has more than six months remaining on it. If it’s close to expiry, most countries won’t let you in. Also remember that if you are going on a cruise you will still need the relevant visas and passport documents.

  1. Think about your health

If you have existing medication you take, then make sure you have enough to last the duration of the trip. Check if that medication is allowed in the country you’re going to, as some countries take a hard line on drugs of any sort. Your doctor will be able to write a letter for you, explaining that these medications have been prescribed to you.

Create a first aid kit. It’s doesn’t have to be huge- plasters, headache pills, something for an upset stomach and eye drops.

Also visit a travel clinic and ask about immunisations you require. They can be expensive but the outcomes of not getting the vaccination could be awful. For instance, the rabies vaccine requires multiple shots over a time period, and it’s expensive. It also doesn’t protect you from rabies but gives you more time to seek treatment and means you only need one treatment when you do get it. Rabies can be passed on easily through dog saliva through a scratch on the hand. If you don’t know, don’t seek treatment, or the hospital you approach doesn’t have the right treatment, there is no cure and death is inevitable and painful.

  1. Get travel insurance

This might seem like something you can skimp on, especially if you’re not going to a far-flung destination. However, from a financial point of view it makes sense. Overseas cover is your back up when travelling internationally.

Cover usually includes medical expenses, lost luggage, delayed travel and more. You can also select cover for travel related expenses if you need to change or cancel your trip. For frequent flyers you can usually save on premiums by taking out one policy to cover an unlimited number of trips over 12 months. Visit: State NZ for more information or a quote.

  1. Money

How are you going to pay for things overseas? Make a quick call to your bank ensure that your card can be used overseas, and that they know you’re travelling and not cancel your card when they see overseas transactions. It’s also worth having a spare credit card with you in case one is stolen or lost.

Most airports have ATM’s so you can withdraw some local currency as soon as you arrive. Don’t carry large sums of cash in case it’s stolen, so figure out how much you can withdraw that’s worth a few hundred dollars and do that.

It’s also a rule of travel that you’ll spend more than you intended. Plan to have a financial cushion.

  1. Don’t pack so much

You will pack things that you don’t need, it’s a law of travel. And, you’ll find yourself wearing the same thing again and again because it’s adaptable and cleans easily in the sink at night. Pack minimally, because if there’s something you need, you can buy it there. There is nothing worse than lugging around a heap of stuff.

  1. Take a phone and get a local SIM card

Not only are these essential for directions and finding places, but it’s great for keeping in touch with back home. Also, if you meet someone, you can grab their details or, better yet, add them on Facebook straight away.

  1. Don’t be scared

The world, despite the media telling us otherwise, is an amazing and usually safe place. You are far tougher and more resilient than you think. And, lets be honest—you’re going somewhere that hundreds, thousands, millions of other people have been. You’re not launching a ship to discover a new country.

Most locals, even ones that don’t speak the same language as you, will try to help you. If you’re lost, they’ll try to help (carry your hotel business card with you for ease of finding it again). If you like the look of some food, point at it and nod your head, they get the idea.

  1. Chill out a bit

It’s not a race to see as many UNESCO sites in two days as you can. While it can seem like effective use of time, slow travel is good. It allows time to rest (travel can be exhausting, especially in unfamiliar territory) and changes of plan if a local tells you that a different castle ruin is more interesting than the one you’re intending to go to. Travel is about disaster and happy accidents. Allow time for both.

  1. Research your destination

Even if you’re heading to a similar culture to yours, do some research first. Is anything offensive? (like having a Buddha tattoo might get you locked up in some countries). What is tipping protocol? Can you drive there and are the driving laws the same?

  • You decide who you are

When you’re in your home country, you are the person you’ve always been. Introverted, extroverted, the quiet one or the one who doesn’t like heights. When you travel, you get to choose who you are. Become the person you admire. Travel can change your perspective, your attitude, and your life.