Travel agent tips for safe and happy travels
When planning an overseas holiday, it’s easy to get carried away with all the exciting details, like the amazing sites you must see and all the delicious authentic food you have to eat. However, it’s just as important to make sure you nut out all the practicalities to ensure smooth sailing on your trip, and give yourself all the time in the world to enjoy the fun parts.
As a travel agent who knows what can make and break any awesome trip, here are my top tips for a stress-free holiday.
Your passport is your key to other countries, so it is the most important item you have when travelling. Prior to travel, always make sure you have six months’ validity left on your passport for the duration of travel, and two blank facing pages. Without these components you might get denied entry at your port of call, or not even get through Australian customs.
While you are away, treat your passport like a priceless family heirloom, as it really is priceless when you are away from home. Lock it up in the hotel or hostel safe when you can, or sleep with it in your pillowcase if you don’t have any other option. Before you leave anywhere always check you have it with you. It is part of my three-item checklist, along with my wallet and phone. With these three items, you have everything you need: money, internet access and freedom - everything else is replaceable.
No matter where you are going, always check the visa requirements for your destination and passport nationality. Visa requirements change regularly so even if you have been to a country and didn’t need a visa previously, you might need one now. Recently Turkey changed its entry requirements and instead of a visa on arrival, Australian passport holders are now required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. You don’t want to travel all that way and be told to get on your bike.
I thought this was a bit of a no brainer, but many people continue to travel without travel insurance. As the travel agent saying goes: “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. You don’t want to be the cheapskate who tried to save a couple of dollars by not buying a travel insurance policy, and end up in an American hospital with an expensive hospital bill, and not be able to leave the country until you do. If you are going to cut corners, this is definitely not the area to do it. Keep a printed copy of your insurance policy with all your other important documents. Some countries, like Cuba, require documentation of an insurance policy when entering the country.
If you are on any medication, or simply taking sleeping tablets for the plane trip, make sure to get your GP to write a note on medical practice letterhead, detailing the medication you are taking with you. Also, ensure all your medication is in its labelled box, and placed together in a clear sleeve. Some countries can be very officious with this sort of thing, so you don’t want to waste time held up in immigration for something that could easily be avoided.
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Different countries have diseases and infections that are more prevalent so it’s best to head to a good GP or a travel doctor and see which vaccines you might need for your destination. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, especially if you are travelling anywhere in Asia, Africa or South America. Even if you don’t have anything planned for a while it’s worthwhile making sure you have your Hepatitis A and B shots, as they come in handy everywhere, even Australia. Also, give yourself a bit of time prior to travel as some vaccines require a certain duration to take effect, or are part of a series of shots. Ask your doctor to print out a page listing all the jabs you have had, just in case you require proof at point of entry into a country.
Print out all the documents you might need for your holiday, including the names and addresses of your hotels. Have the hotel names written in the language of the country you are visiting, not just the English translation. A little printed map can also be of use - it makes it so much easier when catching cabs from the airport to your hotel, and can be handy if you get sick of walking around a city and want to get back to your hotel quick sticks. This tip is particularly useful when travelling to places like China and Russia, as language will definitely be a barrier. A pocket language guide is also a good option.
Make yourself aware of the water safety standards in your destination. You will be surprised how many countries around the world do not have safe drinking water. There is nothing worse than getting a funny tummy a few days into your trip because you were relaxed with the drinking water. In countries like this, keep a good supply of bottled water in your room, and even use it to brush your teeth.
Another thing to watch out for is cocktails. Most cocktails have ice, so make sure your bartender is using purified water to make the ice cubes. I know it sounds pedantic, but it’s best to be safe than sorry. And after you ask once, you can drink without worry for the rest of the night.
If all else fails when trying to find some decent Wi-Fi, make your way to the McDonald's queue. Even if you’re not into fast food, they usually have pretty decent Wi-Fi, and all you need to do is buy yourself a Coke so you won’t get hassled by the Maccas staff. Then you can spend the time finding the directions to the cafe you really wanted to visit for the cost of a soft drink.
When planning your holiday, being proactive from the very beginning is definitely the way to go to ensure a hassle-free holiday. If you make sure to cross your Is and dot your Ts, then you can relax and enjoy a G&T in the airport departure lounge, stress-free.
I always travel with two credit cards. One in my wallet for daily use, and the other one I leave at the accommodation, hidden in a secret part of my bag. So if someone snatches my bag, I always have a backup. And if my other card is stolen, then I would officially declare myself the most unlucky person in the world and stop travelling.
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