Do I need a rabies shot? Can I charge my electronics? Is it really illegal to be drunk in a pub? Even if you’re not a travelplanner, this is a checklist of 10 important things to consider before your next trip is booked.
Personally, I like to get as much information as possible before I travel, so these are very thorough recommendations – you might only use a few.
Check when your passport expires! Many countries will require that your passport is valid up to 6 months after your return date – like Egypt. Check your passport well in advance just in case.
Check if you need a visa! If you’re a frequent DIY-traveller you know this, but many who are use to organized travel often forget this. Most countries will give you a tourist visa upon arrival. Some are free, but often you pay a small handling fee. But others you have too book in advance, and you can find the necessary information the respective embassies. The most difficult I have ever tried is the Russian visa: it can take several months, you need an invitation from the country, you have to give a fingerprint, and if you make a small mistake in the many-pages-formula – you have to start over! Other countries like Iran will not be happy, if you’ve just been in USA, so it might be easier to get a new passport. So find information on visa as soon as possible.
Check the payment methods! Not many countries uses credit cards as the most common form of payment as we do in Denmark. This will affect the amount of money needed. Some currencies can be exchanged at home, while others are only available in the relevant country. That’s why I still have 200 Moroccan Dirham… You will never go wrong with two credit cards (in case one gets stolen) and at least some euro or dollars or pounds. I’ve tried have on several occasions having my MasterCard blocked when travelling, since the company thought it was stolen, so now I always use it in the airport.
Check if you need vaccinations! You should always have your basic vaccinations like Tetanusa and hepatitis A and B, but often you need some more if you’re a Westerner. Especially in Asia you might need yellow fever and typhoid. Some diseases cannot be vaccinated against like malaria – her you need nasty and expensive pills. Some vaccinations you need more than once, so make sure you know what you need well in advance of your trip.
Check the medical standards! This is probably not something everyone does, but having a child with a heart condition makes us very aware of any country’s medical system –we actually prioritize our destinations after it. It’s not always obvious which countries offer the best service. I would rather go to a hospital in Cuba, Mexico, and Thailand than in Greece or Italy. But sometimes you still find yourselves many hours away from even the smallest city, so bring your own well packed first-aid kit just in case.
Check the culture! Before you start packing the small bikini, do some quick reading on the dresscode. Especially if you’re a woman in a more conservative country than you live in. In Jordan we stayed at a hotel with a private beach, because the public beach was definitely not for small bikinis. Always bring a scarf, so you quickly can cover shoulders, hair or knees for a church or a mosque without disrespect. To conservative countries I always bring a scarf and a hat and lose long-sleeved shirts – no matter how hot it is!
Not only dresscodes can be different. Many countries have completely different ( and surprising) laws that are good to know in advance, since they might not come natural to someone from Scandinavia (in my case). Like stepping on money… In some countries it is forbidden to drink in public or show affection, and in others you can get a huge fine for peeing in public or throwing trash. And then there are the unwritten laws – like you don’t eat or drink in public during Ramadan or you don’t touch people’s heads! But weirdest: It is illegal in Britain to be drunk in an pub or handling salmon in a suspicious way!
Check the outlets! We bring more and more electronic devices on our travels, and if you want them to work make sure you have the right plug. The two legged pluck is the most common, but otherwise you can get all-round adapters in airports and travelshops. I have a phone service that allows use in all of Europe, but I am considering a global service. You can also buy USB modems to the computer for internet.
Check distances! When travelling for a long time check how much time it takes to go a certain distance. I underestimated the time it took the bus to travel 100 kilometers in Mexico, and therefore we had to travel almost everyday to get from A to B. For short city breaks check if you can walk around and place your accommodation accordingly.
And yes, I am so old fashioned, that I always bring a real actual guidebook. Lonely planet is my favourite, since they cover so many countries, give precise information and you can just buy a few chapters if you don’t need it all. For smaller city trips I bring a small map to save phone battery.
Check if you need to book in advance! For longer trip we usually only have a couple of hotel nights in advance, unless we really want to stay at one specific safari camp. But for city trips I always book hotel and any excellent restaurants good time in advance – preferably 3 months before. In some places like Rome or Florence, you also want to book entrance tickets to the museums or you might not get a time slot at all.
Check the safety situation! You should of course read your foreign ministry’s travel advice on the relevant destination. But also keep in mind, that they focus only on the threats, so it often seems very dangerous to go anywhere. To compare the level of threats, try to read a safety guide to your own country. But of course be careful, don’t walk alone at night, don’t flash your wealth, avoid demonstrations and don’t criticize dictators. When we were in Zimbabwe, we were told that we would get shot, if we drove down the street where Mugabe lived. So we didn’t!
Let me know if I missed anything?