Your ultimate guide to prepare for overseas travel
Heading overseas? Feeling overwhelmed with all the things you need to do? Don’t know what the hell those things are? Well this is the blog for you.
I’ve traveled every year since I was 18 and I recently went on an extended trip through Europe. All the things you need to do before jetting off are fresh in my mind so I’ve written this to help you on your next adventure! I’ve divided them by category starting from the Boring but Important Stuff which includes companies that are great to use for things like insurance and money/banking. Then we’re onto The Basics like websites for flights, accommodation and tours. I’ve also included some sweet resources down the bottom so you can find fun things to do, gee I’m helpful.
Boring but Important Stuff:
This isn’t exciting but you have to be an adult and do it anyway, sorry.
A lot of countries require visas for you to enter the country, even if it’s for leisure. America is one of them. Somehow I missed this vital piece of information when I went there on a two month trip and nearly missed my flight trying to get the visa at the airport. Some countries allow you to get the visa online or you can get it at the border, like in Zimbabwe. Other countries, like Russia and Turkey, are stricter and the visa can take a few weeks to process, so make sure you check this ahead of time.
Travel insurance is a good idea for any overseas trip, not because like you really need your favourite top back if your luggage gets lost but for medical reasons and the chance that expensive things like laptops and cameras are lost/stolen. It’s also great if something happens to you before your departure and ensures you can get your money back on flights and tours, like if your sister ends up in hospital because she tried to fly off the balcony again (damn you Patricia).
Don’t use websites that compare insurance deals like Compare the Market as they are often paid to advertise certain companies. My favourite travel insurance company, which many travel bloggers use is World Nomads. You can claim anywhere in the world and purchase at home or on the go. They are fairly priced and were created by backpackers, so they do a bang up job of not being assholes. Get a quote here: www.worldnomads.com.
Alternatively, if you have a credit card or intend to get one, some offer free travel insurance if you get a version that is one or two levels above the basic type. When I was in Australia, I used the Low Rate Gold Credit Card from Commonwealth Bank which comes with free travel insurance. The insurance offers the same things as any other travel insurance and the fee for the card is $89 per year. For someone like myself that goes on at least one overseas trip per year, it worked out cheaper to pay the $89 annually than to purchase travel insurance each trip, plus you get some extra perks from the credit card like airline points.
To enter some countries in continents like Africa or Central and South America, you need to show proof of vaccinations. For example, you might need a yellow fever shot and will have to show the vaccination slip (which you get from your doctor), along side your passport before you’re allowed to cross the border. When I went to Africa I had to get Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hep B and Malaria tablets. See ya $370. Check if these are required early so that you can incorporate it into your budget. Generally you need to have these done at least two weeks before you depart for them to take affect, also so that on the off chance you have reaction it won’t be on your holiday.
Firstly, please make sure you turn your roaming data off before you leave your country. You’ll be charged through the roof and there are far better things to spend money on, like benders or tours. I cannot stand when people are wasting precious travel time looking for WiFi so they can use their phones or being stingy with their data in a group.
I love having access to my phone when travelling for maps, booking things on the go and for checking bank account balances (and lets be honest, documenting my high adventures in Amsterdam is a win for everyone, right?!). It’s also safer if you’re travelling alone. In Europe and the UK I used VOXXI Sim Card which is a branch off Vodafone. The sim card itself is free and I had mine posted to my friends house in London. It costs £10 per month for unlimited social media (including WhatsApp), 10GB of data, free roaming all over Europe plus international minutes. It comes out of my bank like a plan but you can cancel at anytime. The service is so great, I haven’t bothered swapping to an Irish phone number. If you can’t do this or are going elsewhere in Europe, pop into a phone store as soon as you get to the airport or order a sim to your home address before you leave.
Keeping itineraries, travel insurance and passports safe
I always send a photocopy of my passport, travel insurance and any big flights to my mum and to my own email address. I also save them on iCloud and print copies of my passport and leave them in my backpack.
This might be an extra cautious step, but you never know what could happen and this will certainly help if you get into a sticky situation. If your passport gets stolen or something happens to you overseas, you’ll have access to your details to get a new one or show the embassy. It’ll also help if you get into any trouble at a dodgy border somewhere.
You kind of need money and access to it whilst traveling so this is a longer point. The better you are with your money, the longer you can travel and spend it on fun things like alcohol instead of shit things like fees.
Don’t bother with a travel card and use a regular debit card with good overseas cash withdrawal and conversion fees. This will be easier than always transferring money, especially if you end up in a place that doesn’t have WiFi/reception. Most of the big banks will charge you conversion fees and ATM fees which will add up and cost you precious beer money, so let’s avoid this shall we? Because no one likes that jerk that makes the group walk 500 kilometers for a different ATM because they don’t want to be charged a fee.
The best debit cards for Australians
The best card going is the ING Everyday Orange Card. I used it absolutely everywhere on my travels and it is amazing! The exchange rate is fair, there are no conversion fees and all ATM withdrawals are free – I mean ALL of them. Even if the ATM is from a small corner store and it charges you a fee, ING refunds it to your account. You only unlock these benefits if you are depositing $1000 into the account each month from a separate bank or employer. If you won’t be doing this, get someone else to transfer money into the ING account or have two different banks so you can deposit the $1000 yourself.
My back up was the CitiBank Everyday Banking Card. A popular alternative to the ING card but it will still charge at some ATMS.
The best debit cards for UK/European Residents
I love Revolut. Revolut is a virtual bank and you can load up to 15 different currencies in the app, on your account. There are no transaction fees and no fees for overseas purchases or international ATM withdraws. Absolute gold.
It’s smart to have a back up card/bank account in case you lose a card or break it etc. I snapped my precious ING card at a festival and luckily I had another card that I could transfer money onto!
My backup for my Revolut is the N26. It is also a virtual bank so the fees are lower than any physical bank but there are fees for ATM withdrawals. If I lived in the UK I would prefer a Monzo though, so if you’re there and haven’t already, get one of those instead.
Other helpful banking stuff
Put your debit cards in your Apple Wallet. If you break/lose your card like I did, you can still use it for tap payments, location permitting.
Keep most of your money in the separate savings account attached to your debit account and only transfer over small chunks as you need it. If your card gets stolen or lost it means the sneaky bastards won’t be able to steal all your money.
If ATMs are hard to come by where you’re going, you can order foreign currency online and pick it up from your local banking branches. If you’re arriving in a country where you know you’ll need cash straight away, this is a handy option. I’d generally stick to using an ATM overseas to get smaller chunks of money out at a time in case it gets lost or stolen.
Register your trip with your bank otherwise they may block your card because they think someone has hacked it from overseas, never a fun time. You need access to the beer remember?! You can do this with via online banking in a few minutes.
I’m guessing you’ve got the basics down pat like knowing where the hell you want to jet off to, happy for you, live your best life. Below are some useful websites on where and how to book such things like flights, accommodation and tours.
I always use SkyScanner to book flights as it you can see all the different flight companies in one place. You can sort by time in transit, price and how many stops you’re prepared to take. When looking for flights and searching for the same thing continually, your browser and the magical internet gods will increase the prices based off your browsing history, so make sure to clear your cache regularly.
Before you book your flight, check out my blog, 7 Quick hacks to save you money on flights, lots of useful tips in there.
I personally always use SkyScanner for flights. It’s easy to navigate, has many options for searching and shows the largest variety of airlines. You also have the option to select ‘Anywhere’ when choosing a destination.
I love a good hostel, not only for the budget but because it’s the best way of meeting people, especially if you’re a solo traveler. They often have events on each night so you can make friends and do fun activities. The staff know all the great places to go and have advice on budget friendly things to do in your chosen destination. To book, use booking.com or Hostel World. The Hostelworld App is super handy!
Hostels not your vibe? AirBnB is my second choice. You can choose to stay with other people in their house or rent out someone’s entire apartment/house with all the facilities you need like a kitchen, laundry and a proper bathroom in the comfort of a home. AirBnB is generally far cheaper than hotels, plus they’ll have good local knowledge!
On a super tight budget? You can try Couch Surfing. It’s a website and app where you stay with locals on their coach or in a spare bed free of charge. You make a profile, verify yourself and then you can start searching! The hosts usually accept people for a short amount of time but it’s a cool way to meet locals and save.
If you’re looking to do tours in the city you’re in or see some touristy type land marks, websites like Viator are great. You can purchase any kind of tour, ranging from hop on hop off bus tours, museum tours, bungee jumping or wine tours. The website has detailed reviews and ratings, is easy to navigate and saves your tickets as PDFs. You can sort the tours by rating, type or best in the city.
Sometimes using Viator can be expensive in certain countries. It’s always best to have a walk around and to some tour companies and compare prices. You can also try to haggle with tour companies who offer the same thing if one of them offers a cheaper option.
Hostels will have loads of information on things to do, another reason why I love staying in them. I often chat with locals that run cafes or bars/pubs because locals always know what’s going on in their own city, especially the cute ones, what an easy way to start a convo with Harry the bartender.
As an added bonus, I’ve listed some handy websites which I use to find cool things to do, good nightlife or places to eat when travelling.
- Obviously TripAdvisor is magical.
- If you’re in America or Canada Thrillest is an amazing website for cool new bars, restaurants and general awesomeness.
- CultureTrip is the site you never knew you needed. You can download hundreds of blogs from their app for offline reading on where to go, things to do, nightlife and food across the globe.
- The Blonde Abroad, Nomadic Matt and The Crazy Tourist are three of my favourite travel bloggers. They’re probably my inspiration for writing about travel if I’m honest. They have heappppsss of blogs on different places all over the world!
Anyways this should have you well on your way to some fun times and I hope it’s helped the planning process. Have I forgotten anything? Got any hot tips? Hit me up!
Yours in planning trips,