Helpful Tips for First Time Travellers
It might seem a long way off- that much anticipated trip to see family on another continent; a family holiday or a solo trip to your dream destination. Everyone is in the same boat (that is to say, no boat, or aeroplane, or even car) due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but it’s also a great time to plan for the future and envision the wonderful places that you can visit once things have returned to normal.
Our current lockdown means that people are suddenly realising the true value of travel- the opportunities, experiences and freedom that travel offers is now more appealing than ever. Even people who have never travelled before are yearning to get out and explore, so here are my top tips for first time flyers to make that first experience extra safe and special.
Packing (Less is More)
It’s easy to get anxious about what you ‘might’ need on your trip, but overpacking costs you time (rifling through your case and putting it all away at your destination and then unpacking it all, unused but crumpled, when you get home again). It can also cost you money- airlines charge for excess baggage and it’s not cheap! If you can minimise your packing to just hand luggage you’ll save money and you can stroll straight through to Arrivals when you reach your destination instead of waiting for your case on the baggage carousel.
Get Travel Insurance
If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. It is absolutely essential that you take out comprehensive travel insurance, including medical care and repatriation, when you go on any trip. In some countries you will have to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance before you are treated for anything at a medical practice or hospital
Check Your Vaccination Status
Many countries have illnesses that may not be in your home country, so it is essential that you visit your travel nurse to assess whether or not you need vaccinations for your trip. Even if you do not wish to be vaccinated, Yellow fever vaccination is obligatory for some African countries and you will be vaccinated or deported at the airport if you cannot provide proof of vaccination.
Check Your Airline’s Policies
Airlines have different policies according to baggage costs, seat selection, meal provision, boarding pass and check in procedures. as well as the length of validity they require on your passport in order to allow you to fly. Familiarise yourself on the airline website with their policies to ensure you have a smooth and enjoyable experience.
Check The Laws & Etiquette Of Your Destination Country
It is highly unlikely that you would do anything to break the laws of the country you are visiting but it is a good idea to check customs and etiquette to avoid offending people or unintentionally breaking rules. In Thailand you should never turn your back on a statue or image of Buddha, for example, and in Singapore jaywalking is highly frowned upon.
Arrange Your Travel Finances
Let your bank know you will be travelling internationally, or you may find that they cancel your debit or credit cards when you spend money in unexpected locations (this is a standard fraud prevention method). Getting a specific travel credit card is a good idea, and always have some local currency kept in a safe place for emergencies. It’s also a good idea to turn off international data roaming on your phone to avoid huge bills on your return home.
Engage in Local Culture
Learning a little of the local language will go a long way to ingratiating yourself with the residents of your destination country- even a ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ show that you have made an effort to learn about their home. Branch out when you are travelling; try the local food and visit somewhere that’s not on the ‘top 10 places to visit’ to get a different view of your destination.
Be Safe & Sensible
Take all of the same safety precautions you would at home, and then a few more. Don’t walk in deserted places alone at night; don’t give out private information to strangers and don’t keep your phone or wallet in your back pocket. You may wish to invest in a portable safe or theft-proof bag and wallet to add to your security, depending on where and how long you are travelling for.
Back Up Your Essentials
Take a photo of your passport, driving license, airline tickets, transfer tickets and itinerary and email them to yourself and one or two family members. This is a good idea in case you lose any of the above and will be a lifesaver in an emergency.
I hope these 10 top tips for first time travellers are useful; taking a big trip for the first time is a wonderful experience and one that you will remember for a lifetime. Do take a look at our posts on our family gap year in Asia (Bali, Thailand and Sri Lanka) for some more travel inspiration!