Embarking on your much-anticipated/hard-earned trip, there’s a few things you should have in order before you travel. Taking into consideration the following well ahead of travel, you’ll eliminate a number of potential hassles:
- Insurance: 20% of young people are thought to travel without insurance – but don’t risk it! Shop around online for cheap deals and you’ll soon find the cost is small compared to that of a stolen camera or cancelled flight! Make sure you have full cover for all medical costs and any activities you may be doing; not all insurance policies cover activities like scuba diving, skiing and bungee jumping so double check before you purchase. If you’re travelling in Europe get yourself a European Health Insurance Card. Also, check the length of cover the policy allows – many annual policies cap the number of days for one trip at 31 or 45 days, specialist companies now cater for extended travel and the gap year market.
- Passport and Visas: Is your passport valid for at least six months after your intended return date? It’s wise to fill in the next-of-kin details and leave a photocopy of your passport in a safe place at home. Do you have the right kind of Visa for the correct duration of your trip? If you’re travelling to the USA see our information on ESTA, or our Australia Visa Guide for those of you going down under.
- Vaccinations: Make a visit to your GP at least six weeks before departure, or see the NHS ‘Fit For Travel’ website (http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx) to find out if you need any vaccinations. If you require prescription medicine, make sure you have it all organised and appropriately packaged for travel.
- Money: A daily budget is the most sensible way to plan your spending. Try to avoid travelling with large amounts of cash; prepaid cards are a much more secure alternative. There are prepaid cards available from a number of providers, but they all work in the same way – money is loaded onto the card as credit and then spent like a credit or debit card. Shop around using online comparison websites to find the card with the best rates and fees. In an emergency, prepaid cards can be loaded with funds by parents, making them really suitable for gap year travellers. Do some research on whether or not access to ATMs will be an issue in your country of travel and plan accordingly.
- Local knowledge: Research your destination before you go to get the most out of your visit. It’s always useful to be aware of local laws and customs to avoid unknowingly offending people or breaking the law. With alcohol, know your limits and be aware that the law on drugs can vary from country to country, with severe penalties in some parts of the world. Know where your national embassy or consulate is located, and note down the contact details before you travel. If you’re backpacking and travelling around it’s wise to have your first few nights’ accommodation pre-arranged, as you may be tired on arrival and you’re unlikely to get a good deal at the last minute.
- Keep in touch: Set up a secure webmail account to keep in touch, but be very cautious in protecting your confidential log-in details in internet cafes. Keep people back home up-to-date with what you’ve been up to and where you plan to go next. It is a good idea to email yourself and family members copies of your insurance policy, passport, flight and other travel details and emergency contact numbers.