Whether on your Gap Year, a career break or working holiday, stepping out in to the big wide world can be a daunting prospect, especially if it’s your first time travelling but don’t let that hold you back because once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug you’ll never look back!
Follow these few top travel tips for first time travelers and start your stress free adventure…
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH!!
The best way to be prepared for your trip is to gather as much information as possible about the place you plan to visit. You will be amazed to discover that Africa isn’t always hot (oh, and it’s an entire CONTINENT with 54 different countries!); France does have options other than snails and frogs legs; and not all countries drive on the same side of the road (it’s always good to find out which side of the road you’re supposed to be on before you get behind the wheel). A few important questions to consider before you set off on your trip are: what are the entry requirements of the country? (i.e. do I need a visa!) What is the climate like? Are there any cultural beliefs to be aware of? What amenities are available?
2. Make sure you have all the necessary documentation for your trip.
- VISA – Every country has its own entry requirements, sometimes it’s as simple as getting a stamp in your passport at the airport, however many countries require you to obtain a visa in advance and acquiring the necessary documents can sometimes take time…so applying for your visa the day before your trip is not advisable! PS if they say you need a visa then you need a visa, this is not negotiable (fluttering your eyelashes and smiling sweetly might work on Daddy but Border Control Officers are not so easily swayed!).
- PASSPORT – It’s simple, make sure it hasn’t expired and don’t forget it!
- TRAVEL INSURANCE – this is a must have item. You need to know that if anything should go wrong on your travels such as your flights being cancelled or you being injured, that you will be financially covered. Be sure to read the small print because as boring as it is (and trust me it’s REALLY boring) you may find that some of the activities that you have planned (like throwing yourself off the Niagra falls in a barrel) are not covered by your insurance company.
3. Have multiple methods of payment. It’s always a good idea to have some cash and some means of getting more cash! If you have a little of the correct currency for the country you are visiting (you will know what the correct currency is because I told you in point number 1 to do your research!) then you know that you don’t have to worry about finding an ATM or “Bureau de change” the minute you arrive at your destination. Bring a credit or debit card too but remember there is always a chance that your card won’t work overseas so always have a backup plan! Note: It is always a good idea to tell your bank that you will be overseas so that they don’t think your card has been stolen by an International Arms dealer….but also make sure you have the banks phone number on speed dial so that when they block your card despite having been told that you will be overseas you can phone them and (politely) ask them to unblock it!
- Choose the right kind of bag for your trip….unless you plan to be trekking through the rainforest or scaling a mountain, you don’t need a 50 litre backpack you need a suitcase…with wheels! Trust me that backpack might have made you feel like an ‘authentic explorer’ when you tried it on in the shop but after the first 5 minutes of carrying it across the airport terminal you will seriously regret it!
- ROLL YOUR CLOTHES!!…don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it! Trust me you will fit twice as many clothes in your bag
- Don’t pack that 3rd pair of high heels…yes you might want a couple of nicer items of clothing for eating out etc. but generally once you get a few days into your travels you stop caring what you look like!
- Weigh your suitcase before you leave the house….20kgs is lighter than you think and excess baggage charges can be expensive!
- Pack any fragile items in your hand luggage. The treatment that your ‘checked in’ luggage will receive is approximately equivalent to being run over by an armoured tank…ok I may be slightly exaggerating but it is important to remember that Airport staff have hundreds of bags to load on to the aeroplane so they don’t have time to be particularly gentle with your baggage!
- Don’t forget the number 1 most important item you need to have in your hand luggage (ok number 2, passport is number 1!)……your trusty toilet paper!!!..….you laugh now but just wait until you’ve experienced that sinking feeling you get when you reach for the toilet paper only to find that there’s nothing there!
- Don’t forget your adaptor for any electronic items…..whichever way you turn it that 3 prong plug is not going to fit in a 2 pin socket!
- Bring an extra battery for your camera….because I guarantee you that the second you leave your camera in your room to charge you will see a roller skating monkey juggling with knives.
- Except the fact that however many packing lists you make and however many times you check your bag, you will forget something! As long as it’s not your passport it’s not the end of the world – remember, unless you are planning a trip to the Arctic Circle chances are they sell toothbrushes where you’re going.
5. If you want to try your hand at comedy wait until you are not in an airport. Airport security staff do not have a sense of humour…at all. Resist the temptation to sarcastically joke about the bomb in your suitcase. My aunty’s neighbour’s gardener’s brother tried that once…it didn’t end well.
6. Make sure you have somewhere to stay when you arrive. As fun and exciting as it is to be spontaneous and just ‘go with the flow’, trust me when you have just stepped off the aeroplane after 18 hours of travelling all that care-free spontaneity will mysteriously disappear and you will be wishing you had made a reservation! It’s a good idea to at least pre-arrange your first couple of nights of accommodation so that you don’t have to worry about it in your post-travelling zombiefied state!
7. Write a journal. Now it’s all very well to say that you are going to write a journal, but saying it is the easy part…sticking to it is not so easy! Once you are up to Day 10 of your trip and all your new buddies are down at the bar having a cocktail it’s very tempting to say “it won’t matter if I just skip one day of my journal…I can catch up tomorrow” but BEWARE, this is a slippery slope and one day when you’re 85 years old and you’re sitting in your rocking chair with your slippers on you’ll think to yourself “I wish I could remember what I’d done on Day 10…..if only I’d finished my travel journal!”
8.If in doubt, buy that extra souvenir. There will always be a 2nd cousin twice removed that you forgot to buy a gift for.
Happy Travels!!….and remember, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only on page”