With an upcoming trip to SouthEast Asia, I’ve been taking international travel preparation a bit more seriously than I usually do. This is the first time I’ll be visiting countries that pose significant language and cultural barriers. To make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible during the trip, there are a few things I’ve had to get done in the months leading up to traveling. Having not found a good comprehensive list to help me through this process, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in case you too are thinking about traveling beyond your comfort zone.
Visas & Passports
Do you need a visa to visit your desired destination? Make sure you check the government website of the country/countries you wish to visit for visa requirements and leave enough time to procure a visa if needed. If you do need a visa, check the application requirements, because you may need to provide the address of your accommodations in your application, in which case you’ll need to make some of your travel arrangements ahead of time. Some countries even require that you have an onward ticket upon entry. You may also be charged for the visa. In my case, the Myanmar visa was $50/visa.
Check the passport requirements as well. Some countries require that your passport have at least six months validity and some require a certain number of empty pages in your passport.
Vaccinations & Allergies
Check the CDC Travel Vaccines Website to find out which vaccinations you might need for the area you’re planning to visit. Then make an appointment for a Vaccine Consultation with your doctor. The doctor will confirm whether all your regular vaccines are up to date and be able to prescribe the vaccines you should need, either by shot or oral pills. They’ll also be able to prescribe an emergency dose of Traveler’s Diarrhea, which you can carry with you as a precaution. Your insurance may not cover this visit. I paid about $147 for the appointment.
The Typhoid vaccine can now be taken in pill form. It consists of four pills which must remain refrigerated and be taken every other day over the course of a week. The typhoid must also be taken before you take malaria pills or the malaria will counteract the typhoid, so leave time to take the typhoid at least a few weeks in advance.
Depending on where you travel will depend on they type of Malaria pills you may need. Your doctor will be able to determine which type. However, if you’ll be traveling in a place where you may be bit by mosquitoes you’ll want to take other precautions as well. Wear long sleeves and pants, and use bug repellant with DEET. As my doctor told me, DEET isn’t good, but getting the disease is worse, so use the bad stuff.
The Rabies vaccine may not be needed unless you’re planning on doing activities like caving where you’ll run into bats, or other possibly infected wild animals.
If you’re traveling to a country with a language barrier and you have food allergies, you may want to print off allergy notices ahead of time that you can show to restaurant servers. I used Google Translate to type up a note explaining my tree nut allergy and copied the translation to a document I could print and carry with me.
“I am allergic to tree nuts. Please do not cook with cashews, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, or other tree nuts.”
“သစ်ပင်အခွံမာသီးကိုငါမတည့်ပါ။ ကျေးဇူးပြု၍ သီဟို,်၊”An example of an allergy notice translated into Burmese.
To be honest, I’ve never bought travel insurance before, but it was required by the group trip, and is probably a good idea anyway. Not sure where to start, I first checked out SquareMouth, where you can compare Travel Insurance plans. In the end, however, I decided to go with the company that most travel bloggers & vloggers recommend today, which is World Nomads. It not only comes highly recommended by many full-time travelers, but also seemed to be my cheapest option.
Here are a couple travel insurance resources I used in my research:
- Vagabrothers: Travel Insurance: Tips, Tricks & Hacks
- Be My Travel Muse: Here’s the BRUTALLY HONEST Scoop on World Nomads Travel Insurance
For this trip I will be leaving my every-day cell phone at home. I have procured an old cell phone which I have wiped and put on it only the apps I should need for the trip. I plan to find a cheap sim card in each country in order to have enough data for map use and emergency communication. Some places will allow you to purchase sim cards in advance and ship them to a local address, however in most cases it is easy to find a shop selling sim cards for travelers when you arrive.
I will also plan ahead for cases of no data or WiFi by printing out important papers & an itinerary with addresses and contact info, and download any offline maps, books, audiobooks, and podcasts that I may want/need.
Here are a few apps that I recommend downloading for travel, and they’re all free:
- Google Translate – This app will translate for you in almost any way you can think of and in many different languages. You can input text through voice or handwriting, or typing and the app will attempt to determine the input language and translate it as desired. You can also use the camera on your phone to translate by holding the camera up to written text and watch as letters appear on your screen hovering over the image. You can also download the app’s library of the desired language so you can use Google Translate offline.
- Google Maps – This app is not only handy when you have data, but you can also download map areas for use offline.
- City Mapper – This app is only available in some major cities, but makes getting around those cities super easy. After you input a destination, the app will give you your best options for arriving at your destination based on time and choice of transportation. For public transportation it will tell you such details as which train track, which car of the subway to sit in, and if there are current delays.
- LastPass – This app is not only great for travel, but just in general. This is a secure place to store all your passwords and even credit cards or bank account numbers. You can fill in password information in your apps, or webpages with the web plugin, from this app and not have to save that information in the various apps.
- WhatsApp, Google Hangouts – These apps are great options for messaging people outside the country for free as long as you have WiFi or data. They also have website interfaces so they can be used on your phone or a computer.
- Duolingo – This is the most used app for quickly learning basic vocabulary of foreign languages. You can learn on the go, and there’s also a website interface if you’d rather practice ahead of time on the computer.
- Uber, Lyft, Grab… – You may want to download any ride share or local transportation apps for your destination as well as airline or hotel apps that may make getting to, from, and around your destination more convenient.
Power Adaptors & Accessories
Find out ahead of time if you’ll need power plug adaptors and voltage converters for charging your electronics.
I keep a separate travel bank account with its own debt and credit card that I take traveling with me, and I only keep a set amount of money for my trip on the debt card. I can always move money later through my banking apps if need be.
Make sure you choose a credit card with good travel perks and no foreign transaction fees. I use Capital One for my travels because:
- No foreign transaction fees.
- You don’t have to tell them you’re traveling with your card because you can set up phone alerts for every purchase you make with your card.
- You can use your reward points to redeem, or erase, your travel purchases. I was able to “erase” a $200+ hotel stay with my points for my last trip!
- Right now Capital One is partnering with Hotels.com so you can earn 10x the points for booking through this partnership with your card and then erase it later if you have enough points!
Have I missed anything? What are some things you do to prepare for international travel? Leave your tips for travelers in the comments below!
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