FIVE THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU LEAVE ON A FOREIGN TRIP
Jay Pillai, Ph.D. Posted on June 24, 2015
You are very excited about the foreign trip you are about to embark on. However, a word of caution, there are some steps which you must take before leaving, to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip. We take many things for granted based on the conveniences available at home, but on foreign shores things are different. In lesser developed parts of the world, such facilities may be inefficient or even non-existent. Prepare wisely for the trip and you will have an enjoyable and memorable time.
Since travel documents are essential, check them carefully. Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months longer than your intended trip. If you are going to a country which requires you to have a visa prior to arrival, then make sure you apply for it well in advance. For Americans, most countries do grant a ‘visa on arrival’, however, it is prudent to check in advance. There may be some conditions or requirements for visa on arrival. Make sure you meet them, if not call the embassy of the country of intended visit.
As per international norms, visits to some countries may require vaccinations and inoculations. Ensure that you have taken them before you leave. If you have visited a country where ‘Yellow Fever’ is endemic and you have not been inoculated, then on your return, you may be quarantined till the health authorities are certain you are not a carrier of the disease. There are many sources of information on requirements (see http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel).
Keep copies of all documents in a separate bag or scan all important documents and e mail them to yourself. This way you can get copies if the need arises.
Check if the government has issued a travel advisory to the country or countries you intend visiting. If it is a security or health issue, then take all precautions while you are in the country you are visiting. If you are taken hostage by someone inimical to the government of the country you are visiting, you may spend years in captivity and a hefty ransom may have to be paid for your release. You may even lose your life. Therefore, take all travel advisories seriously and if need be, postpone travel or abandon travel or visit some other safer place.
Credit cards, traveler’s checks and cash
American dollars are freely accepted in almost all parts of the world. In most countries credit cards and traveler,s checks are also accepted. To be on the safer side, carry a combination of credit cards, traveler’s checks and cash.
Before you leave, check your wallet and empty out any credit cards you do not intend using. If you do not take them, you cannot lose them. Check the validity of the credit card. In most places traveler’s checks are accepted and easy to cash. Keep track of the numbers of your credit cards and traveler’s checks. Note down the numbers to call in case you require assistance with a card or traveler’s check.
Make sure you keep the phone numbers of your local contacts on hand and not in your checked-in baggage. At least remember the name of the hotel you are supposed to stay in. Most hotels will provide a complimentary pick-up. If a local guide or contact is supposed to meet you at the airport, ensure you have his phone number so that you can establish contact if you do not see him. It would be wise to have the number of the nearest American Embassy/Consulate for use in an emergency.
Take time to study the local customs. In many parts of the world, putting your feet on a desk will be a deeply offensive action, though it may be perfectly normal at home. A bit of due diligence on your part will go a long way in having cordial relations with your hosts and locals. Some countries may have a dictatorship. It would be very dangerous in such places to discuss politics or pass derogatory comments on the local bigwig.
All it takes is a bit of forethought and diligence to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip. Bon Voyage!