Welcome to the not-so-glamourous aspect of travelling. A world full of formalities and paperwork. A world you must navigate well to ensure seamless travels.
Honestly, I dislike that side of travelling. It’s dull and requires a level of patience that I’m not always able to muster. I prefer the fun part of travelling. And this is not it.
A valid travel document
I know this sounds evident. But I know people who have noticed the expiry date on their passport late during the planning process.
In most cases, to enter a country one needs a valid travel document. Most countries ask for a passport, but other documents may serve. For example, citizens of the US of A and Canada may use a Nexus card to cross the border.
Finding out which travel document you need is a must before you make any plans. To be noted, some countries may require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months before granting you access to their territory. This requirement varies from country to country. It’s safe to find out before you leave.
If you are in the process of applying for your travel document, I’d suggest that you book your trip after you obtain it. No one can fault you if you rely on the deadline indicated by the government body issuing the document. But I don’t really like to live on the edge.
Need a visa?
Depending on the passport you carry and the countries you plan on visiting, you may never need to apply for a visa.
Having carried a Haitian passport most of my life, I’m all too familiar with visa requirements. And I’ve kept the reflex to find out whether or not I need a visa.
Finding out about visa requirements as soon as possible will save you grief. There are quite a few scenarios. My personal favourite: visa-free entry. In second place: a visa upon landing or an eVisa. Last, and certainly my least favourite: a visa prior to departure. This often involves preparing a dossier and dropping/mailing it to a consulate. I’m not particularly fond of the paperwork and the extra planning involved.
Information about visa requirements can be found online. I’d recommend using reliable sources such as government websites.
Get your shots
I’ve never had to get pre-travel shots. But I’ll (reluctantly) take them if I need to—let’s just say that I’m not fond of needles.
Under that category, I’ll add a reminder to take medication for altitude sickness. I’ve learned my lesson in Bogota. Altitude sickness is a force to be reckoned with.
Oh! And grab some over-the-counter medicine while you’re at it, from acetaminophen to stomach medicine to antifungal cream. Trust me, you don’t want to be short on these essentials. (Remind me to tell you about struggling to buy antifungal cream in Buenos Aires.) Do remember to make sure that you can legally enter the country you’re visiting with said medication.
Call before you swipe
I (almost) learned this lesson the hard way. Thank goodness Hubby was there to save the day.
Some credit card companies will not let your transactions go through if you don’t let them know that you’ll be out of country. You can certainly do that from any location (over the phone or online), but I prefer doing this before I travel. I just don’t want to risk it (anymore).
This is not eco-friendly. This is so 1990s. I get it. I know. Nowadays, we carry our entire lives on our phone. But I’m the former owner of at least 2 cell phones which died on me. Granted, these cell phone deaths took place way back when Nokia was king. But I need the added peace of mind. Also, phone batteries die and internet connection may not be reliable.
Keep in mind that certain airlines will charge you to print your ticket and that some countries ask that you print your eVisa.
Who you’re gonna call? Your embassy! (Not Ghostbusters!)
It’s always a good idea to save (or print) their contact information. If there is civil unrest, a natural disaster or if you’re arrested, you may need to communicate with them.
This leads me to registering on government websites before departure. Not all countries offer this service to their citizens. Some governments may extend this courtesy to citizens of other countries. For example, Canada registers Australians and Jamaicans travelling to certain countries.
There’s a good chance that you’ll find travel advisories on the same website. Read them. I’ve often found some good tips on cities/neighbourhoods to avoid and how to carry myself while on the ground. I’ll be the first one to admit that some of them can paint a very scary picture.
ICE, ICE, baby
Your ICE (in case of emergency) contact is a trustworthy person who’s not travelling with you.
Hubby and I have a few friends on our roster. When we travel, they have our itinerary, copies of our passports and other details. We’ve even shared our Uber/Airbnb account information with a couple of them.
These are the friends who will check in on us when we’re abroad. In Brazil, one of our ICE contacts was the one who told us about the protests in Sao Paolo. In Greece, another was one of the first to check in regarding the earthquake. In short, they should be people you can count on to contact your embassy if they don’t hear from you.
Cash is king!
As much as I can, I get some local currency before I leave. Just in case I don’t have a chance to get to the exchange booth at the airport. The only exception, oddly enough, is Haiti. I keep my US dollars and sell them to my peeps. Plus, you can get by with US dollars (that was until the Government issued an order as to the gourdes being the only currency).
Be aware of the legal amount you can bring with you without declaring—about $10,000 USD in most countries.
Do you have your own checklist? Did I miss something? Join the conversation on Facebook!