Things to do before leaving the country

When you’re considering leaving the country for an extended amount of time, there’s a few more things you need to take into consideration compared to just going for a short two week holiday.

Health:

Get checkups: It’s a great idea to get a clean bill of health before you travel from your doctor and your dentist; the last thing you want to do is find out that niggling little cough you ignored turns into something more serious the first week you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language

Get injections: This is a no-brainer. If you’re going somewhere with preventable diseases, get your vaccinations before you leave. You can find out more information on which vaccines you should have from The National Travel Health Network And Centre and The Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Get your European Health Insurance Card: If you plan to travel anywhere within the EU and you are an EU citizen, you want to apply for a EHIC. These replace the old E111 forms and show that you are entitled to reduced or even free healthcare from the local state health service. The cost will be met by your country’s health service. It is wise to have this card in addition to travel insurance, as some insurers require you to have one and you won’t need to wait for permission for treatment from your insurers. You can find out more information from the NHS.

Health Insurance: Even if you have your EHIC, you should get travel insurance with adequate health cover, as the former won’t cover everything, including any private medical care, mountain rescue or medical repatriation.  Insurance is also useful for non-health reasons, which I’ll discuss below.

Take enough medicine: If you have a pre-existing condition that requires you to take medicine, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you have enough supply to last the duration of your trip. You may find that finding a supply of your medication is difficult in your destination. Also, make sure you get a note from your doctor explaining why you need the medication, as you may find yourself being delayed in customs. It is also a good idea to check the legality of any medication in your destination country, as this could cause you problems too and would allow you to discuss alternatives with your doctor before you travel.

Money

Get The Right Bank Account: I discussed this previously, but spending your money can be very expensive abroad, with unfavourable exchange rates and fees to spend or withdraw your cash. There are various accounts you can use to improve the situation.

Inform your bank: It’s always a great idea to inform your bank that you are travelling, as the last thing you want when you’re in a foreign country is to find out you can’t withdraw any more cash because your bank thinks your spending is fraudulent. They can’t always be trusted to take not of your note, but better to try.

Have multiple methods of payment: It’s a great idea to make sure you have a small amount of local currency with you for emergencies and for when you first arrive in case you can’t find a cash machine at the airport or train station. If you’re going to poorer countries, it may be wise to take some cash in pristine US Dollar bills. Do not bend them, as some places may not take them. Make sure you have a couple of different debit and credit cards and keep them separate, so if you lose one, you still have another back at your accommodation.

Passport

Do you need to renew: If your passport has less than six months left by the time you plan to return, it’s a good idea to get a replacement. Attempting to renew your passport outside the country is time consuming, as despite popular belief, you can not get a new passport from your nearest British Embassy. In many cases, it involves posting your application back to the UK or one of the few regional offices that can issue passports, including Washington, DC and Hong Kong, and will take between four and six weeks. You can get emergency travel documents from your nearest embassy, but only in limited circumstances and is not a replacement for a passport. Gov.UK has a lot of information on passports, including applying online.

Make a photo of your passport: You never know when you might lose your passport, or you need to know your passport number in a hurry and aren’t carrying your passport with you. Taking a clear picture of the photo page can save you stress and hassle in an emergency. Save a copy on your phone and back it up to somewhere secure on-line like Dropbox. You should do this with all your other important documents, like travel tickets and insurance documents.

Apply for visas before you travel: If you require a visa to enter your destination, you should apply for them before you travel to save delays when you arrive. If you don’t know if you need a visa, check it out online or call the embassy in your home country. You may be required to have an interview before a visa is approved.

Driving Licence

Make sure it’s valid: If you place to drive in your destination, it’s a great idea to make sure your driving license is valid and in good condition. You may want to research if you need any additional requirements before being allowed to drive in a foreign country and if there are any local regulations and laws you need to know.

Travel Insurance

Make sure you have some: Travel insurance is a must for any trip abroad. I mentioned above about the health benefits, but travel insurance has many other benefits, including legal assistance and covering losses from theft or accidents. Make sure you get insurance with limits high enough to cover any likely expenses and read the exclusions carefully to make sure there’s no gotchas. It can be far too easy to think your covered for something, only to find its been excluded in the policy fine print. If you are planning on doing any sort of winter sports or high risk activities, you may want to get extended coverage, although it may be cheaper to only insure those on a case-by-case bases.

Research

Do your homework: You should research the area you’re going to so you know where to find all the amenities; where are the local shops, doctors, hospital, bank, ATM etc. You should find  out where your nearest British Embassy or Consulate is. It’s worth checking the FCO’s website for travel advice, especially if you’re going outside the EU or dangerous areas. They will also give you advice on crime and any local customs you should be aware of.

Tell a friend back home your plans: Give someone you trust a copy of your plans and all your important travel documents and methods of contacting you so they know what to do in an emergency.

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