ADVICE: TRAVEL PREPARATION11:27:00
"I always wonder why birds
choose to stay in the same place
when they can fly anywhere on earth
then I ask myself the same question"
I love travelling. I wish I had so much money, that I would never have to worry about a trip, but could just board a plane anytime I want. Sadly this is not a case and all of my trips were only possible through a lot of hard work, strict saving and last but not least careful planning beforehand.
You´d be suprised how much money you can save if you plan your trips and organize things before you board the plane. Preparation truly is key and there are a number of steps you should consider to not only save some money, but also to lower the chances of a mental breakdown or a horrible suprise, days before you leave.
In my opinion the earlier the better. Yeah sure we all have heard about this incredible last minute deals, but have you ever really found one? No, the only person who has is your best friend´s cousin´s boyfriend or something delirous like that. Let´s be safe and book early. Also let´s be safe and always compare ticket prices, my favourite pages for this are Momondo and Skyscanner.
It´s always cheaper to book a flight and a return ticket insted of four or five one way flights, so maybe choose one airport as the start and finish point for your travels and go on from there.
If you have a very complicated route or you would like more safety than just a ticket you bought online, I can recommend you to book your travels in a sta office. They are a travel agency specializing in backpacking trips and they have great offers especially for students. What I would recommend is to get a general idea of the prices on the internet and then tell them how much you would like to spend. It will be a bit more expensive if you book it through an agency, but you will have a contact person and some security.
Also think about how much you are ready to go through just to save some money. I have once spend 10 hours at the airport of Panama City and let me tell you I would have spend any amount of money just to be done with it after the first five.
The other kind of shots
Before you are ready to eliminate the kind of shot we all very much like, it is usually time for a far more expensive and way less fun kind of treatment: visiting your doctor. Depending on where you want to go in the world you may need anything from a simple vaccination to Malaria medicine. Even if you are insured this can really cost you a good amount of money, one haptitis shot for example is a whooping 75 Euros (and you need two).
You should call your insurance beforehand and talk with them about which procedures they would pay for. Sometimes they only pay a limited amount in one quarter, so maybe you can coordinate accordingly.
Make your trip to the doctor early a lot of vaccinations need to be spread out over a certain amount of time and sometimes you can not enter a country without having the necessary vaccinations. You usually can check your government´s page for foreign affairs to find out which kind of medical treatment are mandatory.
Break a leg
If you are as lucky as me and you come from a country where you never had to pay for medical treatment, you may forget that this is not the case everywhere (even though it really should, man who doesn´t want free healthcare?!). Procedures can cost up to a thousand euros, so definetely make sure you have a oversea health insurance. In Germany the sta travel agency offers a great insurance, that is cheap and also covers all kinds of sports as well. If you are as clumsy as me you might as well want to get a liability insurance.
Traveling by words
Anticipation is wonderful. And you can also use the time before your flight that might seem endless, to inform you about your destination. You can go there months before your actual flight via guides, books or movies and get a first impression of the mentality and life. Travelblogs are great for a more personal opinion and special tipps. This is also a great way to keep you motivated for whatever shitty job you have to do to make the money for your trip. You can waste this money in a lot of ways, but something that is never a waste is investing in a good guide book. I and loads of others love the LonelyPlanet books, they are very detailed and usually very up to date. However life changes quickly so your preferred hostel may be already closed or the hip bar may have moved. But I just generally love to curl up with these books and dream myself over to where I hopefully will be soon. It is also very important to learn about local habits and ettiquette, in my opinion there is nothing worse than to be the uneducated white dude, who thinks his way is the only way to do things. Learn the most important phrases, be informed about absolute no gos and just generally get excited.
You might want to plan every last step to use each second of your trip, but what I think really makes or breaks a trip is having some extra time for new friends, new plans or even just an hour in a café reading a good book. Pick three or four sights that you absolutely want to see, but let everything else happen along the way. You will meet so many great people, get so many amazing tips and all the plans that seemed so wonderful in your bedroom at home, are not the best idea in a crowded street in India. Be sure to also take some time off in between, travelling and especially backpacking can be exhausting from time to time.
To have some security book a hostel for the first one or two nights. There is free Wifi in most hostels and you will definetely meet people there, so you can just go on from there when you know what your preferences and plans are. I always use Hostelworld the page is reliable and the reviews are always trustworthy.
All this paperwork!
Just like your vaccinations start your visa application (if needed) early. Check if your passport and I.D. are up to date and if you want to drive wherever you go apply for an international driver´s license.
You will also very likely need to change your bank account or apply for a credit cards. Visa is always a good choice, they usually work everywhere.
Before you fly scan your most important documents such as your passport, your insurance card and your vaccination cards and send them to you via mail. This way you always have them available if they are stolen.
Always have the number of your credit card company ready to be able to block it immediately if you loose it.