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Planning to travel overseas this summer ?

May 2, 2015

If yes, I  suggest reading  this piece carefully ,  to make your planned travel an enjoyable and hassle free experience. Even if you be a frequent flier , it doesn’t harm to revisit some handy tips ! While I am not saying that you need to constantly worry about  accidents , flight delays , missed connections or bags while travelling,  it is  smart to take necessary, common-sense precautions when travelling in unfamiliar territories. Read on for tips on how to keep yourself , your family (especially young children), your belongings and your money safe during travel. After all, it would  be a shame to spend all that researching and  making various arrangements for the dream vacation,  only for the dream to be dotted with hiccups  by not taking some basic precautions .

Read as much as you possibly can about the country (ies) you are planning to visit

Read as much information as you possibly can , 3-4 months ahead of the trip, about the country/cities that you are visiting , about its attractions , their locations ,admission fees and timings ,options for  airport transfers and costs  , cab fares , local customs and culture . There are plenty of resources available on the internet , with Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor being  two of the most well known and reliable.

Spend time to prepare a proper itinerary and don’t  jump for cheap packages

Take care to follow  an itinerary which allows you to spend two nights in a place at least, else it becomes hectic, more particularly if young children or senior citizens  be with you . You can never cover an entire country or continent in a holiday. Pick and choose wisely and do not worry if you have missed a few popular touristic circuits.Try and discover  at least one hidden away nugget, off beat place. Do make a proper comparison of travel costs .While selecting day excursion trips, one finds packages from 50- 60 US dollars to 150-160  US dollars a day. Remember that  in developed countries, this is not a rip off, they give you value for money. The most detailed trips will leave you with fondest of memories lasting a life time. When you take those low priced trips , they leave you  few hours to yourself where you just wander and shop and eat, little realising you’ve wasted so much time and missed out on seeing many interesting spots  !

Check Customs regulations lest you be caught on the wrong feet

If you are carrying gifts for your near and dear ones, please do check on customs regulations in that country for gifts [ in terms of value ] liquor and banned/ restricted  items . In the Emirates , for instance , carrying of  betel leaves “Pan” inside the country is prohibited and you may face substantial fines and harassment if you do so. In the U.K. cigarettes and tobacco products are subject to heavy duties . Several countries do not permit fresh fruits and  vegetables to be carried as a part of your luggage .

Packing your clothes, accessories and other items prior to departure

Pack light so that you can move about quickly and comfortably. Otherwise,due to shopping , you may end up with excess baggage while returning . After you have set aside your clothes to pack – just go right back and halve it. And double the money you’ve budgeted 🙂 You will be surprised how fewer clothes you would need to lug around.  Avoid carrying expensive luggage and keep your suitcases bags always locked with name tags on them . Carry an extra pair of Spectacles and/or hearing aid. Carry medicines for a few days longer than your scheduled travel, one never knows whether you will have to extend your stay. Always carry your medicines in your carry on bags with a certified physician’s prescription [ with generic names for the drugs ] .Visit a computer  accessories store for multi-pin device for charging your cellphones, laptops and  IPads due to different power supply systems in different countries  . Be sure to read about weather conditions so that you pack your clothes , including raincoats or warm clothing,  should it become necessary . Consult  your family doctor about needed health checks well in advance of the planned travel for all members of the travelling group ].  If you or your companion is a diabetic, learn how to switch Inj Insulin as you move different time zones. In case you intend to travel by trains during your stay, it makes sense to make on-line reservations so that you are saved from the hassle of standing in queues and conversing with the booking counter staff  in a language that you are not familiar with . Share a copy of your itinerary incl: the hotels/apartments  that you will be staying at with your close family relatives in case they need to contact you in an emergency . Ensure to keep photocopies of your Passport with you  , in particular, apart from that of your credit/debit cards and e-tickets  . Also keep scanned copies of travel related documents  in your laptop /hand held devices, apart from storing them in your email box so that you can retrieve them at  times of emergency even if the mobile devices are stolen. Your travel partner should be aware of how to access the information that you have stored by sharing  username/ passwords etc for your mail box and PIN numbers for your credit/debit cards with him/her .

Avoid carrying lot of cash  except for petty expenses as most shops and stores accept Electronic Visa / Master Cards           [ Prepaid cards ] . Avoid carrying cards that will  not be needed during the trip such as Driving License, Voter ID, PAN Card Aadhar Card etc.

Take out travel insurance before you depart

Unfortunately, there is a significant percentage of population who do not believe in buying travel insurance policy. They feel that the policy is a waste of money and leads to a lot of time and money wastage. This is not true. In fact, the Plan works towards saving you from losses and acompanying stress  in case an emergency strikes on a trip. Time is certainly not wasted as most insurance companies offer Travel Insurance policies online.

Travel Insurance is a special facility offered by insurance companies in India to cover travellers  against the following unforeseen situation while travelling abroad:

  • Personal Accident
  • Medical Expenses [ excluding pre-existing medical conditions ]
  • Loss of Passport
  • Trip Delay
  • Trip Cancellation
  • Baggage Loss
  • Other risks while travelling abroad

Investing in an appropriate travel insurance plan is certainly  beneficial.  With the frequency of unforeseen events increasing on a daily basis, it has become crucial to keep a backup plan that helps you handle emergencies with ease. Uncertain events such as terrorist attacks, thefts, and robbery are some of the most common ones a traveller comes across. You have no idea as to  how bad it can get when you are encountered with such events in an alien destination. Having a travel insurance policy in hand , therefore, will help you ensure complete protection all through the trip and even offers you compensation when an emergency strikes. No wonder investing in a good travel insurance plan tops the list of any travel plan. Remember that a vacation package is incomplete without travel coverage.

Exercise caution, even in your hotel room

Never, ever blindly answer a knock at your door. If the knocker identifies himself as a hotel employee, call the front desk to confirm. Always make sure that your hotel room door completely closes when entering or exiting–sometimes it makes a loud noise but doesn’t actually click shut. Don’t leave your valuables lying around in the suitcase in the room  or elsewhere when you leave for the day. That hotel safe or the safe in your room is there for a reason . Don’t be afraid to put your electronic devices , your passport  and valuables in it while leaving .

Stay away from strangers  and remain close to your money and credit cards

Keep information-sharing with chatty cab drivers, tourist guides , hotel guests, staff   to a minimum. Keep your purse/wallet  close to your body, preferably under an item of clothing like a jacket or sweater so that thieves  can’t do the old snip-the-purse-straps-and-run trick. Be sure your wallet is in a securely fastened pocket.  When you have to carry your wallet/credit cards ,  you should put them in different places rather than all in one pouch or wallet . Be very careful with your belongings, especially hand bags and wallets while moving about  in crowded railway stations in  major cities  and while travelling on Railways itself.  If you are travelling alone and unprotected  on overnight journies,  tie down your luggage and secure your valuables to the extent possible [ more particularly on board Italian trains ] .  Beware of pickpockets and groups of vagrant children. They often have an accomplice who will jostle you; ask you for directions or the time; point to something spilled on your clothing or distract you by creating a disturbance and flee from the scene after snatching/picking your valuable  belongings . While moving about, try not taking  expensive jewellery unless specifically required.

Take good note of these measures to  deal with any emergency

Please keep address , phone number and other contact details of the Indian Embassy/Mission in the country/city that you are visiting .Always carry with you the hotel cards with their address and phone numbers printed on them in local   language  [ esp. in Thailand/China/Vietnam/Russian  Federation/CIS countries ] . It is also desirable to keep the emergency contact details of the health insurance company –international toll free numbers – in case you have bought medical insurance prior to departure , which in any case is mandatory for travel to most countries in Europe and elsewhere .  Do also keep Visa/Mastercard Toll free international numbers handy should you require your credit/debit cards  to be blocked quickly in case of an unfortunate loss. Learn a few phrases in the local language or have them handy in written form so that you can signal your need for help with directions or transportation.

Cut down on costs during your stay abroad

Buy 1 -2 day validity smart cards from the nearest tourist offices or agents ,  which allow you to travel throughout the city on various  modes of transport , viz.  buses, trams and  metros . [  In Switzerland , they can also be used for travel on boats ] . It is always adviseable to stay in an economically  priced hotel  close to the Main Central Station in the city which you are visiting,  as several international airports in the world offer transfers to the Main Railway Stations via high speed trains and comfortable coaches @ 50% or even more of the cost that you would otherwise incur on transportation by taxies . [ booking.com, expedia.co.in, hotels.com are reliable hotel booking engines, apart from several others ] .  The Main Stations are also generally located close to various places of attractions , shopping and entertainment areas which helps to save on your transportation costs and time, and Hop On Hop Off  Bus Services also pass by. Please avoid posting status and sharing videos and images via Social media, viz. Face Book, Whatsapp, Twitter  etc as overseas telecom services providers’ charges are very high , unless you have access to free wi-fi in designated areas “hot spots” at airports , railway stations and the hotel/s  that you would be staying in .  Buy Prepaid SIM Cards on arrival at the international airports to save on expensive phone calls . Note , however , that in certain countries, S.Korea, for instance, GSM is not supported .

What can you do to save losses on currency conversion

A few tips on currency conversion would be quite  in order , as most travellers do not pay much attention to this activity losing out quite often on losses due to unfavourable exchange rates .I recommend money to be carried  in the form of  electronic pre-paid cards in the currency of  the country that you are visiting which are sold by most  banks/authorized dealers in foreign exchange . You can even buy multi currency pre-paid cards . This will help you save money on conversion charges at unfamilar forex bureaus . That apart, you will moving about with a comfortable state of mind knowing that your money will never be stolen or snatched . In case of loss , a replacement will usually be issued to you within 24 hours, but the loss must be reported immediately to Visa/Mastercard via their international toll free numbers so that the card can be blocked to prevent its misuse by unscruplous elements . In case you are carrying travellers’ cheques, never encash them at the Airports where rates are generally unfavourable . But NEVER  use your debit/credit cards in a routine manner to withdraw cash at the ATMs or to pay for products and/or services , other than in an emergency . You will end up losing money due to application of unfavourable exchange rate + you may also be charged an additional handling fee by the Bank whose ATM you are using  in the country where you are travelling .

Take special precautions while moving about with young children

Please take special care of young children travelling with you , especially  in international airports, busy  railways stations, large shopping malls , trains and amusement parks . Always keep an ID badge on them with their photograph /names/nationalities  and contact details of the parents , with a slip/note in their pockets mentioning the name/phone numbers  of the hotels /properties that you are staying at , which will facilitate their return to you in case they do get separated.

I have covered most of the major precautions to be  taken . However, there would still be some more precautions to be taken specific to the country(ies) to be  taken while travelling.Bon Voyage .

PS: My thanks to Dr Vikram Bhaskar [ Mysore, India ] for reviewing this article and suggesting some excellent tips that I have since included .

About the author : Has travelled extensively, in over 130 cities in  40 countries . He is a TOP CONTRIBUTOR to the global travel site www.tripadvisor.in where  his  reviews of  attractions in various cities and hotels/restaurants can be found. He lives in Noida and can be reached at : arun _agrawal@yahoo.com  .

In Pics ( below) : Some of the amazing destinations in Europe and the Middle East that I have been to .

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From → My movie blogs

3 Comments
  1. Good article and very informative.

  2. Vikram SB permalink

    A comprehensive check list, and covers all aspect of regular air travel.
    Some thoughts..
    1) Cruising is an excellent way to travel, especially in the Mediterranean. The advantages are: you stay in one room, the hassles of unpacking every day & time spent on road travel versus lots of activities in the ship. Cost isn’t prohibitive and may be at par if booked early. But I recognise this point can be a topic in itself
    2) Take care to choose an itinerary which allows you to spend two nights in a place at least, else it becomes hectic. And you will need a holiday soon after you finish your holiday just to recover!
    3) After you have set aside your clothes to pack – just go right back and halve it. And double the money you’ve budgeted 🙂 You will be surprised how few clothes you need to lug around and use laundromat and you will always find money handy!
    4) You can never cover an entire country or continent in a holiday. Pick and choose wisely and don’t worry if you’ve missed a few popular touristy circuits, just because the Joneses do it..
    5) Try and discover one hidden away nugget, off beat place. All your reading should be before you plan your holiday or ticketing. Ideally a year ahead. Live the moments
    6) Cell phones.. Matrix is a rip off if you’re flying certain European countries, but may be wise in others. Take care to check the package – does it have sufficient data? They rip you off on data charges. With videos being whatsapped and Social media, you will be advised to have more than 1 GB data for 2 weeks. Else you will need to buy local SIM cards
    7) All your important documents, passports, credit cards, air tickets, insurance, health records, contact numbers should be in digital scanned format any easily accessible to your next of kin / you / cops / hospitals. It can be uploaded onto a Drive or on your phone or email. Don’t keep your PIN and cards in the same file.
    Your travel partner should be aware of how to access.
    8) Carry an extra pair of Spectacles or hearing aid. Carry medicines for a few days longer than your scheduled travel, one never knows whether you will have to extend your stay. If diabetic, learn how to switch Inj Insulin as you move different time zones.
    9) Out door activities, especially the physically challenging ones in the lines of Bungy Jumping, etc, are safe to be entertained in First World countries, I’d hesitate in developing countries. Also check all safety measures and track record
    10) While selecting day excursion trips, one finds packages from 20-30 dollars to 200 dollars a day. Remember that in developed countries this is not a rip off, they give you value for money. The most detailed trips will leave you with fondest of memories lasting a life time. When you take those low priced trips they leave you a few hours to yourself where you just wander and shop and eat, little realising you’ve spent much more money!

    • Thank you Vikram for reviewing my article . I will update it suitably . Many of your tips relate to itinerary which I will combine and include it as a part of the item on reading and research prior to finalising travel related bookings .

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