So you have decided to take a break from the busy life of yours. You want to just leave the rush and have a pleasant vacation. Let us look at a few tips to help plan a vacation.
Yeah, I know no one likes to talk about money but unfortunately that is what everything today boils down to. There are a few things to keep in mind about money before you leave especially if the travel is to a foreign destination.
1. Exchange rate and cash vs card:
Depending on which country you are in and are going to, the answer of cash vs card may change.
- Do a lot of people go there? If not a lot of people from your country go to your travel destination of choice then the exchange rate you would get for cash conversion would be lot worse than for forex card or using your credit card at the destination. For example, if you try to source Icelandic Krona in India, first of all, you may not find a lot of vendors carrying the currency. Even if you find someone, the rate would be preposterous. For such countries it may turn out that using credit card over there along with all the conversion fee is a better option.
- Is the destination country a card friendly country? While most of the countries accept digital payments, yet there are parts where digital payments are not widely accepted. Find out about that.
- Find out fee for ATM usage. Even if most of the vendors accept digital payments you may still need some cash. If you are not able to find the currency from your home country you can always withdraw using your ATM card at the destination. But beware about the charges. Always check with your bank about the charges. Of course, depending on which ATM you withdraw the money from in destination the conversion rate could be very different. For example, if you withdraw at an ATM at the Airport more often than not the exchange rate would be much higher. It is safer to withdraw from ATMs located outside banks in the destination country.
2. Credit card balance and informing bank
It is always a good idea to inform your bank that you would be travelling abroad and using credit card. Banks sometimes block credit card transactions that seem suspicious, like, transactions abroad. Also, they might call you to confirm the transaction and if you don’t have your home country number active it might be an issue.
Health and safety
You don’t want to fall sick during the trip and if you do you want the insurance to cover you (healthcare is expensive in most western countries).
- Vaccinations: Depending on where you are going to you may need specific vaccinations. Search for it and give yourself sufficient time to get vaccinated.
- Tap water: Check if tap water is potable or not in that country. Most of the times people get sick because they drank water that had germs.
- Insurance: Buy a comprehensive insurance. Usually people buy any travel insurance (one that is cheapest) and don’t pay heed to it. Don’t do that. The difference between a better travel medical insurance and a worse one wouldn’t be much in terms of cost. But what it covers and how easy it is to process it could make all the difference.
- Basic medication: Do carry basic medication like paracetamol, pain killers etc. I would go a step ahead and ask you to carry some anti-biotics as well (with doctor’s prescription). In one of our trips, one of my friend got an infection and his gums swell with immense pain. And it is extremely difficult to get a prescription medicine. Of course, you should not self-medicate and call up your physician to check if you can take prescription medicine.
Passport and Visa
Different countries have different laws. Do check beforehand and give yourself ample time as any document processing do take significant time.
- Is your passport valid? Even if your passport has not expired yet, travel restrictions need your passport to be valid even after a few months from your return date.
- Are there enough blank pages? You do need for immigration to stamp. I heard a case when someone was asked to go back because there was only 1 page left in their passport.
- Visa requirements? Every country has different visa requirements depending on where you are coming from. Some also have visa on arrival. Also, depending on which country you are going to processing time of visa could vary from 7 days to 30 days, hence, give yourself ample time.
When you visit a friend’s or a relative’s home, do you behave in the same manner as you do at your place? I believe the answer is “No”, in most cases. It is similar when you are visiting another country. You are a tourist visiting somebody’s home. Most people I have met globally are very welcoming of tourists, however, it is always a good idea to learn about basic courtesy. Following tips around local customs would come in handy to help plan a vacation.
- Basic greetings – Greeting in Japan is very different from greeting in the US.
- Languages spoken – Of course, you cannot learn an entire language but always a good idea to know your options. And do learn a few basic emergency words in that language, like help, police etc.
- Strict no no – What are the behaviours that are a strict no no in that country. For e.g., it might be okay to carry a beer bottle in the open in Amsterdam, but don’t try to do that in the middle east. Also, depending on the country you are visiting it makes sense to check how to dress in that country.
- Tipping – In some countries, waiters depend completely upon the tips you leave. Hence, do check the expectations before hand.
Itinerary and trip planning
This could be the most interesting part for some people and the most frustrating part for the others. Irrespective of where you are in the spectrum, following basic checks would definitely help.
- What you want to see and do : At least do this homework. If not everything, do make a list of must see and must do things.
- Prices : Even if you are not a discount seeker, do check the approx. prices of the activities. You don’t want to be swindled when you buy the activity from that friendly tourist guide or kiosk. If you are a deal seeker, then you would be surprised at the discounts you can find online. I have once booked an activity that was worth $200, at the destination, for $70 online.
- Opening hours/day: Helps you to plan your day. At some places shopping district closes on Sunday while at other places it could be different day.
- Reaching from airport/train station to hotel: There are multiple options available like taxi, bus, metro etc. You could save a lot of money or time or both.
- Power adaptors – You don’t want to burn your electronic appliances. Do check the wattage and pin types used in the destination country. It is always a good idea to buy a universal power adaptor.
Those were some basic tips that can help you plan your next vacation. Do let me know if you have other tips up your sleeve that I haven’t covered. And yes, enjoy your vacation!