Deciding to go on your first big trip can be really, really scary. I remember being confused about so many things; what even is a visa, how do I get one, what do you mean they don’t have the NHS in other countries, etc, etc.
Planning your first trip is always a learning curve – but it’s okay, we’re here to help! This article is a step-by-step guide through all the things you should be thinking about, and in roughly what order.
The first three steps can really be done in any order – it depends what is most important or relevant to you. For example, my summer break from university is always June-September, so I always start with when I am going to go – however, if you are more flexible the ‘Where’ may be more important. Maybe you just really want an Internship abroad, and are flexible on the location – that’s fine! Pick which one is most important to you, and work down the first three on the list in decreasing importance.
Once you have decided the dates, then you can book them off work/inform family members and friends about your plans, and start planning everything. If you already have a specific place in mind, you can find out peak seasons to go to that location – when the weather might be best, and when the most sights are available.
If you know when, but need to find where – consider: what places are in their high season at that time? What places have cheap living costs, or cheaper flights? Or, if you’re looking for a specific type of trip – great beaches, good hiking spots, god shopping options?
Volunteering? Backpacking? Vacation?
Now is the time to apply for anything and everything you may want to do! If you want to go backpacking or vacationing, then obviously no application is needed and you can skip to the next step.
So you’ve decided the When, the Where, and the What. Time to book flights!
I would always do this first. Then you have concrete dates for when you will be in the country, and this is necessary for visas and insurance. The earlier you book, the cheaper it will be. I would recommend SkyScanner for comparing flight providers, and signing up to emails from providers such as Opodo and STA travel can also give you handy discounts, and decrease price even further.
If you are European, and are travelling to somewhere else in the European Union, then you most likely will not need a visa. Even for countries like Denmark, who are outside of the EU do not require a visa for British Nationals. You can find out whether visas are necessary from the FCO recommendations website. If you do require a visa, most of them are easily obtained online, as many countries have moved to an e-visa system.
You will need to make sure that your passport is still valid for at least 6 months after your arrival date, and for most visas you will need to include a passport-sized photo.
What will you be doing? Think about this before you get your insurance – if you are teaching, doing construction work or working in hospitals, you need to make sure your insurance covers this. I would recommend STA travel for students, or (if you have a bit more cash to spare) Endsleigh.
Read the conditions thoroughly so you know what you can and can’t do while you’re away (extreme sports, etc).
One thing I didn’t know about when I was buying insurance was excess – this is the amount that you have to pay towards something before you’re covered. So if your laptop gets stolen, if you have an excess of £100, then you will have to pay £100 and the insurance will cover the rest.
Usually, the more you pay for your insurance, the less the excess is. So, if you tend to be clumsy or likely to loose something, then maybe consider buying a better insurance plan so you won’t have to pay as much excess.
These will all vary from country to country. To find out what jabs you will need for each location, go to the NHS’ amazing website fitfortravel.org. You can search medical advice for each country, and what jabs you may need. Many of them will be available on the NHS, but you may need to check the availability of some vaccinations in your local clinic – if they don’t have them stocked, you may need to go to a different clinic, or privately. You should book a consultation as soon as possible so you can get the vaccinations well in advance of travel, and remember to tell your GP about any current conditions or medications you may have. Ask the travel nurse about any medications they would recommend you bring with you – antibiotics, for example.
I would also make sure you look up the diseases and infections that are common in the country that can’t be vaccinated against – this will help you deal with any illness you may face while in country. Don’t let this panic you! Although it may seem really scary, the more prepared you are, and the more you know, the safer you are.
One great book I have, that I bought with me to Uganda was ‘The Traveller’s Good Health Guide’ by Ted Lancaster. It’s simple, easy to understand, and really, really informative.
If you are doing internships or teaching, then accommodation may be included in your activity; you should check this when you apply. If you are staying in provided accommodation, there are usually rules of conduct that you have to abide by during your stay – just read them through before your stay, and you should be fine.
If you are booking your own accommodation, good options are AirBnB, hostel world, and general comparison sites like TriVaGo.
AirBNB can seem the more expensive option, but when you factor in the fact that you won’t have to eat out everyday, it can workout to be cheaper overall.
If you like staying in hostels, but want privacy, most have the option of private rooms for a little more money.
For me, I found that in Uganda the hostels were far, far cleaner, and cheaper than the hotels, and were often much more beautiful (shout out to the Fat Cat Kampala, and the Nile River Camp for making my time unforgettable). So, have a read about the region, and what seems best for where you are going.
9. Buy a Travel Guide.
If you are going away for a while, this is a really good idea to find great places to eat, stay and see. The Lonely Planet guides are great, as are Rough Guides, and both have sections on general life in the country, the history of the country, and advice for LGBT+ travellers, women, and minority groups.
The Lonely Planet website also has an amazing feature where you can see the top sights they’ve picked out on a map, and if you know where you are staying, you can see the closest ones to you.