We understand planning and going on an overseas trip can be overwhelming.
You’ve booked your flights, accommodation, cruise and tours for your holiday and now you’re almost ready. But before you pack and mentally buckle yourself into your seat, make sure you read our overseas travel checklist with an insider’s must know top 30 tips to do before going overseas.
These travel tips will help reduce the risk of something unexpectedly going wrong and ensure you’ll be prepared to deal with any emergencies on your international trip.
Get your health in check before you leave
1. Book a check-up with your doctor
See your doctor to check if you’re fit to travel. Each year around 1,000 Australians* die overseas and one of the main causes is due to a pre-existing medical condition.
Your doctor may find symptoms of potential problems that could occur overseas and start treatment or advise you on a course of action. Having an unknown pre-existing medical condition could turn into a serious emergency situation if you discover it overseas or on a cruise ship.
Pre-existing medical conditions can also affect your travel insurance policy, so it is best to know about them.
2. Arrange an adequate supply of your regular medication plus extra
Bring enough of your regular medication to last you for your entire trip, plus a bit more than you’ll need just in case you’re delayed getting home.
3. If you take multiple medications ask your pharmacist about a Medicine Pack
A pharmacy can pack all your medication into a blister pack with daily doses so you won’t have to take multiple packets and bottles or a month’s supply for a one-week trip.
4. Check if your prescription medication is legal at your destination
You may require a letter from your doctor and to keep medication in its original packaging.
5. Organise your travel vaccinations up to 6 months in advance
It takes two shots over a 6 month period to complete Hepatitis A and B vaccines, so prepare well in advance.
Find out what vaccinations you need for your trip destination and plan well in advance.
If you're visiting South America you may need to show a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate to board your return flight.
Buy travel insurance
6. Research and buy the right travel insurance for your trip
If you get sick, injured or your luggage stolen, you want to make sure you have support and financial assistance in a foreign country. The Australian government is not obliged to cover your expenses if anything goes wrong while you’re overseas.
7. Look for a travel insurance policy that adequately covers you for the type of holiday you’re taking
Consider if you require cover for:
- Unlimited emergency medical assistance
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Travel delays and missed connections
- Rental Vehicle Excess
- Adventure sports
- Skiing and snowboarding
- Valuable items
Check your insurance policy covers any adventure activities or snow sports you want to do.
Get to know your destination
8. Understand the customs, traditions and laws of your destination
Some common gestures might be offensive or misinterpreted such as:
- Kissing in public in Dubai is a punishable offence
- Crossing your fingers in Vietnam is offensive
- Pointing at something with your index finger is considered rude in Africa
9. Read up on the tipping etiquette
Knowing what tips a taxi driver, concierge or restaurant expects may save you from offending someone or ending up in an argument over a few dollars.
10. Get to know the areas you’re visiting before you leave
Find out where the safe neighbourhoods are and the areas you should avoid.
Know where the services you may need are such as public transport, shops and the medical centre.
11. Learn some simple phrases which may keep you safe and out of trouble
Know how to say a few key phrases like:
- Thank you
- Good bye
- I need help
- Where is the police station?
- Where is the hospital?
Be able to say that you have a food allergy (or take a photo of the food) or medical condition.
Learn how to say the address of your accommodation in the local language. Failing that, ask for a business card with the address of your accommodation and put it in your wallet or take a picture of your hotel and its name.
12. Dress appropriately for your destination
T-shirts and shorts are okay for the USA, but not in the Middle East and some Asian countries.
Wearing anything above your shoulders such as sunglasses or a hat when visiting a village in Fiji can be disrespectful.
When visiting religious buildings, dress modestly. Both men and women should cover as much skin as possible. Ideally, wear a long sleeve shirt and pants or a long dress, at a minimum cover your shoulders and legs. Women should also be prepared to cover their hair.
Be mindful and respectful of local customs such as dressing modestly and removing your shoes when visiting temples.
Organise your travel documents and devices
13. Scan, print and take copies of all your travel documents
Keep digital copies of the following documents:
- Travel insurance certificate
- Flight booking
- Accommodation bookings
- Credit/debit cards
- Traveller’s cheques
14. Ensure you’ll always have access to your travel documents
Email them to yourself or save them on your mobile or tablet.
Put one printed copy in your luggage and one printed copy in your carry-on so you’ll always have access to them and a back-up copy if your luggage goes missing.
Email all your documents to your next of kin in Australia or print them a copy.
15. Check if you need a visa for the countries you’ll be visiting
A visa is needed to enter or transit in certain countries.
Visit the visalink website to see if you need a visa or contact the local embassy or consulate and ask about visa requirements.
16. Organise your mobile and tablet
Save copies of your travel documents to yours and all of your travel companions’ mobile phones.
Download travel apps including map apps, and Google Translate.
Reduce the costs of using your phone while overseas by turning off your mobile data and voicemail.
Turn off data roaming.
Buy a global sim card before you leave.
Download communication apps such as WhatsApp, Skype or Viber to stay in touch.
Keep a digital copy of your tickets, travel insurance and other important documents in your wallet app or emails.
Be emergency ready
17. Know who to contact in an emergency
Get the details of the nearest hospital or medical centre particularly if you are travelling with children or are a senior.
Know the location of the Australian Embassy, or the British Embassy if there isn’t an Australian one.
Save the contact details of the local police.
18. Know what to do in an emergency
Put a copy of your travel insurance certificate in your wallet and save it on your mobile phone so you’ll have the details immediately at hand.
Call the Australian Government 24 hour consular assistance number: +61 2 6261 3305
In an emergency, call your travel insurance company ASAP for emergency assistance and advice.
If you’re in hospital and physically unable to contact emergency assistance, request the hospital to do so on your behalf.
19. Register your travel details with Smartraveller
It makes it easier for your family to reach you if there is an emergency at home.
Your family can track you down if they’re worried about your welfare.
You can be accounted for if there is an emergency at your destination such as an earthquake or terrorist act.
You should be aware that consular assistance isn’t guaranteed - you’re still responsible for your own actions, choices and medical costs.
When you register, your information is protected by Australian privacy laws.
20. Subscribe to Smartraveller for notifications and updates
‘Do Not Travel’ and ‘Reconsider Your Need To Travel’ country status updates.
Travel warnings like political unrest or natural disasters.
Overseas health alerts such as Zika, SARS or Avian Flu.
21. Tell your family and friends your travel plans and give them authority
Give them copies of your travel documents and itinerary.
Keep them updated if your plans change.
Give a trusted family member or friend authority to make changes or enquiries to your flights and travel insurance policy. It may come in handy if it’s not convenient or easy for you to do so on your trip.
Knowing in advance what to do or who to contact in an emergency can save you time and stress.
Organise your travel money
22. Have a money and credit card security plan
Keep your cards and money out of sight and reach of potential thieves.
Do you need to purchase a money belt to store your money and cards?
If you’re concerned about the chip on your credit card or passport being read, you may want to purchase RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) blocking sleeve or wallet.
23. Arrange multiple sources of money so you’re not caught out
Take a mix of credit/debit cards, cash, traveller’s cheques and a backup card because:
- The ATMs may not work where you are
- If you lose your credit card or it’s stolen, you’ll still have another source of money
- Some places only accept cash
- Your type of card (e.g. Visa, MasterCard or American Express) may not always be accepted at your destination
- You may be charged high fees and commissions for using cards
24. Tell your bank you’ll be travelling
Banks may suspend your credit/debit cards if they notice transactions occurring outside the country.
Make sure your credit/debit cards will work at your destinations.
Cards with magnetic strips may no longer be accepted in some destinations, so you may need to request a Chip and PIN card if you don’t already have one.
Let your bank know you're travelling overseas so they don't think your credit card has been stolen!
25. Pack only what you really need
Consider the number of electronic devices you’re taking – do you really need a mobile, tablet, laptop, camera, video camera and GoPro?
Unless you really have to, leave anything expensive like that fabulous Louis Vuitton hand bag, Prada sunglasses, jewellery or leather jacket at home.
Pack international power adapters and portable phone chargers.
Clothes and shoes should be multi-purpose and appropriate for the weather, uneven ground, slippery surfaces and the country you’re visiting.
Pack your important documents where it’s less noticeable to anyone who may go through your bag.
26. Make a record of any valuable items you’re taking
Ensure you have receipts.
If you don’t have receipts, locate the charge on your credit card statement or take photos of what you’re taking.
Record the serial numbers.
Items you should have a record of:
- Mobile phone
- Video camera
- Gaming consoles
- Hearing aids
- Expensive clothing such as: leather jackets, designer clothing, suits, belts, shoes.
27. Pack your common sense
Trust your gut. If a taxi driver seems weird, you find yourself in a dodgy part of town or a person you’re talking to doesn’t seem quite right or you feel uncomfortable, get out of there.
28. Pack your best judgement
Just because you’re overseas, doesn’t mean it’s the best place or time to try new activities. Consider where you’re doing the activity, how much regulation there is and whether you’d be better off doing it before you go or when you get home.
Due to the sanitation standards, getting a tattoo in Bali is a riskier choice than at home
You may be better getting on a motorbike for the first time at home before trying it for the first on the frantic roads of Vietnam or Greece where you’ll be riding on the right hand side of the road.
The adrenalin rush of running with the bulls may be alluring, but be sure you want to take the risk, particularly when your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you for it.
29. Take your self-control with you
We all relax on holidays a bit but self-control may be your best travel companion, especially when it comes to alcohol, drugs and sexual behaviour. All of these activities can be more dangerous overseas as alcohol can be bootleg, drug use can carry harsh penalties and STIs can be more prevalent.
Pack smart and save some room for your common sense and souvenirs!
30. Prepare yourself to have a happy and safe trip
Don't forget to share these preparation travel tips with your fellow travellers!
* http://smartraveller.gov.au/guide/all-travellers/birth-death-marriage/Pages/death-overseas.aspx and http://tenplay.com.au/news/national/june/sobering-figures-reveal-just-how-many-australians-die-abroad