Why a Traveler Checklist
After a few trips you will not need a Traveler Checklist anymore. Many people do ask me and what seems to be obvious is new to people who never left the US or lets say Europe. They never needed a passport, travel insurance or a visa. I compiled this list for you! The checklist does come in 3 parts. A couple of months before take off, a few weeks before take off and the day you take off.
The most important thing to check of the Traveler Checklist! For international flights you will need your passport and most countries require you to have it valid at last 6 more months before they stamp you at the border. Check how long your passport is valid and get a new one if needed.
Pro Tip: If you need a new passport you might need new passport pictures as well. Usually they come in 4 pictures on one photo. Take this photo to a shop that does picture from picture and have them make a few copies of the original. Now you have a lot of extra pictures for all the visa photos you will need for your trip!
Think to make the most of your time: Avoid to be on the same road twice if you are short in time. For example you want to go to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It would make sense to fly into Kuala Lumpur and travel up to the north of Thailand, than cross into Laos and travel down to the 1000 Islands. Cross into Cambodia and travel towards Saigon – than make you way up north and fly back from Hanoi. You can see almost everything you want on the way and save time and money! Sure to zip left and right you might take the same road twice but you get the picture
Find out about the weather when you have your general route. Keep in mind – to stick with the example above – in winter it can snow in the north of Vietnam and there are no heaters in most hotels. And visiting the ruins of Angkor in 42 degrees C is not fun as well. Rainy season can work for you as there are usually less tourists and since it is low season accommodation will be cheaper. Flooded roads and destroyed bridges will on the other hand slow you down when you want to go somewhere or it is simply impossible to reach a destination.
Get your flight early
Next to tick off the Traveler Checklist – The flight
Now you know where and when you want to go – next step would be getting at last you flight to Kuala Lumpur and the return flight from Hanoi if we stick with the example above. Usually it is the best to book early as you will get cheaper prices. If you need a visa for a certain country they also want to see your flight tickets or at last you have to print out your eTicket for them. Check a few different search engines as they usually do not have all the airlines in one engine. I have email alert and newsletters from most of the important airlines so i know when they have a sale going on. When you compare be sure to check how much the baggage allowance is, if you get maybe a free rail ticket to the airport. It depends on you if you think you save a bit of money but your flight leaves at 4 in the morning and there is no public transport to the airport. So you have to spend money on an expensive taxi and there goes your saving. The same goes for flights that arrive at 2 in the morning which makes transport to the city usually not to easy and getting budget accommodation not easier. You might save 80$ but the flight is 37 hours and you have to spend most of the money for expensive airport food at the 21 hour stopover. If you arrive late or early if might be worth it to stay at a hotel next to the airport that provides transport and stay there the first night?
Next step: The Visa
You should have a rough idea how long you want to stay in each country. And if you do not have too much time it makes sense to get the visa for every country before you start your trip. If you travel open end that is a bit complicated but you have plenty of time to get your next visa in Thailand if you want to go to Myanmar for example. Since it depends on the passport that you travel with you should check before on the web sites of the embassy if you need a visa before or get a visa on arrival (get the visa on the border).
Lets take Thailand for example
Most European countries get 4 weeks when you fly into the country. The G7 countries get 4 weeks when they arrive on a land border. Other European countries only 14 days. So if you want to stay longer than 4 weeks you should get a 2 month visa before you fly in. There are also 2 months with 2 and 3 entries. So you can extend the stay easy with a border run. Or you go to the immigration and get another 4 weeks on top of your 2 months for 1900 Bath. If you are close to the border it might make more sense to do a border run and get your 4 or 2 weeks. Confused? Me too! You have to do some homework what the visa situation is depending on the passport that you travel with.
If you plan to get a Visa on Arrival make sure you check how many passport pictures you need and in which currency you have to pay for the visa. For example if you cross the border from Thailand to Laos you can pay in Thai Bath or US $. If you pay in Thai Bath it is almost twice the fee as in US $. Before you exchange make sure you know how much it will cost you and if they have a stamp fee or not. Laos has one so you have to get the extra US $ for it. This is information from 2014 and visa rules can change at any moment. Be sure to check a few weeks and days before you leave home again!
Vaccinations and Medication
Ask your doctor about recommended vaccinations and travel medication. Visit your doctor two or three-month before you leave. Some vaccinations and medication take time to become effective or you might need more than one shoot and some time in between. Find out about laws and regulations regarding any medication you are taking into foreign countries. Beware if you carry medication and you have to change your plane in a 3rd county! It might be legal to carry your medication in your home country and lets say Thailand. But in Dubai where you change your plane it might be a illegal drug!!
If you depend on certain medication make sure you can get this medication in the countries you travel. You should know that there are a lot of counterfeit drugs in Asia and South America so if you want to be sure bring enough from home or look for a licensed pharmacy or a hospital.
Check with your insurance if you are covered in the countries where you will go. Travel Insurance is usually not really expensive but if somethings happens you will be covered. I usually have only an insurance that covers me when I have to go to the hospital, covers for a medical emergency or something. Check if you credit card does come with an insurance if you book your flight with the card.
Check your Credit Card
I have a credit card that i can use at any ATM worldwide and i do not have to pay my bank for it and if the foreign bank charges me – my bank pays me back!
(If you a German resident email me and I am happy to recommend you to get a few miles from the bank)
Check how much your bank charges you for using a foreign ATM. It might not seem to much money but as soon as you are in a foreign country you should adapt to it. And spending 1-3 nights accommodation on ATM fees is not what you want to do. I did meet a lot of travelers that had to inform their bank before they left so the bank would open the credit card or debit card for the counties where they wanted to use it. It is really no fun if you stand in front of a ATM and you card is not working. You might have some emergency € or US $ on you but it might be Sunday or late at night and the bank is closed and no money changer near. If you travel with “exotic” currencies like Norwegian Krones or Swiss Francs – do not count that you can exchange them all over the world. I did meet a few guys from Switzerland that could not believe that they had a problem to get local currency.
Did i forget anything? Please let me know in the comments below!!