August 26, 2015

Travelling abroad: being prepared.

As you may have read in my January overview, I'm traveling to Argentina in less than a week. Although I'm very excited about leaving Europe for the first time EVER, there were a lot of things to plan, to buy, to think of and well, things that needed to be done that I didn't even know about, to be honest. I thought I'm probably not the only one with this problem so I wanted to share some key things to put on your to do list when traveling abroad, be it to Argentina, South Africa, Canada or Russia.

(Travel) Documents

First, you need to check which documents you need to be able to even enter the country you are about to visit. For some countries a visa is required, for others an international travel passport will do. If you already have all the necessary documents, don't forget to check the expiration date on them. Most countries require that the documents are still valid for at least 6 months so be sure to check whether that's the case.
If you're taking a long flight, be sure to have all the flight documents with you as well (you never know!) as well as your identity papers (passports, visa, ...).

Our department of Foreign Affairs has got a really useful site which allows you to check which documents you need for which country so if you're not sure, you can always check here.

Vaccinations

Some more exotic destinations, require that you are vaccinated for certain diseases before leaving. With Argentina that was the case as well. I got two very painful vaccinations for hepatitis A and another, less painful, one for yellow fever.
If you're not sure which vaccinations are necessary, googling gets you a long way but I would check with your general practitioner to be sure. Furthermore, you can also check out the website of the Tropical Institute which has a lot of information as well. Some vaccinations, such as yellow fever, are exclusively available at the Tropical Institute so be sure to check everything thoroughly!

Medication

When traveling abroad, the food is often very different than you're used to. So even when you got all the right vaccinations and took every prevention strategy to heart, there's still a chance you are going to get sick. I know, not fun. Like I said, it's my first time traveling outside Europe and I don't know what to expect either so I'm bringing everything. Multiple things against diarrhea (because this is most likely to happen), against nausia, against vomitting, headaches, blisters (although not really a disease)... I even got some antibiotics should I get dengue fever (hey, you never know!).
Again, check with your general practioner and see what he/she thinks is necessary and let them prescribe something for you. After all, they know best.

Money issues

Currency?

Another important thing is to check what the local currency is. Living in Europe, you can get used to the fact that everything can be paid in euros and well, I sometimes forget that there are other currencies out there as well.

Exchange?

Once you know which currency is being used, you also need to know how and where to exchange the money. In our case, someone else has figured out the most profitable way to exchange money (very easy) but be sure to check the internet and to see where the exchange rates are the best. Sometimes, as in our case, it's better to take your euros with you and exchange the money upon arrival. Apparently, Argentina loves to receive dollars and euros so the rates are quite lucrative at the moment. But in other cases, it might be a better idea to exchange some money in advance at your local bank.

Credit card?

Next to having some cash, you might also want to take a credit card with you. It always comes in handy for unforeseen costs. If you've decided to bring your regular bank card with you, be sure the card will work at your destination. Especially in Europe, most cards only work inside Europe. If you travel outside Europe, you might need to visit your bank and have the country 'deblocked'. For Argentina for example, I had to inform my bank so they could give me access to withdraw money for a period of a month in Argentina.

Right material

With the risk of being too mothering, I wanted to stress that's important to have the right material with you. If you're going hiking, please take your hiking shoes with you. It's obvious, I know, but I once went hiking with my Vans on and although I survived and didn't have too many blisters, hiking shoes would have been welcome. This year I'm going rafting so I'm being proactive and already purchased a beautiful new (pink!!) pair of watershoes, as you can see pictured above. Other things that I think of are:

Money Belt

Depending on where you're going exactly, a money belt might come in very handy. Especially if you're going to very turistic and rather poor countries, a money belt is a good idea. I'm referring to the type of money belt you wear under your clothes, where nobody can see it. For Argentina, I even went for a variant with a steel cable in it so it can't be cut of either. I might be exagarating but you can't be too sure. You don't want to ruin the trip by losing all of your money.
The extra advantage is that the money belt is discrete, you have it with you all the time so no need to worry and you can keep your regular wallet with a little bit of cash in your usual backpack so nobody suspects you're actually carrying a lot more money than just that.

Switch-plug (converter)

Traveling to a different country, even within Europe, often goes with a difference in plugs as well. Don't forget this or you won't be able to charge your phone, your camera or use your hair dryer if you're carrying one. Because I didn't have any converters lying around at home, I - or actually my father - invested in one that has five different options, I believe. The list of countries in which you can use it is quite long too so it comes in handy for future travels as well which was the main goal anyway.

Climate 

I know this sounds obvious but I actually made the mistake of not checking the climate for this trip. I totally didn't think about the fact that Argentina is located BELOW the equator and that this means the seasons are backwards. While I was thinking that I was going to Argentina in late summer, beginning of fall, it's actually still winter, going into early spring. So google the climate, peoples! Don't be fooled, like I am!
Anyway, no worries, as Argentina has great weather in late winter as well and has even fantastic weather up North (which is where we're going). The only drawback is that it's only 10-15°C in Buenos Aires, where we arrive and end our trip but the more northern part of our trip (Salta, Corrientes, Iguazu, ...) can be quite hot... which means you need to pack for all seasons. Bummer when you're going backpacking, I tell ya!

I hope that you at least thought ones "Oh, didn't think of that" and that I could be of help that way. If you're traveling abroad: have a lot of fun and enjoy every minute. Be amazed at everything and learn to know different cultures and people and if you're not; what the hell are you waiting for?!.

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