Travelling to a foreign country may not seem that easy at the first go. You’d wonder how the culture is, how much it might cost , be it for food or travel etc. You are worried about security, lack of familiarity and so many other things. This is actually very natural and is present in most people. No wonder the lure of all inclusive travel packages is highly attractive, especially in the Indian subcontinent. Be it Dubai or Malaysia or Singapore or even Europe, before even checking the flight fares, people check only for travel packages first. So here are some practical tips for your international travel that may make your life all the more easier.
International Travel Practical Tips
Conversion to Local Currency
The first mistake most people do on an international travel is to use their personal credit/debit card. This can go wrong in so many levels. Your credit card may get stolen leaving you no other choices. Your credit card can be misused (A duplicate can be created) . This can happen quite frequently in small restaurants, petrol stations . Additionally the service charge, tax and the additional currency conversion can add a major load to your budget. The service charges comes anywhere between 3-4.5% in addition to the original expense. Plus the currency conversion will be much higher than what they usually charge in foreign exchange centres.
So make it a point to calculate approxmiately how much it’ll cost overseas .Then convert for sufficient foreign exchange in a nearby local centre in your city.
Most of the times we’d prefer a low cost carrier like AirAsia , Spicet, Scoot etc to save on ticket prices. These airlines have the luggage component separately and hence allows you to choose the amount of luggage you may carry . Be wise to plan your luggage in a way that your onward travel is pretty light while your return trip may be more from your shopping overseas. So it’s wise to prebook additional 20-30Kg beforehand atleast on your return trip .
Usually prebooking for 20Kg may cost 1400Rs(20$) whereas every extra kg at the airport may cost you as high as 750-1000RS (10-15$). This may not be required if you are flying business class or a full service airline like Emirates / Air India. Even JetAiways for that matter offer only 15 kg in many routes, so it may never be enough .
Planning a tentative Itinerary
There are three versions of travelling to a new place. First option is you opt for a travel package who takes you on guided tours on fixed dates at fixed times with no flexibility. Second option is where you decide where to go only after landing at the airport and check in to the hotel. This can be done if you are on a leisure / relaxation trip and don’t want anything to do in a hurried manner. Third option is to have a tentative itinerary with you and then do so accordingly on your own. I’d always recommend the third option primarily because it helps to avoid any contigencies. For example if you are heading to Paris and decided to go to the Louvre, it helps to pre-book an appointment to save atleast 2-3 hours minimum on the queue.
Also a tentative itinerary helps to cover most places and you don’t get to miss out on anything important while you travel on random directions.
If you are planning a trip to the Himalayas or Switzerland or rather any cold climate country, it’s advisable to buy winter clothes beforehand. The last thing you want to do is buy super expensive winter clothes that you might have got it for 1/10th of the price back in India (given most of them is exported from here only). This also includes other accessories that you might need for the trip.
Indian Food :
If you are heading for a place that may not be suitable for the Indian palatte, it’s wise to buy some food packets like Maggi / MTR packs and saves you from hunger pangs. Several Asian countries including Vietnam, Korea, China and Japan are primarily a delight for non vegetarians, while you hardly get a salad or sandwich for vegetarians. If you don’t stress enough that you are a vegan/vegetarian, you might find yourself being served with a chicken sub despite ordering a Veg item.
Fortunately countries like Dubai, Thailand (Key cities) , Malaysia, Singapore and several countries in Europe have plenty of Indian restaurants and you’ll never be far away from one.
Price comparison (Mobiles / Speakers / TV)
This primarily applies to those electronic gadget freaks who wants to import / buy electronic goods from Dubai / Malaysia/ Thailand where the taxes and prices are super cheap compared to India. A lot of mobiles, amplifiers, televisions and sound bars are indeed cheaper when it comes to India. But the customs duty at the Indian airport may levy around 36% tax and it can be prove to be more costly than India. Plus anything you buy overseas would not carry international guarantee and you might as well safely buy it here. So before planning anything, do a proper price comparison check to see if its indeed worth to buy it in a duty free zone or a local electronic store overseas.
Have you read my post on top travel apps 2018 ?
Web Check in
Unless flying in a low cost carrier, it’s always advisable to do a web-check in. This has several advantages. You can be sure of a window seat, a seat near the front as much as possible and a seat layout for your family as per your liking. You don’t want to take the risk of going to the airport late, doing a checkin and finding yourself at the back end of the place . (Typically, the front of the aircraft has the minimal turbulences / jerks, hence more confortable. This is also why business class seats are at the front of the aircraft).
In a low cost carrier , however doing a web check in may not turn out be for your advantageous. This is because, many LCC’s (Low cost carrier) charge a fixed fee for an aisle or a window seat and even more costlier if its towards the front. However if you do a check in at the airport, they’ll have to board you somehow and hence allot a window / aisle seat wherever available .
Preloaded Offline Maps
I have never had the need to buy local sim cards in any country I had been to . Once I activate flight mode after landing in the destination country, I have merely relied on airport/hotel/public place Wifi to connect. However if you need to look up information on the move, this may prove to be difficult. So either buy a cheap sim card with data for the travel period or if its a short trip, preload destination information, contact and google map of the city you are travelling to. This can prove to be a boon to know the routes without having an internet connection.
Top things to do by Locals
I had mentioned earlier about a tentative itinerary that you’d like to follow to plan your trip. If you are opting for this, check out the places in travel forums, where the locals have shared their personal info. This can prove to be very useful and would be completely off the typical tourist radar. Who knows what hidden gems you might uncover?
Medicines / Camera Batteries
The one thing I have come to realize is that the medicines you may need are not easily available in other countries or probably in different names which you can’t rely often. Plus the cost of medicines or treatment can run into several thousands and that’s the last thing you want in your mind. Always carry a handful of simple medicines for cough/cold/fever/vomiting/stomach upset and other minor ailments
The same with camera batteries. Carry enough duracell’s for your digital camera (Provided you still use one and not merely rely on cell phone cameras for your vacation pictures).
Hotel Booking (No pay on checkout)
The frequent advertising by popular travel companies to choose for pay on checkout may not look as simple as it sounds. As a first, you still have to provide your card details beforehand and they might try to charge you a day before or on the day of checkin. If they feel the charge is not being debited, they’ll simply cancel your booking and you’ll be stranded for a room in an unknown foreign country. Second, the rate of exchange rate varies everyday.
Suppose the dollar rate is around 64INR/$ when you bought the hotel booking and then it goes upto say 70, the loss is on yoy. You have to pay the amount in dollars, which means more Indian rupees to be shelled out. A prebooked fully paid hotel booking goes a long way in mental piece while travelling.