What you need to know before you go travelling

Once you’ve gone to all the effort of finding the time, researching the options and booking a trip abroad, it can be easy to sit back and think the work is done. But to ensure that you have your best holiday possible, take a little time out to find out more about your destination.

This will be common sense for lone travelers and people with disabilities, who will be used to taking care to check on the minute details of their trip in order to make sure they have the support and safety they need. But for any traveller, some homework is a must – and you may be surprised at what you find.

Get your insurance up to date

Of course you should always ensure that your travel insurance is up to date, covers your destination and the full length of your trip. Check also whether extra payments are needed to cover winter or water sports or that there aren’t any specific safety concerns about the place you are visiting. You can check about health and safety concerns in your intended destination via the Foreign & Commonwealth Officeopens in a new window website.

Although we all hope our health won’t give out on holiday, a chipped tooth or broken bone can happen at any time and to be sure of getting the best assistance abroad check on what type of medical care is available and whether there are reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the NHS.

If you are holidaying in Europe, for example, a European Health Insurance Cardopens in a new window (EHIC) will entitle you to free or reduced-cost medical care should you have trouble along the way. However you’ll still need travel insurance coverage for major injuries and repatriation.

You can also find out more about travelling abroad from the Department of Healthopens in a new window website.

Checklist for travellers

Churchill has partnered with the Know Before You Goopens in a new window campaign to ensure you are fully prepared before you go away on a trip. This handy checklist will help to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

  • Get your documents in order
  • Check your passport will be valid for at least six months after the date of your return.
  • Make photocopies of your passport, tickets and insurance documents, or store online copies on a secure data storage site.
  • Find out now how your traveller’s cheques and credit cards can be replaced if lost and take emergency numbers with you.
  • Make sure you tell family and friends where you’re going and leave them contact details.

For more help and advice, visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Officeopens in a new window website.

Taking medicines?

If you take regular prescription medicine, prepare documentation in advance to explain its use – you’ll need this for the airline and potentially in customs at your destination – and arrange to get, and safely carry, the amount you will need. If you need to carry syringes or needles, these will also require an explanation. You can arrange this with your GP.

Finally, ensure your medication is not banned in the country you are visiting. For example, Turkey, Pakistan and India are a few of the places where some common medicines may not be allowed. Finally, check on which jabs or preventive treatments, if any, are required for your visit and look into these requirements at least eight weeks before you travel. Fit For Travelopens in a new window website can help answer any more questions.

Money and exchange rates

Other basics include checking mobile phone coverage and finding out about local tariffs in advance of your trip and working out the best way to carry cash. Check that ATMs are available at your destination (and the charge for using them) and if not, a mix of local currency, traveller’s cheques (get bank hours for cashing them) and credit cards (check they will be accepted) is a good idea.

Familiarise yourself with the exchange rate, too, so that you are ready to spot high prices or bad rates as soon as you arrive. Make sure you check out local money specifics. For example, in Cuba you’ll need to hold on to pesos to pay a departure tax at the applicable rate, and credit cards are not accepted!

Research local customs

Local customs play a part in a successful trip, so some detailed research is a must. Up-to-date guidebooks and websites such as Lonely Planetopens in a new window and online forums such as Thorn Tree Travel Forum could be good places to look. Rough Guide produces a series of First Time Guides that are made especially for those preparing to venture into unknown territory.

Finally, the Foreign & Commonwealth Officeopens in a new window website is a must, offering great, detailed information on crucial visa, security, health and cultural norms, including a range of brochures to download and print.

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