There’s more people! I know, I bet you’re thinking REALLY?! Have we not covered it? Well there really is a lot to take on board. I have learnt many lessons through doing this, as you will. We all will do things differently but hopefully some of my experiences will help you.
So now comes the list of big meaty stuff to do:
Number 1 on the list would have to be visas. We checked out all the info about the what was required a long while before getting them, so be make sure to do that. Know what you’ve got to expect and like the Scouts ‘Be Prepared’, it pays off that way. We got visas for India and Thailand – so that’s all the experience I can base this advice on (please feel free to tell me your tips though for elsewhere though).
All nationalities are expected to obtain visas for India, whether they are for tourism, work, study or family reasons. We got our Indian visa through VFS Global, the website is extremely informative and straight-talking. We thought the application form was going to be much scarier than it was, but it was very straightforward, so it’s not anything to worry about. We learnt, after applying, that you cannot make appointments (this may change), you have to just turn up at one of the application centres. I used to pass the Goswell Road, London branch every day, on the way to work and some days the queue would be right round the street, so I’d really recommend going to these centres in the middle of their opening times. It seems the queues are always really bad first thing, as people are wanting to get them done and back to work quickly.
The one thing we found annoying about the India visa was the photo size required for application. In advance try to find a photobooth that can do 50mm by 50mm photos (this is bigger than passport size), as this is the only photo size that will be accepted. We turned up on the day with the wrong sized pics and had to queue to get some more done within the centre (which we thought was an added rip-off and annoyance), so you have been warned. The interview process in the centre, however, is very straight-forward and quick, if you don’t have any added queries/issues. First-timers like us, breezed through there. You can also, conveniently, pick up your passport after the 3 working days, for yourself and your fellow travellers, you don’t have to specifically come in. As long as you have the receipts, you’re good to go.
The Thailand visa however was a bit of a different ballgame. If you are going to Thailand for 30 days or less then you are fine, you will not need a visa (phew!). However we had to get an extended 60 day visa to accomodate our longer visit. The condition of applying for this visa is that you have to be travelling to the country within 90 days of the visa’s issue date. Which is why we had to apply for it later, once I’d moved back home. The thing we found annoying with this, is that, if you’re trying to be organised and sort things in advance, you can’t sort your visa (the most important thing) really. They like for you to apply for your visas as close to the leaving date as possible and advise you to not book anything until it’s approval – which, in reality, is not practical for anyone. But we have to just get on with it.
This time we went to the Birmingham Thai Consulate to sort it and this really was a bit of a confusing experience. First of all, their website was VERY MISLEADING to us. It made out that you needed to bring a special delivery self-addressed envelope with you and that when the visas were ready, you had to pay £10 extra for collection. The words ‘for collection’ unsurprisingly made us think, that once the passports were ready, you would have to pay additional money to collect them. Nope. In fact you didn’t need a SAE at all, nor was there a charge for collection…you in fact paid £10 as an extra admin fee for the visas to be arranged immediately while you waited in the building’s reception. Boy were we confused but we were glad we got them back straight away (we waited all of 20 minutes and they were done). I think it’s much more efficient that way, but their website should explain that process much much clearer.
Okay, rant over.
Then it’s time to think about your malaria tablets. This can be just as confusing but if you go on the Fit For Travel site all travel medicine information is very clearly explained. The malaria maps are great for determining how high the risk will be where you’re going – so it’s probably best to stick to the advice that is explained on this site. I have to admit we asked in multiple doctor’s surgeries, clinics and pharmacies about what was best and you will confusingly, often get opposing answers. Do your background reading online though and check what is best for you. And always remember to double check if any other medications will affect the malaria tablets’ effectiveness. When I moved home things got a bit complicated, I didn’t know how I was going to get my tablets as I did not have a GP here anymore, but luckily help was here. We were happily informed about the Lloyds Pharmacy Online Doctor - it is great! This website allows you to receive prescriptions for certain medications without having to go to your local GP. You answer questions online and your items get delivered to the nearest Lloyds Pharmacy – for getting our malaria tablets, this was so useful and so fast. I really recommend it.
The next big step is to organise some of your first accomodation stops and transport links. And even if you don’t need to book too many things yet, it really is great to get your head around some of these booking sites anyway. We had ideas of how long we wanted in our first 3 Indian cities so we started looking online at local guesthouses. That’s when we found the little online wonder that is Hostelworld - it is incredible. There are 1,000′s of hotels, hostels and guesthouses to look through, located all over the world and each of them have 100s of recent reviews, pictures to look at and info from the staff. It is BRILLIANT and so so easy to navigate and set up your booking. You pay a deposit now and then pay the rest upon arrival – it couldn’t be any easier.
After find gorgeous little guesthouses with great reviews, we thought we’d book some of our connecting trains to these hotels. Trains in India are booked through a site called Cleartrip, which again is a nice and easy website to use but I recommend using Seat 61 in conjunction with it, as it’s a great reference guide. It helps you figure out the trickier side of the Indian Railway system, like which coach to sit in and what berth to go for (it’s so super helpful and can also be used to figure out booking trains in other countries). Booking trains in advance for India is kinda essential – one of our trains was nearly all booked up and that was 5 weeks in advance, so definitely a good job we did it all ahead of time.
Admittedly, you cant do everything in advance, spontaneity is key in world travel, but when you can, go for it, especially in the beginning. It means those first bewildering days won’t be half as stressful – and who wants stress when you’ve got all this world to see?! Not us.
Then it’s a matter of making lots and lots of phone calls. You should call:
- Your bank (inform them of your departure so they don’t cancel your cards or think your account activity looks suspicious).
- Your credit card companies (same again make sure they know, so nothing gets cancelled).
- The tax man (you may get a tax rebate – so just let them know you’ve left your job and see if you can get some extra £££’s).
- Your student loan company (I had to let them know I was no longer working and had to fill in a form to say I was going overseas – you won’t be bothered by them then asking for money – happy days).
- Your mobile phone provider (cancel your contract, get it put on hold, figure out a deal – but call them and check your options – I’ve had a lot of unnecessary stress with my company 3, so really make sure its all sorted before you go).
You will then be thinking to yourself, I’ve done all the big things, what next? Now it’s all those important little things. You can start having fun now
- I’ve really enjoyed sorting my iTunes out and downloading new must-have travel tunes! I’ve spent hours making it the most badass iTunes in the land.
- Research travel apps (they could be super helpful and it’s interesting seeing what is out there – I’ll do some reviews once I’ve used some of them too).
- Get the Kindle app and download as many books as you can (handy, entertaining and fits in your pocket).
- Clear your personal email account and get it ready for receiving those much -looked-forward to messages. It’s not so fun but strangely satisfying (I had over 5,000 unread junk messages, now I have zero – happy days).
- Train your parents/grandparents/aunts and uncles how to use Facebook and to access your travel blog (this can take a while – bless ‘em!).
- Go look at cute travel-sized toiletries and gadgets (it’s kinda fun finding teeny tiny things to take with you).
- Try on your travel wardrobe and see how it will work, what goes with what. That gets me the most excited – it makes me feel like I’m really going, especially when trying on your swimwear, while it’s minus something outside – it makes you feel pretty damn excitable.
- Sell some last minute things on eBay and get a few extra funds together before the off (if you’re confused by eBay selling see: http://gohemiantravellers.com/2011/08/31/using-ebay-to-save-up-a-storm/).
- Have fun days with your loved ones. Get as many cuddles as you can.
- If you’re anything like me, you may want to get some spice-training in. I couldn’t handle spices very well at all really, now I can handy a nice curry with some added pow-pow!! I just kept cooking and ordering different things and enjoying the fun of eating them all and now I have happy trained tastebuds.
- Do a trial pack. See how you can handle that load on your back, see how small you can roll up your clothes – test your organisation and packing skills, and if anyone fancies helping you, make a fun day of it.
- Organise your leaving party.
You are sooooooo ready to GO now!
Love and bad dance moves Em xoxo