First overseas trip

By Drum Digital
15 July 2016

Before you pack your bags...

By Vida Li Sik

Make sure your maiden overseas trip is one to remember by using this handy guide for first-time travelers

You’ve saved for months, or years, and can finally afford to go on your first overseas trip. While you’re excited, there are things to consider, like: where to go, should you go alone or in a group and when is the best time?

We asked travel expert Beaulah Bam, General Manager of Harvey World Executive Travel, to give us a guide on what first-time overseas travelers should know.

How long before a trip should you start planning?

Get quotes to destinations of interest to give you an idea on costs. From there, you can decide on a budget. Usually, airfares are available about 11 months before your departure, but if you’re interested in a package, then various time limits are applicable. Planning in advance could save you money.

What type of trip should one consider?

It depends on your interests, budget and time away. Budget is the key here. It’s also important to know about visa and health requirements for different countries. We often find first-time travelers will easily do their own thing, while some might feel more comfortable going on an organised tour.

It also depends on which option is more viable. For example, in Phuket (Thailand) we recommend bed and breakfast only as there are so many places to experience different meals and lots to do. On the other hand, a fully-inclusive package to Mauritius could save money as all meals and drinks are usually included.

Does the time of year affect pricing and what about the weather?

The year is segmented into low and high season, and there’s a definite price difference. The weather is also important because you don’t want to be on an exotic island and it rains the whole week. Your travel consultant will give you the best advice.

I don’t have a passport, what should I do?

Apply for one at least three months before your planned departure. Passports are usually issued within four weeks, but visa requirements vary from country to country.  If you have a passport already, ensure it is valid for six months after your return.

Tell us about payment options.

Paying upfront and in full means you won’t be affected in the event of price increases or currency fluctuations. A credit-card payment gives the traveller the option of a budget period. Paying with a credit card also ensures you have travel insurance. Please ask your service provider about this.

Where can I get the necessary travel vaccinations?

A General Practitioner or travel clinic will be able to assist, however most doctors might charge an additional consultation fee.

How much spending money is enough?

The country you’re travelling to and the package you’re interested in will determine this. It’s a personal decision and a critical part of the budget. Your travel consultant will advise you on estimated cost of meals, sightseeing and items not included in your package. These vary in different cities and/or countries.

How important is insurance?

It’s very important.  When you travel internationally and need to be hospitalized, paying in foreign currency could be costly. It’s also important to ensure you are adequately covered for medical, cancellation, baggage, delays, personal accident, personal liability, hijacking or hostage situations. Do a comparison between credit-card insurance and travel insurance policy. Get quotes from your travel agent.

What about visa costs?

They are expensive as they are quoted in foreign currency and could impact on your budget. Travel agents can assist with visa requirements and submit applications for certain countries. However, there are countries that require personal interviews and online applications. Once again, your travel agent will be able to advise you.

Which countries pose a risk for South African travelers?

There are various countries, especially with the recent bomb attacks and countries with medical risks. Ask your travel agent to advise you further.

Why is it important to check departure / arrival dates and times prior to departure?

If the travel arrangements were made far in advance, there could be schedule changes to flights, please reconfirm all travel arrangements at least 48 hours before departure. Always make sure you are aware of the check-in times and what time check-in counters close. We highly recommend online check-in if possible. Ensure you have enough time to get to the airport. If you’re late, you might not be able to board and this could have major financial implications.

What if something happens while you’re travelling?

Work with a travel agent who provides 24-hour assistance. Should an airline cancel a flight before departure, an alternative could be offered by the airline or full refund or compensation. Should a flight be cancelled after your journey has started, the airline will facilitate rebooking and provide accommodation, if necessary. In the event of a medical emergency, you should have the relevant contact details of your insurance company. Leave copies of all your travel documents such as your passport, itinerary, agent’s contact details and insurance policies with a friend or a family member at home. The travel agent will also have copies of all your documents.

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