The Devil is in the Details
At times, on our blog and others “we” glamorize travel. Our posts are dripping with pics of white sandy beaches, dense lush jungles, and wild and crazy adventures. We kind of like it that way. But at times, we must take a step back and fill you in on some the more “boring” yet practical details of travel. We hope that these “Devil is in the Details” posts help. Let’s dive in:
Some countries want to make it as difficult and confusing as possible to get into. Other countries want to collect half of their gross national product by charging unsuspecting tourists for the “privilege” of coming to their country. One of their best tools in inflecting this pain and suffering is the almighty VISA. Sheepish tourists land sleep deprived and loaded to the gills with cash to spend on trinkets to take home to prove that they have been somewhere. They are herded through a zigzagging maze to the Visa window. At this point in your adventure, a stuffy uniformed attendant lightens your wallet. Nothing says, welcome to our country, like taking your money. (Some more interesting visa charges: Bahrain: $280, Russia $150, UAE $250, but Angola takes the cake with a whopping $600. Ouch!) Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Hey Angola….enough already.
Visa requirements are one of those know before you go details. Every single county is different. Some countries require you to purchase the Visa weeks or even months in advance. One of our friends neglected to look into this detail, and tried to board a plane to Vietnam. Bad idea. Vietnam requires a Visa that takes weeks to get. Once you pick you destination and book your tickets, seek out info on the all-important Visa. Regrettably, we couldn’t find a website that had all the requirements of every country in one place. We would recommend your own due diligence and look it up the old fashion way-one country at a time.
The Checks in the Mail:
One of the key details you should never neglect is mail collection. Sounds like a boring detail for sure, but life can get really interesting if you neglect it. Make arrangements with friends, family, or a service to regularly check your doorstep for deliveries. Better yet, arrange with the major package delivery companies to hold you items. Put your regular mail service on hold. If you live in the States you can do that HERE. Nothing says, “We are not home, here are some packages you can steal, and feel free to come back and break into the house because we are gone,” than a stack of goodies on the doorstep and mail gushing out of the box. Bad form. You might also be at further risk of identity theft if a Baddie takes your credit card bill out of the box and goes on a shopping spree in Angola (granted they have $600 to get into the country). Really bad form.
Money, Money, Money:
In the immortal words of AC/DC: “money talks.” We could write an entire post on the topic of travel money. Let’s keep it simple. Step one is to have good credit cards which means – ones that don’t charge horrendous fees and interest. That is a given. Step two is to let them know where you are planning to travel. Turn the card over, call the 1-800 numbers and give them all your details. Ask about exchange rates on the card and fees. Take at least three different types of cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc. Time and time again we have found that one card didn’t work at one ATM or hotel while another did. Compare the benefits and don’t keep them all together. Each traveler should have their own card. Leave copies of each card, your passport, and medical card at home. One little suggestion that we always do before departure is buy some foreign currency before we leave from our local bank. We do this for a number of reasons. It avoids stress of finding an ATM right out the gate. More importantly, it helps you acclimate to what the new currency looks like, and what denominations are available. Some currency is different sizes and colors. Having some of the new cash in hand creates options for you.
What if something happens abroad and you need currency quickly? While we have yet to face this challenge, learn more about international money transfers. Accidents, robberies and other “stuff” can happen whilst abroad. Knowing a few of your options is never a bad idea. We get asked a lot about traveler’s checks. We don’t believe in them. They end up being more of a problem than a solution. During a visit to Israel a number of years ago, I struggled to get them cashed in a pinch. This search cut into my get out and vacation time. Credit cards have become the payment tool of choice in most countries. Nothing says, “I don’t travel and I have no idea how to function in the 21st Century,” like buying travelers checks.
Here’s a little detail that I didn’t know about: four of us drove from Salzburg to Prague, and shortly after we were on the highway in the Czech Republic police pulled us over, and since I was driving, took my passport and asked me to get out of the car and come with them. That’s scary anywhere, but more so in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. Turns out we were just missing the required highway toll pass on our car that we should have purchased from the kiosk right over the border or from any gas station. The pass only costs about $6, but the fine is $250. They took pity on us and only charged us a $50 fine, but we would have rather used that for trdlo treats in Prague!
PS on the issue of foreign money – since I go to Europe at least once or twice a year, I always bring euros home with me that I have on hand for the next trip. That keeps exchange costs down and also covers things like the time I arrived in Rome and the banks were on strike and all of the ATMs were down!
heres one – passport validity. most countries require at least 30 days validity from the day you plan to exit. I was one day short and Singapore wouldn’t let me in!
Great advice. This almost happened to us once, Steve was just within the time limit, but it was enough to make us think twice.
Thanks for this article and the interesting points raised.
I’ve found that with Visas there are also factors as to what country you come from as well as where you are visiting. As a Brit there is no charge for me to visit the UAE, yet it costs me more to get a visa for India or Egypt than it does for a South African.
To find out local visa requirements I find it best to refer to your local Foreign Office, for me this is http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/.
Thanks again for some important things to consider.