10 Must Knows for First Time Travellers

10 Must Knows for First Time Travellers

So you’re considering travelling for the first time – GOOD FOR YOU. If you’re totally green to travel and have no idea where to start then we’re to help. If you’re already a pretty experienced traveller then why not read on and see if you can pick up any new ideas or tips. Here, you’ll find the bare essentials you need to ask yourself and consider before taking off on your adventure.

1. What’s my budget?

This is definitely the first thing you need to consider. If you have $500 for an entire trip then flying halfway across the world is probably not going to be realistic for you, sorry. Consider what you can realistically afford, taking into consideration: flights, internal travel, accomodation, spending money and insurance. How much money do you have now and how much can you save by the time the trip comes?

Tip: For fellow Aussies: rather than a ‘travel card’, I recommend the Citibank Plus account which is a zero fee account, doesn’t charge you for international transactions and no fees for Citibank ATM withdrawals internationally. The exchange rate is always really good too. Definitely a money saver whilst abroad!

2. Where’s my destination?

This is definitely one of my favourite things to do – Googling countries, places to see and things to do. Your time and budget will dictate what places are or aren’t available to you. If you’re limited on time, perhaps pick a place that isn’t 40 hours and 3 stopovers away. If you’re on a tight a budget then pick lower cost of living countries (eg in South East Asia). If you don’t have your heart set on any particular destination then start with what you enjoy doing and what you want to get out of your trip. Perhaps you want to go to France and learn some French, or try out skiing in Canada, maybe hike through Perú, volunteer in Thailand or eat your way through Japan. Don’t forget to ALWAYS consider local travel! Some of my favourite places are right at home in Western Australia.

3. Do I have a passport?

If you don’t have a passport, get this process started ASAP. If you do have a passport then make sure you have at least 6 months validity from your return flight. Many airlines won’t let you fly if you have less than 6 months before your passport expires.

4. Solo travel or travel buddy?

There are definitely pros and cons to both but I’d say this something very personal and is up to you. If  you’re feeling really anxious about travelling for the first time then perhaps going with a friend might be a good start. Personally, I love travelling solo although I have my two favourite travel buddies (Daniel and my best friend, Fin). If picking a travel buddy, just make sure you guys are on the same wavelength when it comes to budget, interests, expectations and time.

5. Book flights or find alternative travel

This is also one of my favourite things to do. Sometimes, this may even come first if you’ve scored an awesome deal. Some awesome websites to use are:

  • Skyscanner: find prices for an entire month or the cheapest month. You can also search for the cheapest flights to anywhere in the world!
  • Secret Flying: finds error fares and other awesome deals very regularly. I have their Facebook page favourited so that all their updates are first up when I log in.
  • Hopper: a phone app that sends pricing alerts for a specific flight during particular dates of your choosing. Makes price spying a lot easier.
  • Rome2rio: a transport search engine that gives you all your transport options between destinations. Sometimes the scenic bus route can save you bucketloads and there’s no risk of airport delays.

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6. Travel insurance

I am a firm believer that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Since I started travelling without my parents, I have NEVER travelled without travel insurance. I know that terms and conditions are boring to read but do yourself a favour and get familiar with your policy so you know what you’re covered for and the limits of the cover. Personally, I love Southern Cross Travel Insurance because their prices are pretty low and they cover a higher cash limit than other companies.

Tip: You should get travel insurance as soon as you book flights because you’ll be covered if you need to cancel your trip due to certain unexpected events.

Extra TIP: Always keep original receipts and email yourself copies for big ticket items such as cameras and laptops. Keep ATM receipts for any cash withdrawn / exchanged in case you need to make a claim.

7. Do I need a visa?

I love www.visahq.com because it takes 10 seconds to check if you need a visa, what the process is and the cost involved. However, I never use the visa application process through the website because it’s always way more expensive than doing it myself. Some countries require you to apply before you travel and others you can obtain a visa on arrival but will need to bring a photo or other documents. If travelling to the USA, you may be eligible to apply for the ESTA visa waiver which needs to be done before you arrive in the USA (if you don’t think you have a squeaky clean criminal record then I suggest you applying for the ESTA before you book any flights).

Tip: For all you Vietnamese descendants travelling to Vietnam, you may have access to a 5 year visa exemption. This means that you can avoid having to apply for a 30 day visa each time you travel to Vietnam (and the costs involved). Check here for more info.

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8. Do I need any vaccinations?

This is something you’ll need to discuss with your doctor when you decide where you’re going (some vaccinations require multiple shots and require time to be effective). And by doctor, I don’t mean Google doctor or the trusty advice of a random behind a keyboard on a blog or travel forum (like me). Just for your information, some countries are at high risk of certain diseases and your home country may require proof of vaccinations (such as Yellow Fever) to let you back in if you have been in these countries.

9. The boring but very important admin stuff

  • Snap a photo of your passport and email it yourself so you always have a copy just in case you lose it. The photo of my passport has helped me when I’ve needed to provide ID but left my passport at the hostel.
  • Have arrangements in place for valuable assets you own.
  • Call your bank/s and tell them you’re travelling so your accounts don’t get frozen when you’re away.
  • Turn international roaming on your phone if you need to receive calls or texts (at exorbitant rates no less).
  • Download offline maps to your phone (either use maps.me or for Google maps

Tip: if you need to make urgent calls whilst abroad, avoid nasty international call fees by adding credit to a Skype account and call using wifi. My 30 minute call to the bank cost me $1AUD!

10. Pack smart

Check out our RTW packing guide for some tips on what to (and more importantly, not to) bring. Save money on baggage by bringing a bag that will fit on as carry on, don’t bring stuff “just in case” and generally speaking, pack enough for a week and do laundry while abroad. If you’re like us, 2 outfits will last you over a week anyway (seriously, watch our Iceland vlogs – you’ll notice we’re wearing the same thing every day… for the entire 10 days)!

Tip: if you plan to do some shopping, check if the country you’re visiting offers a Tourist Refund Scheme that allows you to claim the tax back on shopping. Every country has different requirements regarding minimum spend and receipt requires so get familiar before you go. Some countries that do this are Singapore, Malaysia and Iceland.

Need tips or trip ideas for Iceland? We've got you covered with photos to inspire.

 

Now you’re set to do all the fun stuff. Hopefully you’ve picked up a couple of helpful tips to get you travelling sooner.

Safe travels!

12 Comments

  1. October 26, 2016 / 4:33 pm

    I shouldn’t be bored to take photo of passport. It’s really important, I realized now. I think you should also send those photos to a family member or friend. Just in case. 🙂

    • October 26, 2016 / 10:10 pm

      Absolutely! My photo has saved me sooo many times especially because I hate carrying my passport around.

  2. erikastravels
    October 26, 2016 / 5:14 pm

    Googling and searching images of places is definitely my favorite part of the travel planning process too! And I definitely agree with your point about bringing carrryon-sized luggage. It can save a lot of money in the end!

  3. October 26, 2016 / 5:28 pm

    Your boring admin stuff is right on the money! I always, always take a picture of passports. Never know when you will actually need them

  4. October 26, 2016 / 5:34 pm

    Great list for first timers! I email all the important docs to myself ahead of time and keep a photocopy of my passport with me. They’ve definitely come in handy

  5. October 26, 2016 / 5:48 pm

    Great list! I had to dig up all this info on my own for my first trip. ‘Admin Stuff’ might be boring but its super important!

  6. October 26, 2016 / 5:50 pm

    Vaccinations and visas…those are big ones! I’m sure many first-time travelers wouldn’t even think about those two things.

  7. October 26, 2016 / 6:52 pm

    Handy guide. I would actually recommend getting insurance before purchasing flights or making any other bookings. Best to get that sorted right away and know that everything you plan from there on out is covered!

  8. October 26, 2016 / 8:34 pm

    I had never heard of Secret Flying and Hopper. They sounds really helpful – Thank you!

  9. wanderingwagarschristina
    October 27, 2016 / 2:49 am

    A good guide for first time travellers. It is so important to know your budget first of all. Otherwise, you might end up having a well planned trip that you can’t go on because it’s you can’t afford it.

  10. Cory
    October 27, 2016 / 10:59 am

    I wish I would have known all these when I was a first time traveller. I made so many mistakes. One of them was to check the visa requirements just 4 weeks before my travel. Apparently it takes 4-6 weeks to get a visa, so I was literally on fire until I got it…one day before my trip :O

  11. October 29, 2016 / 12:27 pm

    wow these are all important tips that many first time travellers are going to find really useful 🙂

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