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Your international travel checklist – what you should know

By July 19, 2016October 3rd,

Your international travel checklist – what you should know

July 19, 2016

If you’re planning on travelling across borders, there are a few things you should be aware of before you embark on your journey. If you’re embarking on your maiden journey or haven’t been abroad for a while – you are probably a bit unsure about the requirements and regulations which govern your access to foreign lands.

Things you should know before travelling abroad

So here are a few pointers to help you along before you jet off to your destination. Why not print them out and keep them with you as a reminder for your next trip.

Check out the stability of the countries you travel to and through

If the latest terror attacks and coups across the globe have taught us anything, it’s that international travel is not always a breeze. Before you make your travel plans, do proper research about the political, cultural and economic environment of your destination as well as those you will have stopovers in.

Although it isn’t always easy to gauge the situation if you’ve made plans far in advance, be sure to check the local news of the host countries and enquire with your travel agent as to backup plans and security measures should you happen to find yourself in a not-so-friendly environment. Keep the South African embassy details for each country on hand as well as some money on hand (be sure to check the allowed amounts) in case you don’t have access to ATMs or technology.

Keep copies of your identity documents on hand

Although most people simply use their passports to travel, it’s always a good idea to have your ID as well as additional copies of your identity documents with you. These copies may not always serve a formal purpose – in that they won’t necessarily grant you entry across borders – but they will ensure that you can quickly identify yourself and establish your citizenship in the event that your documentation gets lost, if you find yourself in unfamiliar territory or should you be hurt or lost.

It’s also a good idea to keep copies of these documents in electronic format and give some of your relatives or friends access to these so they can send it on should you need it.

Your identification will also speed along the application for an emergency travel document at the embassy should your travel documents get lost or stolen – so remember to keep this separate from your other documents.

Check the expiry dates on your passport and visa

If you have a valid passport or visa, it’s highly possible that you haven’t checked the expiry date of your documents. Before you plan your travel, ensure that you contact the embassy or consulate of your intended destination should your travel be within six months of expiry. Many countries require a minimum 6-month left on your passport before expiration if you plan on travelling – in fact, in the USA, travellers have been denied airline boarding or been detained if they travel within this pre-expiration period.

There’s also a chance that your travel will be extended or delayed, in which case it’s crucial that you sort out your documentation before you embark or return.

Don’t use visa exemption if you plan on working abroad

Though many people use visa exemption to travel and work abroad, this is not advisable as it could land you in hot water and see you denied entry to this country in future.

If you plan on working in the country you are travelling to, apply for a work permit for this country and ensure that you meet employment requirements. Should you get caught overstaying your visa or working without a permit, you could get charged, face jail time, be deported and blacklisted from future travel.

Check in with your doctor and research your medication

Before you embark on international travel, it’s crucial to visit your doctor or local travel clinic in order to get the correct vaccinations and clearance for travel. It’s also important to research the medication you are on to see whether it is allowed and get alternative medication should your medication be prohibited.

If you are only allowed a certain amount of medication, find out in advance where you will be able to get a prescription locally in the area you are visiting or what alternatives are available to you. Travelling with prohibited medication could see you be arrested and charged for carrying contraband.

Check out the exchange rate before you travel

Be sure to keep an eye on conversion rates before you embark on your journey and use the expertise of foreign exchange consultants to get an idea of the possible exchange rates for the duration of your travel.

Of course, no one is able to tell you exactly what the future holds, but someone with more financial savvy will be able to give you an indication of possible changes in the markets and how it will affect your travel plans – this will allow you to pinch off an extra buck for your trip in advance if needs be. If you need help with this, can help you out.

If you plan on driving abroad…

South African driver’s licenses are not accepted in all countries – so it’s crucial to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) if you plan on driving in the country you are visiting. If you are driving abroad, you will need your original driver’s license as well as your IDP.

Certain countries in the SADC allow for a South African driver’s license only, but it’s advisable to get a letter of verification from the South African Department of Transport before making assumptions. These countries include: Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. If you’re travelling to a neighbouring country, you will also need the original vehicle registration documents as well as certified copies of these. The country may also require a sticker on the car for travelling across borders.

You will also need to enquire with your insurer as to whether or not your vehicle will be covered in the country you are travelling to.

Tips for hunters, collectors and buyers

If you are travelling across borders for hunting trips, in order to purchase items for certain collections or buy samples for your business, make sure you are aware of the regulations of the countries you are travelling to.

You may have landed that dream knife, gun, animal skin or international snack, but your fortune will be wasted if you’re not allowed to travel with these items. Be sure to acquire the proper permits for the items you are carrying and ensure that your merchandise is properly treated (especially in the case of organic material) before you make your way to the airport. Also be aware that the local authorities may prohibit you from taking these items across borders irrespective of whether or not you believe you have the right documentation. Rather be safe than sorry.

Register for ROSA

If you’re a South African travelling abroad, it’s advisable to sign up for Registration of South Africans Abroad (ROSA). This software program allows travellers to register their travel details online. This information can then be used by South African embassies and local authorities to assist travellers in the case of emergency or disaster.

It’s not a requirement for international travel, but a benefit which could make the difference should you be lost, hurt or caught in political turmoil or natural disasters abroad.

Get guidebooks and language guides

You may not be able to learn an entire language in the time you have before your travels commence, but it’s a good idea to get a guidebook and language guide for your destination before you embark. This will allow you to learn the basic geography and lingo of the country you are visiting which will help you enjoy your stay a bit more and help you should you get lost or injured.

Research the electronic requirements

Many people go on international travel without checking whether their chargers and adapters are the correct size and voltage to work in a foreign country. It’s not something you will necessarily consider, but some countries require electronics with a higher voltage than your own country.

Also check what requirements there are for your cell phone and internet needs abroad as there may be unforeseen costs involved in accessing calls and data.

Extra clothes and allowed snacks for your travels

No matter how prepared you are, there may be times when you will experience delays or your bags may get lost on your way to your destination. Be sure to pack an extra set of clothes as well as allowed snacks in your carry-on bag to help you along during your wait or until you can get a suitable outfit or restaurant. This is particularly crucial should you have special dietary requirements, illnesses like diabetes or allergies.

Travelling with children

Be sure to check in with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) as to the rules and regulations for travelling with minors. New regulations for travelling with minors were introduced in October 2014, but these rules were subsequently slackened after widespread outrage by the public. The original law required minors travelling abroad to carry unabridged birth certificates on their person. This law was revised to require minors to have passports with printed details of both parents in their passports. The new law was enforced during 2016.

It is important, however, to check in with the DHA before you embark, though, as travel regulations change over time and you may find that your children are prohibited from entry or exit through South African borders.

Collect business cards

If you find yourself in a strange new country, remember to take business cards for the hotels and transport you’re using so you know how to contact them should you get lost. Although most countries have English speaking populations, you may not be able to find yourself back to your hotel or taxi if the people assisting you speak a foreign language – by presenting the business card of you travel provider they will find it much easier to assist you.

Check the credit card rules for your travels

Many travellers prefer using their credit cards when travelling abroad since it offers them better rates. There are certain rules for credit card usage abroad, however, and your bank will not necessarily share these rules with you.

You are allowed to use your credit cards within the year of travelling abroad, but will require special permission by SARB if you want to use these cards further. This permission needs to be printed on a SARB letterhead.

In addition to this, you will also need to find out whether the country you are travelling to has credit card facilities everywhere. Some remote areas will require you to pay with cash so be sure to check this before you ship off on your travels.

Eating, drinking, tipping, religion and cultural guidelines

Before you embark on your travels it’s of utmost importance to check the unofficial rules for travelling abroad. This includes being aware of local customs, knowing when to finish your plate of food, if it’s acceptable to tip, if you’re allowed to drink, what you should wear, how you should greet people and things you absolutely shouldn’t say, do or gesture.

In Japan, for instance, it’s considered very rude to tip people at a restaurant and you absolutely shouldn’t wear shoes when entering someone’s home. It’s also customary to stand on a certain side of a lift before entering – this is a regional requirement so simply follow the cue (mind the pun) of the other people waiting in line. Be sure not to chew gum, feed birds or smoke in public in Singapore as this could have you arrested. In some countries it’s acceptable (and sometimes preferred) to eat with your hands, this includes parts of the Middle East and Africa. If you find yourself in Chile, however, it’s best to eat everything with utensils.

These are, of course, regional requirements, so do a bit of research before you travel.

What’s the weather like?

Of course, it goes without saying that you should most definitely check out the weather before you embark. This does not necessarily mean just checking the temperature – keep abreast of meteorological fronts and warnings such as cyclones, typhoons or hurricanes (all the same weather phenomena, but named differently according to the region).  See if any snow storms or tornados are predicted for the time you will be visiting. Places which are frequented with extreme weather usually have advanced warnings (but not always).

This will help you pack, prepare and be ready should you find yourself facing apocalyptic weather.

Inform your medical aid of your international travel plans

Oh, it’s such a glorious time – you will be enjoying sun-swept beaches, margaritas, duck a l’orange and the Swiss Alps. Seems you’ve got everything under control. But wait – have you informed your medical aid of your intention to travel abroad? Not? Well do so as soon as possible.

Most medical aids provide cover outside South African borders, but your cover will be limited to certain treatments. You will, however, most probably need an International Travel Benefit document which you need to keep on your person. Your medical aid will also be able to tell you what you are covered for, and who you need to contact in case of emergency (like the International SOS line).

And that’s it for your #TravelTuesday this week. Check in again next week for more tips, tricks and travel advice.

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