How to plan for overseas travel (comprehensive guide)
Travel can be fun but also exhausting. When you travel, you basically have to think again about all of the aspects that make up life - everything you do will be different in a different country. I've listed down some considerations you should think about so that you can focus entirely on having fun when you're away. I promise the planning will be worth it. And, once you've done it a few times, it'll come easily to you.
- Can you even enter the country? Some countries don't allow anyone holding the passport of a certain country from entering. Israel and Malaysia is a good example.
- Your passport should have at least 6 months or more validity after you return from travel.
- What visa would you need for your intended travel?
- Are there limits on vaccination status? Do you have your proof of vaccination ready?
- What are the covid test rules for entering the country? Do you need to take pre-departure tests or book other tests once you're in the destination country?
- What are the covid test rules for returning to your home country (if you are returning)?
- Are there any quarantine requirements?
- You might want to consider learning the basics of the language of your destination country, or the most common 100 words and some numbers. The alphabet may also be worth it to learn.
- The Google Translate app tends to work well if you need real-time translation services.
- What timezone will you be in? Is that timezone currently in Daylight Savings time?
- Take note - calendars and your time usually automatically resets to the correct timezone, but it may be worth it to double check.
- I like AccuWeather for temperature estimates, and depending on your tolerance to cold/heat, you might need to pack different clothing. Take a look at what locals wear to get a sense of how cold/hot it will be.
- Do you need to bring any adaptors so that you can charge your items? A travel power plug will be good to have in this case.
- If power supply is not guaranteed, consider getting a solar charger or a power bank.
Connectivity and Communications
Here you have a few options:
- Get a local sim card (from airport or friends). It'd be good if this SIM card can be delivered to your home country so that you have connectivity once you step off the plane in your destination country. For the EU and UK, giffgaff offers roaming in most countries, which is great if you plan to stay for a couple of weeks across European countries. Hit me up for a referral link with extra £5 credit.
- TextNow is a good option for a US number that works anywhere with internet, and with a paid plan of about S$7 a year, you can keep the number for 2FA purposes, which can be handy to access services if you're away for a long time.
- SIMBA is also offering free roaming in 57 countries that comes along with their plans. If you travel a lot in Asia, this might be worth getting.
- I've also had good results with International Card Center - you can buy a sim card and then top it up with plans afterwards.
- Enable roaming on your local phone plan. I've yet to find a decent one - let me know if you have a recommendation.
- Water - do you need a water filter, like a LifeStraw? Is the water potable at your destination?
- Food - do you plan on cooking? What about allergens and dietary requirements?
Hotels are not your only option. You can also consider:
- Couchsurfing - stay with locals for free. They use a pay-it-forward model - if you get hosted, ideally you'd meet and help travellers who come to your country.
- Airbnb - do check the rules around it; in Singapore, it is illegal.
- WWOOF - work on a farm in exchange for accommodation.
- Workaway - work and live in a different place for a while.
It's a good idea to bring along local cash and some form of card. I'll list some below with referral codes that you can use.
Debit cards I've used are:
- Wise - I like that they give you a proper bank account. Free first transfer of up to GBP 500. For me to get the reward, you must make a single transfer of at least S$250 or equivalent into some other currency.
- Revolut - Make 3 transactions on the Revolut card to get S$15. They have a great membership option that'll save you lots more in credit card transaction fees if you need to do a lot of international transfers via a card. There's no bank account but they have a 'disposable virtual card' feature, which can be useful.
- YouTrip - get S$5 if you sign up with my referral code. Currently only available in Singapore and Thailand. If the link is expired, ask me for a new one.
I remain undecided on which one is the best, though Wise has the most features, one important one being bank account details. The cards above all have their own promotions with other vendors, which could be worth taking a look.
Other alternatives that seem promising:
- Amaze by Instarem - they have 1% cashback in the form of points, and better support for India and China. (Referral code here) Also, you don't have to top up money; it links to any Mastercard cards that you already own.
- Trust Bank (use code JGNX632Q on signup for $10 fairprice voucher on top of the $25 for first transaction) - it's a credit card with 0% FX fees but no rewards either. I'm not sure if the rate is good even if you take away the 3% markup, but could be worth thinking about if you don't want to go through the hassle of linking your cards and so on.
- Download an offline map as a backup in case you are lost without internet. I've heard good things about Maps Me and Here Maps, though you may want to check if another local map app works better. Sometimes GPS doesn't work to the accuracy you need it to; learn how to read a map, too.
- Google Maps and Citymapper are good options to figure out public transport.
- Do you need a transport card? In some countries, you could pay via any contactless credit cards and may not need a public transport card, such as in Singapore. You may also be eligible for certain discounts depending on your age and whether you are a student.
- For carpooling, you have BlaBlaCar (Europe) and Waze Carpool (USA, Brazil, Mexico, Israel) for some options for longer trips between cities.
- You may want to consider renting a car.
- What are the ridehailing apps in the region? Apart from Uber, there is usually another local one. For Singapore, it's Grab and TADA, and for other countries there are different options - Bolt for the UK and Lyft for the US, for example.
- Look up emergency contact numbers and keep them handy with you.
- What is your plan if your stuff gets stolen?
- Where is the nearest embassy of your country?
- If you can, sign up for self-defense classes and get good at defending yourself. Or at least go through a basic course. You can also think about makeshift weapons you could use in case you get into trouble.
You can check Trip Advisor and Klook for ideas, then come up with your own plan. You could also base it off your hobbies, such as checking out a climbing gym, or finding local massage options. Remember to pack clothes accordingly. WWOOF and Workaway are also interesting options.
You can consider being a digital nomad and work and travel at the same time, so you'd at least have some form of income while on the road. Otherwise, you could
You might also consider packing miscellaneous items, such as:
- Earplugs + Blindfold (for sleeping on planes or overnight buses)
- Nail clipper
- Extra luggage if you want to bring gifts back
Wikitravel is also a very good resource as a starting guide for different countries.