Travelling abroad for the first time can be a really exciting experience. However, taking a foreign trip isn’t as easy as a domestic one because there can be a lot of red tape & many more factors to consider. After getting a lot of requests on my YouTube channel, I’m finally writing a post on how to plan your first foreign trip. I’m quite a planner when it comes to travel – it’s important to be prepared for anything always, but even more so when you’re away from home, in a foreign country. This is more a checklist of things you should do leading up to your first trip abroad, dos & don’ts etc. If you’re planning to take a guided group tour with a travel agency, they will organize most of the important stuff for you. However, I really dislike the idea of being herded like cattle only to the most clichéd & ‘touristy’ spots. I like to move at my own pace so I self-plan every trip. Whether you’re planning to travel alone, with your significant other, family or friends, I hope this guide is useful to you!
Get a Passport
A passport is an important identifying document used primarily for travel purposes. While two countries (Nepal & Bhutan) allow Indians to visit without a passport, in most cases you will need one. In recent times the Indian government has made applying for passports much smoother, you can fill the form & pay the fees online, & then just go to the centre at the appointed date, for an interview & physical document check.
Depending on how backed up the centre is, it can take anywhere from a month to four months to get your passport after a successful application. There is even a TATKAL option where you can pay a little extra for an expedited process. Needless to say, getting your passport should be the first step in planning your first trip.
Choose your Destination
The world is vast & diverse so of course it’s time to choose where you’d like to go. It’s always great to do a lot of research on your chosen country. You can easily choose to even visit two countries at a time, especially if they’re neighbouring ones.
Figure out the Visa Processes
Except for a small list of around 12 countries, most countries will also require a VISA to enter. Some countries offer a Visa on arrival while others will require you to apply from home & get one before leaving (usually at a VISA centre, sometimes directly at the embassy).
It’s important to note that a single country will have different VISA guidelines for visitors from different countries. So while searching for information, don’t just search for ‘Singapore Visa’ but instead search for ‘Singapore VISA from India’ (applies for any country). The Schengen Visa is unique because it’ll allow you entry into multiple Europeans countries so it’s a great way to plan a european trip through multiple countries.
If you need to take a visa before leaving, most countries will require your booked flight tickets & complete accommodation bookings too for the period you will be visiting. Some countries such as Japan require you to provide a day to day itinerary documenting how you plan to spend each day. I always like to do my research on visa procedures before booking my flight tickets so I have a good idea of what to expect
Book Your Tickets
After choosing which country you want to go & when, it’s time to book your flight tickets. I always use flight comparison websites to get the best prices. When choosing what time of the year you’d like to visit a country, it’s a good idea to look up weather & also local festivals. If you travel to a destination during a major festival, you’ll surely be met with more crowds but it can also be an even more culturally enriching & memorable experience.
Examples: Varanasi during Holi, Goa during Sao Joao (within India), China / Hong Kong / Singapore during Chinese New Year, Thailand during Songkran, Netherlands during Koningsdag / Kings Day etc.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Once you’ve chosen your destination, done your passport & visa formalities, your next step is to get International Travel Insurance. I used to overlook getting insurance before but it’s so important – travel insurance will help a lot in case you need to be hospitalized, they will also reimburse you in case of the loss of your documents & luggage, compensate you on trip delays or flight cancellations etc. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
You even have options to take Schengen Travel Insurance or Annual Multi Trip Insurance if you’re a frequent traveller.
If you’ve followed the above steps, you’re all set. For money, I always carry my international debit card as I tend to travel in cities most of the time. In case you’re travelling to more rural or remote areas, you’ll have to rely more on cash. I also always make sure to carry currency of my destination country from home itself, so I can pay visa fees, taxis etc. without problems. You can also carry US dollars, somehow it serves as an almost universal currency around the world & it’ll be easy to exchange into any local currency (especially in most of Asia). For Europe, of course you’ll need Euros.
Then all you need to do is pack your bags & go to the airport – I make sure I’m there at least three to four hours early for an international flight, because emigration procedures can take time.
These are some of the most important steps I could think of before an international trip. If you’ve always wanted to go, there’s no time like the present! x