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Essential Tips for First-Time International Travellers


Congratulations! So you have researched, shortlisted and finally decided upon your travel destination 😍. Is this your first international trip?  You must already be counting days unable to sit steady, right? If yes, I can totally feel your excitement.  In this post I would like to share some pre-travel tips that will help you get the most of your travel.  If you have travelled before, then this post will act as a refresher.  Perhaps you can share a few tips too in the comments!

Booking your flight tickets: In all your excitement about travelling, don't jump into booking your flight tickets immediately.  To get the best deals possible, do a thorough research first.  From personal experience, I have found Make My Trip to be notorious in jacking up the prices.  Sometimes, the prices shown are so demotivating that I have felt like giving up the whole idea of travelling to that destination.  But don't be disheartened, there is a workaround this!
  • Clear all your browser cache, cookies, and temp files.  Open a new incognito tab and search for the flight tickets in at least three to four different websites.  Do the same thing across different browsers and devices!  See if you have a friend in a different location and ask them to check the prices as well.  If they are getting a better deal, ask them to book and you can pay them later!  I would even suggest that you use a location spoofer and try this exercise.  This might seem like a circus, but trust me, you will be surprised to see the price differences.
  • Use Skyscanner: Skyscanner is a free flight search tool will help you find cheap flights and deals with popular airlines. 
  • Sometimes you are just in for luck!  Just a simple search on Google for "flight deals", "flight coupons and discounts" might land you a really sweet deal.  Won't happen all the time, but it doesn't hurt to try, right?!
  • When you are flying within the city, it is always best to check that country's local airlines and compare the fares with India's flight booking site.  E.g. Make My Trip does not list all local flights and all available flights, they don't give the best deals too.  When I was booking my internal travel flights within Norway, I came across more travel time options on the local airlines, WiderΓΈe. I felt the fares were cheaper too even if I booked using my credit card with transaction fees applied.
  • Personal Tip: Be extra careful when you are using Make My Trip and your travel dates are in the month of June! For my Norway solo trip, I had to book an inter-city flight on June 30th. I clearly remember choosing June 30th. But somehow the date it was booked was July 30th!  These were non-refundable tickets and I lost a lot of money.  So double and triple check the dates for June and July.
Select your flight seats asap: As soon as you book your flight tickets, your next step is to secure the best possible seats!  If you are travelling on business class or first class, please just go away!πŸ˜‘  I am guessing that many of us are from the humble economy class and we can still choose the best available seats.  If you are the photo enthusiast like me, don't just select the first available window seat.  You need to make sure that the aircraft's wings don't obstruct your unique sky and cloud photos πŸ˜„. Therefore, head straight over to SeatGuru.com.  This is a website featuring aircraft seat maps and seat reviews of thousands of airlines.  All you have to key in are the airline's name and flight number and hit enter.  They even have a color-coded system to identify superior and substandard seats.  For e.g avoid sitting at the emergency exits. The arm-rests (towards the windows) are extremely uncomfortable and will give your elbow a terrible ache.

Choosing a travel insurance: Don't be one of those people who are least concerned about having a travel insurance.  When you are paying thousands or lakhs of rupees for your holiday, make sure you invest a little money in securing a travel insurance and travel peacefully.  Moreover, having a travel insurance is a prerequisite to getting a visa in most countries.  As much as you have planned for your travel, certain things like flight delays, baggage delays, baggage loss, theft, an unforeseen medical emergency or a natural disaster can disrupt your travel plans.  On two of my international travels, I chose Reliance travel insurance. Why? Because everything is online, kinda self-service, super quick, user friendly and very affordable. You can also extend your insurance. (But this requires you to fill a form and visit the nearest branch.)
  • Make sure that the insurance covers the country/countries you are visiting.
  • While selecting your travel insurance dates, make sure you enter your departure date and arrival date clearly.  For e.g. my Norway trip was from June 23rd 2017 to July 16th 2017 - i.e.; I was departing on June 23rd and arriving back in India on July 16th.  However, I made a mistake of entering my travel end date as the July 14th (the day I would leave Norway).  During my visa application submission at VFS Global, the executive asked me to change the dates to include my arrival date as well.  So I had to do a bit of running around, calling the helpline and then learning that I had to fill a form and submit in-person which would then take 24 to 48 hours to get updated!  So what did I do?  I just cancelled the insurance, got a full refund, created a new policy with the correct dates, took a print out and then submitted the application!  Of course I had to pay 100 bucks to use the internet service at VFS!  So don't make the same mistake I did and panic!  lol.  The ease at which I could create everything online, and the quickness at which it was accomplished, is why recommend Reliance.
Buying your forex: I guess your first instinct would be to check the rates by running a Google search with the keywords "INR to ___", correct?  This would give you an idea as to where the currency exchange rates stand.  I wouldn't encourage you to use your existing credit or debit cards because a huge exchange fee is levied by banks.  So your next step is to buy a pre-paid travel card.  These act like credit cards and nowadays all of these travel cards come with a built-in chip for added security.  Make sure you add more currency on to your card and carry less cash.  I would suggest to carry about 500 bucks worth international currency just in case of emergencies.  I usually go with Doorstepforex.com again for the ease at which everything is done.  As the name suggests, they come to your door, home or office, and deliver the currency.  They partner with Weizmann Forex to deliver the forex.  You will have to submit a copy of your travel tickets, Visa copy, KYC, Passport copy, and Aadhaar card copy.  You can scan all of these documents and submit online.  No hassles of running around and wasting paper which is another reason I would suggest them.
  • If you are a frequent traveller, then buy a multi-currency forex card.
Enable international transactions on your credit card: I know it might sound counter-intuitive to what I have written above about not using your credit card.  However, as a back up plan, it is always good to have the ability to do international transactions on your credit card.  For first time travellers, call up the customer service and let them know that you would want to enable international transactions on your credit card as you are travelling abroad.  Let them know your travel dates too. This is because some banks may block your card when they see international transactions for the first time and you have not pre-wired them about it.  This is done as a precautionary measure to safeguard your card.

Electronics: Make sure you check the input and output voltage of the country you are travelling to. This super handy website called whatplug.info gives you all the details about what kind of adapters, plugs and voltages are across the world.  It will be a good idea to carry a spikebuster in case you have a lot of electronic items to charge.
 
   

Buying a local sim: Always research about the cost of a local sim card with a basic data plan versus the cost of enabling your international roaming with data. Chances are that buying a local sim card will work out cheaper for you.  For my Norway holiday, I bought a Telia sim card.  However,  it is not the most user friendly site as all their content online is in Norwegian.  I used Google Translate to translate their SMS.

Miscellaneous Tips

Google Trips: Download the Google Trip application to organize your entire itinerary.  It automatically pulls all your reservations - flights, hotel bookings, activities all into one place and you don't have to open your email and struggle to find them.  In addition to this, you can use Google Trips to plan your travel in just minutes.  Just enter the city you wish to travel, the approximate travel dates, and Google will show you a host of activities neatly categorized into various headings like "Top spots, "For you", "Local favourite", "Indoors", "Outdoors" and so on.
Picture courtesy: Google Trips

Google Maps: To get the ultimate travel experience, download an offline area of the map ahead of time.  This can help you save on huge data or roaming charges.  Just make sure you download the map area of your interest when there is internet connection.

I hope you found some of these travel tips handy!  So where and when are you travelling?  I would love to read about it in the comments below.

This blog post will be updated on a regular basis.

3 comments:

  1. What about accommodation? Can you please share your tips on the same. Air BNB worked great for us when we travelled to Bali and YHA in Australia. Do you recommend any other better(read cheaper ;-) and safe options

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  2. Congratulations Ms v2 click! Amazing blog, not only helps a first time traveller, in fact acts as a check-list to the frequent traveller too!
    The tips you have given hit the nail on its head! The websites quoted are really really helpful! Saves us a lot of search-time! And your experiences stated add authenticity to the sites and we can trust your words!
    Yet to check the photo links! Value addition truly!
    I shall get back to you for more tips and would surely spread words to my friends about your blog before they book their air tickets to various places.
    Thanks a bunch and my best wishes to you for your future trips and look forward to your next blog!
    Happy travelling!
    Happy blogging!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Appreciate it Vandana. It's brilliant and useful. I am using lot f info for our for our upcoming trip..

    ReplyDelete

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