Going travelling? Well you’ll need a copy of my handy travellers list then…
I have spent most of the last 4 years now living out of various sized backpacks and having to navigate all manner of inter-state, international and inter-continental boundaries. So yeah, I have gotten pretty good at preparing to hit the road and so it only seems right to share the benefits of my experiences.
A list is useful because even those of us who like to travel light need at least some stuff and even those of us who love spontaneity sometimes need to do at least some pre-planning…
So to help you get ready for you next trip and ensue you have all the essentials, here is my handy travellers list!
This one may be seem bit of a no brainer. In most cases* you absolutely need a passport to travel and this should be obtained well in advance of the start of your trip. For those of you who have a passport though, you may still have a bit of work to do.
Firstly, you need to check the expiry date. If it has expired then its invalid and needs replacing before you can go anywhere. Even if it is only nearing its expiry date it may also need replacing as some countries insist that you have 3 – 6 month passport validity remaining before they let you in. Therefore, make a lit of all the countries you are visiting on your trip and check their individual entry requirements online. Finally, you also need to make sure that you have a few spare pages for Visa’s and stamps and bear in mind that for example, an Indian Visa needs two clear pages.
EU based travellers, remember that your EU Id card is only valid inside the EU/EEC and not for the whole of Europe. If you plan on flying into Bulgaria, heading North to Romania and then crossing into Serbia for example then you’re gonna have issues getting into Serbia. You would be surprised by how many travellers are actually caught out by this oversight.
In an ideal world, a Passport would be enough to get any of us into any country but sadly it is not like that and most countries require some kind of Visa or other. Check well in advance whether the country you plan to visit needs a Visa and what the requirements are.
You may also incur some considerable costs in obtaining these and they are usually non-refundable. They can also take quite a bit of time so you really need to to get this sorted well in advance of your travel date. I was once left waiting for my Indian visa until the day before I flew out which was pretty tense to say the least. I never want to go through that again.
Also remember to study and respect any limitations of any Visa. For example, a Pakistani tourist Visa doesn’t allow entry to many parts of the country and a Schengen Visa, will not get you into the UK.
Never set of travelling without Insurance. Whether you want to completely cover ever aspect of the trip & possessions is up to you but as a minimum, you should obtain medical and repatriation cover. Over the years, I have spent hundreds of pound on Insurance policies but never claimed on them once. This may seem like money down the drain but I personally would not risk been without Insurance; I would rather waste a bit of money here and there rather than one day have to phone my Mom and say I need $4000 to pay an Indian Doctor. Seriously, leaving without Insurance is stupid and selfish so make damned sure you get it!
A note on devices here – because I’m a blogger I travel with my laptop and have separate cover for this as most travel insurance policies don’t cover its value.
Over the last few years I’ve had quite a lot of needles stuck in my arm (even after I quit smack). Like Insurance, I know quite a few travellers who take chances with this and don’t bother to get vaccinated. Whilst I haven’t had every recommended vaccination, I’ve had all the “big” travel vaccines and I’ve certainly had the free ones.
In some cases you will need evidence of vaccination to be allowed access to a country. If you are headed to South America or Africa fo example, you may need a Yellow Fever vaccination along with the certificate.
Your backpack will become your constant companion and will follow you everywhere. It will be tossed on and off planes, it will be chucked on bus roofs and subjected to the full roulette of the elements.
Getting the right backpack is essential. Firstly, you need to make sure its has the right capacity for your needs. For me, if I am going on a weekend/short trip I bring a 45l whereas if it’s a “See you in 6 months” I plump for 70litre. You also need to make sure it is adjusted to your frame, has proper supports and ideally you need a rain cover.
First timers may be tempted to cheap out here but my firm & resolute advise is don’t; if you buy cheap, you buy twice. I’ve gone through a fair few in my time but am now using Osprey’s stuff.
One of the smartest little things you can invest in is a hanging toiletry bag. You stick all of your toiletries inside it and simply hang it up either in your bathroom or over your bed whenever you check in to your accommodation. I wish I had got one of these much sooner.
Most toiletries can easily be bought or replaced absolutely anywhere in the world so don’t go overboard here. But do make sure you have a toothbrush, some toothpaste and some deodorant. I always bring moisturiser and hair wax but that’s about it. Women, remember to bring women stuff.
OK so there is nothing worse than those annoying tourists who photograph absolutely everything but it is usually a good idea to take at least some pictures to show the folks back home.
What kind of camera you bring is down to you. It will depend on where you are going (ie cities/landscapes), how much effort & expertise you want to put it to taking pictures and of course, how much weight you can be arsed to carry.
I toyed with a few different Lumix’s but in the end got rid of them because they were just a hassle to cary and to turn on every time I wanted to take a shot. These days I just take pictures with my iPhone and I’m kinda happy like this.
At some point on your trip, you will find yourself a deprived of a power point and so you need to be prepared. If you go camping in the jungle or climbing Kilimanjaro then you’ll want to ensure your camera is properly charged for when you each the summit. Likewise, if you have an 18 hour bus ride you’ll need to make sure your phone/MP3 player can provide you with music – otherwise you risk have to speak to people to pass the time.
The market is awash with power banks now. Some are great and some are awful. Always check out user reviews. You need to pay close attention to how many times it will charge a device before needing to be recharged itself, its durability and it’s weight as these things can feel heavy in your bag.
Rather selfishly, the rest of the world chose not to use British style plugs so none of our favourite appliances work overseas without the aid of a charger. Even British inspired India sometimes throws us curveballs by having random US/European style sockets dotted around. Invest in a good quality World Adaptor that will work everywhere wherever you go.
If you can, be sure to get one that has little USB ports as well so that you can use you hairdryer and charge your phone at the same time.
There are now some amazing apps for tavellers out there that will make your life on the road oh so much easier. First up, with Maps.Me you can download entire country maps to your phone and use them off-line, with navigation so you need never get lost again!
Translation apps also come in useful as does some form of currency converter so you know what you are spending. The vegetarians/vegans out there should also definitely get Happy Cow in order to find suitable places to eat.
Of course, these apps are not foolproof and are only as reliable as the information put into them. Therefore, you may occasionally be sent to a bus station or restaurant that closed down years ago but these instances are thankfully few and far between.
Other apps are more trip specific, for example Inter-rail have an app that gives you the entire European rail timetable. Another one, Iron Dome is useful for when visiting Israel as it sounds an emergency alarm every-time a rocket is fired so you have a few seconds to take cover.
Be sure to bring some clothes. Clothes come in useful pretty much everywhere in the world and the best bit is they come in all manner of shapes and sizes!
Packing clothes is a bit of balancing act as you don’t want to bing too many and yet if you bring too few you risk running out. Before you leave check what kind of weather conditions you will meet and pack for them all. Quick drying clothes are very useful for travelling. Also remember to bring some semi-smarty, reasonably presentable clothes fo when you go out on dates or gate crash foreign weddings.
Last but least on my travellers list is good old money. Whilst your bank card will work most places in the world, using it will prove very costly as exchange fees and local bank charges will fast rack up. Doing my first visit to Colombia I ran up £300 in fees over 6 months which would have paid for my flight.
It is always a good idea to bring some cash and you should shop around in order to get the best exchange rate. However, the wise money is on a specialist travel card which will allow you to use foreign ATM’s and pay terminals without fees (or at least some of the fees). I previously used Revolut but am currently all about Monzo.