The Countdown, T minus 14 Days
THE LONG LISTS, WHAT, HOW AND HOW MUCH - Part 1:
D day is creeping up on us and there is still a lot to do. Mariola picked up her US Visa yesterday, I'm picking up my Chinese Visa tomorrow, last vaccinations, self storage organised with a very kind friend who's got a large loft, good-byes to be said.. Apart from all the obvious, packing list seems to be the most tricky to wrap my head around. But I'll start from the beginning and try to give you some useful hints.
The planning starts with a crazy idea. In my case I've never travelled too much, other than the obvious summer holidays and a city break here and there. But never been outside of Europe. Well, once. Last year I flew to Myanmar and ever since I keep thinking how could I travel more. While the ideas were making the circles in my tower, I've suddenly noticed that I've been staring into maps for awful long times, traveling with my finger. Next step came when I was checking the visa requrements for each country and trying to figure out how safe these countries are for travel. As things been set for us, so far we'll be landing in Moscow on 20th of August around lunch. We have a rough idea of countries we want to visit but mostly the plan is pretty open for adventure. Anyway, roughly through Russia to Mongolia, then China heading south to Hong Kong, then Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Tuvalu, Fiji, Kiribati, Hawaii, U.S. road trip, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, jump to South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and if by any luck we could manage to get Indian Visas on arrival then a glorious finish in India and Nepal. Quite ambitious plan, we may need to cut some destinations to enjoy the view, but as mentioned before, our plan is loose.
Setting a date is easy, but making sure all is in order when that date is approaching will be hectic, no matter what. Maybe that's just me but as I mentioned it is quite impossible to think of it all. Truth is, there is an immense amount of things you have to think of. I’m not even sure if I can recollect it all, but as you've guessed, I’ll certainly try...
Here I would advise on using multiple sources as usually there is multiple answers for one country and you're the one who has to make sure you have the right info. As a good starting point for heads up on Visas I recommend wikipedia. Brilliant, easy and very reliable, with pictures.. ;) Bellow is a screen shot of VISA requirements for a Slovak citizens:
And here are the requirements for Polish citizens:
As it turns out, most countries are fairly easy to travel, however if your travel buddy, GF, wife have a different passport, do check for both as these requirements may vary. I ended up applying for Russian and Chinese Visas only, while Mariola had to top it up with a US Visa. We are skipping India, but I blame their unfriendly approach. Long story short, India was meant to be next to last destination on the list, in about 12 months time from now. While Indian Visa is valid for 180 days, the countdown starts from the date of issue and as it turns out it can’t be postponed to the date of your travel. So sorry India, next time. Project on its own..
The rest of the world we should be able to visit by applying for eVisas or applying on arrival, VOA (Visa on Arrival). More often than not, there is a fee for Visas. Plan between £20 and £60 for each, sometimes more, sometimes none.
Travel Safety and Immunisation:
Next on the list is to check whether your destinations are safe to travel. You may want to check this regularly at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. UK government site is a very reliable source of information on travel advice, not just in regards to your physical safety, but also regarding immunisation. Whether a country is safe to travel is mostly your own decision, however vaccinations you should not skim, or try to save money.
Some countries will need to see your vaccinations. Yellow fever especially. Getting all your jabs is not cheap and you will definitely need to start your courses well ahed your trip. Allow at least 2 months. Apart from the obvious Tetanus, Hepatitis A&B, I would strongly advise you check the following website for any other vaccinations you may need by every destination on the list: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx. As for us we have gone for most, you know, just in case. That means Tetanus, Hep A&B, Polio, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Yellow Fever, Diphtheria, Typhoid. The costs add up pretty quick as you can see bellow (price per person):
Budget has been hit hard. Don’t forget to plan for it!
Another difficult question. Whether to take one, or just hope for the best? I would have probably just hoped for the best, if there wasn’t for my special lady. As always, she wanted the best and most insurers can offer. Fine! I thought, but you really need to dig deep into your pocket if you want it all, right? Well, most companies offer pretty much the same. Millions of medical cover, thousands for cancellation, luggage, accessories, personal liability… Forgive me for being skeptic, but there is a reason why all insurance companies are doing so well.
We went for Alpha Travel Insurance. The cover they promise looks good on paper, value was good compared to other companies (we can only hope not too good to be true). Wish I could be more helpful here, but the language these companies use has not yet been translated to human. Fingers crossed, still only hoping for the best.
In the part 2 of this post I will talk about our packing lists. Comparing mine to Mariolas should be fun...