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What you need to know before you go travelling

Updated on: 10 December 2020

A person's items needed for travelling are laid out on the floor.

Once you’ve gone to all the effort of finding the time, researching the options and booking a trip abroad, it can be easy to sit back and think the work is done. But to make sure you have the best holiday possible, take a little time out to find out more about your destination.

Get your insurance up to date

Of course you should always make sure that your travel insurance is up to date, covers your destination and the full length of your trip. Check also whether extra payments are needed to cover winter or water sports or that there aren’t any specific safety concerns about the place you are visiting. You can check about health and safety concerns in your intended destination via the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

Although we all hope our health won’t give out on holiday, a chipped tooth or broken bone can happen at any time. To be sure of getting the best assistance abroad, check what type of medical care is available and whether there are reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the NHS.

If you’re holidaying in Europe, for example, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will entitle you to free or reduced‐cost medical care should you have trouble along the way. However, you’ll still need travel insurance for major injuries and repatriation.

You can also find out more about travelling abroad from the Department of Health website.

Checklist for travellers

Direct Line has partnered with the Know Before You Go campaign to ensure you are fully prepared before you go away on a trip. This handy checklist will help to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

  • Get your documents in order

  • Check your passport will be valid for at least six months after the date of your return.

  • Make photocopies of your passport, tickets and insurance documents, or store online copies on a secure data storage site.

  • Find out now how your traveller’s cheques and credit cards can be replaced if lost and take emergency numbers with you.

  • Make sure you tell family and friends where you’re going and leave them contact details.

For more help and advice, visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

Taking medicines?

If you take regular prescription medicine, prepare documentation in advance to explain its use – you’ll need this for the airline and potentially in customs at your destination – and arrange to get, and safely carry, the amount you’ll need. If you need to carry syringes or needles, these will also require an explanation. You can arrange this with your GP.

Finally, make sure your medication is not banned in the country you’re visiting. For example, Turkey, Pakistan and India are a few of the places where some common medicines may not be allowed. Finally, check on which jabs or preventive treatments, if any, are required for your visit and look into these requirements at least eight weeks before you travel. Fit For Travel website can help answer any more questions.

Money and exchange rates

Other basics include checking mobile phone coverage and finding out about local tariffs in advance of your trip and working out the best way to carry cash. Check that ATMs are available at your destination (and the charge for using them) and if not, a mix of local currency, traveller’s cheques (get bank hours for cashing them) and credit cards (check they will be accepted) is a good idea.

Familiarise yourself with the exchange rate, too, so that you’re ready to spot high prices or bad rates as soon as you arrive. Make sure you check out local money specifics.

Research local customs

Local customs play a part in a successful trip, so some detailed research is a must. Up‐to‐date guidebooks and websites such as Lonely Planet and online forums such as Thorn Tree Travel Forum could be good places to look. Rough Guide produces a series of First Time Guides that are made especially for those preparing to venture into unknown territory.

Finally, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website is a must, offering great, detailed information on crucial visa, security, health and cultural norms, including a range of brochures to download and print.

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