I had received many emails/comments from readers who have decided to take a step out of country but not sure where and how to start. After having some overseas travel experience, I thought I would be able to give some pointers. This series of posts is specifically targeted for those people who want to plan entire trip on their own, have a limited budget and want to get started with their plans. If your travel is for business/company sponsored trip then it may not appeal to you much though you may find one or two points useful.
Chapter 1 : Inception
The idea has struck and you have made your mind for your first international trip. The reason can be that you have explored many places in India and now want to see the outside world. Or you do not travel that often and want to capitalize on a rare opportunity you got. Or may be you have a friend/relative in some country and visiting them sounds a great idea. You are excited to think about it but not sure how to execute the idea. Your overseas trip will require some kind of planning as there are far more parameters involved than your domestic visits. There are several factors you need to consider before you decide your destination :
a. Complexity of Visa Process
b. Required funds for the entire trip
c. Ratio of travel time to destination and your tour duration
d. Weather conditions
e. Probability of finding English-speaking population
f. Current safety situation
g. Places of interests
We would touch base these points again in detail further in this guide. The important thing is that t considerable amount of planning is required to give your trip a final shape. A well planned trip will make sure you don’t get into troubles at a new place.
Chapter 2: How to choose the country of travel
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the planning phase. Once you finalize your country of travel, things will become easier. With so many countries available as travel destination, the obvious question is how to finalize. Following pointers would help you decide.
a. Complexity of Visa Process: If you are an Indian passport holder, visa process is complex for most of the countries. e. g. Embassies of European countries, Australia etc will ask for a lot of documentation and official processing time is 15 days or more. I would advise to start with a country where Visa on Arrival is available or there is option of e-visa or processing is very quick like in Malaysia ( 5 working days). You will need to have a return flight ticket, hotel bookings and in some cases proof of funds. You may refer to posts in this blog for countries that have been visited by me. Please read the visa rules for specific countries very carefully to check the requirements so that you don’t end in any issues on your arrival.
b. Required funds for the entire trip: Set aside a budget you can spend on entire trip depending on your current financial situation and then stick to it. Consider all the expenses that you will incur in trip including your shopping and then check the final amount. Your expense sheet should include cost of flight tickets, visa processing fees, hotel bookings, internal travel, food, entrance fees to museums/parks etc. After doing a summation add another 10-20 % as buffer amount which will show you the total expense you are going to incur on the trip. Make sure you can afford the trip without disturbing your future spending plans.
c. Ratio of travel time to destination and your tour duration : It doesn’t make sense to travel 14 hours to a new country when your total trip duration is 4 days. Make sure your travel time and tour duration are in accordance with each other. Compare the flight duration including the transit time (if any). Similarly if you are going to visit more than 1 city in new country then check the travel time between them and then fix the plan.
d. Weather conditions: Weather conditions at your time of travel can be checked with weather forecast websites. Though they are not accurate all the time as weather is becoming increasingly becoming unpredictable, but you will get good idea of seasons in the country. It may be possible that it may be in exactly opposite than your country. If weather condition doesn’t look favorable either change the place or change the months of travel.
e. Probability of finding English-speaking population: You will not face problems at most of the well-known tourist destinations but if you decide to go a bit off beat then consider this factor as well. e.g. In Vietnam not everyone will understand when you ask for directions. You can plan to visit such countries after gaining some travel experience.
f. Current safety situation: This includes both political as well as health hazards. There are some countries which will be going through political unrest/war so should be avoided. However in some countries issues may be limited to certain areas so can travel in rest of the parts easily. Also check whether travel to the country requires any vaccination or any disease has been spread there recentl and then decide accordingly.
g. Places of interests: Spend some time thinking about your preferences. Whether you like a beach holiday, mountains or urban cities. Based on that you can decide your places of travel. Just because a particular place is visited by thousand of visitors, shouldn’t be your travel destination.
These are some of the points to keep in mind while choosing your destination. You will encounter some more parameters when you start making your plan. Finalizing the destination is half battle done and rest of the things will fall in place after that.
Part 2 : To be contd…