10 things that no one tells you before travelling abroad

If you wish to travel the world, you should have the right preparation in place. During our travel experiences, ranging from the biggies – USA and Europe to the smaller ones (read till the end to know more), we realized that planning can get overwhelming.

But there’s no need to worry anymore. We’re starting a Travel Wiki right here on TravelTwoDo, with the hope that these tips, go-to guides and to-do lists will help make your travel planning a bit easier.

These tips have helped us prepare, pack and travel to US for a month long trip within a span of 2 days.

Let’s start with a disclaimer though: while writing these tips, we assume that the essentials (read: roti, kapda and makaan) are already taken care of. This guide will help you over-prepare, and might be super useful when something goes wrong. No one told us about these, we learnt them on the go!

1. Online/mobile backups

Keep a scanned copy of all important documents (passport, visa, tickets, accommodation vouchers, contact details, local contact numbers (if any)) in a cloud storage like OneDrive or Dropbox. Share this folder with your family or a trustworthy friend. This will ensure someone else can help you, when you are having a bad day.

You can even make this folder “available offline always” on your phone/PC, so that you always have a copy with you.

How to make documents offline in Google drive ?

2. Extra copies of documents in cabin luggage

Keep hard copies (photocopies) of important documents in your cabin bag. Just in case something is missing, and mobile data does not support you, you still have the old school way of sharing the required documents.

We’ve also had an instance where the phone had to be factory reset, which means losing all content on it. Physical copies go a long way in such scenarios.

3. Keep your phone number active (international roaming/ SIM)

Although almost all major airports have Wi-Fi, it is highly recommended to have your phone number up and running even outside India. Think about people who only contact you on your phone number, or the OTPs that you receive only via SMS, or any last-minute flight announcements in “silent airports”. Having your local phone running or an International SIM can help avoid hassles (specially for senior citizens).

To enable international roaming, just call your telecom operator’s customer care and ask them to activate international roaming.

  • The activation costs are nominal, but we recommend getting a basic pack (typically under Rs. 5000) which covers a few minutes of calling to India and also provide a few GBs of data which will come in handy for booking a cab from the airport or making WhatsApp/Facebook calls.
  • Ensure that the country you are travelling to is covered under the roaming pack. At times, the phone will not connect to the network automatically. It’s good to know which mobile operator is the worldwide roaming partner at your destination country. For example, if you have an Airtel connection in India, you need to connect to Proximus network in Belgium. Here’s a helpful link for Airtel and Vodafone users.
  • Airtel international roaming packs can be found here as an example. Please check the website of your provider.

Pro tip 1: WhatsApp calling doesn’t work in the UAE. With Dubai and Abu Dhabi being two of the most popular international transit options, travelers like to use the time at these airports to make a quick call back home. The airports provide free Wi-Fi, but you cannot make a WhatsApp call as it’s not allowed in the country. You can still use other calling apps though, like Facebook Messenger or Skype.

4. Essentials for day-1 should be in your cabin bag

Shit happens with checked-in luggage on international flights. Consider the below experiences:

Delayed arrival of luggage: While traveling to Brussels from Hyderabad via Dubai, our checked-in luggage didn’t arrive! Our first flight (Hyd-Dubai) was delayed by an hour, but the second one (Dubai-Brussels) was on time, leaving us with less than 1 hour for the transit. We understand, we can run, we can communicate, our bags cannot! They are at the mercy of the airline staff, who don’t really have any left for the bags. The bags arrived one day later, on the same flight.

A case of mistaken identity: While travelling from Brussels to Hyderabad, one of our colleague’s luggage didn’t arrive. This time, even the airline didn’t have a clue and a missing baggage report was filed. Half a day later, we get a call from an unknown person that they took our bag by mistake, as it looks identical to their bag. Same story again, they delivered the bag back to the airport, collected theirs and left. The airport staff delivered our colleague’s bag the next day.

The point is, keep your essentials – professional clothes, night clothes, toiletries, essential medicines, something to eat etc. in the cabin baggage. This sorts out day 1 of your trip, while you figure things out. Though most travel insurances cover expenses incurred due to late arrival or loss of luggage, jetlag and traveling can be really tiring. Heading out to a supermarket right after landing might not be on top of your to-do list.

A picture taken just before boarding a cruise – That cabin bag has everything to sustain us for a day

Pro tip 2: If you have a connecting flight, select a layover of at-least 3 hours. This gives both you and your luggage enough time to make it to the next flight in time.

Pro tip 3: If your luggage doesn’t arrive, you should report it immediately at the destination airport. In the form, provide a local contact number of a trusted contact, if you have one. It helps with coordination.

5. Inform your bank before traveling overseas

This will ensure that your card and online transactions are not blocked. A few card providers/banks might consider international transactions as suspicious/fraud, if not informed. In case any suspicious transaction does happen on your card while overseas, logging a complaint also becomes easier.

6. Extra phone and sim ejector pin

Your phone is a device and devices can stop working. In the unfortunate case of your phone being stolen, malfunctioning, broken, etc., a backup will still let you stay connected to loved ones and authorities. SIM removal pins can be hard to find in a foreign land, so make sure you carry one in your wallet/luggage.

7. Download maps and data offline

Foreign lands can be difficult to navigate without a data connection. Offline maps will keep you covered. Download offline maps at-least for the following: origin, destination, interim stops/layovers and indoor maps of airport terminals.

Here’s a quick guide for Google maps.

A typical street in the San Francisco Bay Area, US – surrounded by sky scrapers

If you are visiting a place with an unfamiliar native language, download languages offline on Google translate. This will also work with Google Lens – click a picture of the text and Google will tell you the translation in your language. Really helpful for reading billboards/hoardings/schedules.

Pro tip 4: Learn and write common words such as Internet, Wi-Fi, Help, Please, Thank you, Food, Water, Luggage, Cab in the local language.

8. Carry English prescriptions for ALL medication

In India, most medicines can be bought OTC (over the counter) without a prescription. But in countries like the USA, it’s much stricter. You need to have prescription for all medicines that you are carrying. Some might not even be allowed in the country. But if you have prescriptions, customs might still allow you to carry those with you.

When we travel, we carry prescriptions of anything and everything in our medicine kit – from Vicks Vaporub to Norflox.

9. Keep important contacts handy

Save important phone numbers in your phone , share it with your loved ones and write them down on a piece of paper which you can carry with yourself all the time. These can be contact numbers of:

  • Close family/friends
  • Trusted local contact
  • Airline/travel agent’s contact number
  • Your hotel reception
  • Your local office (if you’re on a business trip)
  • International customer care of your insurance provider, forex provider, bank
  • Indian embassy/consulate in the region
  • Local emergency services – police, ambulance, disaster relief
  • Local cab providers with good online reviews

10. Use TSA locks for check-in luggage (do not bubble wrap)

We have inherited the habit of locking our luggage keep thieves at bay (thanks Indian Railways). While travelling international, it is also important to ensure that things don’t make their way into your luggage during the journey.

To ensure that your luggage stays safe and genuine, never leave it unattended. One can use TSA locks which can provide an additional level of security. TSA locks can be opened for verification by customs officials using a master key which only they have access to. If ordinary locks are used and the customs officials need to open the luggage for any kind of verification, they will break open the lock. Therefore, buying a bag with an in-built TSA lock or using a separate TSA lock is highly recommended.

Hint: Look for the diamond shaped red colored icon (highlighted) in a luggage lock to make sure you have got the right one.

Bubble wrap has a few issues and we do not recommend it.

  • If the authorities want to open and scan your luggage, they’ll tear it open so your money goes down the drain. The probability of customs or the police checking the luggage is a 50:50 at all times at any check point.
  • It is absolutely not eco friendly if you do not recycle it properly.

Hope you found this post useful. Follow us for more such travel tips and guides. Contact us to help you plan your trip better – we are the Monica Geller of trip planning 😀

Together we can and we will win over the Murphy’s law. 🙂

That’s a happy picture of us from the country that measures Gross National Happiness : Bhutan 🙂

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