International Travel Hand Book


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A simple, easy-to-follow guide on international travel for the first-time traveller.

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International Travel Hand Book

  1. 1. INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL The Complete Handbook Achal Raghavan July 2008 1
  2. 2. Getting ready for that first trip overseas? Then this is the book for you. Even if you have already made several trips abroad, you will find many useful tips inside to make your visit that much more effective, enjoyable and trouble- free. Starting with basics, this book will take you through simple, easy-to- follow steps which will help you get rid of that “Did I forget something important?” feeling, and sleep easy at night. There is also a special section at the end that deals with preparing for overseas business meetings. Happy journey! 2
  3. 3. CONTENTS Chapter 1: Getting ready Chapter 2: Money Chapter 3: Security Chapter 4: In flight Chapter 5: Jet lag Chapter 6: At the destination Chapter 7: Business meetings Total trip checklist 3
  4. 4. CHAPTER 1: Getting ready for the trip Passport 4
  5. 5. • The most important document, without which international travel becomes virtually impossible. • Check expiry / validity date. If less than six months left, some countries do not recognize the validity. Passport copy • Keep separate from passport itself. This copy will come in handy if the original is lost, and you approach the embassy for a duplicate. • Leave another copy behind at home office. Can be faxed (or scanned and emailed) to where you are, in an emergency. • You can also scan the passport and email it to yourself as an attachment. 5
  6. 6. That way, you can access it and print it out from anywhere in the world. Passport photo • Keep 10 extra copies handy at all times, separate from passport. Might be required for extra visas or some other applications. Visa(s) • These are permits from different countries for entry; you must ensure they are in order, before leaving home country. • Do not proceed on vague impressions that a visa can be obtained on arrival at the destination airport. Such facilities are indeed offered by some countries to select 6
  7. 7. nationalities, but increasingly rarely, in view of security concerns. Verify the rules. Embarkation card • This is to be surrendered at the immigration counter, at the point of departure. • Get a blank form from your travel agent and fill it up in advance. Saves you some work while standing in a queue at the airport. Flight ticket • Another important document, to be carried safe. Losing the ticket creates major problems for re-issue. • Clearly specify your meal preference, especially if you are vegetarian or you want a low-salt diet. Planes do not 7
  8. 8. normally carry extras of special meals. • Window seats are not a good idea on long flights, especially in tourist class. Aisle seats are better, since you can get up and go to the toilet or stretch your legs without having to step over someone else. Middle seats, of course, have to be avoided at all costs! • Note where your PNR number (airline’s number assigned to you) is printed. If you are making changes over the phone, this number comes in handy. • Keep your frequent flyer cards handy. Useful, to get preferential treatment from airline staff. Medical insurance 8
  9. 9. • Very important – for your peace of mind. These normally work like this: • If the medical expense you incur is below a certain limit, say, $50, you pay yourself. • Any expense above that limit will be reimbursed directly by the insurance company to the medical establishment. • The policy will carry a contact phone number, which you will have to use at the time of incurring the expenditure. Show the policy to the establishment in advance, to avoid later complications or embarrassment. • At the time of taking the policy in your hometown, you will be asked to go through a medical check. There could be 9
  10. 10. “exclusions” in the policy, which are driven by your existing medical condition. Study these carefully before starting on the trip. Packing a bag • Every travel guide says, “Travel light”. Actually, this very good advice. You will be carrying your bags yourself right through, and trolleys are sometimes difficult to get at airports. Wheeled bags are a “must”. If you don’t have one, it is worth the investment. • Carry clothes which you can “mix and match”. For example, for a man, a few dark trousers, white / light coloured shirts, black socks and black shoes will do just fine for a business trip. • Ties and jackets – optional, depending upon your line of 10
  11. 11. work. One jacket is always useful – lots of handy pockets, and some protection from the weather. • You can assume same day laundry in most hotels. Expensive, but worth it. Carry some clothes washing powder, if you are up to washing clothes yourself in the wash basin in hot water. Most hotels will give you an ironing board and iron, especially if you specify it while making the booking. • Check the weather at the destination and pack suitable clothes. Many web sites give you forecasts for major cities. • A medicine kit is a must – your home-base doctor can help you with the recommended list. If you need special medication, carry enough to last for the trip, with some cushion. Keep the prescription handy – buying 11
  12. 12. medicine without a prescription is virtually impossible in most countries. • International airports are notorious for misplacing your checked-in bags. Most of the airlines are good at tracking your missing your bag and delivering it to your next stop; but the inconvenience is considerable. • Make sure your handbag / cabin bag contains all the papers for the first day’s meetings, and one change of clothes. This way, you can at least get on with work. • The airline will give you some money to buy daily essentials, so that you can manage your trip till they locate and deliver your bag. Most airlines have a fixed sum, as policy. • If the bag stays lost, there are standard rules for reimbursement. 12
  13. 13. • Today’s business makes you carry a lot of electronic equipment – laptop, mobile, pocket PC / PDA, etc. Each needs a distinctive charger attachment. Make sure you pack these. A universal plug adaptor is crucial. Plug configurations vary from country to country. You can buy an adaptor at most international airports. Travel schedule summary • Prepare a sheet showing your flight schedules and hotel contact details. Carry a copy with you as a ready reckoner, and give other copies to family, office and overseas business contacts. Then everyone is “on the same page”. Update everyone on changes. 13
  14. 14. 14
  15. 15. CHAPTER 2: Money • Foreign exchange can be carried in many ways – international credit card, travellers’ cheques, and cash. 15
  16. 16. • International credit cards are convenient; but keep them safe, and watch how they are swiped at shops / hotels. • Do not allow the shop to take the card to another room without your presence. The idea is to protect yourself against false billing / theft of card identity. • Keep the card number separate, to report if the card gets lost or stolen. • Using your card to draw money at an ATM overseas normally would attract additional charges • Travellers cheques are much safer than cash, but need meticulous tracking – in terms of which serial numbers have been spent, and which are still with you. If you lose the cheques, you will need this detail. Keep this listing separate from the cheques. 16
  17. 17. • Also note down the emergency contact number of the issuing company (say, Thomas Cook) separately. • Normally, this company will give you some money immediately to tide over the next couple of days, while processing your claim for the total amount lost. Be truthful in declaring the amount that has been lost • Do not countersign your cheques in advance. Do so only at the point of purchase or exchange. • If you are staying at a hotel for an extended period of time, and you intend to settle the bill with cash or travellers’ cheques, you might want to pay up the room rent for the whole period in advance – it will be that much less cash to worry about. You can always get a refund from the hotel if you cut your stay short. 17
  18. 18. • Exchange rates vary from place to place in the same city. Watch out for commissions and other deductions. Hotel front desks normally offer very poor rates. Banks are the best, but have limited hours of service. You will need proof of identity, like your passport. • If you are travelling from home country to only one destination, e.g. Japan, and getting back, draw your exchange in the currency of that country. You then avoid currency exchange transaction losses. The common tendency is to draw US dollars – which have the advantage of getting accepted universally; but you lose money twice, when you convert dollars to the local currency, and then at the time of converting the left-over balance back to dollars. 18
  19. 19. • Convert to local currency in installments, as per your needs. Many countries (e.g. China) have restrictions on where you can change the left-over balance back to dollars. Often, it is at the airport, at the point of departure; and in smaller airports, these counters do not stay open 24X7. 19
  20. 20. CHAPTER 3: Security • Security procedures have become much stricter in recent years. Take this subject seriously. 20
  21. 21. • Do not make any flippant comments or jokes about guns or hijacks while at an airport or on a flight. It can lead to serious trouble, including getting arrested. Security is no joking matter. • If security procedures at any airport seem excessive, do not lose your temper. Keep your cool, and just go through with it. The last thing you want is the flight taking off without you. • Do not accept packages from anyone for delivery. This is really high risk. Even if it is a relative, ask to see what it is inside. You should be able to explain, if asked. Drugs invite death penalties in some countries. • You are prohibited from carrying certain objects in your hand baggage or on your person. The list is getting longer by the day. Check it 21
  22. 22. out in advance. If your favourite Swiss knife gets confiscated, do not argue. The security agent is just following the rules. • Look out for restrictions on photography. 22
  23. 23. CHAPTER 4: In flight • Listen to the safety announcements carefully, even if you are a seasoned traveller. Aircraft layouts vary, and it is important to know 23
  24. 24. where the lifejackets are; where the nearest emergency exit is; and so on. • Studies show that most people do not swing into action when an emergency is announced. To prevent this, mentally “walk through” the steps you would take, if an emergency is declared. This will save you precious seconds when needed. • In an emergency, do not struggle to carry your bags with you. If your passport, ticket and money are on your person, then that’s fine; in a real jam, you can dispense with these also. • Get up and walk around whenever permitted. This keeps your blood circulation going. • Very long flights, with little or no movement, carry the risk of promoting a 24
  25. 25. condition known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – where the blood tends to form a clot that travels towards the heart and creates a threat to life. • While this is still not something that should scare you off flying, you can talk to your doctor prior to the flight. Get more aware of the risks and what to do to prevent this from happening to you – especially if you already have high blood pressure or heart problems. • Drink a lot of water or juices, since the air-conditioned atmosphere dehydrates you. Alcohol is best avoided, in the same context. • Keep your seat belt on when sleeping. This way, the cabin attendant doesn’t have to wake you up when the seat 25
  26. 26. belt sign comes on due to turbulence. 26
  27. 27. CHAPTER 5: Jet lag • While jet lag is not completely avoidable, here are some tips to minimize the impact : • Do not overeat, before or during the flight. • At the destination, try to fall into the rhythm of that 27
  28. 28. location – if you reach in daytime, try to stay awake till night. • Get some light exercise on arrival, like a walk. • Drink a lot of water. • Be mentally prepared for a couple of days of discomfort and poor sleep. • Some pills are available to get you to sleep better. Avoidable. Handle the whole thing “naturally”. 28
  29. 29. CHAPTER 6: At the destination • Keep your passport in a safe place at all times. In a hotel, do not leave it lying around in the room, but ask for a hotel safe deposit locker. 29
  30. 30. • Unless required by local law, do not carry on your person when going out of the hotel. • Do not hand over to anyone, unless it is the local police / authorities; and then also, only with good reason. • If lost, report immediately to local police. Get a written report from them, without which a duplicate may not be issued. • Carry a card showing the hotel’s name and address, at all times. Many cards carry this information in English on one side and the local language on the reverse. This helps with taxi drivers, when you can’t speak in the local language. • It is easy to get confused in a strange city. Carry this hotel card even when you are going 30
  31. 31. for your morning walk. Check with the hotel what a good route would be. In some cities, neighbourhoods change character within a few hundred metres. • As soon as you check in at the hotel, ask for a safety locker for your valuables. The room is not a good place, unless it comes with its own electronic locker. • Do not hang the “Please clean my room” sign outside your door. It advertises the fact that there is no one inside. Rooms get cleaned anyway. • Look out for baggage thieves and pickpockets. Their favourite method is to operate in pairs. One person distracts your attention, while the other takes your bag or wallet. • Typical tricks include the following: • Dropping some money in front of you or under a 31
  32. 32. counter, and saying you have dropped the money. You put your bag on the counter, bend down, and your bag is gone. • Smearing the back of your shirt or jacket with ketchup, and telling you your clothing has been spoilt. You put your bag down, twist your head and try to look at your own back, and your bag is gone. • You are at the check in counter at the airport or hotel. You are filling up a form, with your briefcase at your feet. You then look down, and it’s not there. • One person approaches you, and pretends to sell you something. When your attention is thus distracted, your bag gets lifted. • Vulnerable points are where your attention is focussed on 32
  33. 33. something else-e.g. when you are boarding a taxi at the airport, or getting down from one at the hotel. • Be sensible about where you go out in the evening. If possible, take a local person along. Do not carry all your cash – just what you will need at that time. • Onward flight reservation: Some airlines require that you “reconfirm” your onward journey(s), even if you are carrying a confirmed ticket. Get this done, as soon as you reach a city. 33
  34. 34. CHAPTER 7: Business meetings • Business meetings - checklist • Laptop, charger, adaptor plug • Visiting cards • Files / folders • Literature 34
  35. 35. • Backup CD with all presentations • Blank sheets, letterheads • Daily meeting schedule • Business protocol • Be on time for everything. You do not want to start a business relationship with an excuse or an apology. • If someone is picking you up from the hotel, go down and wait at the lobby entrance a few minutes ahead of time. This way, that person can avoid the hassle of parking and walking – often in inclement weather. • If you have to go to someone’s office next morning, check out the route and transport the previous evening itself at the hotel reception. Anticipate traffic delays. • Be sensitive to local customs and culture. 35
  36. 36. Avoid making critical references to the local food, clothes or habits. • Carry a briefcase that can be locked. You do not want to leave confidential information lying around. • In many countries, residence phone numbers are not given out freely. Outside of office hours, it is considered personal time. Be sensitive to this. Do not presume that calling someone up late in the evening, or dropping in unannounced at their home, is okay. 36
  37. 37. Total trip checklist 1. Passport 2. Passport photocopy 3. Passport photos 4. Visa(s) 5. Foreign exchange / money 37
  38. 38. 6. Flight ticket 7. Embarkation card 8. Credit cards 9. Frequent flyer cards 10. Business cards, letterheads 11. Business files 12. Mobile phone 13. Laptop 14. Diary / PDA 15. Electrical charger(s) 16. Universal adaptor plug 17. Medicine kit 18. Medical insurance 19. Travel schedule summary 20. Clothes 21. Walking shoes & formal shoes 22. Reading material 23. Gifts NOTES 38
  39. 39. 39