For any kind of travel abroad you will need certain documents to allow you to cross the border and enter the new country. Other useful documents aren’t required by law, but will certainly be useful and give you peace of mind if you want to travel safely. I hate paperwork, I find it dull and unnecessarily confusing, but unfortunately, there are some things that can’t be avoided! I’ve attempted to explain the main travel documents you need for a safe, worry-free journey!
Passport or ID Card
For any travel outside of your own country, you need a form of identification to prove you are who you say you are, and that you are allowed to travel. In the UK, you need to have a valid passport
Often, countries require at least 6 months validity on any passport used to enter the country, and several blank pages. If yours is nearing renewal or filling up, you may need to apply for a new one in advance before you start planning to travel. The cost of passports in the UK will increase from the 27th March, so it might be worth applying for a new passport before then!
If you have your passport stolen while travelling abroad, you can obtain an emergency travel document from your embassy to allow you to continue your journey or to return home. If you are continuing your journey in other countries, entry regulations may be different with emergency travel documents so ask the embassy for clarification. When I had my passport stolen in Ecuador I could travel to Colombia with the emergency passport, but only if I specified the exact travel dates, and when I would fly home from Colombia.
In addition to your passport or ID card, some countries require a visa before allowing you to enter. The requirements differ for different nationalities, and there are usually different rules that apply for different types of visas, for example, tourism, business, or employment. Some require you to complete complex forms or even have an interview at the embassy in your country, while others can be paid for on arrival, or simply don’t require any visa at all. Check carefully the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to for your nationality, and bear in mind it can take several weeks to have a visa approved. If you need to send in your passport for the visa, remember you won’t be able to travel anywhere else while you are waiting for the visa to be approved.
There are two main reasons why travel insurance is vital for any trip abroad. In case of any theft or disappearance of your belongings, insurance can help you recoup at least some of the value of the items you lost. Although insurance companies will only give you the value of the item as it is worth now (i.e. second-hand price), it is still better than nothing!
By far the most important reason though is in case of accident or medical emergency. Medical care abroad can be very expensive, and costs for even simple procedures can run into hundreds or thousands of pounds. The initial cost of the insurance will vary depending on the amount of coverage, your age, the destinations you are travelling to, and if you have any pre-existing conditions. Medical travel insurance for cancer patients or for older travellers may be more expensive, but it is even more important in case something does go wrong while you are away. Insurance can also cover cancellation for medical reasons, or in case of bereavement, so although we all hope it will never happen to us, travel insurance really is essential! That said, make sure you are completely honest on your insurance application, as if the insurance company later finds out you didn’t tell them the right information, they may not pay out.
Some countries require a proof of vaccination from a certain disease before entering – the only one I have come across is Yellow Fever in some parts of South America, for which you need a certificate from your doctor to show you are vaccinated. There are other recommended vaccines which will vary between destinations, but it is still a good idea to have your routine vaccinations up to date for things like measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, and polio. Other vaccinations often recommended include Hepatitis A & B, Tuberculosis (TB), Typhoid and Rabies. Check the Travel Health Pro website for up to date information, and book an appointment with your doctor to discuss which vaccines are required or recommended for your destination. Some vaccines require a series of injections in advance of travel, so be sure to leave enough time to complete the full series. Try to plan at least 3 months in advance.
Don’t forget to ask about malaria medication too, if you are travelling to a high-risk country.
Should anything bad happen – from getting robbed to having an accident, having an emergency information to hand is a great help. Contact details for your family members, home doctor, insurance provider, banks and/or credit card suppliers are all useful to have should something go wrong. If you have your credit card stolen, have the phone number and your card or account number to hand so you can quickly cancel the cards, and request new ones. The number of the local embassy could also be useful. As with the document copies, I like to have a paper copy and a copy on email which I can access from any computer. You could also take a photo and save it on your phone to cover all bases.
Other Useful Travel Documents
Other information you might find useful for travelling includes your flight and travel confirmations, hotel reservations, tour itineraries etc. Basically, anything that tells you where you need to be and when is very handy to have at hand, either electronically or the paper version. I try to save paper whenever I can, but if I’m nervous about losing my phone then sometimes having a paper copy is best. In addition to my passport, I also carry my driving license with me, in case I want to hire a car, or as another form of ID which I can carry around and not worry about losing my passport.
Copies of All Travel Documents
When you have collected all the travel documents and paperwork needed for travel, take copies of everything. I also like to scan the documents and save it on my email, so I can access it from anywhere in the world. Leave a copy at home with your emergency contact so they have all the information to hand as well.
These are the official government sites of some English-speaking countries which have up to date travel advice and entry requirements for all countries.
In the UK I use https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ for up to date travel advice and entry restrictions.
Americans have the Department of State website: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country.html
Canadians use: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories
Australia has Smart Traveller to help: http://smartraveller.gov.au/
Apologies if your country isn’t listed here – a quick google search for “(country name) gov travel advice” should bring up the relevant information for your country.
If you need any visas, http://www.embassypages.com has a list of all the embassies and consulates for countries around the world.
For the UK, the Travel Health Pro website has all the information for vaccinations.
Have I missed anything? What other essential paperwork do you need for travel?
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