Preparation Guide – The Essentials
Passport – it’s not handy, it’s a must. You cannot cross borders freely without one. Make sure your current passport has plenty of time left. Some countries will not admit you if your passport is within six months of expiring. If you are eligible for a British or European Union passport, then apply for it. Getting to the UK and staying here will be a lot easier. Don’t wait until you’re near your leaving date to organise this. It may take months.
Visa – the earlier you apply the better. Click here to check if you need a UK visa.
Travel Health – talk to a travel health specialist who can arrange the right vaccinations, medications, advise you on first-aid kits and offer advice on any particular special needs you may have. Your travel agent or GP should be able to give you the details of your local options. Click here to read about the recommended vaccines.
Airline tickets – unless you like boats you’ll be flying to the UK. It’s the quickest and cheapest method but prices are seasonal so get onto a good travel agent, and be smart about when you fly, and which airline you fly with. Advice about whether to get a round the world, return or one way ticket is all valuable, but it boils down to what you want to do and how flexible you can afford to be. It’s your decision, but remember, having an onward ticket can make customs a little easier to deal with.
Travel insurance – This is an interesting one. Luggage insurance is important, but make sure you have full medical cover first because this is the one nightmare that no one wants to think about. If you get stuck in a medical emergency in a foreign country, no matter how independent a traveller you are, there is no substitute for it. If you are planning on going straight to the UK on a work visa, then look into only insuring yourself for the flight over, because you’ll be covered on the National Insurance when you get here (see Nat Ins section). Once you are in the UK, travel insurance is very accessible and pretty cheap. If you plan on staying in hostels or hotels when you first arrive, it will pay to have your luggage and possessions insured until you think you’ve found your feet.
Access to your finances – Your credit card may be the easiest way to spend money, but the rates will be high and it’s not that easy to send money back home to pay it off. Depending on your budget, consider traveller’s cheques, switch/maestro cards and good old hard cash, only using the trusty credit card as a handy backup. Another option is to stack the credit card into the black, so you’re spending your money if you use it. Traveller’s cheques may take a few days to organise. For banking when you get to the UK, see the Banking section.
Stuff you can ignore but it might come back to haunt you
Hostel membership – Why? Because you get a discount. We recommend Hostels of Europe, investigate signing up from home.
International student card – Why? Because you get discount on loads of things, from tours to transport/flights, meals, accommodation etc. Obtainable from your place of study, certain travel agents and certain traveller-friendly operators in sections of Bangkok.
E-mail address that you can access from anywhere – Much cheaper then using the telephone to keep in touch with people back home and very handy for keeping contact with people you meet on the way. Helps in the job search department also. Hotmail.com, Rocketmail.com, Mail.com and iName.com are a few popular carriers, but there are literally dozens to choose from.
Document Copies – a photocopy of your passport, tickets, travel insurance details, travellers cheque numbers, drivers licence and any other important document you are carrying should be tucked away in a different section of your person or luggage to the originals, and a copy sent to your folks or trusted relative is a must. If you end up losing your travel wallet, or whatever it is that you intend to keep your vital stuff in, it will make it a lot easier to prove who you are and get replacements. If you up with the technology, try scanning your documents and sending them to your e-mail address where they can be securely stored in an online folder.
Update your CV – you don’t want to be chasing up old employers at the last minute, or from overseas to get references. Grab a nice free fresh CV from here.
Organise Optical/ Medication prescriptions – If you require regular medication, talk to your GP about getting long-term prescriptions. If you wear specs or contacts make sure you know your prescription so any necessary replacements can be made easily and quickly.
Goes without saying
- Have your mail redirected before departure day.
- Don’t leave loose ends in rent or bills or loan repayments, milk deliveries, subscriptions etc.
Things that will be handy if you’re super-organised
Dental and Health check – Make sure you are in generally good health and have a dental check so you don’t suddenly discover you need an enormous root canal job as soon as you leave home. See National Insurance/Health section.
Power of Attorney – Not a bad idea to arrange this for someone back home so that all your affairs can be dealt with in your absence. A lawyer, a small fee and a few hours are all it takes. Jennifer, a solicitor at SolicitorMidlands.co.uk explains:
A Lasting Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions allows you to give someone you trust the power to help you with your finances. Once registered, the document can be used at any time with your permission. You can limit the powers granted as required. Unlike an Ordinary Power of Attorney, should you lose mental capacity in the future, a Lasting Power of Attorney can continue to be used to assist you.
International drivers licence – Something you might look into if you think you’ll be doing a lot of driving. If you hold a Heavy Goods Vehicle/Truck/Bus licence, it may not be valid in the UK. Aussie, Kiwi and Sth African ones aren’t as no agreement exists between licensing authorities.
Suss out a few guidebooks so you have a bit of an idea about the basics when you land.
UK contacts – Obtain the contact details for long-lost rellies who reside in the UK. Always handy in case of a real emergency.