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5 mistakes that can cause unnecessary drama during your time abroad

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The deposit is down, confirmation is through, your flights are booked and you'll soon be embarking on your dream travel adventure. 

Going travelling can be such a liberating experience: you can remove yourself from the stress of work/university and are able to embrace a whole new window of exciting opportunities and experiences. 

This can also be slightly daunting, as there are so many things you will need to think about and take responsibility for prior to and during your trip.

Whether you are about to set foot on your gap year global expedition, reaching the far perimeters of the Earth, or even just jetting off for a short European city break, you will have a long list of preparations,which, if comprehensively covered, will ensure that you have the best time whilst away!

Being a student, one of your finest qualities is probably being able to carry out anabundance of research in a short space of time. Therefore, why don’t you put this trait to good use and create your own mini studies on the countries you intend to visit during your travels?

Research into your chosen destinations’ current circumstances can be carried out using a range of different online sources – see the Foreign Offices’sTravel Aware page, which contains the most up to date and relevant information, covering issues such as safety, security, country entry requirements, travel warnings and health.

In the meantime, take a look at five of the most minor, yet very common, mistakes people make before going abroad, which often cause them significant issues when they are away from home. You can then use these in the future as a basis for your own travelling preparations.

1. CHECK YOUR PASSPORT IS IN DATE

Check your passport is in date, way before you set off. In 2008, my parents decided to book a week-long winter break to sunny Cyprus. However, absurdly, they only just remembered to give a quick once-over of our passports two days prior to embarking on our journey.

To their surprise, my passport was well out of date and therefore invalid, as it had expired a whole three months before.

If I had endeavoured to board the plane in the next two days, I would have been rejected and sent straight home! Luckily, my parents discovered the issue in just enough time. We had booked to stay in a hotel in Gatwick the night before our flight, so instead, we drove up early that day and took a detour into London Victoria to visit the Passport Office for an instant renewal.

This was such a frustrating mistake, calling for a completely unnecessary journey which could have quite easily been avoided if more care had been taken and more preparation had been done in the weeks leading up to our holiday.

2. TAKE OUT COMPREHENISIVE TRAVEL AND HEALTH INSURANCE

Wherever you go, always make sure that you have taken out comprehensive travel insurance! Last year, I set off from London Heathrow with two of my friends from university to volunteer in the highlands of Viti Levu in Fiji for an entire month.

Our 24-hour flight had a quick hour and a half change over in Hong Kong scheduled. However, our first flight was delayed by three quarters of an hour, meaning that when we arrived at Hong Kong airport, we were unable to board our connecting flight. Instead, we were rescheduled onto a flight to Sydney and then from Sydney to Nadi, instead of flying direct.

When we arrived at Nadi Airport, we waited an hour for my friends' two bags to arrive on the conveyer belt, however, they never appeared as they had been lost in the change-over stages of the flight.

My friends had spent significant amounts of time and money in the UK, buying new clothes that would be appropriate for our time in Fiji, yet now the only outfit they owned was their lounging pants and their over-sized hoodies which now were rather smelly due to having been worn for a very long 24 hours already! In Fiji, they spent hours basically repurchasing the contents of their luggage which, after making about 50 separate phone calls to the airport and airline, was found to have been placed on a separate flight to Sydney.

After about two weeks of living in the village, located three hours away from the nearest civilisation of Suva, their luggage was finally returned to them. Luckily, both the girls were well insured and when they arrived back in the UK, they could quickly gain compensation for all the money that they had to fork out in buying the new clothes. Health insurance is also very important if you are unlucky enough to fall ill abroad.

3. CHECK OUT YOUR CHOSEN DESTINATION’S VISA & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

For which ever country you are visiting, make sure that you have read the entry requirements, whether you're required to hold a visa and if so, what type do you need?

Once, when my mum and I visited Turkey, we arrived at Dalaman airport to see all the other passengers from our flight pulling out printed proof of holiday visas, and we realised that we had not been prepared enough for our Turkish trip. A lady overheard my mum telling me that she had forgotten to apply for a visa online and so she quickly turned around and warned us that it was the only way of possibly getting one… oh nooo! We had travelled from rainy Bristol and had arrived in Turkey for a week of soaking up the sun without the necessary documents.

Fortunately, there was a counter where you could go to collect a visa, however, unlike those who had already printed one off at home, we had to pay £20 for each. This is not the end of the world and was definitely the best case scenario, but other airport regulations can be far stricter. For example, if you were to turn up to an airport in Australia without any form of visa, you would be very quickly deported from the country.

4. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR CURRENCY BEFOREHAND

Before going away, remember to check the best rate for the currency of the country that you are visiting and always make sure that when you collect it you have received the correct amount.

My friends and I visited Croatia this year for Hideout Festival and, prior to the trip, we each got roughly £220 worth of Croatian Kuna from the Post Office. It was only when we arrived in Croatia and had to hand over a deposit to stay in our hostel that my friend Alice discovered that the currency she had brought with her was completely wrong. Alice had paid £220 for what she thought was nearly 2,000 Croatian Kuna and instead she was given 1,800 Czech Koruna, which was equivalent to a mere £60!

This was a nightmare start to the holiday as Alice, now gasping for an alcoholic beverage, could not pay for a single drink in cash as the currency in her purse was simply unusable! Instead she immediately had to seek a cash machine and with draw from her savings account to fund the holiday. Fortunately, Alice had enough money spare in her account to rely on through out the duration of the trip, however, this incident immediately dampened her party spirit as she was so frustrated as to how much of a silly mistake this had been.

In the mean time, she did ring the Post Office, who when she returned to the UK, reimbursed her with the correct amount of British pounds that she had originally paid out.

5. PRINT OUT SEVERAL COPIES OF YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

Always make photocopies of important documents - such as your passport and insurance details - and spread them out across different bags, so that if the original copy becomes lost you still have proof of your identity as a British national, who is fully insured and has the right to travel across foreign seas.

One of my friends, when travelling home from a boozy week in Magaluf, was passing through security at the airport when she found that her passport was no longer in her possession. In immediate panic, she raced around the airport retracing her steps in the hope that it would miraculously appear again. After half an hour, she discovered said passport beside the toilet to her great relief, which enabled her to board the plane for the UK.

Claudia was very fortunate that she found her passport so quickly, however, in many cases, it is never found/returned and so this becomes a major issue when an individual has no other proof of their identity and their right to travel.

Also remember to like the FCO travel – travel advice from the Foreign Office on Facebook for instant travel updates!

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