Don’t be scared of travel, it might feel scary when you’re at home starting to plan it … but as soon as you get going, you won’t remember why you felt that way!
It’s important to check that your passport will be valid for at least 6 months after you return home.
It’s useful to scan your tickets/passport onto your computer and e-mail them to your own, portable, email address along with other important information, such as your insurance details etc. Serial numbers of items, photos of anything valuable you are taking and so on. This portable record of documentation will make it that much easier to replace anything abroad should it get stolen or lost. There are also programmes on the web like Evernote.com which you can scan your passport and travel documents and uplaod them to. They can then be accessed by tablet/mobile app or PC/Webb based versions.
You can also scan/photocopy your passport and then laminate it. This can pass as basic ID in countries where you need some, but don't want to carry your passport with you at all times.
Once you’ve decided where you are going, most people find it helpful to buy a guidebook. The most popular are the Lonely Planet and The Rough Guide (otherwise know as traveller’s bibles). I’ve found that for certain countries one is better than the other, it just depends.
They provide you with invaluable information about your chosen destination from places to stay, to places to go and a brief history of the country. Plus any particular scam or safety advice you need to be aware of in the tourist hot spots. It is also worth checking what the climate of the country will be like when you will visit.
Once you have decided on a country it’s a good idea to check the foreign office’s website for relevant up-to-date advice. Many countries have turbulence that is unreported by the British National Press so look at http://www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo or call 0870 6060290.
Gap Year Companies
If you are going to travel with a Gap Year Company, make sure you are clear on what services you are paying for and what you expect to receive. Bear in mind that most projects do not cost as much as you are being charged. What you are actually paying for is the 'local knowledge', connection to a project' that allows you to volunteer abroad (not always easy to achieve independently) and 'support' both before you go and when you are abroad.
Some companies also include insurance and flight etc. I would recommend asking to get in touch with someone who has already used their company; most gap year companies don’t mind this and it will present you with an honest opinion. From experience of getting very ill and not getting the local support I expected, these questions are important, not just for you, but also to reassure your loved one's back home.
It is important to go to the doctors at least two to three months in advance of your departure date to allow for you to receive all the injections/advice you need. Be aware that many injections will need to be paid for, and that they can be quite expensive. There will be a travel nurse or advisor at the surgery who will know the set time scale of the injections.
This is very important, the earlier you go the better protected you will be. It is the single biggest mistake Gap Year travellers make with their health! Once you get the list, it is worth shopping around for prescriptions for injections and malaria tablets as the cost can vary significantly from pharmacy to pharmacy.
Naomi Cartwright Jan 2009 (Cont)