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I'm 18 and going on my second ever trip abroad (the first was with my father aged 10) from England to Dublin in Ireland, in April of next year. I'm taking with me my long-term girlfriend.

Is there anything I/we should know or be aware of before going, in terms of travelling overseas together for the first time?

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    Go easy on the Guinness - that's my advice :-) – Mawg Dec 7 '17 at 10:00
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    To be fair, this hardly qualifies as 'International'. There is no border (yet). – Strawberry Dec 7 '17 at 14:04
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    In America 100 years is considered a long time. In UK 100 miles is considered a long distance. I hadn't thought about how that applies to the definition of "abroad". – Harper Dec 7 '17 at 17:26
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    @Strawberry There is a border, there's just practically no restrictions about crossing it. – Pharap Dec 7 '17 at 23:22
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    @PaulSmith there is no Scottish pound, just Scottish bank notes issued by some banks. It's still the same currency as the rest of the UK. Scotland also doesn't defer powers to London, it's the other way round - specific powers are devolved from London to Scotland, while others are reserved to London. – Moo Dec 8 '17 at 0:39
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Ireland is a very easy first international trip alone for a Brit - few language issues, generally the same level of lawfulness and laws, a similar low level of corruption in police forces etc, no visa or immigration issues and plenty of flights back home if you need to leave early. You are going to have a great time, but you aren't going to learn a great deal about the art of travelling I'm afraid :)

There are a few things to be aware of however:

  1. Get your European Health Insurance Card so you have the right to state provided healthcare in Ireland, should you become ill on your trip

  2. Even though you will have your EHIC card, get decent travel insurance - even though you will be in an EU country with a decent healthcare system, and a right to access that healthcare system, the EHIC does not cover such issues as repatriation to the UK should you require a medical flight, nor does it cover the costs of extended over stays due to illness. And of course, decent travel insurance covers other issues such as lost luggage etc.

  3. Get a travel book for your destination, such as a Lonely Planet guide - these often cover "places to avoid" such as tourist traps, tricks, cons etc as well as giving you good advice on decent places to eat. They also tend to cover the "do's and don'ts" of local customs and behaviours, so you can avoid some "interesting" interactions with the locals.

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    @HRSE when you are stuck somewhere with a broken leg and can't fly for weeks, that premium ain't going to look so high when it's paying for board and lodging and a new flight... that's why you buy travel insurance, luggage cover et al are just nice-to-haves. – Moo Dec 7 '17 at 10:11
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    @HRSE if you can afford a six figure emergency fund for a medivac, good for you. Us normal people however... and luggage cover is just a nice-to-have part of the bundle, don't fixate on it. – Moo Dec 7 '17 at 10:37
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    @Moo: I don't believe HRSE is arguing that you shouldn't have decent travel health insurance - just that you should not pay anything for lost luggage/mobile-phone insurance. – Martin Bonner Dec 7 '17 at 10:50
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    @MartinBonner it certainly sounded like it in their last comment... Wherever they are from might do it differently, but in the U.K. you just buy "travel insurance" which covers everything from flight delays to medivacs to lost luggage, all in one. So arguing about the luggage portion is meaningless, as you buy the insurance to cover the significant expense of getting you home after a serious illness abroad, or any other similar unexpected expense which would be impractical to cover out-of-pocket. – Moo Dec 7 '17 at 10:55
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    @Moo UK residents inside the Common Travel Area don't need to carry an EHIC for Ireland. Just proof that they reside inside the Common Travel Area. See my answer here expatriates.stackexchange.com/questions/12631/… – Rodney Hawkins Dec 7 '17 at 20:17
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You asked for a more general approach, so:


Rule Number One: Inform yourself about your destination.

Inform yourself about the people and their customs(!) and the respective laws(!!). This cannot be stressed enough because there are still people out there who believe that they can behave like in their home country and that the home law still applies. This attitude can kill you or give a very long prison sentence in countries like Singapore or Saudi-Arabia.
No, "I did not know that!" does not work. It is also not recommended to puff up oneself and believe that problems are going away if you complain loud enough.

Important is at any case the location of embassies (if you lose your passport or need general help from your home country) and how ambulance, police and transportation is working in the destination country.


Rule Number Two: Get all documents.

Everyone knows that you need a passport, but there are often other documents needed, so I give a short list of the ones who are often forgotten.

  • Visa: As everyone here knows in painful detail, people try to travel to countries where a visa is needed and already bought a flying ticket. Then they are horrified that they do not get a visa and their ticket is worthless. Don't do that, get first the visa, then the ticket.
  • International Drivers Permit: You want to travel inside the country by car? While there are countries which allow you to drive cars with your home license for a limited amount of time, for most countries you need an IDP which allows you to drive cars. Don't forget Rule No. 1: Inform yourself about the traffic laws and the traffic situation.
  • Vaccination certificate. Some countries only allow people to enter which have been vaccinated against specific diseases.
  • Credit card/Debit card/Cash. While you don't need a credit card at all in e.g. Germany, holiday in the USA will be almost impossible without a credit card. Some third world countries do not accept credit cards at all (and if they accept it, watch out. One joker in a bank (!!) tried to booked the money two times). Sweden on the other hand is almost cashless. So inform yourself what money form is available.

Rule Number Three: Don't forget important things and arrange a channel of communication if things run bad.

Because you cannot get things once your plane lifted off, you must be sure that you have everything inside your luggage. I have a list of things which I tick off when I travel. Please also look that you don't put forbidden things in your hand luggage which will be confiscated at the airport. I also have a list of phone numbers/emails of different people if something goes awry and I need help or inform others what happened (Or if something happens to me, police/ambulance can contact my contact persons). Don't use a single person because it is a single point of failure: The person can get sick, have an accident, whatever.

Have a nice holiday.

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    I think a person could get by quite well in the USA with only cash. Credit cards are more convenient, sure, but I can't remember ever buying something from a business here that wouldn't accept cash at all. (Excluding online purchases, of course.) – David Z Dec 7 '17 at 1:16
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    @DavidZ -- the usual "no cash here" culprits in the USA are hotel rooms and car rentals – UnrecognizedFallingObject Dec 7 '17 at 1:17
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    Addendum to #3, assume checked luggage will be lost or delayed. Make sure everything you must have is in you carry-on. – Bob Dec 7 '17 at 4:55
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    In addition to Rule 3 - The local emergency numbers can be very important. Throughout Europe 112 should work, but I still meet a number of North Americans who are shocked that 911 won't work in Europe (and presumably a percentage of British people who don't know 999 won't universally work abroad). – pwdst Dec 7 '17 at 14:58
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    @JimMacKenzie I won't pretend to be an expert but although 112 is part of the GSM standard, it is only listed as being implemented in 90 of 195 world countries on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/112_(emergency_telephone_number) - it also won't necessarily work on landlines and isn't always the number for all emergency services. Looking up the local emergency numbers could still conceivably save your life or that of someone else. – pwdst Dec 7 '17 at 19:26
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The UK and Ireland are both in the Common Travel Area, which is an "open borders" area agreed to by the UK and Ireland. As a result, it is not required for you to bring your passport, but just photo ID. However, note that some air carriers (eg. RyanAir according to that article) may require you to bring a passport anyway. Bring yours, and keep it with you at all times.

If you have an ATM card, you should be able to withdraw Euros in Ireland from your UK bank account. Notify your bank first that you are travelling, to make sure they don't block your account for possible fraud (seems unlikely between UK-Ireland, but you never know what might trigger a fraud alert). If you have a credit card, it should work with no special action required.

  • Thank you! It's great to know that I won't be having to convert between pounds and Euros. – Connor Gurney Dec 6 '17 at 23:31
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    @ConnorGurney I'd recommend doing it beforehand anyways. ATM conversion fees can be quite high. – Ave Dec 7 '17 at 7:36
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    You should almost certainly use your current account cash card (debit card) to get cash out, rather than a credit card. The credit card company would probably treat it as a cash advance, which can mean higher fees and interest. Best of all, check with each bank or card issuer what the charges would be. Usually on a UK debit card you pay about 2.5 - 3 % on top of the standard Visa or Mastercard exchange rate. – nekomatic Dec 7 '17 at 9:23
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    ^ unless you get a Monzo card... 0% fees on withdrawals up to £200 a month abroad! Saved me a fair amount of money over the past year! – tda Dec 7 '17 at 10:21
  • If you exchange Euros at home, do not get bills larger than 50 euros because a lot of shops do not accept them (maybe only because they do not have enaugh small change to pay you out). About ATMs: Since withdrawing with a bank accound card costs a fee, you may try to withdraw more money (like 300, 400€) at once. However, banks may have additional limits and you may run into an error anyhow. Try a smaller amount then. – Matthias Ronge Dec 7 '17 at 12:21
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Many great answers already here. Some more points on “arrange a channel of communication”:

  • If you want to take your mobile phone with you, you should consider the following: Find out if your contract supports roaming (use in other countries) at all, and what it costs. Incoming calls cost, incoming SMS cost, calls being redirected to the mailbox may not cost or may cost twice (once for redirecting to the other country and once for redirecting back), you may want to disable it. There may be substantial additional costs for the usage of data. Find out if your holiday location offers free wifi, and at what speed. Some may say “free wifi” but data rate is so low you cannot skype/whatsapp call sensibly. I never tried it but it is also common practice to get a local prepaid card at your destination country. Some phones support multiple SIM cards which makes this easier. For US/European travellers: Cell phone radio frequencies differ in US and Europe, so some phone handsets may not work at all when travelling between them. In Europe and in general cell phones have SIM cards, in the US not all. In cell phones without SIM cards obviously will not be able to use a local SIM card. Inform yourself before you travel.
  • Find out how to call your home country. In all Europe, this is usually double zero, international code, full phone number without first zero. There are differences in other countries (I know of USA, Chile, Italy).
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    There will be no additional charges for a UK SIM roaming in Ireland (or anywhere else in the EU). – Calchas Dec 7 '17 at 19:47
  • With the prevalence of mobile phones these days, the international dialling code is pretty much a dead thing - just make sure your contacts have the right plus code (+44 for the UK) preceding them (replacing the leading 0 for UK numbers) and the network does the rest automatically. – Moo Dec 7 '17 at 22:33
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    Your second point especially made me think... Thanks! – Connor Gurney Dec 8 '17 at 1:04
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As British/EU citizens travelling to Ireland, you shouldn't have too many difficulties - no visas needed, they speak English, and your phones and bank cards will almost certainly work in Ireland just like at home, though you will need to 'convert' your phone numbers to international codes (ie. 01234 567890 will become 0044 1234 567890).

Do a bit of research before you go. Assuming you are travelling by air, find out how you will get to and from the airport in the UK; and the same in Ireland - Dublin airport has various bus lines and of course taxis ready to take you into the city centre. The airport also has ATMs, so you can grab some Euros to pay for the bus or taxi. Find out the address of the place you are staying and find out how to get there. A taxi will take you straight there, but a bus from the airport might drop you a long way from your accommodation.

Try to travel light. You don't need to take your entire wardrobe and the entire contents of the bathroom; and don't pack away anything you might need during the journey (passports, tickets, money, phones, medication, etc).

Airports are restrictive on what you can take through security and onto the plane, so find out what those rules are. No one likes having their stuff confiscated by security.

  • He doesn't say he's flying, and you can take pretty much whatever you want onto a ferry. There's no security screening (except perhaps for known criminal suspects). – Mike Scott Dec 8 '17 at 8:12
  • @MikeScott: Should have mentioned that — I'm flying with Ryanair from Manchester. – Connor Gurney Dec 8 '17 at 13:05

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