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When I travel, I find that there are certain things I always have to do before I leave, regardless of where I'm going.

And, when I talk with other travelers, I find that many of these same things apply when they travel as well — regardless of where they are traveling, they have to run through these same "preflight" preparations as well.

The tasks typically fall under the following categories:

  1. Legal (Paperwork/Documentation)
  2. Economic (Cash/Cards)
  3. Safety (Contacts/Research)
  4. Cultural (Language/Etiquette)

Although pre-travel preparations are always a little bit different depending on the destination, travelers and purpose, these are the tasks that you have to do regardless of where/how/why you are going.

What tasks do travelers need to complete before any international trip, regardless of the destination?

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Important: Items marked with * must be done not only for your destination country, but also for any countries you are transiting through!

Legal

  • * Passport Have a passport that meets validilty requirements for the enitre trip.
  • * VisaCheck to see if you need a visa to visit/transit in the destination country.

  • * Reciprocity Fee — Check to see if you need to pay a reciprocity fee before you arrive.

    Note that you may have to pay a reciprocity fee for countries you are transiting through, if you have to go through immigration to get to your connecting flight. Also be aware that not all countries allow you to pay the reciprocity fee upon arrival. For example in Argentina

  • * ImmunizationCheck to see if you need to get vaccines before you travel to the destination country.

  • Proof of Onward Travel — If you don't have residency/citizenship in the destination country, you must be prepared to show proof that you plan to leave the country, see .

    Note that your onward travel must occur before your visa expires; you may not assume a visa extension when booking your onward travel.

  • Destination Address — Write down the address and contact information of the place you are staying in the destination country in both the local language and your native language (if different). Needed for immigration forms and taxi drivers.

  • * Children — If a child is coming on the trip, unless both parents are also on the trip, bring a letter of permission from the absent parent, or a document proving custody by the traveling parent, a death certificate, etc. Children may not need the same level of travel documentation as adults, or they may need the same; investigate before planning the trip, especially if you are planning to take a newborn somewhere.

Economic

  • * Available Payment Modes — Check which payment modes are used, allowed or banned in your destination country.

  • * Credit/Debit Cards — Notify the issuers of any credit/debit cards that you are taking with you and inform them of your itinerary (countries and dates).

  • * Exchange Rate — Look up the exchange rate of the destination country and come up with a "close enough" multiplier that you can easily calculate in your head when looking at local prices (recommended: also write it down in your notebook).

Safety

  • Emergency Contact — Contact a trusted friend or family member and share your itinerary. Write down his or her contact information in your notebook.

  • Conditions on the Ground — Hit expat/tourist forums and ask about areas to avoid in your destination country and city. Read the recommendations of your home country's Foreign Office. Or ask on Travel.SE!

  • Backup Documents — Make a copy of your passport and relevant travel documents to keep separated from your original documents in case you get robbed or lose part of your luggage. Consider storing a copy of documents in the cloud so you always have access, or ensure that someone you trust as a copy they can send to you.

  • Travel Insurance — Purchase a travel insurance policy (in case you get sick or have some other medical emergency during your trip).

    Note that this not the same as the "travel insurance" that airline carriers offer (and is usually automatically included if you buy your ticket with a credit card) which only refunds the cost of your ticket if you are unable to make your flight due to certain conditions.

Cultural

  • Language — Write down the following words/phrases in your notebook and their translations in the language spoken in your destination country:

    • Hello
    • Goodbye
    • Please
    • Thank You
    • Yes
    • No
    • Sorry (apology)
    • Excuse me (to get someone's attention)
    • Where is the bathroom?
    • Do you speak (your native language)?
    • I'm lost. Can you help me?
  • * Tipping — Research tipping etiquette in your destination country, see .

  • * Local Customs — Hit expat/tourist forums and ask about cultural norms in your destination country, especially any that might cause you to inadvertently offend or be offended. Or ask on Travel.SE!

Domestic

  • Mail delivery — Ask a friend, neighbour or family member to take care of excessive mail delivery if travelling for more than a couple of weeks.
  • Banking — Make preparations to be able to conduct transactions away from home, via phone or the internet.
  • 1
    technically, many of those might not be needed if you're familiar with the destination and have already taken care of those things (if required) in the past... – jwenting May 24 '14 at 8:22

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