International Travel Checklist
Don’t get caught out! Use our international travel checklist to make sure all your documents are in order if you plan on travelling abroad. Before you commit to anything now is a good time to make sure that you are fully aware of the documentation requirements for travelling outside your own country.
You’ll probably need a passport
Most travellers who journey beyond their own country’s borders will need a passport. There are some exceptions, for instance, residents of the United States can travel to the Caribbean with other forms of ID. It’s always a good idea to check via an official source though before you commit to booking a trip. Don’t rely on family or friends. Personally, I wouldn’t rely on a travel agent either although they should know. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve given me poor advice on passport and visa validity over the years and I prefer to check this information for myself.
Entry requirements vary from country to country and they depend on your nationality. Look for an official source that is appropriate to your own citizenship. So, for instance, if you are a citizen of the UK head over to the UK Government’s foreign office travel advice website and search for the country you want to visit.https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
You might also need a visa
Another item on our international travel checklist is a visa. Check out the section on entry requirements and you’ll get definitive advice on whether you need a visa and if so, what kind of visa is available. You’ll also find lots of other advice so you might want to spend some time browsing while you’re there.
There is a similar site for US residents which offers travel advisories on all countries along with details of passport validity. Just enter the country you plan on visiting into the search box and you’ll find everything you need. I know lots of you won’t be either UK or US residents so I give these just as examples. If you hold a passport from a different country then search for ‘your country’ gov travel advice and make sure you go through to the official government page. It should end in .gov.
When you check the entry requirements for travelling into another country please be careful if you do not hold full citizenship of your country. For example, most UK passport holders are British Citizens but some are British Subjects. It may look like a small difference but British Subjects often have different entry requirements to British Citizens. It can mean the difference between travelling visa-free or on an e-visa or needing a full visa. So, it is very important to check. Similar issues may occur for residents of other countries who do not have full citizenship so don’t get caught out.
Is your passport still valid?
If you’re a regular traveller you’ve probably got a passport already but before you book your next trip just open it up and check the expiry date. If it expires shortly do you have 6 months left on it? Some countries require at least 6 months validity on your passport. Also, some travel carriers such as airlines or cruise ships impose a 6-month validity requirement even when it’s not strictly necessary. If in doubt, ask.
If you need a visa then make sure you apply in plenty of time. Nowadays, you can often apply for an E visa or ETA (electronic travel authorisation) online. If you do this use the link on your government’s travel advice page to access the website to apply. If they do not give you one then check the UK or USA government website for a link as they do provide them. Avoid falling for a fake website. You may still get your visa but it’ll cost you a lot more than the official site.
If you need a visa, apply in plenty of time
If you need to apply for a visa either by post or in person then check the procedures carefully. Pay special attention to filling in the application form. Sometimes you can do this online but you may need to print one out to complete it. Generally, you must send your passport with your application. Depending on which country you’re visiting this can be a simple or complicated process. There are visa agencies that will do it for you but it’s almost always possible to do it yourself. Just follow the instructions carefully.
Make copies of your documents
Once you have your passport and/or visas it’s a good idea to take a copy. Of course, you’ll take good care of your passport when travelling so you don’t expect to lose it or have it stolen but unfortunately, it does happen. If you have a copy then it will make it easier to sort things out. I would suggest taking a photo of your passport on your smartphone if you have one. Make sure it shows the details page and any visa pages. However, it’s also a good idea to carry a printed copy as well. If you have your phone stolen as well as your passport you’ll want a backup option. If you have access to some form of online or cloud data storage then put a copy on there too.
If you need to take regular medication then you’ll want to take it with you when you travel abroad. When planning your trip it is important to check whether there are any restrictions on taking your medicines with you. Again, this information should be available on your government’s travel advisory page.
Firstly you should check to see whether you are allowed to carry prescription medications with you at all. There are medications which are perfectly legal in one country which are not acceptable in another. If you are travelling to the United Arab Emirates, for example, you need to check the controlled drugs list. If your medication is on this list then you will still be allowed to take it with you but you must apply for exemption in advance. It’s also worth noting that some drugs which are available over the counter in the UK or USA may be controlled drugs in other countries. Codeine, in particular, is often restricted. If you want to carry any form of medication with you then it’s essential to check what you are legally allowed to have with you.
How much can you carry?
Then you should check what quantities you are allowed to carry and what documentation you need to take with you. Usually, you will be allowed to carry enough to last for the duration of your trip and it is wise to carry a few extra in case of any delays. You should also carry a copy of your prescription with you to prove that the medicines were legitimately dispensed to you. It is best to carry medicines in their original containers with the pharmacy stamp on them. I carry asthma meds and I always flatten the boxes and carry them in a pocket in my handbag although nobody has ever asked to see them. Always carry your medication in your hand luggage. Then it’s available if anyone wants to query it but more importantly, if you’re delayed en route you still have access to them.
What other documentation might you need?
If there is any chance that you might want to drive while you’re away you should carry your driving licence. For some countries, you may need an International Driving Permit. If you have a student card or a hostel membership card then it is well worth carrying this with you as you may be eligible for discounts if you show it.