Although I had many other adventures in Bali, it is time to move on to Thailand. But before I do, I’d like to insert a bit of information about travel Paperwork)
PASSPORTS: Wouldn’t you know, no matter what one does in life, there’s always paperwork. In travel, it is in the forms of passports and visas. Your PASSPORT is your most important travel item. These days you can’t go anywhere offshore without it. Whether you go on a cruise or even to a US territory. So get a passport.
VISAS: Visas are ‘mini-passports’ placed within your US passport, that give you permission to enter a foreign country. Generally, you get them by filling out a form on line, printing it out and mailing the form, the amount of money requested and your own passport to the embassy address listed on the website. Most often foreign embassies have a private recommended company (found on the embassy website), which takes care of visa processing for them and you for a small fee – charged to you of course.
The visa entry date (date at which you are allowed to enter their country) begins the date the visa is processed. This can be a problem if you are traveling to multiple counties and you have been authorized a 30 day visa only to realize upon arrival that because it is the second or third country on your itinerary you might have only a few or no days left on the visa.
Example: Currently India has three tourist visa choices for US citizens: a six-month visa, a five-year visa and a 10-year visa. If you want to spend a full six months in India and the start date on your India visa is October 5, 2010,and your trip begins October 15, 2010, it doesn’t work. You are already at least twelve days short (two days travel time to get there) of your six-month visa period. Therefore, you need to spend the extra dollars and apply for the five-year multiple entry visa.
You say ‘ok, I can live with the loss of twelve days of my visit.’ But wait, what if you have bought a great ticket that allows you one or two free stops on the way. Often when traveling to India (again an example) you get a free stop in Dubai. Are you going to pass that up? Not unless you are abnormal, on an exceeding stiff budget, or have a lover anxiously waiting in New Deli or Mumbai. Taking advantage of extra stops cuts even deeper into your India visa days.
Some countries do not require a visa from US citizens; you just get an entry stamp upon arrival with the number of days you are allowed to stay in that county listed on the entry stamp. While others allow travelers to get visas at the border, or have them arranged by a travel bureau. Some are arranged at the country’s embassy in a neighboring country. Here again, examples: (1) you are in Thailand and decide to go to Laos or Cambodia, after all they are right next door. The travel bureau, which is arranging your travel tickets, can also expedite that visa with no fuss. (2) You are in Nepal and want to get that six-month visa for its neighbor, India. Just go to the Indian embassy in Kathmandu and in four to seven days, you have an India visa in hand. (3) You decide in a moment of madness, you’d like to go to London for a long weekend. All you have to do is arrive in Great Britain and get that stamp.
Whatever you travel plans, make sure to read all the counties’ visa rules (these can change often) and coordinate those with your itinerary. It helps to prevent ugly surprises, makes your life so much easier, and your travels a whole lot more fun.
Another item you might wish to have is an International Hostel Card. These are now for travelers of all ages, and in countries like Australia and New Zealand, where hotels can be prohibitively expensive, they are of great use. Also and International Driver’s License is of great value. Both of these items can be obtained on line with very little effort and could be invaluable in certain situations.
Now for the dirty word: SHOTS. Whatever your travel plans, be sure to check with the CDC (cdc.com) to find out what travel shots you need for each particular country. You also can find this information on every country’s individual website. Travel shots can be gotten through your family doctor or in cosmopolitan areas through a medical company that specializes only in giving travelers shots. They are expensive, but do it. Getting sick while traveling because you didn’t bother to get the proper shots can really ruin a travelers day, week and depending on the disease, one’s future life.
ELECTRONICS: I am aware there is no paper involved here, but what you choose to lug around really influences your ability to travel with speed and comfort. I travel with a Mac book Air so I can write, as well as communicate with friends and family. I also carry a small camera. But for those people who want to just check their email, call ahead for reservations and take great pictures, a smart phone does the trick. I have seen pictures taken with an I Phone that are spectacular. Then there are others of you who are photo-artists traveling with cameras using lenses of different sizes and tripods for picture perfection. Whatever your needs, consider these carefully, to decide what fits your travel lifestyle. What is most important to you?
Note: re: visas - Also be aware that countries have different visa requirements for citizens of different countries.