There’s nothing like the exhilaration of jetting off for your first overseas trip. Preparing however can be quite the task, with endless to-do lists and last-minute checks. But, with some careful planning and a bit of research, you can make sure that your maiden voyage is glitch-free and postcard-perfect.
Providing her tips for South African travelling internationally for the first time is Sadudee Sangnil, Director at The Tourism Authority of Thailand in London, who explains that while tourism has evolved substantially since the pre-pandemic years, there are a few tried-and-tested travel hacks that will make sure one’s getaway runs as smoothly as possible. And, the best way to do this is to tick the main administrative and logistical tasks off your list as she details below.
1. Time is your best friend
The best way to take the stress out of your first-time travel experience is to book your flights and activities in well in advance. By doing this, you’ll be eliminating as many variable factors as possible and can avoid snags like popular hotspots being fully booked or being side-lined by activities that cost more than what you expected.
Essentially, you want to bring as much structure to your trip ahead of time as possible. This will ensure you’re prepared for unexpected twists and turns.
Furthermore, she explains, in most cases, flights booked a few months in advance can come in a lot cheaper than bookings made last minute. Booking in advance is also particularly important when travelling during peak periods as flight prices tend to shoot up.
2. Get the admin out of the way
One of the most admin-intensive tasks involved with overseas travel is getting all the necessary paperwork done, sourcing required documents and applying for a travel visa (dependent on the country you’re visiting). South African travellers generally need to apply for their travel visas as far in advance as possible; as processing can take up to 5 weeks and cost up to R2000, depending on the destination.
Fortunately, there are several countries including Thailand that grant South African visitors access without a visa. First-time visitors can travel with confidence knowing they can extend their vacations in Thailand for up to 30 days by flying there.
3. Lock down your itinerary with amazing adventures
Travellers can find many amazing adventures in many parts of the world and throughout various seasons of the year. You’ll save a tonne of time and make the most of your holiday by doing your homework before and being fully prepared when you travel.
Thailand remains a popular destination for South African travellers as it offers beautiful beaches and islands that make for an ideal vacation. The country doesn’t only cater to people in search of tropical life though – Thailand has a big festival culture that mostly comes alive in April of each year.
4. Cash and card – you’ll most likely need both
Contactless Payments with cards
It’s important to make sure you have instant access to money while travelling. For reasons related to safety and convenience, most travellers opt to make the bulk of their overseas purchases using their debit or credit card. In this case, it is recommended that you contact your bank a few days before heading off to ensure that your card is activated for use in another country. This will ensure that you can use ATMs on the go and that your purchases are not flagged by your bank as fraudulent. With tapping options available, travellers will also get peace of mind knowing they do not need to touch card machines to make payment.
While card payments are popular, keeping a prudent amount of cash on your person while travelling is recommended. Tourists to countries like Thailand, which has a bustling informal trade economy, may want to have an authentic experience and try street food or buy from floating markets. For these types of purchases, having cash on hand will prove very useful. See popular SA’s Influencer Nadia Jaftha’s recent trip to the country.
5. Prepare for new cultures
The beauty of international travel lies in the cultural shock it provides as well as the insight it provides into the lives, speech, and behaviour of people from many cultures. This includes elements such as the climate, language, gender roles, and dress codes, amongst other things. Make sure to dress appropriately and pay attention to the different social roles because breaking some of these may offend the locals.
Sangnil concludes: Doing your homework and “getting the admin out of the way” will free up valuable time and resources to make your first-time travel experience a memorable one. Also, take the time to immerse yourselves in the ways of life of the countries you are visiting to open your mind to new ways and experiences.