A few days ago, I wrote an article wherein I highlighted some important yet pretty universal ways in which Indians damage their travel experience. But in this article, I am going to address an aspect of travelling overseas which absolutely should not be overlooked. An important part of ensuring that your trip abroad sails smoothly and that you come back with amazing travel memories is to set up a sound travel document management system. That means you should equip yourself well to deal with emergencies, loss of passport or any other unfortunate mishap. A sound travel document management system translates into smoother immigration and an overall stress-free vacation.
(Although I am writing this article specifically with Indians and people from other developing countries in mind, some steps are universally applicable)
What travel documents do you require on a trip abroad?
- Passport: Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of travel.
- Visa: For most countries, the visa will be stamped on your passport. But some may give you a separate visa document. In such situations, that document must be carried along. Also make sure, the visa on the basis of which you plan to enter the country is stamped on a valid passport. Valid visas stamped on your old expired passports do not count.
- Travel Insurance: Even if you apply for a travel insurance online and get it by mail, you must take a print-out of the same.
- Flight-ticket: Although most airports accept a soft-copy of your flight ticket, some airports and immigration officers may not. Therefore, get a print-out of all your flight tickets.
- Accommodation Confirmations: You must carry a confirmation letter for your hotel or accomodation bookings. Most countries will not allow you entry unless you have confirmed bookings of your stay.
- Itinerary: If you are travelling through a tours and travels company, you will be provided with an itinerary. Immigration officers are likely to ask for it.
- Train tickets or local transport tickets: If you have purchased tickets for your local travel beforehand, you must carry the tickets with you.
- Vehicle Rental confirmation: If you have paid for a vehicle rental, you must carry the confirmation letter with you. Traffic police officers seldom insist on this document.
- Proof of vaccination: Some countries require you to get yourself vaccinated for some diseases in order to be allowed entry into those countries. Carrying a proof of your vaccination is mandatory in such countries.
- Credit Card or Prepaid Travel cards or Travelers Cheque: These are not mandatorily required but you may want to carry these to minimise the use of cash on your trip.
- International Driver’s License: If you plan to drive at an overseas destination, you may be required to get an international driver’s license. If so, make sure you carry the original with you at all times.
- Driver’s license: In some countries, only having an International Driver’s License is not sufficient. They require you to carry that in addition to the driving license from your home country.
- Student Identity Card: Many countries, especially European countries, offer massive discounts at tourist spots to students with a valid identity card. If you are a student, carry it along.
- Personal Identification document (other than the passport): It is important to carry an identification document (preferably with your photo) issued to you by your home country other than your passport. Should you lose your passport, this always comes handy to establish your identity at your embassy abroad.
- Emergency Contact List: This list should include the following:
- Landline Number of your residence
- Contact number and e-mail id of parents, guardians and/or siblings
- Contact number and e-mail id of people you know from the country you are travelling to.
- Emergency helpline numbers and e-mail id of the airline and local transport companies
- Helpline numbers and e-mail id of the insurance company
- Contact number and e-mail id of your embassy at the country you are travelling to
- Contact number and e-mail id of all the accommodations where you will be staying
- Contact number and e-mail id of all the people with whom you are travelling
- Contact number and e-mail id of agents with whom you have done your booking
- Contact number or e-mail id of vehicle rental companies through whom you have rented a vehicle.
How to manage all your important travel documents?
In European countries, carry your passport with you at all times. Using a waist-pouch is the most reliable way of carrying it. Women can wear a thin pouch under their clothes. This considerably minimalises the chances of losing your passport. Handbags can be stolen or forgotten and hence it is best to not keep your passport in one.
In other countries, especially Asian countries, you may keep your passport in the locker of your room and keep a photocopy with you at all times.
- Photocopy or take a printout of all documents mentioned above.
- Arrange them in order and keep a copy of these documents in your hand-luggage.
- Every person including kids and elderly people must have a copy of these documents with them.
- If possible, keep a copy of these documents in your checked-in luggage as well.
- Give a copy of these documents to one of your close contacts before you leave.
- Mail a soft-copy of these documents to all your close contacts.
- Mail a soft-copy of these documents to yourself and to persons travelling with you.
- Upload a copy of these documents to the cloud. (Use Google Drive or Dropbox)
- Keep a copy of all these documents on your phone in a manner that is accessible without internet.
Travel documents generated during your trip
- Take a photo of your boarding pass and if possible, use the airport wi-fi to mail it to your close contacts.
- Inform your overseas travel contact number to your close contacts as soon as you get one.
Although cash does not technically fall under the category of ‘important documents’, here are some tips:
- Distribute cash and store it in different places.
- Carry a sufficient amount as a backup in your waist pouch. This will stay with you at all times.
- Store only a small amount in your wallet or purse.
- If possible, use a prepaid currency card or a debit or credit card whenever possible instead of cash. (Do note that debit or credit cards usually attract currency conversion charges)
- Always check if you need to exchange money before you travel in order to not end up in a pickle in a foreign land.
- Photocopy both the front and back page of your passport together with the page showing your ECR status.
- Make sure you photocopy the visa stamped on your passport.
- For additional caution, you may click pictures of the entry and exit immigration stamps on your passport.
- Click photos of your baggage. Producing these photos to the airline in case of loss of baggage may be of great help to them.
- Download Google Photos, link it to your primary e-mail id and keep auto-backup on. This way, photos of your boarding passes, entry-exit stamps and baggage will be continuously backed up to the cloud.
- If you feel you can trust someone, you may consider sharing the password of your primary e-mail id with them. This could help them a ton, should an untoward event or mishap take place.
- If possible, avoid using a traveller’s cheque altogether. Using one causes unnecessary hardship.
- If you make plans on the go, always send your accommodation and travel details to your close contacts as promptly as possible. Always inform them promptly of any change in itinerary.
- You may also include your packing list to the list of important documents.
You may feel extremely overwhelmed reading the above tips. But this document management process will allow you to enjoy an absolutely hassle-free trip. You will be perfectly equipped to deal with unfortunate or emergency events. This way, even your family and friends will stress much lesser while you are away.
Feel free to take a print-out of this article and use it as a guide on your next trip abroad. You will leave for your trip feeling confident and protected and come back with lots of delightful memories of a smooth trip.