Before you go
Documents & Health
Make sure you are on top of your travel documents – check whether you will need a passport or a national ID. Is a visa required to enter your destination country? If yes, can you get it at the airport upon your arrival or do you need to apply for it beforehand?
Note: if you are from an EU country and coming to the UK, although you can travel on your national ID card, going through the border control is much faster when you have an electronic passport, which you can scan yourself passing through dedicated gates.
If you’re travelling in Europe, make sure you get yourself a European Health Insurance Card – it’s free of charge and covers basic medical help across the continent.
For distant travels, find out whether you will need any vaccinations. You can find more information from NHS Fit for Travel website on travel health for people travelling abroad from the UK. You might also need some additional travel insurance, which you can purchase from many different companies for the specific time of your travel.
Research your destination country on the UK government Foreign Travel Advice website too.
It’s best to get some cash in the local currency ready – certainly most countries accept card payments. But you never know when you might need some bus change, few coins to use the toilet or get some street food, so it’s better to be prepared, especially when you’re arriving very late as you can expect many places to already be closed. Also, check the exchange rate, so that you know exactly how much you are spending and don’t get ripped off.
Itinerary, or how to solve the puzzle
Rome2Rio is an absolutely brilliant tool for planning your trip, and is pretty much what its name says – if you want to get from Rome to Rio de Janeiro, or from any place to anywhere else for that matter, this website will show all possible connections, with estimated prices, and different means of transportation: plane, coach, train, car, carpooling, ferry, etc. It also links you to the transport providers’ websites and their timetables.
Websites like eDreams come in handy when searching for best flight deals, though we recommend booking your tickets directly through the flight company’s website – this way you will avoid extra booking fees and you will be sure to deal directly with the transport provider later on, in case there are any issues with your flight.
If you’re travelling on budget, and planning on flying from city A to city B, check out other towns nearby – there’s a chance you will be able to get to some other nearby location for much less money, and it won’t be a problem at all to do the last bit by coach or train. This also opens you up to new experiences – I have discovered a bunch of fantastic places myself, merely because my flights where going through there.
There is also an interesting way of finding out where’s the best spot to meet up with your friends or plan a stopover. Websites like Shall we met in the middle, What’s halfway and Meeting halfway let you pick two different locations, calculate the distance, and then enlighten you with the information on what’s exactly in the middle. Some of them also take into account preferred free time activities or a proximity to the closest town, to tailor the suggestions better. As funny as it may sound, I would’ve never set my foot in Northampton if it wasn’t for those websites, and a friend of mine suggesting meeting halfway!
On Go Euro you can search and compare cheap buses, trains and flights to anywhere in Europe.
No roaming charges, yay!
The EU "roam like at home" rules mean that when you use your mobile phone while travelling outside your home country in any EU country (plus Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. Watch out for Switzerland though as they are not a part of this agreement!) you don't have to pay any additional roaming charges. You benefit from these rules when calling mobile and fixed phones, sending text messages (SMS) and using data services while abroad. These rules also apply when receiving calls or texts while roaming even if the person you are calling is using a different service provider.
You pay exactly the same price for using these services when travelling in the EU as you would if you were at home. In practice, your operator simply charges or takes your roaming consumption from the volumes in your domestic mobile tariff plan / bundle.
You can read more about it on the European website explaining Roaming in the EU.
If you are backpacking, and haven’t planned your accommodation yet, have a look at different types of rooms in hostels/ hotels, apartments, whatever suits you best. It’s important to have an idea of what’s the price range of different products and services, so that you don’t end up paying 5 euro for a coffee normally worth 50 cents just because you look like a tourist.
More often than not, you can get fantastic recommendations on cosy bars, mouth-watering food or some crazy, unusual sights - places that you come across either completely unintentionally, or advised on by a random local met on the street. You won’t find those even in the best guidebooks!