– Documents to be Carried While Traveling

While traveling outside US, documentation is an important part of your trip. Outside US and even in other States, you and your luggage are recognized by your documents. Carrying proper travel related documents and identity proofs could help you avoid unnecessary jitters.

The best international is to carry original copy of some documents and keep one or two photocopies of the other in case of emergency. You should also leave a copy of your documents with some friends, which they can fax to you if you loose yours. Ask your travel agent or friends who have gone to those destinations about the necessary for documents.

Vacations and Business

Whether you are on fun, business or a personal trip, the important documents required while traveling outside US are: Passport, Visa, Driving License, Medical Certificates and Insurance documents. A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer.

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. The Passport Services Office provides information and services to American citizens about how to obtain, replace or change a passport. To obtain a passport for the first time, you need to go in person to passport acceptance facilities with your two photographs, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification such as driver’s license and apply for the passport. You can seek for documents from your friends and acquaintances that have traveled to those destinations.

Airline and Visa Requirements

Most countries require a visa before you can travel there. You can board on aircraft only if you have a valid visa and return air ticket for the destination. Few countries allow free passage to US Citizens. However, it is mandatory to carry a valid identification proof with you in these countries to avoid legal complications and prove your identity in case of emergency. It is the responsibility of travelers to obtain Visa, where required, from the appropriate embassy or nearest consulate of the country you are planning to visit. Certain countries have proper validation requirements for Visa applications take some time before approving your visa. It is therefore necessary to obtain the visa well in advance to avoid last minute problems.

Luggage Documentation Tips

If you are carrying valuable and electronic items, good is to keep a copy of the invoice, insurance and troubleshooting manuals with you while you are traveling. While invoice and insurance are needed to prove your ownership, a manual will help the technicians if some problem occurs in it. These documents will also help you to avail international warranty and service facilities wherever applicable.

Travel insurance tips

Most countries require the foreign tourists covered up with insurance before they enter the country. However, insurance during travel is a critical issue due to legal differences between two countries. Contact your insurance company to find if the present insurance covers the foreign trips or not. Even your travel agent can help you with important travel insurance tips.

Ethiopia Adventure

In November 2010 my husband and I travelled around Ethiopia for three weeks by public bus with a private guide. Travel (especially bus travel) is a real adventure and not for the faint hearted as there is long travel days (even longer if the bus breaks down) on poorly maintained roads. But it is an excellent way to get up close and personal and experience the life and culture of the locals.

Addis Ababa
We arrived at the airport at 3.30am. We had not booked any accommodation due to our early arrival so we stayed at the airport till about 7am. A taxi agreed to take us into the city for USD$10. We went to the Ras Hotel where we had to wait till 9am to see if they had a room.
Travel Tip: We stayed at the Ras Hotel 3 times due to its central location. The price includes breakfast which is awful but lunch and dinner are good.

Bahir Dar
We stayed at the Ghion Hotel on Lake Tana and did a boat cruise to the islands to see the painted churches. The Blue Nile Falls area is pretty but not worth the long bumpy ride to get there. Since damming the river, the waterfalls are certainly nothing like the posters show.
Travel Tip: Check if a guide is included with your Lake Tana boat cruise. There was 9 of us on our boat. No guide accompanied us on the boat except for our private guide Samson. The first island we visited Samson acted as intrepreter otherwise we would have not understood what we were looking at. The second island we visited the church guide spoke English.

Gonder
The abandoned castles are very interesting and it is worth hiring the guides inside the gate.
Travel Tip: We stayed at the Belgez Pension which was cheap, clean and quiet but the rooms were very small and cramped. They do your washing for a very small fee – give to the cleaners in the morning.

Simien Mountains
We did a one day 4WD day trip with another traveller and our guide Samson.
Travel Tip: We would have liked to have stayed overnight even though we are not trekkers, as the scenery is stunning.

Lalibela
We spent 2 nights in Lalibela exploring the amazing rock churches.
Travel Tip: Keep your entrance ticket handy as they will be checked at each church entrance.

Arba Minch
Arba Minch is a overnight bus stop between Addis Ababa and Jinka.
Travel Tip: Spend an extra night on one of the stopovers and do the lake tour.

Jinka
We hired a 4WD locally to tour the main 3 tribes in the area (Mersi, Hamer and Karo tribes). We shared this cost with 3 other travellers who were on the bus and stayed at the same accommodation as us.
Travel Tip: Buy your bus ticket to Addis Ababa early (at least 1 day in advance) so you can obtain a better seat number otherwise you will find yourself stuck at the back of the bus on the 2 day journey. Buy good ear plugs so that you can block out the noise of the loud music videos playing.

Transport
We used a variety of transport that included: public bus, minivan, 4WD and boat.
Travel Tip: If you find that quite a few of you are heading in the same direction, it will be more economical and comfortable to rent a minivan and driver like we did from Bahar Dar to Gondar (7 people).

Tour Guide
We used the services of a private guide. This was the first time we have hired a guide for the entire trip through a new country. The guide proved invaluable in keeping the touts away (worth the money alone), dealing with local tour operators and obtaining hotels.
Travel Tip: Use a private guide’s extensive knowledge and experience to enjoy Ethiopia through the eyes of a local.

5 for Couples Traveling Abroad – Part 1

When planning a romantic getaway you are excited and filled with anticipation of a holiday filled with romance, fun and maybe even a bit of adventure. Before the hugging, cuddling and kissing can begin you need to properly prepare for your trip. Here are the five tips to get your vacation started on the right track.

Tip #1: Every country has a recommendation for immunization. Be sure to check with your state department when traveling abroad. A friend of mine just returned from India with a stomach virus. It was several doctor visits before she got a correct diagnosis of C. Difficile; and now she’s having a hard time getting rid of it. And my co-worker got malaria on his visit to Africa. You don’t want to catch a virus or disease while traveling abroad and bring it back to your home country. Needless to say medical costs can be expensive and there is the danger you could make others sick as well. So, be sure to get your immunization shots even if you hate needles. Bite the bullet and get it done. Staying healthy during and after your trip is the first step to a wonderful vacation.

Tip #2: Check the expiration date on your passport. While packing for my last trip to Mexico with a few friends, I pulled out my passport three days before the trip and was shocked to discover it had expired. Oh my God!

Let me tell you it is possible to get a passport in three days – but it ain’t pretty.

I live in Chicago and the only place I could get a short-notice appointment in a passport office was in Houston. I had to change flights to go to Houston first (an extra $200 cost). I had to leave work two days early (unpaid days off). While waiting in the passport office the computers went down. I waited there all day and they did not come back online. I came back the next day. System was down all day but I waited praying it would come back online. It came back at 4:00pm and the office closed at 4:30pm. Only a fraction of the 100 people waiting for a passport received them that day ($150 cost). My name was the next to last name called.

Despite my deep breathing exercises, my stress level was off the chart. That expired passport was both a time-consuming and expensive delay and it almost didn’t happen. Learn from my mistake. Make sure you check your passport and any necessary visas required for your trip weeks ahead of time.

Tip #3: When traveling abroad purchase medical travel insurance to cover you and your family members. If you’re pregnant make sure you check the policy carefully. There are some travel insurance companies whose policies do not cover pregnant travelers.

Tip #4: Be sure to check the expected weather for your travel destination. While traveling around all summer to hot locals, I forgot to check the weather in Peru, my final destination. It was winter in Peru and the temperature was in the 50’s. A little cool for my shorts and flip-flops. I had to buy sweaters and a jacket. Do not assume the weather will be similar to where you live. This is rarely the case.

Tip #5: Buy trip cancellation insurance. If you have to cancel or delay your trip at the last-minute it can be costly, so you want to be covered.

These tips can help you have a smooth and worry-free vacation. Hopefully, a romantic getaway filled with hugging, cuddling and kissing.