2 weeks' notice yesterday, unprepared and excited

Travel Forums Round the World Travel 2 weeks' notice yesterday, unprepared and excited

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1. Posted by World_taster (Budding Member 6 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

Hi All!

I am 29 living in Northern California. Ever since I was very young I've been deeply interested in history, culture, people, politics, etc.

My inner voice has been taunting me for some time now--"You're a liar, aren't you? You claim to be interested in the world and it's people, why aren't you out there tasting it? Living it?"

I've given my two weeks' notice at work as of yesterday. Been saving for the past 6 months or so, with the intention of launching on 6-12 months of frugal international travel. I will be starting in Armenia as a matter of convenience, and will use that visit as a launch pad to go wherever I choose. Likely routes include:
-Armenia->Turkey->Greece->Balkans->Ukraine->Poland->?
-Armenia->Kazakhstan->Central Asia->India->Thailand->Vietnam->South America?
-Armenia->Turkey->Greece->Egypt->Jordan->India or central Asia->who knows

I am terribly excited and admittedly fearful. This is the most ambitious thing I've ever done, and I've only started to prepare in earnest about a week ago. Today I'll be applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, take a look at some cell phones, and then to the pharmacy for some visa photos. I am leaving in less than 3 weeks.

I am FRIGGIN HUNGRY to hear your travel best practices insofar as these regions and this mode of travel (frugal, solo, open-ended). I have a few big concerns that I'd love hearing about your experience with:

-TRAVEL INSURANCE: Is this crucial to get? It's not break-the-budget expensive, but I see that most providers want to know what countries you'll be in, and that's not something I feel I can reliably provide due to the open-ended nature of my excursion.

-PHONE: This is less of a concern, I'm feeling somewhat committed to the "no plan" route, relying on wifi and WhatsApp to stay connected, with the option to buy a SIM card in whatever locality I'm in if it becomes vital.

-FLIGHTS: Any advice on buying one-way tickets? I always hear that Tuesday afternoon is the best time for some reason. Looking to limit this cost as much as possible as it looks like most one-ways to Armenia are around $600.

-BEST PRACTICES: I know there's a ton of things I'm not thinking of that I should be--how to avoid getting into risky situations in India, how to avoid malaria in Vietnam, the small and seemingly trivial things that are easy to overlook but become crucial when travelling abroad.

All advice, experiences, and suggestions are Welcome!

[ Edit: Edited on 08-Sep-2018, at 10:02 by World_taster ]

2. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1047 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

I'm afraid you're unprepared for your trip, particularly if you plan to leave in less than three weeks. For example, you can't travel overland from Armenia to Turkey. That border remains closed. Most people travel to Turkey via Georgia.

If you're on a limited budget, you'll find that Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine are very affordable. So is India and Southeast Asia. Getting to South America will cost more than you expect.

I assume you already have a U.S. passport. If not, you need to get one, pronto. There is a rush fee if you need one quickly. You also need to check visa requirements, if any. See this link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

Some countries, such as the Philippines, require proof of onward travel.

If you're a member of Costco (or have a friend who is a member), passport photos can be obtained more cheaply than at a pharmacy. You'll need extras if you plan a 'round-the-world trip.

Check these links to discover low-cost fares: https://www.google.com/flights
https://www.flightconnections.com/

Asia has several low-cost carriers, including AirAsia. Sign up at their Web sites to get promotional fares.

Think one, two or three steps ahead of where you are going to forestall problems. For example, if you're headed to Vietnam, apply for a visa beforehand.

I use Google's Project Fi to communicate: https://fi.google.com/
Price is reasonable; and works in 170+ countries.

There are several Web sites that specialize in travel insurance. Suggest you consider medical evacuation and repatriation coverage.

Too bad you already quit your job. If your company had medical benefits, you probably could have gotten a supply of atovaquone/proguanil (generic Malarone). It's an antimalarial. If you can't afford the medication, simply protect yourself against insect bites. Make sure you wear long-sleeve shirts (you can always roll them up). Protect your legs and feet (don't wear flip-flops on hikes, for example).

Your most valuable possession is your passport. Protect it at all costs. Don't leave it lying around. Keep it in a safe place, such as a money belt. Since you live in northern California, you're probably near an REI store. Get one there.

How are you accessing money overseas? I use Charles Schwab Bank debit cards (no fees of any kind). If you're using a credit card, how will you be making payments (automatically from your checking account?)

In sum, you need to do some thoughtful planning in advance of travel. If you don't, mistakes can be costly. I speak from experience.

P.S. Looking for inexpensive ways to get overseas? If you live near San Francisco, consider flying first to Asia. For example, San Francisco to Singapore on Korean Airlines costs as low as $340. It will be less expensive than flying from SFO to EVN. But if you're determined to get to Europe first, consider Norwegian Air and WOW flights to Europe from northern California, such as Oakland.

You'll find the best fares on heavily traveled routes with competition. But it sometimes pays to check nearby airports. For example, instead of flying from Hong Kong, consider Macao. You might be pleasantly surprised. Familiarize yourself with airports. For example, Bangkok is served by two, DMK and BKK. Know the difference.

P.P.S. Frame of mind is important while traveling. Be alert, be positive, be flexible. Reach out. If you're friendly, more people will be willing to help you. If you encounter a problem, deal with it quickly and move on. Enjoy!

[ Edit: Edited on 08-Sep-2018, at 11:55 by berner256 ]

3. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 433 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

> TRAVEL INSURANCE: Is this crucial to get?

In a word, yes.

It's the health insurance aspect which matters. You are not immortal. Anyone can get ill or slip & break an ankle, be involved in a traffic accident etc etc etc.

Without insurance you can very easily find yourself owing the equivalent of thousands of USD....and if you haven't got insurance, you and/or your family will have to pick up the tab. If, god forbid, you have such a severe accident that you require medical assistance on the flight home........or you die...you're potentially looking at the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of USD. Do you really want to give yourself or your family that sort of debt?

Do some research and get travel health insurance that includes cover for repatriation.

And do some research now about what visas you will need. Don't assume you can always get visas on entry because you can't. Some visas can only be applied for from your country of residence.

4. Posted by Andrew Mack (Respected Member 446 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

World-taster

Quoting berner256

I'm afraid you're unprepared for your trip, particularly if you plan to leave in less than three weeks.

You also need to check visa requirements, if any. See this link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

I agree with many of the different comments above, especially with berner256.

It isn't clear why Armenia would be a starting point when Asia is closer to you (and therefore cheaper to get to and to travel through).
You really need to sort out your visa requirements as some of them can take a week or more to arrange.
What's more, your research should include checking the weather in places for the time you expect to be there, as arriving somewhere to find the weather is unexpectedly cold or a Typhoon is arriving the next day, can really spoil a visit.

Travel Tip;
Scan your passport and print a couple of 'pocket' sized copies, get them laminated and away from airports (where they obviously need the original) try to show the copies rather than have the original moving through every hostel or hotels hands.
Some will insist on the original but the less you use it, the less chance it'll get damaged/lost.
Also scan and email all your documents including emergency phone numbers, to yourself.
The ability to get hold of this info by just logging into your email can be immensely useful.
Especially when you're at your embassy trying to get a replacement passport or trying to call to get a replacement cash card.

Quoting berner256

Your most valuable possession is your passport. Protect it at all costs. Don't leave it lying around.

I do find it amazing how many people lose their passports.
It's gobsmacking that some people value it so cheaply, whilst others would kill to get hold of it...

5. Posted by Andrew Mack (Respected Member 446 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

Quoting leics2

> TRAVEL INSURANCE: Is this crucial to get?
In a word, yes.

That's a BIG YES.

Also if you have a motorcycle licence and intend to hire scooters/motorbikes on your travels, then make 100% certain that your travel insurance covers you for injury whilst riding. Some don't or only cover you on bikes below a certain size. Similarly, if you intend to do any other adventure activity/scuba diving etc then check that's covered as well.
Also get an International Driving permit.

If you don't have a motorcycle licence already then don't try to learn in another country with road rules you do not understand.
That's like checking the electricity works by sticking your tongue on the wires.

6. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1047 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

A friend of mine rented a motor bike in Vietnam and broke some bones when a chicken unexpectedly flew in front, resulting in a crash.

One reason to protect your passport is that if you don't have one -- from theft or loss -- you won't be able to travel. Many hotels require that you show a passport in order to be registered. No passport, no accommodation. This is particularly so in countries such as China and India. Airlines also require that you show your passport; and relevant visas, particularly to countries that require one. No visa, no transportation. No carrier wants to return a passenger to the origin of a flight because that person lacked a visa. So they check. I recall the time that Malaysia Airlines also required me to show proof of onward travel, a requirement of the country I was visiting.

To replace a passport you need to show proof of who you are; and that you are a U.S. citizen. My passport was stolen in a Paris youth hostel on my first overseas trip in 1973-'74. Luckily I had a copy of my birth certificate with me.

You have to have your wits about you when you travel; and use common sense. Don't be like one of my friends who traveled to Russia and lost all his money after imbibing too much.

Yes, there's risk in travel, but there also are tremendous rewards. That's why I'm still on the road. I leave Sept. 19 to spend nearly two months in the Himalayas, the fourth trip to the region in five years.

7. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 2098 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

Very ambitious trip. Have you worked out a daily budget for your trip? Some countries are much cheaper than other countries. Some countries on your list have a high season and a low season for hotel costs. If your daily budget (after paying for plane rides) has you living in really crappy places and eating stuff that stinks or looks unappealing just to survive - maybe consider staying overseas for less time!

Have more than one debit card for your spending money. If you just go with a single card what will you do if someone steals it or you lose or damage it?? So have back up cards. I have debit cards through local credit unions that have served me well over the years. They pay for some of my ATM charges, pay interest, no annual fees and allow for bill pay and other free transfers. If you have bills to pay for (house, car, apartment, or whatever) a card with Bill Pay comes in handy. With my cards I can transfer money between various accounts too. A couple credit cards will come in handy for emergencies and you will be purchasing plane tickets along the way too. (When you pay with plastic you have to pay the bill each month, Bill Pay comes in handy!)

Nowadays I stay overseas for less time and stick with places I am familiar with. Besides debit and credit cards, I bring cash, US dollars, newer big head printings in hundred dollar denominations. (I can change USD for local currency when I just need a little. Same ATM fee for a small value withdrawal or the maximum allowed.) Overseas I do not use credit or debit cards for every cheap purchase. For many countries it is better to use their currency anyway. (The less I expose my credit card numbers the safer I feel. Less chance of fraud.)

I always notify my bank/credit unions that I will be traveling and where BEFORE leaving home. Some banks might assume withdrawals suddenly coming from overseas are fraudulent and freeze the account.

I keep a record of my credit card numbers and debit card numbers and other important "must remember" information in emails that I send to myself and then save in a folder. CC and debit card numbers are coded so it will not be easy for someone else get the info. Also my travel computer is pin number protected and I do not leave open any bank or credit union or private email accounts with saved passwords.

I think you ought to stick with Asia since you are on the left coast already. Not every country has the same cost. Singapore, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong will be more expensive than Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. (Thailand also has a requirement for proof of onward travel. This can be a plane ticket out of Thailand for another country before the free 30 days is up.)

You could break your trip into geographic chunks. Maybe the the Asia part first and even return home to work or visit before the next chunk of countries to visit.

Yeah, safeguard your passport! DO NOT allow your passport to get soaked! Goofy looking it may be but I have one of those little passport pouches on a cord that I attach to a D ring in my side pocket. If raining or I am sweating like a pig I keep the pouch in a sandwich bag. Like the above posts mention, have copies of your passport info pages and even visas you get ahead of time. Some countries you visit you might be able to visit various embassies to obtain visas for the next country. Yeah, not all countries have visa on arrival or some sort of free entry at the airport.

If you have a tremendous amount of money saved up anything is possible. But if you continuously stay in really crappy places eating crappy food you really can't stand - a shorter trip visiting fewer places will give you more spending money.

Medical insurance for your trip. There are tourists with severe injuries overseas who are on the internet begging for people to send money. (Some are from motor scooter accidents or other vehicle accidents.)

Up to you.

8. Posted by World_taster (Budding Member 6 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

I assume you already have a U.S. passport. If not, you need to get one, pronto. There is a rush fee if you need one quickly. You also need to check visa requirements, if any.

Yes I've recently renewed my passport and have 8 years before expiration. What's alarmed me in this thread is another user's comment about visas--that some must be applied from the traveler's country of residence. How common is that? I was expecting to be able to do some of this sort of work once I left the country, as I will still be working right before I fly out and won't have a ton of time to cram all this research in the next 2-3 weeks.

Some countries, such as the Philippines, require proof of onward travel.

Does this always mean a plane ticket? I was hoping I'd be able to cross many of these borders on foot, and don't know how I'd provide my proof of onward travel in those cases.

Too bad you already quit your job. If your company had medical benefits, you probably could have gotten a supply of atovaquone/proguanil (generic Malarone). It's an antimalarial.

I'll be working and insured up until the day before I leave. I can still make an appt. and get the antimalarial drugs, though I've heard that their side effects can sometimes be as bad as malaria itself (not sure how true that is).

How are you accessing money overseas? I use Charles Schwab Bank debit cards (no fees of any kind). If you're using a credit card, how will you be making payments (automatically from your checking account?)

I'll continue to use my Wells Fargo acct. which incurs a $2.50 charge every time I draw money abroad. I don't think I'll be doing this more than once per country as I will be mostly relying on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card that I've applied for today, which allows for 0 foreign transaction fees. I will pay down the credit card balance every month online.

It isn't clear why Armenia would be a starting point when Asia is closer to you (and therefore cheaper to get to and to travel through).

I have a family friend in Armenia who is throwing a birthday party in Yerevan. My plan is to join the celebration, and then stay a while after as I plan my next move.

9. Posted by World_taster (Budding Member 6 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

Have you worked out a daily budget for your trip? Some countries are much cheaper than other countries. Some countries on your list have a high season and a low season for hotel costs.

I don't have a daily budget since I've not decided on an itinerary. I'll have about $17k to work with after buying insurance/plane ticket/backpack and supplies. I expect that some places I will be living on $100/day, and others it will be $30/day. I will also be looking for opportunities to earn money and possibly free housing (staying with relatives, making friends, couch surfing etc.)

You could break your trip into geographic chunks. Maybe the the Asia part first and even return home to work or visit before the next chunk of countries to visit.

This is possible. I'll be keeping it very open ended, so I'm not necessarily committed to being out there 6-12 months. I might decide that I've had my fill after 3 months, and go back home for some time and sortie out into the world again after some recovery. I have to say keeping it this open-ended is at the same time freeing and also stressful since the future is kept so uncertain.

10. Posted by World_taster (Budding Member 6 posts) 9w Star this if you like it!

Here's what I got so far from all of your wonderful and detailed replies:

-I have been convinced to get Travel Insurance. The tricky part is finding a plan that has the flexibility I want (month-to-month since my trip does not have a fixed end date, and also the ability to change coverage dynamically since I don't have a firm itinerary)
-I will get laminated copies of passport and ID information
-I will get backup debit and credit cards, and will email myself copies of all vital documentation.
-I will use common sense when dealing with people--I'm a pretty observant guy, part of the reason for this trip is to meet new people from new places, but I understand that there are those who are willing to take advantage of you anywhere you might go.
-I will keep some small amount of USD on me always.
-I will notify banks of my movements to prevent my accounts from becoming locked down.

This is awesome, I'd love it if we can keep it going and if you guys have insight to my follow-up Qs quoted above. BIG thanks particularly to berner256 and karazyal for the extensive and in-depth replies!

[ Edit: Edited on 08-Sep-2018, at 18:49 by World_taster ]