Travelling can be a bit tricky if you have never really done it before, particularly in places like Europe and the UK. There are different regulations and laws to deal with and you may need to take information and items with you that you would not typically carry in your own country of residence.
Travelling By Car
For residents of the UK for example, driving in main land Europe means driving on the right hand side of the road and when hiring a car also means you have to get used to a left hand drive car as opposed to the right hand drive cars you will be more familiar with, of course this can happen in reverse if you take a vehicle from a left hand drive country to a right hand drive country.
If you are driving your own car through Europe or any other country besides your own, make sure that you take original documents and photocopies of:
- Driving license
- Vehicle registration document
- Motor insurance certificate
The vehicle should be fully legal and safe to drive, i.e. should meet the legal requirements of your country of residence for driving it and the country you plan to visit. You might have to look up the local laws of the destination country to make sure you do not break any legal requirements for driving there.
Most European countries for example have minimum equipment requirements for driving, these could include items like a warning triangle, high visibility vests or a first aid kit. So it is always worth getting a motoring kit to make sure you stay within the law and actually can operate more safely if you do have a problem.
It is also a good idea to arrange motor breakdown recovery insurance, getting your car back home after a breakdown could mean significant cost if you do not have it.
Carrying a decent sized map that is up to date and shows all the roads will be worth its weight in gold, especially if you get caught up in a traffic jam for example and need to find an alternative route. Using a sat nav with the road systems included for the region you are travelling in is another great way of finding your way around and for getting you safely to your destination.
For mainland Europe you can travel across borders to the different countries without having to show any identity. But on first arrival from outside of mainland Europe or if you want to get into or out of the UK, you will need a passport. A passport is also considered to be the standard way to provide proof of identity wherever required, so worth carrying on your travels. There are still requirements for most countries for you to secure a visa to enter the country, usually dependent on where you originate from. This can sometimes be as simple as filling in a form on route or it may require prior arrangement, vetting and submitting an application. Make sure you know what the relationship is between your country and your chosen destination(s) so that you don’t have a wasted journey.
Many countries in Europe now use the Euro as the base currency, so if you are coming from a country that does not use the Euro then you will need to be sure you have a means of paying for the services or products you need. Most credit cards are accepted in Europe, although there are some countries, like Germany for example, where not everywhere will accept standard credit cards. So it is worth getting at least some of the local currency for those odd occasions where you will need it. Travellers cheques or a prepaid card can provide a cost effective means of exchanging currency and allow you to keep the actual cash you carry to a minimum. This advice stands true for the rest of the world as well, find out what the local currency is, how you can obtain some and what facilities are available once you get there.
Health & Security Considerations
Travel insurance is always recommended for anyone travelling outside of their own country and Europe is no exception. For members of the European community you will be entitled to basic health care in most European countries and if you are from the UK you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) free of charge. This gives access to reduced cost medical treatment and for some insurance policy’s it is mandatory you have one to process a claim. Of course there are other benefits associated with travel insurance as well, such as claiming for cancelled flights, lost luggage or stolen property. Plus many countries simply don’t have welfare facilities and without a means of paying you will not be treated, no matter how seriously ill you are.
There are certain countries that can and do harbour specific health threats and where it is recommended that you take specific shots or vaccinations prior to visiting them. Some of these can take a while to arrange or need an incubation period to be effective. So again it is worth finding out what the health risks are in your intended destination and giving yourself enough time to protect yourself.
Finally, from a security perspective, foreign travellers always put themselves at risk, primarily because they are likely to be unfamiliar with their surroundings and location. Taking common sense precautions like, not wandering off the beaten track, not carrying too much money with you and staying aware of what is happening around you, will go a long way to ensuring you stay safe.
Travelling is a time to enjoy yourself and broaden your horizons, but it is also a time to pay attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it, so you can relax and enjoy your trip.