SUNDAY TIMES - Avoid nightmare of a dream trip
Sunday Times Opinion By Dineo Tsamela, 2017-05-14 00:00:00.0

Avoid nightmare of a dream trip

STEPPING OUT: One's first trip abroad can be daunting, so it pays to do some research beforehand.
Image: iSTOCK

First-time solo travellers have many things to consider when planning a trip abroad.

Once you know where you're going, you need to calculate how the currency used at your destination compares to the rand and what documents are required.

Will you need a visa, how much will it cost and how long will it be valid for? Get your documents together before you go to the embassy to apply.

Book your flights early.

This is the easiest part of planning your trip - once you've saved the money for the flight, that is.

The sooner you book, the cheaper your flight will be. You should also look out for specials, which are usually on offer in holiday seasons. Take advantage of sales - that could save you a lot of money.

Take advantage of long stopovers.

It might be worth exploring cities on layovers - time and money permitting.

When comparing ticket prices, ask yourself: "Do I need a visa to explore? Is the stopover during the day or night? Does the cost of booking overnight accommodation (for an extremely long stopover) justify going for the cheaper option, or will I end up paying more?"

Settle your itinerary and book accommodation.

If you're going to be doing a multicity trip, decide where you want to go and how long you're staying at each place you visit.

If your budget is on the tight side, Airbnb is a great option for accommodation, because you can search within your means. Hostels are also worth checking out.

Decide how you're going to get around and budget for transport.

Depending where you're headed, using public transport might be the best option. You should be able to get an idea of these costs if there's a formal transport system. If not, it's best to connect with people who have been there to get an idea of costs and how to get around.

Get travel insurance.

Some regions require you to show proof that you're insured when you apply for a visa. However, this shouldn't be the only reason you get cover. Anything can happen, and since you're travelling alone, the risk becomes greater.

If you're not sure where to begin, check out Travel Insurance Consultants at

Keep your spending money safe.

Carrying cash on your travels can be problematic. Most banks offer a built-in multicurrency feature that comes with the option of ordering a prepaid card. Just keep in mind how long it takes to deliver the card - don't order it three days before you're leaving.

You may transfer funds from your main account to your currency passport at any time while abroad, but warn your bank if you'll be using your card out of the country.

Getting advice from experienced travellers before you make any arrangements can help you avoid a financial headache. The last thing you want is for the trip of a lifetime to become a nightmare simply because you didn't plan properly.

You can follow Tsamela on Twitter @DineoTsamela