I’m afraid there is no sugar coating this step in the preparation of your trip. It’s not exciting or fun, however, it is vital to have your documentation in order as you won’t be going anywhere without it. Even seasoned travellers like myself have slipped up and I can tell you it’s a very stressful situation best avoided!
There are three categories of documentation to consider and organise before you travel:
- Visa Requirements
- Health and Medical Documentation
I hope it goes without saying that everyone is aware they need a passport to travel overseas. What people may not know is that your passport needs to have a certain amount of validity for entry to certain countries. I recommend that you find out what the up to date entry requirements of the countries you plan to visit (and transit through) with the relevant foreign embassy or consulate. I have devised a table further down for the most popular destinations from Australia. Please note that other country requirements may differ from these.
I am one of the privileged few that enjoys the benefit of being a dual citizen. This has huge advantages as sometimes I can use the alternative passport to avoid needing a visa. As mentioned at the start of this article I did slip up before I became a dual citizen. Before I became an Australian Citizen I held a Residency Visa in my British passport that I assumed would be valid forever. How wrong was I!! Upon leaving Australia with my two children (aged 3 and 6 years at the time) for a holiday I was informed by immigration officials that my residency return visa had expired (it only lasts 5 year) and that when I returned I would need to organise another visa. I was horrified and distraught, after living in Australia for 10 years it appeared that my future there could be uncertain. After numerous phone calls to the Australian Embassy it did all work out upon my return and I have to say the immigration officials were very nice to me. Having said that it was a harsh lesson and ultimately made the decision to become an Aussie much easier.
To avoid complications at immigration it is necessary to do your research and obtain the most recent information about your visa requirement for the country you are visiting and how to acquire it.
The following table highlights the passport validity and visa requirements for Australians*.
|Country||Validity of Passport||Visa Requirements|
|New Zealand||For length of stay||No visa required|
|United States||90 days||Visa Waiver Program for under 90 days|
|Schengen Zone**||6 months||No visa for under 90 days|
|United Kingdom||6 months||No visa for under 6 months (tourist only)|
|China||6 months||Yes visa required|
|Vietnam||6 months||Yes visa required|
|Fiji||6 months||No visa for under 4 months. Return ticket is required|
|Indonesia||6 months||No visa for under 30 days|
|Thailand||6 months||No visa for under 30 days|
|Canada||For length of stay||No visa required
You will need an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA)
*Valid at the time of publication date
**Schengen countries include: Austraia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia,Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Health and Medical Documentation
It goes without saying that our health is extremely important and there are a few considerations to make before travelling overseas.
- Travel Insurance
The first decision will be whether to take out a travel insurance policy before you head away. We’ve all heard the stories about tourists involved in accidents and unable to get treatment or left with debilitating medical bills. Numerous organisations offer travel insurance and it does pay to do some research into which policies are the best for your own needs. Many credit cards offer free travel insurance to their clients so check with your card provider to see whether that is the case. Be aware though that many insurance brokers will not pay out if you have been involved in an incident and you have alcohol in your system.
It is worthwhile to visit you doctors’ clinic or local pharmacist to discuss whether you will need vaccinations for the country you are visiting. Many Asian, African and South American places have diseases that have been eradicated in much of the western world. We found that when we travelled to Vietnam our children had been vaccinated through their childhood immunisation program against most of the risks so they didn’t require many needles. It’s also a good idea to keep the immunisation card as a record and carry it with you on your trip. The following websites offer more information about health and vaccinations needed for travel:
If you regularly take medication it is imperative that you carry it with you whilst overseas. Be mindful of how long you are away for and whether you have enough to last the trip. It is also a good idea to ask your general practitioner to write a letter with details of the medication you take, how much you take and state that it is for personal use. Some countries have restrictions on certain medications; for example, you are not allowed to carry narcotics into the UAE and strict penalties such as imprisonment can apply. Always read the travel advice and check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting.
Now that’s all finalised…
Once you’ve organised all the necessary documentation it’s time to get back to the fun part of planning your trip. My next article will focus on how to create a beautiful travel journal.