First time traveller 101

Neo Matsei is a 24-year old woman who has recently started working. She has never travelled anywhere outside of her home country. Now that she has gained some independence, she reckons it might be a good idea to go on an adventure and tick off an overseas trip from her bucket list. She did research on a few essentials needed for her to get ready and set for her first trip abroad. Below are some questions she asked and got answers for in planning for her first trip, which will help all first time travellers.

“Your 20s is the best time to travel…”

I have not heard that line without cringing or experiencing a little fear of missing out (FOMO).

Now, at 24 – travelling abroad doesn’t seem like a far-fetched dream anymore.

I have always wondered what shopping in Paris, “the city of love” would be like, or just how tall the Eiffel Tower stands above me? Why New York is known to be “the city that never sleeps”? What it would be like to experience the rich culture in Rio de Janeiro and just what Thai cuisine from Thailand tastes like.

Travelling is said to be one of the most enriching experiences in life, and more so if you’re travelling outside of your home country. It is a great opportunity to learn new things and really get to understand how and why certain things are done around the world.

It’s such a cliché, but the best holiday destination for me is anywhere where there is beach. This is why I chose Club Med Phuket in Thailand as my first sunny holiday escape, abroad. Phuket boasts stunning offshore islands, beautiful beaches, and exquisite Thai food.

The thought of travelling abroad for the first time is very exciting, but it is a daunting feeling to not know where to begin. And so, I asked a few questions…

What is the first step to take before travelling overseas?

Get a passport.

You cannot travel anywhere in the world without a valid passport. It certifies your identity and nationality and it is easy to apply for. It is also important to plan ahead and apply for the passport well in advance as it will take approximately 40 days to process the application and issue the passport.

Will I need a visa in addition to my passport?

A visa, which is also known as a travel permit, allows you permission to travel to a foreign country. This step is apparently a bit of admin and a daunting experience (but I will not let it get me down). If you apply well in advance and submit the right documents the first time, the procedure is sure to go smoothly.

Some countries might not require a visa, but it is important to do thorough research and check with the foreign representative in South Africa of the country you intend to travel to, whether a visa is required or not.

Is travel insurance necessary even though I’m going for a short while?

Considering travel insurance is a smart move. It is a safety precaution. It will be a great help in cases where you might get sick, require emergency evacuation or lose your luggage while travelling. It could save you a lot of money.

Am I allowed to take my medication to another country?

It is important to research the destination you intend travelling to. Some countries have strict rules about medication. The best option is to get a letter from your doctor for the medication and all the vaccinations that you need.

Will I be able to use rands in another country?

You will require a foreign currency for travel. A good first step will be to research the money conversion and the cost of living (from food and drinks to entertainment and more) of the country you intend on visiting, so that you can plan on visiting a destination that falls within your budget. Luckily with Club Med, you don’t need to even carry cash – everything is included!

There are also a few options to carry your money overseas and it is best to know which will work for you. Is it in cash, a credit card or a debit card – which are options that usually offer better exchange rates and lower fees.

Finally, where to travel and when?

Usually the best options or recommendation for first time South African travellers is Western Europe, where many people speak English and there is less chance of experiencing a communication barrier.

But, to answer this, it is best to know what your reason for a holiday is. Is it a beach holiday or do you prefer a snow/ski holiday? Are you looking for an adventure or do you just want to relax and unwind?

It is vital to know the seasons and climate in different parts of the world. If you are looking to enjoy a sunny holiday in Europe it is advisable to leave South Africa between June and September – where you’re guaranteed to enjoy the warm beach sand under your feet. Also, bear in mind that summer is peak season in Europe and would therefore cost more and require a higher budget.

European winter season starts in mid-October and ends in March/April. This is a good time to visit Europe if you’re a winter sport lover and are looking for the best snow or ski holiday.

Too much admin, right? Thank goodness for Club Med “all-inclusive” packages

Luckily for me (and for you) the Club Med “all-inclusive” package can save me all that trouble above – I won’t need to do more than apply for a passport and book for my trip to Phuket. South Africans can stay in Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa.*

If you’re booking via Club Med, it is safe to say that every aspect of your trip will be taken care of. You can simply call a consultant, choose whether you want your booking to also include flights, and Club Med will handle everything for you.

Once you have completed your booking and have paid – all you need to do is arrive at the airport on the day of departure. Club Med will take care of transport from the airport to your desired Club Med resort, food and drinks throughout the entire holiday, and entertainment – you won’t even have to carry your wallet!

Club Med sounds like the most hassle-free way to travel, especially for a first-time traveller like me.

*valid for entry via an international airport only