travPeru. 16 days. Somewhere between excited and terrified. The freak out I have every night before going to sleep has turned out to be quite comforting. I will say that being home around my mom who is scarily prepared for every waking moment has helped a lot. She’s around to make sure I’m filling prescriptions, taking probiotics, and getting my affairs in order. There have been so many miscellaneous things to take care of that I haven’t even begun to actually pack any clothes. Great times.
Some things that have taken me the longest are:
Vaccines: So I had to get yellow fever, typhoid, and Hep A & B. While there were no required vaccinations for Peru (my organization required them), a lot of countries require you to have a yellow fever card confirming you got the vaccination before you can clear customs. Don’t mess around with waiting on your shots. For one thing, I was at school and got the LAST yellow fever vaccine in all of Tallahassee. With shots needed for traveling, they don’t have an abundance available like they do the flu shot, and they often won’t order more for another 5-6 months. You also need 2 weeks for these bad boys to kick in, so don’t play with your health by waiting until the very last minute.
Banking: Figure it out before you go. If that’s the only thing you take away from this, let it be that. Yes, most areas have ATMS for international banking, but they also had a high percentage rate for using a different ATM than your home bank AND for doing so internationally. Not to mention an exchange rate if you’re taking out a local currency. On top of that, some regions are pretty strict about the kinds of money you can use (Cuba is an example), so be informed.
Phone: This really depends on the length of your trip. It didn’t make sense for me to do one of the international plans AT&T had available because my program is 10 weeks (this is considered longer). To anyone traveling for an extended length of time, I would recommend finding out what local plans are and what your wifi situation will be like. In my case, I will be keeping my personal phone on airplane mode and using it to contact my family when I have wifi. When I get there, I plan on renting a pay as you go phone and paying for a refillable sim card to use it locally.
Something important to note about phones–companies will tell you that you can just unlock your phone and switch the sim card when you get there. You can do this, HOWEVER, in order to unlock your phone you must pay off any existing payments (so if you do a monthly thing like me you need to check how much is left). It also takes 24 hours to process an unlocking request. If you’re a person who feels more comfortable by being way prepared on the front-end, make sure you figure out how phones apply to you on the early side.
VISAS: I didn’t need one; bless. But dude, do this so far in advance that people are making fun of you. Some of my friends participating in the same program as me applied for visas with all of the proper time needed (and then some), but still haven’t received their visas–and some of their trips are in a week! According to those I know working through the process, some countries will notoriously send yours to you the day before you leave, even if you’ve had it expedited.
Travel: Flights are no joke. Here’s what I did that I’m extra proud of. When I found a flight plan I loved, I kept the tab on even though I was waiting on my dad to look it over (he travels for a living and knows a good deal better than I do). By the time he was able to give me the green light, the price of the ticket had gone up by at least $70!! BUT, wait for it; I still had my tab open with the original plan AND price, and I was able to pay it at that rate. So ya know, give it a go.
Obviously, the main takeaway here is to not wait until the last minute. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve gotten myself dropped from my program (on the school side), because I haven’t been on top of one thing or another. If you aren’t a typically organized person (like me), you’ve got to learn what works for you, and fast. When you’re traveling by yourself, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by just how many factors aren’t in your control.
Take a deep breath and find someone to be your rock. Pinteresting your trip helps.