Heading on holiday soon? You might want to read this
Travellers need to be well prepared and informed about the ever-changing nature of immigration requirements, especially ahead of their holiday.
Jiten Vyas, Regional Group COO at leading visa outsourcing and technology services specialist, VFS Global, said the excitement of going on holiday is often marred by last minute stress due to failed planning. “Planning a holiday away with the family can be exciting, but to ensure a hassle-free experience, prior preparation and attention to detail are key," he explained.
Vyas encouraged travellers to research and understand the local rules and regulations for their intended destination. He shares his smart travel checklist for a hassle-free holiday:
Pack and check your passport:
Packing your passport may seem like an obvious thing to do for many travellers, but you also need to ensure the validity of the passport in advance.
“South African nationals looking travelling abroad need to ensure their passports are valid by checking the expiry dates on a regular basis. Some countries require a 6-month validity buffer from the day of arrival or the day of your return,” he said.
Verify the visa requirements
Although the list of visa-free countries for South Africans continues to increase, it remains the travellers’ responsibility to ensure they meet the requirements of the destination country. According to the Henley Passport Index, South Africa’s passport is ranked as the 53rd most powerful passport out of 107 countries. Essentially, the power in a passport lies in the number of countries the passport holder can enter visa-free.
For some countries, South African passport holders can be issued with a visa stamped on arrival, or enter on a free e-visa at the port of entry of their destination country. Vyas suggests that travellers book flights and hotels in advance. He also suggested doing the same for the visas, if your destination requires one.
“Most countries accept visa applications up to 90 days before your date of travel. So, don’t wait until the last minute as the assessment of a visa application by a government could take longer than expected, especially during peak season.
“Do your research and ensure you have sufficient time for visa applications," he said.
Review the geopolitical climate
Geopolitical risks play a significant role in the overall enjoyment of your holiday. Vyas said one should review the geopolitical climate. “It’s very important to read up on the government travel advisories on their respective websites to educate yourself on what to do in the case of an emergency. Risks can be in the form of political unrest and natural disasters. Ensure you follow general safety precautions and be aware of the local cultural sensitivities," he added.
Be financially prepared
From using cash to spending with your credit card, there are a few things to consider while you travel abroad. Always keep local currency handy for all emergency purposes during your trip as this will also take the stress out of your local market visits where card transactions may not be possible.
Debit and credit cards are a handy way to make payments abroad, but before you swipe away, familiarise yourself with your bank’s service charge and mark-up amount on the conversion rate.
“Exchange rates at airports often have a 10 per cent mark-up and are a notch higher than the exchange rates offered by local money changers. Avoid these currency rates by planning in advance and getting the currency changed from a local bank,” he said.
Before embarking on your trip, save all your important phone numbers. These include the contact details of family and friends back home, your hotel and emergency service numbers for the travel destination. Call your network provider to set up roaming to ensure you can communicate if you are out of a wifi network.
He said: “Travelling can be daunting, but there are travel apps that can make your life easier. Update your banking apps, download translation apps and find out about e-hailing services in your destination country so you can download the app in advance.”
Have your health documents ready
To enter certain countries, travellers may need vaccinations or medical requirements. “Health requirements are not to be taken lightly. For example, if you need a Yellow Fever certificate, make sure you get one. You don’t want to be turned away at immigration because you’ve flouted a country’s travel health code,” said Vyas.