Some of you might have read my previous post on my wait for the red seal on the passport. Getting the first visa itself was an experience, traveling out of India for the first time was another experience of its own! I learnt a lot of new things from the mistakes I did during this process. I thought I must compile this to help you avoid the mistakes I did!
1. Plan thoroughly!
Depending on where you are heading to, make sure you plan thoroughly. Have a rough idea of what all are you planning to carry - clothes, food products, medicines, cosmetics, toiletries, etc. I was quite unplanned at this - I packed my bag just a few hours before I departed to the airport. I ended up having all my toiletries in my bag that was checked-in. I had to run around in the last minutes to buy food products - some unnecessary last minute shopping.
2. Get an International SIM Card if you plan to remain there for long -
I was out of India for 45 days. I hadn't purchased a SIM card, and ended up having to buy one inside the airport. Your options are extremely limited when you do that. Its better to buy it before heading to the airport- you would bag a better deal. Do not plan using your international roaming if you are planning to be there for a long time - your host or associates there might find it difficult to call an international number every time! These days Indian telcos offer competitive rate even on roaming - so you could use them for your data needs or to call back home.
3. Purchase currency in advance -
I realised that I had no USD with me after I had landed in the US! I was terribly disorganised prior to the travel that I ended up not having any money with me when I landed there! I had to buy USD from a foreign exchange in Chicago airport - needless to say, it was expensive, and I hardly got anything in change for a Rs. 2000 INR note!
4. Carry appropriate clothing -
I did carry good quality winter wear while traveling - but that was all well packed inside my carry on bag (I was fortunate about that). I had to open the bag on landing at Frankfurt - It was chilling cold out there!
5. Pack separately -
This was not a mistake I did - but got this as a suggestion. Split your clothes into two bags. Carry essentials and may be enough dresses to go for 2-3 days in a smaller bag, that could be carried along with your (as a cabin bag). Every airline permits a carry on bag plus a laptop/hand bag. This carry on bag would help you should your checked-in bag not reach your destination with you. There are days when the airlines leave behind bags at the origin itself - and have it delivered to you at the destination a day or two later. They do compensate for such delays, but having a back-up helps you!
6. Have copies of your passport and visa - probably even save them on your phone
Always have copies of the passport and visa kept separately and safely inside your bag. Keep you passport & visa (if it is a paper visa) always with you - like inside your jacket or your pocket. Avoid keeping it in a different bag or pouch. This avoids getting into trouble should you get robbed or you misplace your bag somewhere. I was randomly screened by a Customs & Border Patrol officer while in the US. I didn't have my passport with me at that point of time - but they were fine with the copy that I had in my pocket. They did verify it on their device to see if I had entered the US legally.
7. Check customs policies of your destination country
Certain countries do not allow bringing in vegetables or fruits - processed or raw. Make sure you check with the policies of the country before carrying them. You may end up paying a huge penalty or even risk being imprisoned or deported if caught. Its better to carry processed food in smaller quantities.
Other than these, make sure you keep an eye on the visa conditions, the validity of the visa and other things. You may be in real trouble if you overstay or violate visa conditions!