ASA General Travel Notes

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These notes have been prepared for travellers participating on an ASA tour. They comprise practical information and answers to frequently asked questions.  Although these notes are as accurate as possible, they are offered as suggestions and broad guidelines only and not as a set of hard-and-fast instructions.

Smartraveller

The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers.
www.smartraveller.gov.au

Passports
  • Your passport must have six months validity from the date of the end of your travel.
  • Your passport must have at least 2 clear pages for each country you visit.  Many countries will demand two clear pages as they will not place a visa on a page which has a stamp/s on it.
  • Your passport cannot be water stained or have the stitching coming apart.

If the above are not adhered to your passport may be rejected by passport control either in Australia or in the country/s you’re visiting and/or transiting through.

If you have two passports (Australian/New Zealand and other), it is best to travel on the Australian/New Zealand one, especially if visas are required for the country/s you will visit. If travelling on an alternative passport:

  • Make sure your re-entry documentation is up to date prior to departing Australia or New Zealand.
  • Check with the embassy/s of the country/s you are visiting regarding visa requirements pertaining to your passport nationality.
  • It is imperative that your ASA travel consultant knows well in advance the passport you will be travelling on.
Visas and Travel Authorisations

It is your responsibility to obtain all appropriate visas, including transit visas where these are required (your ASA Consultant or your travel agent will be able to advise and assist you). While the specific requirements vary, most countries require a recent passport size photograph, a completed application form and  your actual passport. Your passport is required as the visa,  will be affixed to a blank page in your passport. Other documents may also be required such as a detailed travel itinerary, health information, and invitation letters.  Be aware that visa requirements change frequently.

Some countries (Turkey, India) now require you to apply for an e-visa online. These applications must be done at least 3 days prior to arrival. They require payment over the internet with a credit card and you must print the authorisation for submission upon entry to that country.

The USA offer travellers who are eligible, the USA Visa Waiver Program (VWP). To obtain a travel waiver authorisation, you will need to apply ONLINE using the following web link. There is a cost for this visa waiver.
esta.cbp.dhs.gov

Travel Insurance

Insurance companies regularly change their rules, especially rules regarding credit card insurance. It is very important that you read your insurance brochure in great detail. If you have expensive equipment (eg. camera, video, tablets,etc.) you should consider taking out extra insurance or make sure you have adequate cover. Remember: If you are sick, lose valuables or are robbed overseas – in fact anything which might involve an insurance claim – the first thing you must do is telephone your insurance company emergency hotline. This can minimise difficulties for you (they can assist you with tasks and offer advice) and facilitate a successful claim. Therefore it is important to ensure that you keep the emergency phone number of your insurance company in a safe place separate from your valuables.

Your Luggage
  • Always attach the ASA luggage labels to your cases. This makes it easier for group leaders, guides, porters, etc to identify your luggage.
  • Although on most ASA tours we endeavour to provide porterage, in some countries you may have to wait a long time for your luggage to arrive at your room. In other places like railway stations and airports, porterage may not be available. Never pack more than you can carry especially if you are travelling alone.
  • Never let porters handle your small hand luggage. It can be easily damaged or lost.
  • Never pack your valuables – tickets, passport, currency, etc – in your case. You should keep them on your person at all times while travelling or in the safe at your hotel.
  • Never pack cameras, tablets, laptops in your checked luggage – if you lose your luggage these items will not be covered by insurance. They must be carried in your hand luggage.
  • Luggage weight: This varies depending on the airline, destination and fare paid. Please check with your ASA consultant or your travel agent for the applicable limits. Airlines are becoming increasingly strict about the weight of both your check-in and hand luggage. They will charge large amounts for overweight check-in luggage, and will also force you to check-in excess or heavy hand luggage.
  • Luggage recognition: Because many cases look the same, it is a good idea to supplement the ASA labels (which are very important for on-tour recognition) with a distinctive marking like a coloured ribbon or tape. Remember, it’s not just about you recognising your case, but about other people not mistaking it for theirs.
  • Always check your luggage when it goes on the coach. On many tours, you are asked to place your luggage outside your door prior to leaving a hotel. The porters carry it to the hall and then put it in the luggage compartment of your coach. Before boarding your coach always, without exception, check that your luggage is on the coach. Porters can make mistakes, especially if there is more than one group leaving the hotel on the same morning.
  • Never leave luggage unattended in an airport, railway station or any public space. Never let anyone else pack for you or open your case after it is packed.
  • If you intend to buy anything bulky overseas such as a carpet, it is a good idea to pack an extra, very light but strong bag. If you intend to buy breakables, bring some bubble wrap.
  • Please ensure all sharp objects are packed into your check-in luggage. Nail files, scissors, pocket knives etc will be removed from you if they are in your hand luggage.

Rules for taking liquids, aerosols and gels through customs onto international flights around the world.

  • Carry-on baggage on most flights in the world now have restrictions pertaining to liquids, aerosols and gels. Each container of liquids, aerosols or gels in your carry-on baggage must be 100 millilitres/grams or less.
  • All the containers must be sealed in a transparent, one-litre plastic bag. You are allowed only one plastic bag. Any transparent re-sealable bag of one litre capacity or less is allowed. Please note, these bags must be independently re-sealable. Bags sealed with items such as sticky tape, rubber bands or ribbons will not be accepted.
  • At the screening point at airports, you may have to surrender any liquids, aerosols or gels greater than 100ml/g that you still have with you, including duty free.
  • You may still carry on board prescription medicines and non-prescription medicines that you need for the flight are also allowed. Proof that you need them may be required.

For more information
www.dotars.gov.au

Enhanced security checks for electronic devices in your carry-on luggage:

  • You may be asked to turn on any electrical or battery powered devices such as telephones, tablets, e-books and laptops in front of security teams and demonstrate the item’s functionality.
  • If you are unable to demonstrate that your device has power, the device will not be allowed to travel on your planned flights. Please ensure that these items are fully powered before you arrive at the airport.
Health

Medical – If you need up-to-date information about diseases, especially if travelling on an ASA tour outside Western Europe and North America, we recommend you contact the Travel Doctor (TMVC) or the Travel Clinic.
www.traveldoctor.com.au or www.travelclinic.com.au

Medication – You should bring your own personal medication. Australian prescriptions are not accepted in other countries. If you are travelling with any medicine you must carry a letter from your doctor on his/her letterhead explaining its purpose. Keep your medication in its original packaging otherwise some customs authorities may confiscate it. Note: It is better to rely on the medication you normally take rather than on prescriptions made overseas.

Money Matters

When organising ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, cash, debit cards or cash cards, remember that Australian currency is not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find the best currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in the countries that you are visiting.

Receipts

Keep the receipts you receive when changing money. A number of countries (eg Morocco, Bhutan, China, Uzbekistan) will not change excess local currency back into dollars/euros if you cannot prove that you bought it in that country. They demand receipts from the original exchange transaction.

Currency

To obtain the most up-to-date exchange rates
www.xe.com/currencyconverter

Cash

In some regions or countries, eg Central Asia/Iran, US dollars or Euro cash are your only choice. Always put spare cash in a safe and NEVER carry all your cash on you. Remember, travel insurance only covers a nominal amount of lost or stolen cash (usually $200.00) and lost cash is only claimable with a local police report. Remember, too, if you are taking more than $10,000 Australian dollars (or other currency to the value of $10,000 AUD) out of Australia, you must declare it (just after passport control at the airport).
Make sure bank notes are crisp and new. Don’t let your financial institution give you old notes. Many countries will not exchange older notes into local currency. Smaller denominations are recommended.

Currency can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaux and larger hotels, though you may get a better exchange rate at the ATMs (please refer to indivdual country travel notes). Travellers Cheques are NO LONGER ACCEPTED in most countries.

Credit Cards and ATM Machines

ATMs are the easiest way to access your money. They are common in tourist towns and cities around the world, with some exceptions in less travelled destinations. Most accept Visa, MasterCard, Electron, Cirrus, Maestro and InterBank cards. ATMs sometimes run dry on weekends in smaller towns. Never use an ATM on a weekend or at night if you are leaving the city the next morning. If the machine swallows your card, you need to be able to get the bank to retrieve it for you. SECURITY- Never let a local help you to use an ATM. Be sure that no-one is watching you when you punch in your PIN number. We recommend, in less developed countries, that you only use ATMs located in major hotels or main bank branches.

Please note that using a credit card in foreign countries usually requires a “chip-and-pin” credit card with an embedded microchip and an associated PIN number. If you have questions about using your credit card in a foreign country, please contact your bank prior to departure from Australia. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Travel Debit Cards

A Debit Card is a pre-paid PIN-protected card that enables you to obtain local cash from ATMs around the world. Many banks now offer these cards where you can load the card in foreign currency and Australian dollars so your exchange rate is set prior to your departure from Australia. Most of these pre-loaded cards like the Cash Passport card, give you two ATM cards so if you lose one you have another to continue to access your funds while travelling.

Some of the main reasons to consider this option are its convenience, it is eary to access local currency, you can ensure a good exchange rate by loading money on the card when currency exchange is favourable prior to departure, and you can load more funds while you are away via internet banking. If a card is lost or stolen, it is useless to the thief provided that the PIN remains secret and that the card does not provide access to your bank accounts.
Note – Cash Passport ards are available for purchase directly from Australians Studying Abroad for those who can personally visit our office.

Communication

Mobile telephones

Mobile coverage in most countries around the world, especially cities, is excellent. Refer to individual country practical notes for more information. Check with your local provider that your phone can switch on ‘Global Roaming’ and that your provider has coverage in the places you are visiting. Mobile phones can be very useful for SMSing  (especially if you get lost!). International calls are often expensive, as is checking your message bank, as calls have to be routed through Australia.

Should you choose to purchase a local sim card please check with your local provider prior to departure to make sure your phone is unlocked and will accept another sim card.

Internet

Internet access is widespread and like mobile phones is becoming more accessible around the world.

If you have Web access while travelling, you might consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype or Vonage, which allows you to make free international calls between online computers and phones, and cheap international calls if you’re calling a normal phone number. More and more cafes, department stores and hotels have wi-fi hotspots.
www.skype.com   or   www.vonage.com

Phone cards

You can now purchase phone cards prior to depature from Australia or while in most countries that ASA travels to. These can be a cheaper alternative to global roaming.

Time Zones

To obtain the current local time and date in cities and countries in all time zones.
www.worldtimeserver.com

Voltages and Plugs

www.korjo.com/Adaptor-Guide

Personal Safety

The greatest danger for most travellers is pick-pockets. Usually, people are robbed when they’re in crowds, on public transport or just not concentrating. Be aware that pick-pockets often work in groups, and you may find yourself distracted (for instance, by a group of children) while someone else attempts to relieve you of your valuables. While travelling in a group it is often helpful if group members keep an eye out for each other as this can prevent theft occurring.

  • We strongly recommend the use of a money belt to keep your cash, cards and travel documents safe. This should be kept under your clothes at all times.
  • Only carry daily essential cash spending money and one of your credit cards in your wallet – at least then if you lose your wallet or are pick-pocketed, you can cancel the stolen card and use another. Additional money/cards should left in the room/hotel safe or in a money belt under your clothing.
  • Take photocopies of all important documents (passport, credit cards, airline tickets, insurance) and keep one copy securely in your luggage and leave another copy at home.
  • It is generally helpful to take a business card from the hotel you are staying at. This can be especially helpful if you get lost. If you also have a key card for your hotel, make sure you keep these two cards separate or you run the risk of allowing a thief access to your room.
  • It is always recommended to use official taxis (especially in Eastern Europe). You may pay slightly more than a non-official taxi however it should be a safer alternative.
  • Take extra care in crowded places and try not to ‘advertise’ the fact that you may be carrying valuables by having something like an expensive camera over your shoulder. Put it in your bag or under your coat. Men, you should avoid keeping your wallet in your hip pocket.
  • Valuable jewellery should be left at home. If you choose to bring it, make sure you have adequate insurance. Check whether you can extend your household insurance to cover any jewellery you choose to take with you, as these policies can often be extended and general travel insurance does not usually cover more expensive items.
Etiquette

It is important that you show respect for cultural and religious traditions in the areas you will be visiting. A little bit of sensitivity can go a long way to ensuring you do not experience any problems.

Photographic protocol

  • In most countries photographing airports, military installations, police stations, etc is strictly forbidden. The least that may happen is that your camera will be confiscated, but penalties can be much worse.
  • Many people do not like being photographed. Always ask before photographing someone. In some countries they may try to obtain money from you.
  • Do not take photographs in monuments if there are signs forbidding this. In some countries your camera may be confiscated or smashed. Elsewhere (eg Russia, Bulgaria, India) an extra charge is levied if you wish to photograph in monuments. Charges can vary and are usually double for video cameras.
  • Always carry your camera in your hand luggage. If it is packed in your suitcase it will not be covered by insurance.
  • Always take spare camera batteries and memory cards.

Clothing (Churches, Mosques and Monasteries)

  • Although ‘foreigners’ do not have to adhere to strict dress rules, women should wear a head covering (ie a scarf) in active churches. Men must remember to remove their hats in religious buildings. In churches it is polite to stand around the edges of the building, rather than in the centre. It is acceptable for foreigners to light candles.
What to Pack

Clothing (general)
The time of the year you visit a destination will dictate the type of clothing that is appropriate to bring. For daytime activities, we suggest a wardrobe that is versatile, casual and comfortable. It is recommended that “layered” clothing might offer the best comfort in a variety of conditions. Always expect the weather to be changeable.

Beyond the normal wardrobe we suggest

  • comfortable walking shoes (very important)
  • sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat
  • folding umbrella and/or light raincoat
  • ladies should have a scarf with them at all times in case it is required to cover shoulders or head when entering religious sites
  • prescription medicines for the full duration of your time away and a written letter describing what they are for, provided by your doctor
  • extra prescription eyeglasses (if required)

Other things to consider when packing

  • A travel jug or infuser and coffee/tea bags (depending on your destination)
  • Antiseptic hand gel
  • Binoculars and/or torch
  • Selection of plastic zip lock bags, for wet clothes or dirty shoes
  • Alarm clock
  • Sink plug
  • Travel adaptors and chargers
Useful websites

“In Your Pocket” and select the relevant country or city. Particularly good for Eastern European cities and countries
www.inyourpocket.com

We suggest that prior to departure you check the weather forecast for the most up-to-date information.
www.worldweatheronline.com

Free iphone travel app from the dept of foreign affairs
itunes.apple.com

Australian Embassies and Consulates
www.dfat.gov.au

Australian Customs Information – A guide for travellers (PDF)
www.customs.gov.au

World Time: Shows current local time and date in cities and countries in all time zones
www.worldtimeserver.com

International Country Calling Codes
www.countrycallingcodes.com

World Travel Guide: Provides worldwide airport, country, city, attraction, event guides and more.
www.worldtravelguide.net

www.amazon.com have a Culture Smart series of travel/guide books which you can purchase in hardback and for your kindle 6