If you’re someone who dreams about visiting Asia or Africa, spending a few weeks or months in an exotic country to learn more about the world and get a new perspective, you’re not alone. People all over the world take sabbaticals and weeks off from work to take their ultimate adventure and immerse themselves in a new culture.
However, taking such an epic, long term vacation requires careful planning, organization, research, coordination and lots of scheduling. When a person travels so far away from home, he/she wants to make the most of the time there; doing so requires taking some time to plan the trip and take precautions, ensuring that everything goes as expected. It’s normal to anticipate challenges and difficulties during travels, but these can be minimized by thorough planning. From planning travel arrangements, to researching attractions, and studying your navigation around the country, the following information here includes the best tips to ensure a successful and joyous vacation of a lifetime.
Get to Know the Country’s Culture
If you’re in the beginning stages of planning and are trying to narrow down WHERE to take your long term vacation, in order to make an informed decision you need to do your research. Read about the countries you’re interested in visiting, as well as their culture. Take some time to read about histories, famous attractions, holidays, and cuisine. By getting informed, you’ll be certain in your choice of destination.
Once you’ve decided, continue to learn more. There are plenty of expat blogs where you can get insider information, including more personalized cultural knowledge. Websites as well as travel books can help you make decisions like whether you should travel alone or with a local guide or group, as well as following cultural rules and local customs. Knowing as much of the culture as you can will also help you feel like you belong and facilitate your immersion into the community.
Learn Some Basic Language
Let’s face it, if you travel to a country where you know absolutely none of the language, you’re going to have a difficult, if not isolated trip. With so many resources available today to learn languages, it’s essential to learn SOME of the words you’ll need while traveling. Find and translate the most common phrases and words that you’ll likely use and write them down. I’ve even been known to write down the words I’ll need and translate them into both the native language and phonetically for myself.
If you are only going to the big cities, you’ll more likely meet people who speak some English. However, if you go off the beaten path, you might have issues communicating. There are some great apps that will teach you some basic words and phrases in various languages, and help you understand others as well as get understood. Be sure to download them before you leave home and spend time learning common words.
Engage with Local Guides
Once you’ve decided on your travel plans, take the time to talk with various local guides at your destination before arranging your trip. In most countries, there are multiple local tour operators to book tours and transfers with. Of course, there are also the large international travel agencies, but they don’t always offer the best prices or the most personalized attention. Most of the local tour operators are family run businesses, offering more interesting and comprehensive tours with insider information at a fraction of the cost.
Read about the Attractions
While researching, find out as much as you can about the attractions you might be interested in. This can be incredibly helpful in your planning and preparation. For example, if you are visiting an animal sanctuary or a nature reserve, there might be exclusions and rules to follow; unless you learn about this ahead of time, you might be unprepared. If you’re lucky enough to be touring with a local, be grateful! Since most of us won’t be traveling with locals, we may find ourselves confused over things like costs, tipping, schedules, and more. Avoid being disappointed on your trip by knowing what you want to see and do and the related pertinent information – hours, how to get there, location, costs, special considerations, etc. Also, be sure to calculate the distances between attractions if you plan on visiting more than one per day. Not taking into account accurate travel times can knock a person off schedule very quickly.
Take Safety Precautions
When traveling abroad, it is crucial that you take care of your personal safety. It’s never recommended to carry a large amount of cash with you. Instead, take it out at the local bank whenever you can, only enough to last you a few days. Alternatively, you can use credit cards, specifically those cards that are friendly to travelers. Find out if you qualify for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, as they can quickly add up on a long vacation. Of course, there’s always the old reliable travelers’ checks which will help you make the most out of the current exchange rates without having to pay bank commissions.
If you are traveling alone, be especially knowledgable of areas with high crime and minimize the amount of time you spend alone, especially during the evenings. Carry some pepper spray with you or take a basic self-defense class to better protect yourself, should the need arise. (hopefully not!)
When traveling to continents like Africa and Asia, vaccinations are often needed. Why? The reason for this is that your body may be exposed to bacteria and viruses that it has never been exposed to before. Your immune system does not know these diseases/illnesses so getting vaccinated forces your immune system to make antibodies which prevent you from getting ill. Get vaccinated forces our bodies to learn how to protect ourselves from all sorts of germs/viruses before our first exposure.
Have a chat with your family doctor about which vaccinations are needed to enter the country, and which ones are recommended by health care professionals. You can prevent serious illness and other travel related health problems by getting vaccinated and educated beforehand.
Find a Perfect Basecamp for Your Travels
While planning a long term vacation, it’s critical to find lodging that’s in a good, central location. No one wants to spend hours each day just traveling to an attraction. Be sure your basecamp has amenities like groceries, restaurants, banking, and perhaps laundry facilities close by. Whether you chose a hotel, apartment, or a long term accommodation, check out all public transportation in the area. If you’re lodging for many weeks, consider looking for a studio for rent and definitely try to share the cost of the accommodation if you are traveling with friends.
Set a Weekly Budget
Taking care of your finances when traveling long term can be challenging. Whether you are taking a gap year or are a vacationing retiree, it is recommended that you create a full budget and break down spending allowances for each week. Consider the cost of travel, lodging, dining, transportation, tours, attraction tickets, and even tips. You will be able to better manage your money if you know how much you are allowed to spend to stay within your budget.
Try Volunteering Opportunities
If you’re someone who would love to totally immerse yourself in a country while saving as much money as you can, consider applying for volunteering positions in Asia and around the world. No matter if you are a qualified teacher, an animal lover, or adept with people and building community, you’re likely to find the right opportunity to match your interest. Some charitable organizations have been known to even pay for your language classes, if you commit to help them for a certain length of time. If you find a great position volunteering in a country you’ve always wanted to visit, you can pat yourself on the back for finding an awesome vacation that’s amazingly cheap and does a world of good!
Consider the Weather
No matter if you plan a short term or long term vacation, a person always has to consider the weather. Are you traveling during the wet season or dry season? Will it be hot or cool? If you want to save money traveling to Asia, you might pick a date during the beginning or the end of the Monsoon season, and plan indoor activities until the rain disappears and the weather becomes more pleasant. You can usually get lower rates on either end of an area’s best weather window, but you run the risk of having less than ideal weather. However, if money isn’t an issue and you plan on spending lots of time outdoors, travel when you’d like during the country’s best weather. Likewise, be sure to consider hurricane and cyclone seasons when arranging your travel.
When planning your long term vacation to Asia, Africa, and beyond, there are many things to consider. Create your itinerary according to your chosen attractions and your budget, and find a solid base where you can start off from and return to. Engage with local guides and learn how to communicate in the local language, so you can make the most out of your vacation and get a new perspective on life and humanity. Taking the steps to be better educated and informed before the trip can make a huge difference in the outcome of your epic vacation.
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