Travelling Tips

As I said in the article, ‘The last few days’ , the final article in this section would detail some of what we learned, both helpful and what we could, and should, have done better.

  1. Firstly, 6 weeks was definitely too long. I have long held the belief, and still do, that when one is spending big on airfares to get to a foreign country it is not worth spending just a short while but 3-4 weeks should be the maximum.
  2. Don’t hire a car in a foreign country where you will be driving on the ‘opposite’ side of the road as your very first venture.
  3. Get to know as much as possible about the places you will be visiting before even making final bookings if you can.

          3.1  Weather patterns - remember how we got stuck in the snow in Sestrierre

          3.2  Places of interest

          3.3  Transport facilities

          3.4  Accommodation types and costs; Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet; check with a travel site such as Trip Adviser. Our experiences in                  Rome & Paris were enough to confirm this.

          3.5  Currency used (just because a country is part of a bloc, it does not mean that it uses a common currency!) Croatia, Slovenia & Hungary are members                  of the EU but do not use the Euro.

          3.6  Can one get the currency in your own country or do you purchase common currency first & exchange on arrival? 

         3.7  Can your credit card be used? We learnt that many B&Bs do not accept credit cards because of the service fees; similarly, some shops require                           a minimum purchase before you can use your card.

  4.    Road rules, if you are hiring a car. Most countries live by the rule: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. 

  5.    Pack a full change of clothes and in your hand luggage. Do this however you are travelling; eg self-driving, train, coach etc. It is always handy. You may             get stuck or delayed somwhere and it is so much nicer than opeing your suitcase and digging for underwear etc

  6.    Don't be afraid to ask for Senior Citizen Discount

 

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Preparation 3

The past couple of weeks have been spent reading the Terms & Conditions particularly with regard to cancellation after payment of the deposit. It appeared to me that the 50% deposit is completely non-refundable. I asked Bjarni to confirm my understanding which he did, giving the reason that the hotel, train and cruise bookings are non-refundable to their company, Nordic Visitor. Now we need to think carefully about exactly when to pay the deposit. At present the Euro is weak giving us more Rands for each Euro. It has gone down from a little over R14/Euro to R12.77/Euro. Will it weaken any further? No one can answer that with conviction. If we pay well in advance, will something happen and we lose a lot of money? Might have to take a risk to ensure a booking.

Interestingly, Bjarni also mentioned that this is not a guided or group tour. What happens is that Nordic Visitor make all the bookings and send us the paperwork and we are on our own to follow the trip. Actually, this is quite a nice idea. We know that we have bookings but we are not bound by time or activity constraints as happens on a guided tour. Before making any payment though, I shall confirm item by item as to what they book so there is absolute clarity.

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The type and form of transport and accommodation of any holiday depends very much on where and for how long one will be on holiday. If you are like us and prefer to spend no more than a few days at any one location, you will not only have to arrange transport to your initial destination but also for travelling between locations.  Travelling within your home country will usually mean that you will use your car or public transport with which you are reasonably familiar. Should you not actually know much about it, it is not too difficult to get the information. If your trip is abroad it can be quite different.

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Having mentioned to Teresa Smith that I had already contacted a travel company in Norway she suggested that I hold off going ahead and booking that tour without looking at other possiblities. Teresa contacted a local agent for tours offering the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Within 24 hours I received an e-mail from Teresa with 4 possible options. I took a fairly quick look at the offerings and found that they were all very similar with the duration of between 4-6 days and all included spending most of the trip at an hotel in Tromsø. 

Immediately I wrote back to Teresa to say that we did not want to spend that much time in any one place as we like to travthe el and see as much as possible of the places we visit. For this holiday we want to see Norway and not just Tromø! This is a bit of advice to anyone planning a holiday - decide what it is you want to see and do and how long you wish to be away from home BEFORE making any final decisions. It has always been our philosophy when travelling abroad, tha,t having paid big prices for flights and insurance, it does not make sense to go to one place for so many days and then go home. Remember we are retired and are travelling for pleasure and leisure. We love to see and learn as much as possible. 

Teresa then sent the information on the tour we had originally selected and asked what her local agent could offer in a similar package. On receipt thereof we considered the 2 possiblities and we have decided to stay with our original decision as it seemed to offer better value and visits more places. Having made that decision I wrote to Bjarni, the contact in Norway, requesting the Terms & Conditions for this tour and, in particular, the Cancellation Policy. This is very important to study and be sure of BEFORE making any payments. We got badly bitten last year when we had to canceil a trip and discovered at this stage that there would be no refund as it was a package deal. Once bitten, twice shy. We have received the Ts&Cs and they will be checked regularly as we continue to prepare to travel.

The other thing we are watching closely is the value of the Rand against the Euro so as to know the best possible time to pay the 50% deposit. Currently the Rand is gradually strengthening and we hope that it will contiunue to do so. At the same time I am looking up the various places we are to visit on the tour to lean as much as possible in advance. Having some knowledge of where we are going makes it so much more exciting when actually seen.

That is instalment 2

 

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OK, you have decided on a destination for your next holiday.

First question - "How do we get there?" That depends on a few factors such as the destination itself - How far is it? How accessible is it"? Are we self-catering or are meals mostly supplied?  If it is close to home i.e. in your own province, state or county then you will very possibly travel in your own car. If it is in the same country but more than about 500 - 600kms then you will probably fly or go by train and if it is abroad you almost certainly will fly. In some cases, you may take a cruise to the overseas venue. Then we may be affected in our travel choices by our children who are not keen that their 'elderly' parents drive long distances. Each of these is an obvious cost - fuel for the car, air, ship or train tickets. 

Second question - "How will we get around once we are there?" Except for the instances when you have your own car or you are with family who will assist with transport, you will have to hire acar, use local public transport or have some form of Pass. These too are obvious costs. Within each of them though there may be hidden or indirect costs such as car insurance and reserving seats on trains.

Third question - "Where will we stay?" Clearly this is affected by your budget and whether or not you are part of a tour group. There is such a variety of accommodation in different parts of the world from B&Bs to hotels, to yourth hostels, to backpackers facilities. whateve the form of accommodation it is what can be called an obvious cost. Most Senior Citizens have moved beyond camping or 'roughing' it. Hotels or B&Bs are the places of choice for the comfort and the availability of things such as en suite bathrooms. Also, some meals are usually included in the price.

 

 

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Included here are things we have learnt from mistakes made and good ideas implemented. We have succeeded in getting the weight of our suitcases to be no more than 15kgs each when travelling by air. Two things we have learnt are that others do not notice what you are wearing and that comfort is far outweighs looks when on a holiday. That does not mean looking dowdy but always think of comfort and then improve on that.

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The more you travel the more you will learn that an incredible amount can be spent on, what may be referred to as, the ‘Hidden Costs’. Before you know it, you are in debt unless you have planned carefully and given consideration to these costs. Here information on some of these costs is given. There may be others you have encountered and you are encouraged to share them by commenting below.

This article is written from the perspective of a South African traveller but has much information which may affect travellers around the world.

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  1. Every country has its own requirements and costs for visas. This is the case even within a bloc of countries such as the European Union (EU), Southern African Development Community (SADC) etc.
  2. Visa requirements differ depending upon which country the applicant has citizenship, not necessarily residence.
  3. Visas and the appointment for the interview cost money. Factor this in to your hidden costs. Making an appointment for the interview is very helpful as, those who simply arrive during office hours, will be attended to but only after those with scheduled appointments.
  4. Allow at least 2 hours for your time at the consulate or embassy
  5. Apply for your visa as far in advance as possible but ensure that you have ALL the required documentation ready. The documents Senior Citizens must produce often include proof of residence, ownership of property and investments in their home country. This is to ensure that we plan to return home and not quietly extend our stay with children who live outside SA. Both Western and some Eastern countries are battling with an aging population which is costly for the governments.
  6. Today, most visas are applied for on-line but must be printed and signed in readiness for the interview. (NOTE: If you use a small home printer, it is possible that the barcode does not print clearly enough so take the application with you on a memory stick.)
  7. Ensure that the person who takes your photographs is qualified to do photos for visas. The countries are very particular these days and will not accept photos which do not meet the digital and bionic requirements.
  8. With reference to point 1, many people believe that a Schengen Visa can be applied for through any country, even if it is one not being visited. Even though a multiple entry visa can be used in any country which is Schengen friendly, the visa must be applied for through the country where the most number of days will be spent.
  9. You may have to visit another city to attend the interview for your visa. Factor this into your planning – time, cost, travel etc
  10. Some countries allow for visas to be applied for at the border post but check first as it may involve an extra cost.

 

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About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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