7 Things I wish I knew before I started Travelling

As I write this article, I’m on a Virgin train to visit my brother at Teeside, this is the second time I’m making the journey; and as the vast country side slides by, my mind drifted to you; our reader and what interesting lesson I can share about this trip with you.
 
Traveling is exciting, and I believe it always expands your mind.  Ralph Waldo Emerson  said “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”
 
Traveling stretches the mind, the things you see, the ideas that pop up in your head while on the journey, the people you meet, the experience you gain, the memories you create, they all stretch your mind.
 
For me, traveling is a hobby and my career, I’ve been to quite a number of countries and with each new country visited, half way into the journey, I discover basic stuff I wish I had known before embarking on the journey; here are some of such stuff listed below which could make your own travel more fun, profitable and memorable – this year:
 
1.     Strap Bags – when you travel, you’ll always need to show documents to prove your identification to cross boarders at the airport, on the road or at sea.
 
These documents and other vitals need to be handy at all times, so you don’t make a fool of yourself looking all over the place for stuff when you arrive at the port or boarder.
 
Here’s a list of things I normally have in my strap bag:
 
Passport and visa, money (to pay for trollies, taxis, coins to make phone calls, or money to get a sim card, buy some food), my phones, a pen, a piece of paper to jot down directions, ideas, new words, or business ideas that cross my mind in a flash, a flash drive in case I need to use a café, (in those days I used to have a small book in the bag to read, but with the arrival of Kindle (God bless Amazon!) I can carry around hundreds of books in my mobile device.
 
One other reason I take the strap bag is so that I can store information bulletins and maps that I pick up at the airport or train stations, so that I can have the information bulletin about how to get around in trains, taxis without difficulties.
 
Here are pictures of strap bags:
strap-bagstrap-bag-2
 
2.     An Internationally Compliant Phone: Gosh! You don’t want to arrive a new country only to discover your phone does not work. I had a terrible, terrible experience during my last trip to China.
 
I had a black berry, bold 4, the best of the berries in those days, it worked perfectly well during my travel to the USA and during my trip to the UK. So, it never occurred to me that this phone would have issues working in China.
 
Long story short, this phone embarrassed me big time. I couldn’t send messages on BBM, couldn’t WhatsApp, Skype? No way!
 
And this is China, the home of Business meetings and Business contacts, it’s a horrible experience when you can’t be contacted by your business partners when you are abroad.
 
I sharply bought a Samsung Phone; oh! God bless Samsung! These phones are easy to use, allows you to FaceBook, WhatsApp, Skype, Email, and do a lot of cool things including playing games and watching movies!
 
In fact, with a Samsung phone, you won’t miss your laptop very much if you decide not to travel with a laptop.
 
3.     Money – the language of business. It’s an obvious item you need on you when you travel, but let’s discuss it all the same. I keep some naira in my strap bag for the little expenses I make at the time of departure and arrival back to Nigeria. Expenses like trolley and recharge cards.
 
Then, I also have some foreign currency to exchange for the local currency of the country I am travelling to.
 
It can be said that the US Dollar is widely acceptable in most countries. So it’s safe to say, always have the US Dollar on you when travelling.
 
The point here is, take a lot of cash with you, and make sure the money notes are new, have no writing on them and have torn edges. If you go to a place that accepts master cards, visa cards, and your money cards, then you can just use your cards. It is very unpleasant to end up short of cash in another mans’ country, trust me, it’s not a fun experience.
 
4.     Trains – if the country you are visiting uses trains as a means of transportation, learn how to read the train maps. Trains are most likely going to be cheaper and faster means of transportation.
 
China has a very good train system. The maps are easy to read, the trains are fast and of course, it’s cheaper to transit by train rather than taxis and buses.
 
One of our first assignments in China with our students is to teach them how to transit by trains.
 
5.     Tickets: Always have the Nigerian contact details of the airline you have booked, and their contact details in the country you are visiting. In case you need to extend your stay, most tickets are generally changeable so long as you are able to pay the relevant fees.
 
6.     Debit and Credit Cards: In Naija, when you open your account, the card you’ll most likely get is a Debit card. Meaning, you’ve got to fund your account before you use your card to pay for stuff at pay points.
 
So, apart from ensuring your cards are well funded, ensure you can access your funds when you travel abroad.
 
Inform your bank that you are travelling and need access to your card abroad so that they can enable international transactions on your card. Again, I’ll share my dreadful experience at China, Omo, ko funny rara.
 
Our Students at www.ImportationBusinessSchool.com and I had travelled for the tradefair at China and I had informed my students to load up their GTB Master card.
 
I told them this because GTB mastercard until then worked perfectly on most international websites and I had used it without stress in the USA, so I felt it was a given they’d work in China. Oh the error!
 
Our students had their money stuck in their GTB mastercard, with no access to it at the ATM in China. They could not withdraw their money to conduct business. See Panic!
 
We had to call Nigeria back and forth, to move funds into other accounts so that it can be withdrawn at the ATM in China. Thank God we had other cards on us that were working, that trip would have been a disaster.
 
So, here’s the point – Have like 3 different cards on you and make sure its not from the same bank. Inform you bank before you travel that you’ll need access to your bank abroad.
 
Ensure that you can access your card through online banking (GTB and FirstBank have very very very good online banking platforms) also ensure you can move funds from your bank account to your card account in case you run out of cash while on your trip abroad.
 
From my humble experience as a traveler – always have both a MasterCard and a Visa Card on you. Know how to use it at your home countrys’ ATM and have register your account for online banking at least 30days before your intended travel date.
 
Now let me say this – as your bank always advises, keep your login details and your pins to yourself, never give it out or write it down (God forbid you have some kind of memory loss), bottom line – keep your online and card login details as if you’ve been sworn to lifetime secrecy.
 
7.     VPNs – I never thought access to GMAIL would EVER be an issue until I found myself, again; in China!
 
My business emails filter into our gmail account because it’s easy to access, recall conversations and just easier to use.
 
After settling down in the hotel room, I wanted to touch base with the office via email so they know our plane landed safely. I spent 72 hours trying to figure out why I couldn’t access my Gmail and FaceBook until a business partner informed me those sites are restricted.
 
Bless the Lord for my background and training in Information Marketing Business I immediately knew how to solve the problem.
 
VPNs – Virtual Private Network softwares enable you to access websites that have been blocked to users in a host country.
 
For example, with the VPN I could access my facebook and gmail contents while abroad, even though these websites were blocked in China.
 
You can read up more about VPNs by googling it. It’s advisable to have an active VPN account when traveling abroad in case you need to access restricted websites.
 
We have begun preparing for this years’ trip to China, Dubai and Bahamas. Download brochures about the trips to see how you can be a part of it.
 
China Business Trip  - Click here
Dubai Importers Trip – Click here
Bahamas Vacation and Honeymoon – Click here
 
If you have specific questions about the trip, visas and passports – click here to contact us.
 
Have comments to make or need to share with us your own list of things you wish you knew before you started travelling? Use the comment box below. Whatever the case, we look forward to hearing from you today!
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