I’d love to just take off without a second thought, but it seems a certain measure of preparations is warranted for a trip of this type and duration.
A few things we’ve been getting in order (see bottom for links):
A crucial first step, as entry to many countries is dependent on one’s passport being valid for 180 days beyond the date of arrival, thus rendering the concept of the expiry date utterly futile. Neither of ours were up to date, so we were forced to endure the always-humiliating experience of having passport photos taken. Mine was particularly harrowing – the girl was visibly perturbed that I ignored her advice to remove my earrings, and more perturbed still when I asked her to take the photo again because I looked like a corpse. Still, I managed to end up looking like I had a black eye and a story to tell.
A mere hour and a half at the passport office, during which I made had to make the difficult decision of which poor soul to put down as a sponsor, was the final obstacle to obtaining my brand spanking new passport.
Applying for visas
Of the countries we may end up in, only India imposes an absurdly draconian and convoluted visa application process on its unsuspecting visitors. I’ll spare the details of our mind-numbing exchanges with VFS, the company sourced by the Indian Embassy to handle visa services, during our multiple visits to their tiny downtown office, but they provided a distressing sneak preview as to the bewildering labyrinth that is Indian bureaucracy. Those who know me may be aware of my slight nervousness concerning this step, but all is well and our passports were returned to us last week, one page colourfully emblazoned with proof that we have been deemed worthy to enter the country.
Getting our vaccinations in order
Most normal people will have considered this important item well in advance of their departure, but not us, because we are positive thinkers and not terribly concerned about debilitating infectious diseases (I am being only slightly serious). The girl who answered the phone at the first travel clinic I called scoffed at my last-minute request, but another clinic welcomed us with open arms and we’ll be suitably immunized by next week.
We have decided to be vaccinated for tetanus/polio, hepatitis A and typhoid. We both already have our MMR immunization, and aren’t planning to be engaging in any of the risky behaviours usually associated with hepatitis B. We thought about getting the vaccine for yellow fever, but the area we’re travelling to isn’t an endemic area. Some countries require a certificate of yellow fever vaccination for those who enter via another country where the disease is prevalent, but that’s not the case for the places we’re going. Thank God – it’s by far the most expensive of the standard travel vaccines.
Subletting our apartment
In a perfect world, we’d leave our beloved home empty while we were away, ready in pristine condition to welcome us home in April. But we must concede that it makes quite a lot more sense, financially, to rent it out. We’ve considered three options: 1) rent it to someone we know; 2) sublet it to someone we don’t know via airbnb.com; or 3) rent it to short-term visitors, also via airbnb.com. Option 1 is fast running out as enthusiastic discussions over drinks give way to flaky retractions. Option 2 isn’t panning out yet, either. Happily, kind friends have offered to help coordinate should we elect to go with Option 3. Of course, we’ll store our clothes, valuables, and sizeable stockpile of booze.
Securing travel insurance
Again, being such positive people, we were reluctant to consider the decidedly un-positive possibility that a medical emergency may come up, but we’re also not completely insane. I did some shopping and decided to go with Kanetix, as they had the coolest name, lowest price, and I didn’t have to speak to anyone on the phone.
Acquiring all manner of gadgets and gear
When my aunt and uncle embarked on an almost-round-the-world trip in 1976, they brought little more with them than the (fringe-adorned) clothes on their backs. Today, a veritable smorgasbord of travel-related gizmos are offered for sale to the well-prepared voyager. We perused a few great sites and blogs and ended up with a comprehensive list of somewhat worrisome length. Here are a few of the items we’ll be schlepping all over Asia.
Actually making travel arrangements
An oft-overlooked step, at least by me (that’s a story for another time). We used Expedia for the Montreal-Frankfurt-Doha-Bangalore legs (soo excited for those stop-overs), and MakeMyTrip for the India leg. I’ve found that ClearTrip is a great resource for searching/booking flights and trains.
We haven’t given much thought to accommodations so far. For our first few days in India, we’ll be kicking it at Kuzhupilly Beach House near Cochin, Kerala, and at some point spending some time with friends at their place in Tamil Nadu. The rest of the time, we’ll wing it, or curl up under a coconut tree somewhere. It’s hot there, right?
I know I’m forgetting something, but I’m not overly concerned.
Resources we used, documented for posterity
Indian Visa and Consular Services Canada (the company outsourced by the Indian Embassy!)
McGill University Pre-Travel Clinic (we didn’t go as they didn’t have space, but I’ve heard they are generally thorough and fast)
AirBNB (I have a cult-like love for this site)
Kanetix (the insurance company I chose for its cool name)
Legal Nomads (absolutely stellar blog written by a former Montrealer and current world traveller – it’s chock-a-block with indispensable travel-related info)
Expedia (just in case, for some reason, you are unfamiliar with the self-described “world’s leader in online travel”)
ClearTrip (an India-based travel portal whose interface I found quite – well, clear)
MakeMyTrip (another [in my limited experience] excellent India-based portal)
Kuzhupilly Beach House (our first Indian destination, near Cochin, Kerala)