Make the most of your time away from the UK!

4 June 2015

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Are you looking to book a cheeky holiday and jet off into the sunshine for a few weeks? Are you planning a gap year or a once in a life time dream trip abroad? Do you just want a break from reality via a few days in a new city?  Whatever your travel plans may be, make the most of them!

I am a firm believer in seeing as much of the world as possible and so whenever I go away I always try to visit somewhere else whilst I am there.  For example, whilst on holiday to Santorini a few years ago I took an overnight ferry and spent some time in Athens, whilst in Bangkok I flew down to Phuket for a few days, whilst in Kuala Lumpur I booked a long weekend in Vietnam, on my next trip to Thailand I took a boat around lots of the different islands and booked a slow boat to take me to Myanmar.  These may sound extravagant but you will be surprised at how cheap these little trips can be!  Much in the world of travel has never been cheaper, the destinations never more varied and the possibilities never so endless so why not take the bull by the horns and go and explore whilst you have the opportunity?  As the sayings go, life is too short and the world really is your oyster!

Much of my advice on making the most of your time away largely depends on where you are going and on the duration of your trip – if you are only going somewhere for a few days then it would be a shame to miss out on seeing where you are, or to spend half of the time you do have on holiday on a plane or a coach trying to navigate your way elsewhere just for the sake of going!  If you have limited time at your destination of choice then you can still make the most of it simply by doing some research and having a rough idea of where you want to go, what you want to do and what you want to see when you’re there.  You can often find some great excursions simply by going out for a stroll and keeping your eyes open.  I would avoid booking day trips out through your hotel directly as they tend to charge top whack for the exact same trip you could find yourself for less.   For example, my mum and I went to Poland in November and whilst heading out for dinner on our first night we came across a small touristy shop selling trips and we found a day tour of Auschwitz and Wieliczka (The Salt Mines) for over a third less than quoted earlier in our hotel.  If you aren’t able to research things before you set off on your holiday it is always worth getting some leaflets once you arrive in your hotel and seeing what is on offer, having a think about what you fancy doing and then seeing what sort of deal you can do for yourself. If in doubt, haggle!

If you have longer whilst away from the UK then hiring a car, moped or quad/push bike whilst away can be a wonderful way of giving yourself freedom and flexibility to explore and mooch about at your own pace.  Check with your current motor insurance provider to see what their policies cover whilst abroad – many will offer you like for like cover whilst driving in Europe as standard but it is always advisable to research this thoroughly and get insurance in place before you leave.  You can seek some pearls of wisdom from somewhere like or type it into a search engine; or should all else fail, call your provider and ask them directly.  Some countries will also require you to have an International Driving Permit as well as your full UK Licence so definitely check this before you go.  Have a look online at to see if you will need one; if you do then you can also use the same link to find where your nearest issuing Post Office is.   It is only £5.50 and well worth having! Not all branches are able to issue them so it is worth double checking online before you traipse into town only to come home chagrined!

This is a useful article about the International Driver’s Licence, identifying where you need it, on a handy map, and providing lots more useful information:

If you don’t feel confident driving abroad then getting a good understanding of the local buses/trains/subways/trams before you go can also save you valuable time whilst you are away and invariably will be cheaper than taking taxis everywhere too.  I also think getting public transport offers a great sense of authenticity and gives a real feel for the culture of wherever you are.  Plus, it is great for people watching!  In order to drive a moped abroad and be covered for Medical Emergencies under your Travel Insurance, more often than not it will be a stipulation within your insurance that you must have the UK equivalent licence to drive a moped abroad.  If you are going away for any real length of time then it might be worth getting your CBT before you go – it’s only a one day course and will give you great flexibility whilst you are away.  Check out for more info and to see where your local testing centre is. Remember to wear a helmet!

If you are travelling afar and have a stopover on your way there, rather than sit there for hours on end feeling grubby, hungry, tired and irritable, why not look at spending a few days in that city and use it as an opportunity to explore that part of the world? For example, I booked a month in Bali last year and rather than have a 20 odd hour broken journey there, I opted to have a few days in Dubai each way as I would have had to have changed planes anyway.  It is a fantastic way of breaking your journey up, getting some shut eye in between long flights and also of seeing and experiencing somewhere new and unexpected.  Many airlines won’t charge you any extra for having a stopover so the only real cost to consider is that of staying in a hotel and any additional currency or transfers you may need.  Having said that, if you book your trip correctly then these costs may not surpass what you would have spent staying those few nights in your original destination anyway.  You could also look at doing this on your way back and see if you are able to return home via another destination, so you could potentially get to see 3 countries instead of 1! If you wanted to go down this route of breaking your outward journey up then my advice would be to find a holiday you like and then call the company directly and talk to one of their travel experts.  If the stopover you see advertised online is somewhere you don’t really fancy, then call up and ask if there are any alternatives – my Dubai stop was originally supposed to be in Doha but as I have friends in Abu Dhabi I opted for Dubai so I could kill two birds with one stone and catch up with them.  More often than not travel companies are able to offer you a different stop over destination, plus they also have a separate industry only database so they are sometimes able to get really cheap hotel deals for your stopover too which you wouldn’t be able to beat searching yourself! They can also sometimes offer you hotel upgrades for your final destination for far less than as advertised online too.  So you have nothing to lose by giving them a quick call!

Alternatively if you are away for a greater amount of time and find yourself wanting to explore another city or country then why not look at taking a flight there? UK taxes will be out of the equation and as there are potentially shorter distances involved you may find that it is a lot cheaper to fly from abroad than if you were starting your trip from the UK.  Getting to Japan for example is so expensive from the UK, but then flying via a budget airline from another part of Asia can work out to be considerably cheaper.  AirAsia have some excellent routes and incredible prices so if you are to be in that part of the world, check them out! Many other airports across the world are fantastic “hub” airports and have hundreds of commercial flights passing through daily.  They also act as host to budget airlines and can be a great way of getting to other countries on the cheap.  Check out which budget airlines operate in your nearest international airport and see what deals you can find – try – and see what deals you can find!

When taking a short trip for a few days my advice would be as follows:

  • Think carefully about where you would like to go, check online to see what sort of weather you can expect on arrival – if it was a toss-up between somewhere sunny or somewhere in their rainy season, I know where I would go!
  • Make sure in advance that you have the correct entry requirements and/or visas in place before you travel.
  • Check the cost of any visas and look at the cost of hotel rooms before you travel too – after succumbing to a life lifelong temptation to go to Moscow I booked a week there on a bit of a whim and it wasn’t until I booked the tickets that I saw the cost of hotel rooms and the cost of the visa!
  • Pack light and only take hand luggage if you can manage it – just makes getting off the plane and going through customs so much easier and it will leave you more room for any souvenirs you buy abroad
  • Take a small First Aid kit with you so long as it’ll be ok to take through in your hand luggage (avoid liquids above 100ml and sharp objects such as scissors).
  • I would always suggest taking some plasters for blistered feet, paracetamol or flu pills to combat the effects of air conditioning if you are going somewhere hot and humid
  • If you have access to free WIFI, research the place you are going to a little before you go so you have an idea of what you want to do and see so you can jam as much in as you can whilst you’re there
  • Research the currency you will need and try to get hold of some before you fly – this will make getting to your hotel easier the other end and you won’t have to ‘faff’ about looking for an ATM as soon as you land to pay for transportation to your hotel. Avoid changing Sterling abroad as the Bureau de Change will have to buy it off you and convert it to their local currency first and then into the currency you need so you will lose out twice on the exchange rates
  • Some countries have “closed currencies” which mean that you are unable to
  • Check the Foreign Common Wealth office website to make sure that the country to which you are planning to travel is deemed safe to travel in
  • Check that your travel adapters will still be the right sort – if you can, get a universal adapter before you start your trip so this isn’t a problem
  • Let your friends and family know of your plans just in case they try reaching you whilst you’re in the air and aren’t able to get through – wouldn’t want anyone to worry unnecessarily
  • Make sure your travel insurance covers you for wherever you’re going – for example, if you only have cover for Australia and New Zealand and decide to nip over to Fiji then you will need to extend your region cover

Last but not least:

  • Have a great trip!

Don’t forget that we can help you make the most of your travel budget by offering you an exclusive 10% discount code off our travel insurance policies, if you ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

Image courtesy of LenDog64 – Travels on Flickr

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