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Travel documents: A guide to getting your paperwork in order

Blank travel insurance form and map on background

Let’s take an important look at exactly which documents you need when planning a trip, and what to do with them once you have them. This isn’t near as exciting as the planning and ‘wonder-lusting’ part of planning a trip, but this admin is very much necessary to ensure your trip happens smoothly.

VisaPhoto via Adobe Stock

As a resident of South Africa, you’ll often need a visa before traveling overseas. It is worth noting that some countries offer visas upon arrival, others offer visa free travel and for some, you will need to have a visa application processed. These are country specific and need to be researched individually. One of the most popular travel destinations is Europe, and if you are planning a trip there, see the notes below:

Schengen Visa

Check if your application needs to be made at the consulate or VFS Global. VFS is a private, outsourced company that has recently expanded to other African countries. When your application is ready, you hand it in to them (where it is checked very carefully so make sure all of your paperwork is in order) before being sent off the the consulate for processing.

You are required (in most cases) to show proof of travel, insurance and accommodation. It is nearly impossible to do this without actually booking it, so be prepared to book and pay before making your application. Important to note: Over and above the visa application fee, you will have to pay a hefty service fee.

United Kingdom Visa

The United Kingdom has its own website which you can use to apply through directly. It’s convenient, paperless and easy. You are not required to make any bookings before applying for the visa, but you are required to have valid reasons and formalized plans for your visit.

Once an appointment is booked, it cannot be missed so be sure before selecting a date and time.

Documentation Organisationvisa documentsPhoto via Adobe Stock

Once you’re sorted and you have your visa, you’ve made your bookings … the days to jetting off are fest approaching. The last important thing you need to do before you pack your bags is organise all of your important travel documents. Sounds simple enough, right?

Make an electronic folder where you save all of your documents to. Have separate sub-folders (because organisation will make your trip abroad that much easier). Save this to your computer, your cloud storage (iCloud, Google Drive or Dropbox). You can also email this to yourself and a confidant. Make sure you secure your documents!

Although this should suffice, printing them to have on-hand is also an option. You can carry these with your carry-on luggage or nestled inside a travel journal, like me. I highly recommend a journal of some sort, even if you aren’t a writer. It’ll make for a great memoir!

Here is a list of everything you should set aside and have easy access to:

Emergency contact information (for home and abroad)Card details (don’t scan this, just note the card number details)Passport and visa copies (make at least 2 laminated copies that you keep separately but safely)Insurance policy and contact detailsTransport (all routes)Accommodation (include maps to make these locations easier to find)Itinerary (not a necessity, but good to have as a reference)ID copy

That’s it! You’re all set and ready to go. The paperwork is a crucial aspect of travel and one that will require concerted attention and effort on your part, though you will find that following these steps and ensuring all is in order will bring you peace of mind on your journey.

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