In my letter to those enquiring about serving with Theologians Without Borders I make it clear that people must take full responsibility for themselves.
I am often asked for tips for things to take and matters to observe and I am happy to supply these if it is an area with which I am familiar. If I don’t know the country well I refer them to others who know the country and have a more recent knowledge of the situation.
In receiving my new passport I was given a brochure spelling out some travel tips before take off. They come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in New Zealand but let me state them and encourage you to adapt them to your situation and nationality as they spell out something of the responsibility we must take upon ourselves. I have added some extra information in some of these points:
Find Out About Your Destinations
Research any travel risks, including those covered in the latest government advisories. For New Zealanders this is www.safetravel.govt.nz but every country will have their own version. Read travel guides (and as I said above ask people who have been there recently).
Check Health Precautions
Ask your health professional at least eight weeks before you go for advice on nay health precautions needed in the area you are visiting e.g. anti-malarial medication, yellow fever vaccinations. Often your GP will refer you to someone who specializes in tropical medicine. Some countries require you to supply a certificate indicating that you have had the necessary vaccinations.
Get Comprehensive Travel Insurance from a Reputable Insurer
Read the policy carefully to ensure it covers your personal circumstances and planned activities.
Register Your Travel Plans Online
This is so you can be contacted in an emergency or to be alerted if there are riots or bomb threats e.g. New Zealanders have a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) registration database. What is the equivalent in your country?
Advise Family and/or Friends of Your Travel Plans
Remember to send your itinerary and contact details to your family and friends. Make copies of your passport (main page and visa page), insurance policy, 24 hour emergency numbers and ticket details. Carry one set separate from the originals and leave another set with family or friends. Scan all these documents and email them to yourself in case you need to bring them up or send them online.
Safeguard Your Passport At All times
It can be difficult to replace your passport while overseas. Ensure it will remain valid for at least 6 months after your planned travel ends. Some hotels have a policy of demanding to keep your passport in their possession while you are there. I resist this arguing that I need it for ID (some countries require you to travel with it) and asking them to take a photocopy while I wait for it to be returned.
Contact Home If You are Near a Major Disaster or Incident
This will certainly help to allay the fears of your family and friends and may well be a source of information about the incident.
About Money and Valuable
Don’t rely on a single form of money—for example, take cash, credit cards and maybe travellers’ cheques. Take two different types of credit cards with you as it is amazing how many times one of the cards will fail to activate cash from the ATMs. Allow enough money to cover emergencies. Don’t keep all your money in one place. Get yourself a money belt. They cost $5 in Walmart and they can be uncomfortable to wear but it is a small-price to pay to prevent you from getting pick-pocketed. Keep passports and other important documents from appearing over the top of your pocket. Don’t be flashy with electronic gear. Leave your expensive jewellery at home.
Know the Location of Your Nearest Embassy
Obey Local Laws and Respect Local Customs
Your government cannot normally intervene in the judicial processes of other countries. Being a citizen of your country (even if you think it is the best country in the world) does not entitle you to any special treatment.
Find out about the local customs before you go. Many of these relate to how you dress. One of the most popular articles on my Emirates web site is entitled, ‘What to Wear in the United Arab Emirates.’ Put into your Search engine, ‘What to Wear in XYZ (the country you are going to).’
Venturing into USA even in Transit?
If you are not a US citizen and you are travelling to the US or even in transit there is a new law and practice that was introduced in January 2009. Travellers from many countries like the UK, Australia and NZ were previously part of the Visa Waiver Program. Now, such travelers are required to obtain an electronic travel authorization, no less than 72 hours, before you get on a plane or ship bound for the US. In most cases you will receive a response within seconds that your travel and American entry has been approved but you are encouraged to do this early.
For more information and do make application for an Electronic System for Travel authorization (ESTA) log on at the ESTA web site (it is available in at least 14 languages).
Please leave a travel tip as a Comment.
For First Time Readers of TWB or Take a Refresher
A general introduction to Theologians Without Borders is offered in several languages at these links:
Theologians Without Borders
Teólogos Sin Fronteras
Théologiens Sans Frontières
Theologen Ohne Grenzen
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras
Teologi Senza Frontiere
If you can translate this statement into your language I would be keen to add it to this list.
Interested in Serving With TWB?
A good place to start (without making a commitment) is to adapt this Expression of Interest and send your information with a digital photo to me.
Dr Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders
Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook.
Image: Ten Top Travel Tips (Brochure from NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade).