Overlooking essential travel documents is all too easy when you're busy packing for a trip abroad. Missing passports or tickets can lead to the nightmare of getting stuck at airport security or finding yourself without the right papers when you're hiring a car, using a bank or dealing with an emergency. Before setting off on your holiday or business trip, gather all essential documents and stash them safely in your hand luggage so you can travel with confidence.
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You'll need an up-to-date passport. Some destinations require a passport with a full six months still to run. You can check your destination's entry requirements on the UK government's travel advice web page (see Resources.) A passport doesn't just get you through border control, you may need it later to prove your identity; for example, when making a cash withdrawal from a bank.
Some countries require an extra permission added to the passport, known as an entry visa. A visa typically takes the form of stamp in your passport, but in some case it's a separate document. Check a country's visa requirements well in advance of your travel date, because paperwork for some locations can take days or weeks to process.
Emergency travel document
If you are abroad and your passport is lost or stolen, you can get an emergency travel document to allow you to leave the country and either travel onwards, or return to the UK. You will need to apply in person to the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate to make these arrangements.
Tickets and boarding passes
You'll need all your travel tickets. If you have several connections to make, organise your tickets in advance and place them in order in your wallet or purse, so that you can find the right ticket without delay. If you are travelling by plane, you may also be issued with a boarding pass that you will need to show at the departure gate. Most airport and ferry duty free shops also require a valid boarding pass before you can make any purchases.
Take any travel insurance policies and documentation with you, too. Make sure the policy covers you for all the activities you plan to take part in, such as sports and outward-bound challenges. Check that the costs of healthcare and emergency return to the UK are all included with your policy.
European Health Insurance Card
UK citizens can apply for a free European Health Insurance Card that entitles them to free or reduced-charge healthcare, if they are travelling to a Eurozone country. To get one, visit the NHS European Health Insurance Card web page.
You'll need a full UK driving licence to drive overseas. The AA suggests taking the paper counterpart licence in addition to the photocard. If you're driving your own car, take a photocopy of the vehicle registration document and your motor insurance certificate. Some countries require an International Driving Permit so check this when planning your trip.
If you're taking travellers' cheques with you, make a note of their numbers, in case they get lost or stolen. Take several other means of payment, such as separate credit and debit cards. Keep at least one of these items in a separate place, in case you lose your wallet or purse.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises making a note of your passport number and keeping it separately, in case you have to report it lost or stolen. Consider photocopying your passport and your other travel and insurance documents for easy reference, or store document scans online.
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- Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Foreign travel checklist
- Lonely Planet: Top tips for safe travel
- Citizens Advice Bureau: Travelling abroad – will you need a visa?
- Gov.UK: Get an emergency travel document
- MRC: Health and safety guidance when travelling abroad
- AA: Driving abroad
- P&O Ferries: Travelling abroad checklist
- Visa Central: Travel visa FAQs
- The Telegraph: Top ten trips for travelling abroad
- Gov.UK: Driving abroad