The world is a smaller place today. With budget airlines and hotel rooms that can be booked online, travelling anywhere in India or abroad is relatively simpler than it used to be.
However, a holiday requires prior planning to spend within your budget and cover necessary formalities. If you are planning your first international trip, here are 4 expenses to take into account, besides your flights and accommodation.
1. Passport and Visa
If you do not have a passport, apply well in advance before you intend to go on an international trip. Click here to find the official passport application portal guide from the Ministry of External Affairs with step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a fresh passport or renewal online.
While a normal application should cost you Rs 1,500, a tatkal application will cost around Rs 2,000.
If you already have a passport, make sure it is at least 6 months away from expiry from the expected date of arrival at your destination. The validity limit can vary based on the location and the pertaining immigration rules there. The airlines will not allow you to board the flight if the passport is close to expiry.
As for the visa application, the costs and processing time will depend on the duration of the trip and the country you choose to visit.
For countries like Nepal, Bhutan or Indonesia, Indians do not require visa for short visits. However, the immigration counter will put a Visa exemption Stamp on your passport to track the length of your stay.
As for Indians visiting countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Maldives, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Tanzania or Kenya, they can get a 'visa-on-arrival' for a short period at the immigration hall on entering the respective country.
Note that some destinations also charge a fee (or tax) to visitors when they enter or leave the place. This cost may be included in the airfare or may be charged separately.
2. Travel Insurance
This is definitely not a waste of money or something you can skip to save a little money. Travelling to a new destination and understanding their culture is a challenge on its own; you do not want to make yourself vulnerable to any medical emergencies, theft or other unfortunate events, wherein, you need to deal with local authorities with no knowledge of their language or laws.
It will lead to further complications of contacting the Indian embassy, which may or may not respond quickly.
A travel insurance could be anywhere between 4 to 10 percent on the total trip cost, if you opt to buy a tour package. It will cover any medical emergencies, flight cancellations and theft situations.
If you are not travelling via a travel agency, you can buy a travel insurance for any of the Indian general insurance players.
Note that you will not be covered for any vaccinations that need to be taken before you go to a foreign destination. For example, a trip to Kenya requires you to take yellow fever vaccination. This will be be a separate expense.
3. Transaction charges
You will be making payments at restaurants, local merchant shops, etc. Credit cards with MasterCard or Visa gateway are accepted almost everywhere, however, the charges on transactions using these could be higher when used outside India. A 1 to 4 percent fee could be charged on the transaction value.
Alternatively, you can carry prepaid forex cards to save on these fees. These can be pre-loaded with a certain amount and allow access to cash in the currency of the country of visit. One can even recharge or top-up the card with if they require later.
If you plan on visiting more than one country in a single vacation, you can even carry handy cash in US dollar denomination, as it is the most acceptable currency at most tourist sites. However, it is not safe, or rather allowed, to carry a huge amount in cash.
If you wish to shop at roadside stalls or the flea market, you will have to withdraw the locally acceptable currency at a foreign exchange counter, like at Western Union. Note that charges on these withdrawals are high and you will need to be prepared for it in advance.
4. Cellphone services
Inquire with your network provider on international services and charges for the country you plan on visiting. These charges can be between Rs 100 to Rs 600 per day. Get the services activated before you leave the country.
You can also save on these charges by using hotel and public wi-fi services for making regular calls to your family or anyone in India over internet based calling apps like WhatsApp or Skype and keep cellular services for emergencies only.
It is wise to estimate all your expenses in advance before leave for the trip.