Let me preface by stating that we’re not big on planning. One of the main appeals of long term travel, for us, was the idea of being totally free. However, to just fly out to the other side of the world and not, at least, have some idea of the things that might be nice to see or do, or a vague idea of the practical considerations, seemed too cavalier. So, a few months before we were due to set off we decided to actually figure out a “plan”. Here’s what we came up with, the resources we used and the essential factors we considered.
Below is a map showing our prospective route. You can zoom in and learn additional details by clicking on the line segments and pins. The map will be updated as we go along and will live permanently on the Route page.
We started by thinking about a few places that we really, really wanted to visit. For Corneliu, being a Lord of the Rings nerd, it was unequivocally New Zealand. I (Tara) felt a more generic sense of wanderlust and wanted either South America, Sub Saharan Africa, or South East Asia and, somewhat randomly, I just had to go on the Trans-Siberian rail. It felt most reasonable to stick to the East, starting in New Zealand and ending with the Trans-Siberian. The rest of the World will have to wait.
Once, we’d decided where to go, there were three things that seemed sensible to get informed:
- Immunisations/general health or safety related issues.
- Cost of living.
We are travelling on British and Italian passports which means that the vast majority of countries allow 30 days of visa free travel or will grant one on arrival. This is a huge privilege that greatly simplifies planning for a multi-destination trip. It was relatively straight forward to find out whether we needed a visa and how long we could stay in each place by simply searching ‘X visa entry requirements for Y passport’ but some genius collated all the information on handy Wikipedia pages.
Australia, Myanmar, and Vietnam (for more that 15 days) all require eVisas which can be obtained online, though there are a lot of scam sites to look out for. China, Mongolia, and Russia are the only countries that require us to obtain visas in advance. These are towards the end of our trip so we will apply at their respective embassies when we get closer. Our friends recently completed their journey through these regions and wrote a really useful info page over at CATAWOPINO, which has tonnes of great posts about their round the world trip.
One last thing to remember – nearly all countries require your passport to have at least 6 months validity when you enter.
When it comes to health there are lots of excellent resources online, I found Travel Health Pro to have the best UI. Again, our friend Tracy created an excellent post which shows the endemic regions relating to each disease, and the time requirements of each vaccination course. Its written in French but Google translate does a surprisingly good job.
Luckily, in the UK, vaccinations and boosters for typhoid, polio, tetanus, and hepatitis A are free, thanks to the awesome NHS. We made sure we were up to date on these before we set off. After a great deal of hesitation and a wasted private clinic appointment that cost £15, we eventually decided to fork out £180 for the Japanese encephalitis vaccine. It’s generally not necessary for most shorter-term travellers – but we intend to spend many months in endemic zones.
Rabies is transmitted through bites or scratches from infected animals (basically the zombie virus), and the vaccine won’t actually stop the virus from developing. It will however buy you a lot of precious time. Without the pre-exposure vaccine you will need up to 5 courses of the post-exposure vaccine and possibly a shot of immunoglobulin, this process can take at least a month to clear you of the virus. On the other hand, with the pre-exposure vaccine you only need 2 shots after a bite and could be cleared after 3 days. It is an expensive and hopefully unnecessary vaccine but in the end we took it because of the following factors: stray dogs are everywhere in Asia, we might be volunteering in rural areas, and rabies basically has a 100% mortality rate once it develops.
Mosquitos are the bane of my life. My blood must be mosquito crack because they routinely hunt me down, singling me out of crowds. Knowing this, I spent a lot of time checking the malaria risk along our route and was pleased to find that great progress has been made on reducing the risk throughout South East Asia. At the time of checking (March 2018) there’s a low to very low risk in the countries that we will be visiting. We’ll be opting for bite prevention and awareness using Deet, mosquito nets, and loose or bug repellent clothing in the evenings. Mosquitos also transmit dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis, so prevention should be a general aim. If you are travelling somewhere with high-risk (red zones) then consider a course of anti-malarial drugs, e.g., atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline. Some strains of malaria are resistant to one or more of the treatment options, so always check for region specific advice before buying antimalarials.
Accurately predicting budget is difficult so it’s good to be flexible with your expectations and set a hard limit on what you can comfortably spend. I can’t imagine anything making the post-trip blues more unbearable than coming home with a huge debt looming over your head. We decided early on that we’d rather do more things and have a shorter trip than be constantly restricting ourselves just to stay longer. That being said, we’re also not planning on cramming every single tourist activity into our itinerary. You may have noticed that Japan and South Korea aren’t currently on our route. The truth is, we’d both love to visit these places, but it’s unlikely we’ll have the means to do them justice at the tail end of our trip.
The average “shoestring” daily budget estimates for each country are listed below. Prices are in USD and include accommodation, transit, food, and basic activities, such as entry fees to national attractions. These estimates came from a host of different websites, but I found My Funky Travel and Lonely Planet to be good resources.
- New Zealand, Australia: $70
- Singapore, China, Russia, Mongolia: $40-50
- Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar: $25
- Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam: $20
In more expensive places like NZ and Australia, we’re going to consider WWOOFing, couch surfing, staying with friends and ride sharing to keep costs down. We’ll try to provide updates with first hand information once we’ve actually been to each country.