How Seniors Can Have A Hassle-Free Overseas Holiday
So you've retired and now you're off on an overseas trip. Maybe this is your first trip outside of Australia. Some research and planning before you leave might make all the difference between a relatively trouble-free trip and one fraught with difficulties.
A helpful website to visit is www.smartraveller.gov.au. Read up on the travel advice of the country(ies) you plan to visit. Take note of the political and cultural structure of your destination. Such information may be useful and will certainly make your trip more interesting than arriving knowing absolutely nothing about the place. There is information on the website on the main risks you may face and any precautions you should take. You can also register your travel details on the website. This will allow you to be contacted in an emergency such as a natural disaster or civil disturbance.
Travel insurance is important so organise it well before you leave. Because overseas medical costs are not covered by Medicare, it is vital that you take out health insurance. If you are going on a cruise, Medicare payments are only payable when travelling between two Australian ports.
Be sure that it is comprehensive and, although it might be a pain, read the small print (Product Disclosure Statement) so that you know exactly what you are covered for. Will you be flown home if you become ill? Does it cover hospital and ambulance fees? Theft of valuables? Cancellations of flight or flight interruptions? Be sure the cover you choose suits your needs. Fully disclose any medical conditions you might have.
If you are going to rely on travel insurance provided by your credit card, ask for written confirmation of the details. If you extend your stay, don't forget to update your insurance.
Have a full medical examination before you go. If you think you might be questioned as to your fitness to fly, ask your doctor for a letter to confirm that it is safe for you to fly. If you need special services because of a disability, find out from the airline bout shuttle services, special needs, availability of wheel-chairs, etc. If you need to take (and/or use) needles and syringes, get a letter from your doctor and contact the airline to determine if there are any special regulations to which you will need to adhere. If your aids need electricity, check what adaptors you will need.
Check with your doctor about the vaccinations you will need. Do your own research on the web as to what is suggested for each country that you will be visiting. Remember some vaccinations require an extended period before they become effective.
Your passport needs to be valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return. If you are over 75, you may apply for a senior's passport. This is valid for five years and costs about half as much as a ten year standard passport.
Check what visas you'll need and start getting them organised early. There may be specific entry and exit requirements for some countries. There may be compulsory vaccination requirements. A tourist visa will not necessarily allow you to undertake even voluntary or unpaid work or activities.
Dual nationality can have implications when you visit your 'second' nation. Use your Australian passport to leave and return to Australia. Once in your 'second' country, you may not be able to obtain assistance from the Australian consulate.
Photocopy all insurance policies, travellers' cheques, passport details, visas and credit card numbers. Leave a copy behind with a family member or guardian and keep your own copy separate from the originals.
Organise more than one way to access money when you are away. Many people have hiccups when they arrive in a foreign country with cards that won't access, pin numbers that suddenly seem invalid and machines chewing up credit cards. No matter how carefully you've organised your cards, and despite umpteen assurances that everything will work overseas, don't rely on one source of obtaining money. You might want to consider having credit cards, cash and debit cards.
If you have dealings with Centrelink, you need to inform them of your departure at least a fortnight before you leave. If you will be away for more than a few weeks, you might like to authorise a third party to interact with Centrelink on your behalf.
During Your Flight
Your carry-on bag should have everything you need for the flight. This includes regular medications, first aid supplies, antacids and pain-killers if you need them. Find out the limits as regards liquids, aerosols and gels and stick to them. Take extra passport photos just in case you need them. Pack a spare pair of glasses and take a copy of any current prescriptions.
After Your Flight
If you have had a long flight, try to have an easy day when you first arrive to allow your body time to recover. Keep an eye on TV and newspapers at your destination in case of new issues as regards security or local conditions.
Unless you know the water is safe, only drink bottled water – and don't forget to use it for brushing your teeth.
Don't carry too many valuables and try to travel light. Remember passports, cameras and jewellery are tempting targets and keep them out of sight but safe. If possible, don't carry too much cash. If you are overloaded with luggage you will be more vulnerable to pickpockets and thieves.
Travelling Overseas with Prescription Medicines
There are some special considerations if you are taking Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) medicines with you overseas.
- Only travel with medicines that are for you or a travelling companion.
- Ensure the medicine you are taking is legal in the country of your destination. Check with the relevant embassy if you're concerned.
- Leave the medicine in its original packaging and only take what you will need for the duration of your stay.
- Ask your doctor to put in writing details of your medications, how much you will be taking and stating that it is for personal use. If you cannot get a letter from your GP, fill out a Medicare Australia's Medicine Export Declaration form. This can be found on Medicare Australia's website. However this may not necessarily be enough to satisfy the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
- Rules apply as to the amount of PBS medicines that can be taken out of the country. Excessive amounts may be confiscated by customs.
- If you are sending PBS medicines overseas you need to attach a Customs declaration form to the parcel. This should be picked up from an Australia Post office and filled in. Once attached to the parcel, it will tell authorities that the parcel contains prescription drugs for personal use.
Such precautions will ensure that you are free to enjoy your well-earned vacations without any undue hassles.