Visas and Travel Insurance and Immunizations, Oh My

I am in full logistical planning hell.

Outlining my route was fun, buying my tickets was exciting, and then the “do all this serious stuff in the 3 months before you leave” time hit and what used to be a wonderful dream became a taxing reality.

First came the visas. I knew that Brazil, my first country, would be the hardest to get a visa for. So my first stop was the Consulate General of Brazil in San Francisco website to try to make an appointment (after buying my flights – you need proof of travel to even get a visa, which is a bit unnerving, buying a flight without knowing you can get into the country). Booked for 3 months solid. This would be surprising, except that they only let people get visas in person with an appointment between 9am and 12pm on weekdays. And it’s the World Cup year. I checked every day until I finally got an appointment in May. Here’s hoping the 5-7 day turnaround is true – I leave SF just 2 weeks after my appointment.

Having accomplished that, I went to Project Visa and looked up every single country I plan to go to. The first thing that was clear: there will be a lot of visa fees in my future. Luckily most of the countries I’m going to I either don’t need a visa for the amount of time I’ll be there, as a tourist, or I can get it upon entry. In my small travel notebook (which is really becoming the thing I can’t leave home without) I wrote down the three countries I have to plan ahead for:

  • Australia: apply online before I leave
  • India: apply online within 6 months
  • Vietnam: in Sydney or Bangkok

An important thing to know about visas is when they are valid. Vietnam and India visas can be applied for up to 6 months in advance, so if I got either of these now they would be useless by the time I arrived in December/February. Australia’s time frame starts once I enter the country, so I have at least a little more flexibility there.

After figuring out all the different visa requirements, I started to feel a little better.

Then I moved on to looking up travel insurance. This is not cheap, but it’s also one of the most recommended expenses I’ve come across. It covers everything from stolen baggage to airlifting you home in case of a medical emergency. It even goes so far as to cover loss of limb or life, but that’s too morbid to think about. What I’ve found it doesn’t always cover are some of the more fun elements – skydiving, for example, is something I really want to do in New Zealand, but it is only covered at a pricier level of travel insurance. So now I’m faced with the decision of going with the basic level, or trying to cover more. You never know what will happen right? But sometimes the lower level seems like all I would need.

And then there’s all the different providers. How do you choose? WorldNomads seems good, but there’s also Travel Guard, IMG, or Travelex, just to name a few. With all the names being thrown around at this point I’m thinking about just picking the one that shows up on my two favorite planning sites – both Lonely Planet and BootsnAll link to WorldNomads. Maybe this isn’t the best reason to pick one, but it seems recommended enough. I trust the sites so why not? I never was the kind of person to control my medical or financial logistics much. Health insurance? Whatever you recommend work, Plan A sounds great! 401k? I just have to check this box and the provider my company chose will figure it out? Great you know what you’re doing, whatever you want to do with my money, go for it. I realize that this is probably not one of the smarter habits I’ve picked up, and travel insurance is immensely important, so I am making myself focus and do the comparison research before picking a provider and level. TBD on this one.

Then there’s immunizations. The first thing I wrote down about this was “At least 8 weeks before I go START IMMUNIZATIONS.” I now leave San Francisco in just over 8 weeks, which puts me at less than 12 weeks before departure. Time to start calling doctors.

April has always been a good month for me. Maybe I’m biased because of my birthday (3 weeks!), but it has also had exciting moments in the past for a variety of reasons: as a kid we had spring break in April, in college my thesis was finally done in April, I moved to San Francisco in April, I’ve gone to Coachella for the past 2 years in April. This April is different. This April I have to be serious about the logistics. With visas well underway and travel insurance a mere few days from purchased (I think), I just have to get my doctors appointments scheduled, endure some shots and pick up some medications.

Then in May I can go back to the wanderlust excitement.



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