Travelling while at university is a fantastic way to gain valuable skills that complement your degree. It can be a great way to boost your CV and prepare you for your career as well as providing you with unique memories that’ll last a lifetime.
Travelling abroad is something that many students look forward to as either part of their studies or during the holidays. The skies the limit in terms of opportunities and places to visit, so you’ll definitely be able to find that perfect destination.
Once you’ve found that perfect place and project, it’s time to think about what you need to take with you. Travelling and backpacking isn’t like a package holiday, it requires you to pack smart and be well prepared. You may find yourself off the beat and track so having a useful checklist is a great place to start. We’ve created this checklist based on our experiences of volunteering in Fiji but it can be used for anywhere you go:
What Does a Student Need When Travelling Abroad?
Passport, Visas, Vaccinations, Insurance
Although this isn’t the exciting part of planning your travels, it is a vital part. Making sure your passport doesn’t expire while you’re away, or checking you have all the relevant visas and vaccinations will mean you aren’t met with any unexpected surprises while travelling.
Having the right travel insurance is also very important as you need to ensure you are covered for the activities and places you go to. This is particularly important for the thrill seekers and adventurers who might want to get involved with adventure activities.
Photocopy of Passport, Visas, Vaccinations and Insurance
It’s better to be safe than sorry! Photocopying all your important documents doesn’t take long, but could be extremely useful should something happen to your original copies. Having a photocopy and keeping it in a different bag will help ensure you can travel with peace of mind.
Emergency Contact Details
It’s always worth writing down the contact details of places you’re staying, the British High Commission (or your country’s embassy) and any other useful contact details. Again, you never know when you might need them so it’s always best to be prepared.
A Good Backpack
If you’re going anywhere slightly off the beat and track, then a backpack is definitely recommended over a suitcase. Backpacks make it easy for a student traveller to carry and transport all their possessions. Female adventurers may want to look into backpacks specifically designed for women that our volunteers often say are much comfier than regular backpacks.
Waterproof backpacks are also definitely recommended as there’s usually a chance of rain wherever you go (unless you’re travelling to the desert!)
A well-stocked first aid bag
It’s always best to bring with you all the plasters, creams and tablets you might need. Shops and supplies can be hard to come by in some places so travellers should try and bring as much of these supplies as possible.
Some ideas for your first aid bag include:
1. A large supply of assorted plasters.
2. Several roles of band aid / thick plaster tape (which is strong and can be cut to different lengths)
3. Antihistamine tablets
4. Antiseptic cream.
5. Sanitising hand gel (take several small bottles and use this daily when in remote places.)
6. A large supply (30-50 ml per week) of Mosquito repellent, which contains DEET.
7. Anti-diarrhoea, anti-constipation and ibuprofen.
8. A small box of re-hydration salts and also 1-2 boxes of water purification tablets
9. Water bottle, which has an inbuilt filter/ water purifier is recommended.
Suitable Clothing for places you’re visiting
Suitable clothing refers to ensuring you have comfortable clothing for your travels as well as clothing that reflects the cultural expectations in the particular country you are visiting.
For example, in a Fijian village, any visitor should respect Fijian traditions and culture and cover up their shoulders and knees. The rules are slightly more relaxed for men, however, it is best to demonstrate you understand their views and cultural habits and are happy to follow this.
Not following these rules can make locals feel awkward. This approach to understanding the cultural expectations is the difference between those who give tourism a bad reputation and those who use it to bring the world together.
This doesn’t mean you can’t pack your swim shorts or bikini, it just means you need to know when is appropriate to wear them and when you should follow the traditional customs and attire.
Local Currency and Cash
Most countries have ATMs and places to get cash out, however, it’s always best to bring some local currency in cash for your arrival. You don’t want to have to worry about finding an ATM before you’re able to do anything.
International travel will provide some amazing experiences and memories, so make sure you have a camera so you can capture and save them. Video recorders like GoPro are also a great way to easily record your travels.
Getting cameras that are durable and can handle being knocked around a little bit would definitely be recommended too.
Having a refreshing shower at the end of a day volunteering or trekking through a jungle is one of the best feelings. Having a reliable towel that packs away into a small space is a great addition to the student traveller’s backpack.
Pictures and Photos of your life back home
This is perhaps an unusual point and something you won’t find on many checklists; however, we think it’s a an absolute must. Students travelling to exotic places often forget that people in those places are fascinated by places like UK, USA, and Europe.
Being able to show host families or other locals pictures of your hometown and your family will really allow you to connect on a deeper level with those who you meet with while travelling.
If you’re going to any coastal location, a pair of reef shoes can be an amazing addition to a backpacker’s kit list. Reef shoes have a rubber sole so when you get out of the sea, you don’t have to worry about sharp rocks. They can make life on a beach a lot easier and you can pick them up for next to nothing.
Travelling Abroad at University
So there you have it, our quick checklist for students heading off on adventures and travelling abroad – print it off and use it for your university travels so you have the best time ever!