Preparation

Planning a long-term trip away from home requires a fair bit of planning and organisation.  Luckily, planning and organising things is a bit of a hobby of mine so it has been an enjoyable experience so far with only a few panics to date!

Some of the things we have had to consider are:

– Vaccinations: We didn’t have to get too many for our trip as we had a load done just over 18 months ago when we went to Burma. We just needed a Japanese Encephalitis booster and a full course of Tick Borne Encephalitis vaccines, plus some anti-malarial drugs for when we hit SE Asia.

– Visas: Having been to Moscow previously I wasn’t too fazed about applying for another Russian visa so that went pretty smoothly.

The Chinese visa though was a bit more tricky… We were wanting to originally travel through China, hop over to Taiwan to visit our friend who lives there, go back to China, then cross the land border with Hong Kong and then back into China for some more exploring before heading over the land border with Laos.

That plan has now had to be changed due to the Chinese visa system.  As first time visitors to China we are only allowed a double entry visa.  This meant it was Taiwan or Hong Kong, not both as we travelled south through China on our way to Laos.  So we shelved Hong Kong to the end of our visit (I know our blog is called London to Vietnam, I was tempted to change it to reflect the new order of things but have decided to go with the flow!  We are now going from London to Vietnam…and then Hong Kong!).

Itinerary sorted all we had to do was apply for the visa.  This involved providing evidence of our trip from leaving London to arriving in China.  That is, ALL of our tickets, not just the one from Russia to China.  Then we needed to provide our tickets to and from Taipei plus a ticket for leaving China.  Only problem is we were wanting to go overland into Laos… can’t get a ticket for that!  So we have booked a cheap flight with Air Asia to Bangkok, which we may or may not use depending on how we go and what we feel like doing nearer the time.

Finally all we needed was booking confirmation for all our accommodation for our whole entire stay in China.  That’s about 50 nights worth of accommodation! This resulted in many evenings of me trawling through Booking.Com to find flexible accommodation which can be cancelled if we decide not to go somewhere once we arrive.

Having gathered all this together and filled in the lengthy four page application form, signed the separate declaration plus the form for payment I was feeling incredibly smug at my powers of organisation!  That was until I strolled into the office to apply and was told I needed an appointment… what?!?  I’d missed that vital bit of information!!!  And to top that off there were no appointments until the following week and we were leaving London before that.

One massive panic later and we found an agency who could apply on our behalf that same day and we were proud recipients of two shiny Chinese visas by the end of the week on our last day in London.  That was cutting it a bit fine!

All other visas we can apply for as we go.

– Travel Insurance: From another blog I have been following I discovered that not all travel insurance for backpackers will cover you if you don’t have a return ticket booked back to the UK.  Uh oh, we weren’t planning on booking our flight home until nearer the time when we knew where we would be and when!  Thankfully though when reading the small print of the company I had already scoped out, we were ok.  Annual Travel Insurance is who we have decided to go with as I really like the clarity of their policies and also that you can pick bands of adventurous activities that you will be covered for so you always know before jumping off/sliding down/diving into whatever it is you have chosen to do if you are covered!

– Equipment to take with us: This is still a work in progress.  I’m conscious that we don’t want to be carrying too much as we have planned some hiking which would involve taking our bags with us (and I do get grumpy when I get tired, so it’s best not to over exert myself to keep me being a happy traveller!).

It’s now just over three weeks until we go.  It all feels a bit surreal, even more so when I don’t go into work tomorrow!  I’m very much aware that although we have organised a lot already, there still a fair bit to do.  These next three weeks are going to be busy I think!

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