What you should do before you go overseas

suitcase-overflowing-with-clothesSome people think that the only thing to travelling around the world is booking your tickets, grabbing your passport, packing your suitcase and then heading off. However, this overlooks one of the most important aspects – the research and planning that needs to go in to selecting your destination.

There are things that people should do before they go overseas, but what they are depends on your planned destination, the purpose of your visit, and how long you plan to stay there for.

Here are some suggestions on the most sensible things to do before going abroad.

  • Firstly it is always a sensible idea to carry out research about the country, or countries that you plan to visit. Treat it as turning back the clock to when you were at school and read as much information as possible to finish your assignments and your homework. Only this research could keep you and your family safe overseas, or indeed stop you from going in the first place.
  • If you plan to stay over the long-term consider learning the language spoken in the selected country if nobody, or very few people speak English.  It is also wise to find out if you need tourist visas, or work permits, and if they can be applied for before you go, or after you arrive.
  • Travel agencies and holiday companies will often provide you with informative brochures to let you know about any of the countries they offer holidays to.
  • Besides travel agents you can also garner information from airline companies that fly services to and from the country that you intend to go to. The embassies and sometimes the consulates of foreign nations in the United States can also provide you with information about their countries, and what you will need to take with you should you go there.
  • For Americans, the Department of State issues Background Notes on the majority of nations across the globe, essentially all the basic information you will need to get by in any of these countries. These notes are now available on the internet.
  • Furthermore the Department of State issues the Consular Information sheets, which provides you with all the information you need, besides details of how to contact US embassies and consulates aboard should you need their help.
  • Whenever it feels that it is appropriate to do so the Department of State also issues Travel Warnings as well as Public Announcements. Travel warnings are made public to deter American nationals from going to countries where they could be placing themselves in danger, and there is no US embassy or consulate to help them out. Public Announcements are made if situations change suddenly.
  • Finally, be sure to speak to a travel doctor to find out whether there are any specific injections that you need before visiting that country. The last thing you want to do is come back with an unexpected illness.

Remember – your safety is the most important thing to consider when travelling. Be sure to do your homework before you decide to travel – but don’t let that detract from getting out there and seeing the world.

Why You Should Visit Egypt

giza-pyramidsHave you ever wondered what it was like at the center of an Egyptian pyramid? My friends and I – plus countless others who have vacationed in Egypt know first-hand what this experience is like.

Egypt is alive with bright, vibrant colors and offers a mystical intrigue that can’t be found in many places. Travelers to Egypt find themselves engrossed in the rich history of the country as they explore the market place, the hieroglyphics, and the ethereal mask of Tutankhamen. They will find themselves in the 21st century as they travel the streets, swallowed up by the chaotic mingling as people go about their business; and curse their luck for being stuck in the never-ending traffic. When you visit Egypt and go on a camel ride, or buy souvenirs at Giza, it is an experience of a lifetime that you will never forget.

Tourism in Egypt

9.7 million people visited Egypt in 2006-7; this is a 13% increase over the year before. Where else in this world can you sit on top of a camel and see the Great Sphinx through a hazy desert sunset? Hospitality is now a thriving business in Egypt and there are a number of excellent hotels in the tourists areas of Alexandria, Aswan, Cairo, Luxor, Hurghada and Sharm-el Sheikh. This country is packed with drama and energy, which makes it a fine playground for all vacationers.

When is the best time to go to Egypt?

Egypt is located very near the equator, which means it has hot and dry summers, and mild winters. During the summer the temps can rise higher than 113 degrees Fahrenheit during the afternoon. This often limits visiting historic sites during the morning or evening hours. There is a problem with this schedule, as morning and evening hours are also the best times for mosquitoes to be out looking for fresh blood. Tourist attractions may not be so crowded, but is it worth the discomfort to go in the summer? Not really. Especially when the months of October to May have almost perfect weather for sightseeing. Plan your vacation for these months and you are sure to experience the delights of Egypt in comfort.

Holidays in Egypt

A holiday in Egypt offers guests so many activities. Egyptian holiday tour packages can be found on various websites. Because Egypt is such a big country, most people do prefer to book a tour package in order to see the highlights of the country. However, there are other activities you can enjoy, such as a unique cruise down the Nile, or a Saharan wildlife safari. For those who love the city life, there is always Cairo, Egypt’s bustling capital, to explore. There is something for everyone in Egypt.

Shopping in Egypt

Since the year 1382, the Khan-al-Khalili bazaar in Cairo has been the place to shop in all of Egypt. Shopping for locally made goods, and haggling over the prices, is a treat all who visit Egypt should experience. The sellers expect the haggler to bargain for a fair price. Egyptian cotton in known world-wide for the pure, luxurious scarfs the locals make. Shoppers will find other delights such as hand-made carpets, perfumes, authentic pharaonic objects and papyrus artwork.

The Pyramids

Every vacation in Egypt should include a visit to the Pyramids of Giza. The Great Pyramid was the world’s tallest structure for over 3,800 years and deserves to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. These funerary homes for Egypt’s great Pharaohs of 2700-2200 BC have always held a fascination to people across the planet. An amazing fact to know is that, even though the pyramids look impressive today, when they were built they were capped with gold and the sides were covered with polished white limestone. In the very center of the pyramid is a tomb, and it is sweltering hot inside. There are probably dozens of tourists who are probably all hot, sweaty and exhausted from walking bent over through tiny corridors to reach this center point. Yet each of them will be wearing a warm smile, knowing they made it to the center of a pyramid is Egypt. Not everyone can say they did so.

Survival Guide: Your First Overseas Flight

You’re packed and ready to go. You are excited and nervous about taking a long flight to a foreign country. You check to make sure you have your passport, plane tickets and a way to pay for purchases once you reach your destination. Everything seems in order, but is it?

Before you get to this point, read these tips below to make the whole experience go as smooth as possible.

Before You Leave Home

Pack lightly, no more than two suitcases and one carry-on bag. The cost of extra bags is not worth it if you can buy clothes at your destination. If you are going to a tropical climate you can pack even lighter by packing only shorts and t-shirts for casual wear. Remember, if you buy clothes or trinkets, you will have to bring them home somehow. Allow extra room in your luggage for these items and you won’t be paying extra baggage costs.

Always check with the airlines for the latest rules and regulations concerning liquids in your carry-on bag – they change frequently and are dependent upon which country you’re flying from and to. This information can be found online, or can be easily obtained by calling the airlines. Be sure to bring all your medications and carry copies of your prescriptions.

The day before departure call the airlines and re-confirm that your flight will still be flying at its scheduled time, or check your booking online at their web site. Weather can mess up any travel plans. If your flight is cancelled you can reschedule right then. It is better to call the airlines and be safe; the alternative is to scramble at the last minute for a flight. Not a good way to start a vacation. When you do call to re-confirm (or while checking your booking online), ask for your seat number and get it changed if that is what you desire. Doing all this now will save you time once you get to the airport.

The day of your flight do a check, a double check and even a triple check of all the items you are going to need on this trip. There is no turning back for missing items. Make sure you have your passport (and those of any children travelling with you), and all of the relevant tickets for your flights plus any ground connections – eg airport transfers, etc. It is best to carry traveler’s checks, an ATM card and your credit card, as some places may only take one form of payment over the others. Plan to exchange enough money into the local currency to last you a day or two. Do not change money at home; wait until you get to your destination.

At Your Home Airport

Arrive at the airport at least three hours ahead of departure. Security and check-in lines will be long and slow. Be sure to have all your travel documents ready to show at a moment’s notice. Now would be a good time to ask if there have been any changes in what is allowed or not allowed in carry-on bags. Eat at the airport before you board the plane. The food is reasonably priced and will taste much better than what they serve on the plane. Bring easy to eat snacks on board, things like trail mix or dried fruits will fill you up.

Do take advantage of the duty free shops inside the airport. Check first to see if there are any limitations on alcohol or tobacco products. It is also best to find out beforehand if layover flights allow carry-on liquids such as alcohol. You may have to wait until your last stop before making such purchases.

Airports are totally equipped to handle wireless connections. There are electric outlets located conveniently throughout the airport for those who need to stay plugged in or recharge before boarding.

On The Plane

Relax and sleep if you can – this will lessen the time zone changes and jet lag. Drink plenty of water on board the plane because dry cabin air can rapidly cause dehydration. Do not drink alcohol on the plane, your body will thank you once you reach your hotel.

Bring gum or mints to help alleviate the air pressure changes during take-off and landing. Try to read or watch the movie to pass the time. Keeping busy will make the time go by much faster.

If you have already eaten then you might just want to eat the salad, bread and dessert when the meals start getting passed out. These foods aren’t too bad, but the main meals are reheated mystery foods most of the time.

You will be asked to fill out a customs declaration form while on the plane. Fill it out and put it with your passport. These will need to be turned into the Customs officer.

Arrival at Destination

Hopefully, you were told before getting off the plane what you need to do in this airport. If not, follow the signs. Try to get off the plane as quickly as possible – everyone else has the same agenda: get through the Immigration/Customs lines. Do not stop to use the bathroom or to have a cigarette. Find the shortest line and have your passport and boarding pass ready with everything else you need to turn in.

Be polite to the Customs officer as he or she stamps your passport, turn in your custom declaration forms, then head for the luggage carousels. Gather your luggage, change some currency, and finally you are ready to head out the door.

Find transportation to your hotel (if this has not been prearranged), sit back and enjoy the sights of your final destination. Remember – in most locations, it’s advisable not to jump in with a taxi driver who offers you a ride at the baggage collection or near the exit – instead, follow the signage to the taxi rank and jump in a cab there to avoid getting ripped off.

One you arrive at your hotel and check in, it’s time to take a deep breath and congratulate yourself on the fact that “You Made It!” Have a wonderful vacation.

How travel transforms you

“How do you rate your life? Out of ten what would you give yourself?”

In my travels, I’ve asked this question to a lot of people. Most people rate their lives at about a six or a seven. Above average, but don’t we all want a score of ten out of ten? To squeeze every last drop of excitement, adventure, peace and love out of lives. We want to find and live out our passions. Is your score out of ten increasing or decreasing? Are you better or worse off than five years ago, or have you hit a plateau.

Among many things such as relationships, money and health, travel is vital to a full and exciting life. A life well travelled is a life full of experiences, fun and adventure. As religious leaders, writers, philosophers and explorers such as Moses, Henry David Thoreau and Howard Carter travel into the wilderness so can the everyday traveller. You might not come back with the Ten Commandments, great works like Walden or an amazing archeological discovery but it will transform you.

Travel to new and exotic places challenges your brain, firing neurons that you’ve never fired before. This expands and opens you mind to new and exciting possibilities. Travel makes you wiser and smarter, not just with general knowledge but in dealing with people from different walks of life.

Travel will impact all your relationships for better and for worse. Distance makes the heart grow fonder they say. Some relationships back at home will grow stronger upon your return. Other relationship might wither away; maybe these relationships weren’t all that much to begin with? Travel can distill you friends into a close mix of loyal and loving friends and family. You’ll of course meet many new friends on the road. The shared interests and comradely of fellow travellers is unparalleled anywhere. Maybe in the army or navy, I suppose, but these are under vastly different circumstances, i.e. under enemy fire compared to being on vacation! :) With airfares so cheap these days and with email or Facebook, it is easy to stay in touch and visit new friends. New friends can fast become old friends in this day and age.

In contrast, the solitude of travel can still broaden your mind. Travelling by one’s self can be lonely at times, however this can lead to healthy introspection. Surrounded by a strange culture, language and country can highlight what you do know – your own experiences, knowledge and true self can shine like a beacon in the dark of night. Healthy introspection (as apposed to becoming an old hermit) can transform your mind and bring acceptance of one’s own faults and flaws whilst bringing pride of one’s own achievements and accomplishments.

My recommendation is get out there and see the world. Don’t be obsessed with how others travel – hike your own hike as it were. You don’t have to listen to everyone and travel with this particular airline or only stay in those types of hotels. Do it your way and you’ll have a great time and transform your life. Go get it! Get that ten out of ten.

A brief overview of Ancient Egyptian Civilisation

The ancient civilization of Egypt is an amazing historical discovery, and it would be difficult to find many people who would say otherwise.  The ancient Egyptian civilization is believed to be located in the northwest part of  Africa, by modern views.

The Nile River travels right straight through Egypt.  The north most part was called Lower Egypt, while the southern most part was called Upper Egypt. This has sometimes caused some confusion among tourists.  It is said that the Nile is supposed to be the longest river in the world.  Recently though, scientists believe that it may be possible that the Amazon River in South America is slightly longer.

Egyptian history is divided into three time periods. These are referred to as the Old Kingdom, the Central Kingdom, and then the Modern Kingdom.  Each period in the history has it own unique characteristics, and is easiest to learn when studied individually.Each of the ancient Egyptian kingdoms were ruled by a Pharaoh, and it was believed that the gods chose who would be Pharaoh.  It was this belief that allowed the inhabitants of Egypt to feel secure in the knowledge that all was well and under control.  Some people describe Egypt as the first national government in the known world.  Along with the Pharaoh, there were people who held the position of Vizier.  These officials helped to advise the Pharaoh and thus helped him rule.

The Egyptians, like the Sumerians also had their own language and writing system.  The Papyrus plant was used especially to create paper, and thus gives us the very first paper.  Many people are intrigued and fascinated by the Egyptian culture, in part due to the massive monumental structures that cover the Egyptian landscape.  Especially popular is the Great Pyramid which is viewed by thousands of visitors every year to this day.

The Science Channel ran an excellent documentary series called “What the Ancients Knew” which can also be found on YouTube. The episode on Egypt was particularly fascinating for me – and I hope you’ll find it interesting as well. I’ve embedded it below so you can watch it here.