09 April 2008

Independent Travel 101: Picking a Destination Part 1

This is the first of a series of entries about independent travel. Note that this is not professional advice: these are simply subjective opinion of the author, who happens to be an independent traveler.

A few friends of mine have been asking questions with regard to traveling. Most of these people who have questions have little experience in foreign travel, let alone doing it by themselves, independently and without a guide. Imagine therefore if you want to undertake this challenge for the first time. What do you do? What do you need to prepare? So many questions, and people may get lost.

So, for this first entry of this series, I decided to answer one of them: how to pick a destination.

It is true that there are plenty of considerations when picking where you would go. Let me start from the legal aspect of it first: visas.

This has a lot to do with regard to which country you are a citizen of. If you are a citizen of the countries who belong to the "developed" world, then most probably, you don't have visa worries. On the other hand, if you are a citizen of the developing world, chances are you will face visa requirements. So, check first, and do not assume. One example is Malaysia, who refuses entry to citizens of Serbia, Montenegro, and Israel.

One more thing to check is if you are visiting multiple countries. The fact that you visited Country No. 1 may be reason for refusal of entry to Country No. 2. Again, Israel comes to mind. If you visited Israel, and then continue to other countries in the Arab-world, then chances are you will be refused due to the Arab boycott.

So, my point here is to check the legalities first. You can go to this site to check for visa requirements.

Still in the topic of legalese, you should ensure that you meet the health requirements that the country may have. Many countries in tropical South America and sub-Saharan Africa are considered yellow fever endemic zones. Therefore, some countries require you to be vaccinated against yellow fever if you have evidence that you came from that part of the world. In fact, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa require you to have a yellow fever vaccine just in order to enter the country. Europe, Asia, and North America are fine, and do not have special health precautions. If you plan to visit the endemic countries, it is wise to get a yellow fever shot. It may cost a bit, but it is valid for ten years, which is a wise investment. Check this site for the health advisories of all the countries.

So there, on this entry I tackled visas and legal health issues. I will continue on how to pick a destination the next time.

(Abstract Glass, from my Corning Glass Series)


  1. Interesting series, I'll be following it. As a travel, I'm always interested in other travelers' point of view!

    Checking the visa etc. is a must. I don't know how many people I saw abroad who had no idea how long they could stay legally in the country they were visiting and what were the steps to get a visa. No kidding, this kind of mistakes can get you into big troubles! It's just common sense...

  2. Here in Cambodia, I think it is only the Philippines and Singapore who are allowed visa-free entry. So it's one of the few places where they are more lenient with us than with Americans. :)

  3. Zhu,

    I know it is just common sense, but sometimes, people assume that they're fine when they're not. Believe it or not, there are plenty of Americans who think they can simply board a plane to Brazil, when in fact they need a visa to go there.


    There are other places too. Brazil comes to mind. The US citizens need a visa, but us Filipinos don't.

  4. finally! i'll be waiting for the next post ;) thanks again :)