Be document savvy when you travel

One thing you can be sure of when you travel is that you’ll have plenty of documents to keep track of! From passports and plane tickets, to maps and money, there are so many bits and pieces, and losing any of them can be disastrous. Ensuring that you have everything organised is crucial for a smooth journey. British T.I.P.S. staff have travelled all over the world and have plenty of tips to help.

Very important

When travelling internationally, your passport should be valid for at least 6 months AFTER your date of return and there should be at least 2 blank pages remaining. We recommend always ensuring that your passport is valid, even if you are not planning to travel soon, just in case (you never know when you might win that trip of a lifetime!).

The moment you find out you’ll be travelling, check your passport’s validity. If it has expired or will soon expire, head straight for Home Affairs. Allow enough time for the passport to be issued, bearing in mind that you may also need to arrange your visa/s which will take additional time. Ensure that you adhere to all the visa requirements of your destination country.


A couple of weeks in advance, sit down and spend time writing a detailed list of every single document you will need. Mark what you already have and follow up on what you still need to arrange. A week beforehand, go through your list again to make sure everything is ready.

When you pack your luggage, have your list handy and ensure you are packing everything you need. Just before you head for the airport, station, or harbour, scan your checklist again to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

Tip! Keep your checklist for future trips and make notes of things you wish you’d packed or did not use. Next time you travel, it will be much easier to pack.

Copy it

Make copies of everything and keep them in your carry-on luggage so that you can access them easily, even if your checked-in luggage goes missing. It’s a good idea to have copies of important items, such as your passport, certified at a police station.

Even though so much is done online these days, there is always a chance that you may not be able to access your phone, a computer, or the internet. That’s why keeping a hard copy is so useful.

Be sure to look after the copies as if they were the real thing – you don’t want them getting into the wrong hands.

Save it

Scan or photograph all the travel documents. Then, email them along with e-tickets and confirmations to yourself – easy to access and download. You might want to cc a trusted friend or family member so that, if worst comes to worst and you can’t access your own email address, you have someone who can help you out.

Alternatively, save them to cloud storage such as Dropbox or iCloud. It’s best to save them as jpeg files as pretty much any device will be able to open these.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Don’t keep all your cash and documents and their copies in one place. If the worst happens and your bag goes missing or you’re pickpocketed, at least you’ll have cash or copies of documents elsewhere. However, be sure to have all important documents together when you’re at the airport or border crossings, etcetera.

Avoid putting anything important in a handbag or back pocket as it is very easy for crafty pickpockets to snatch them.

Money matters

Don’t rely on just one form of payment. These days, it is a ‘must’ to travel with a credit card (not just a debit card). Many hotels, car rentals, and other places will only accept a credit card, plus you can use the card for emergencies and to withdraw cash in foreign countries. Remember to advise the bank that you’re going if you’re planning on using your credit card or you may end up with a frozen card when the bank thinks your card has been stolen.

If you struggle to stick to a budget with a credit card, consider getting prepaid travel money card – you load it with currency and then use it as you would a debit card. This way, you know exactly how much you have and there won’t be any nasty exchange-rate surprises later on.

We advise that travellers always have at least a little bit of cash with them on arrival to cover small purchases or in case their cards do not work.

Be ahead of the game

Do not leave things to the last minute and prebook where you can. People often don’t realise just how busy the top attractions can be, particularly during peak season (June to September, Easter weekend, and Christmas). We frequently get requests for tickets to popular attractions a week or two prior to travel, by which time it is sold out. If there is something you really want to visit, book in advance so that you are not disappointed.

Be aware that cheap advance tickets are often inflexible and cannot be refunded. If this is a concern, spend the extra money for more flexible tickets. It is also advisable to ensure that your travel insurance will cover paying out for tickets if you cannot travel.

Even if you have prebooked, we strongly recommend confirming all your bookings before you go. Sometimes there are booking system errors or last-minute cancellations of tours – you do not want to find this out when you get there.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Be aware that, since the pandemic, most attractions no longer accept walk-ins and require prebookings.

Covid-19 documents

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to major changes and the situation is constantly evolving. Different countries have different regulations and these can change at the drop of a hat. Always check what you will need and ensure that you have ticked all the boxes.

This may include proof of vaccinations, proof of recovery, and/or proof of testing, as well as passenger location forms or other documentation.

Doctor’s notes

If you need to carry prescription medication, or large amounts of over-the-counter and possibly restricted medication with you, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a copy of the prescription just in case you get questioned about it.

If you need vaccinations for your transit or destination countries, keep a copy of the vaccination certificates in your hand luggage for easy access.


Remember to pack your student or pensioner cards as many places offer discounts (sometimes substantial) for these – but they do require proof.

Quick list of important travel documents*

  • Passport/s valid for at least 6 months after your date of return, with at least 2 blank pages available.
  • Visas (should be in your passport but, in some cases where you can get visas online or on arrival, you’ll want to keep this with the passport).
  • Identity document or certified copy thereof.
  • Valid driver’s license if you’ll be driving – we have had clients booked on self-drive holidays who forgot their driver’s license and had to change their entire travel plans.
  • Unabridged birth certificates and other necessary permissions and documents for any children travelling with you. Find out more here: Requirements for travelling with children South Africa
  • Tickets and confirmations for any tours, events, and attractions.
  • Flight, train, bus, and other transport tickets. Although you can have these on your device, we have had cases where a client’s phone was stolen or broken so they could no longer access the tickets; paper print-outs would have been handy in these cases.
  • Travel insurance documents.
  • Maps and instructions, particularly for getting to your first destinations.
  • Covid-19 documents – these vary between countries and the situation is changing daily.
  • Travel itinerary. Some countries will not let you in without a printed copy of your onward travel. Plus, there’s always a small chance that you could be pulled aside to be questioned by customs officials. You may not be able to access your device for details. Having a hard copy of your itinerary can really help.
  • Contact list, including insurance, local embassy, local police, emergency contact, hotel, and your travel agent.
  • Doctor’s letter and/or proof of prescription and purchase for scheduled medications, needles (e.g. insulin or epi pens), and other medical equipment that you need to travel with.
  • Student or pensioner cards.
  • Credit card and money.

*Note that the above is intended as a guideline only. You may need additional documents so remember to add those to your list! ALWAYS check on the requirements for the country you are visiting and transiting through and ensure that you have all necessary paperwork in order. British T.I.P.S. cannot be held responsible for failure to travel if passengers have not confirmed and adhered to all requirements. If you are unsure, chat to your travel agent.

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