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Questions to ask before a foreign tour

The moment we decided to go on a foreign tour, the following are the questions which come to my mind:

Should we go on our own or through a tour operator?

This is the most important question to be answered before you embark on the tour. If you are global traveler and have good experience traveling across the world, you know the nuts and bolts of international travel, cheap places to stay etc., then it is fine to explore on your own. Else, it is advisable to go with a tour operator. Any decent tour operator would ensure that you get to see the important tourist attractions, would arrange for local transport and will help you in emergencies. The downside is it is little more expensive than “do it yourself” stuff. We decided to go through a tour operator.

How many clothes to carry?

We had packed our bags full when we embarked on our 7 day trip. We took a cautious approach by packing extra clothes for all of us. In hindsight, I think we could have managed with only 60% of the clothes what we have taken with us.

Would we get vegetarian food items?

Yes, you would have sufficient vegetarian options if you are visiting only KL and Singapore. We again erred on the side of caution by packing our bags with ready to eat food, snacks, pickles etc., In hindsight, it was a total disaster and we almost took back 75% of what we had taken with us. My advice would be not to bother carrying vegetarian food stuff and snacks if you are visiting only KL and Singapore. There are plenty of vegetarian options and you will be able to manage. But if you are visiting other places in Malaysia like Lankawi or Maleka, it would be advisable to carry some stuff with you.

How many days are enough?

The standard tour package for KL/Singapore comes in 6 days/7 nights from most of the operators. If the tour operator plans it well, it is an ideal time period. But there would always be more to see and do in these places so if you are keen, you may be able to increase it by couple of days. You can tell the tour operator and he will book you a hotel room for the extra two days. Of course, this costs you extra money.

We decided to return back with the tour party and didn’t extend of our stay. Probably if I had extra holidays I would have loved to extend it by at least 1 day.

Is it for relaxation or for sight seeing?

If it is for relaxation and not for sight seeing, then these kinds of packaged tours to KL/Singapore would not work. There are definitely better places to unwind than KL or Singapore in India itself. These places are only for sight seeing. So be prepared to stretch yourself physically during the tour. The tour programme is going to be packed so you can’t crib about that later. So the tour to KL/Singapore is not for relaxation.

How much money to take?

The tour charges you pay locally in India take care of the most of the expenses onsite. The major expenditure would be entry fees to amusement parks, memorials etc., so you don’t need to carry huge foreign exchange with you. It is good to carry couple of international credit cards to meet any contingency. But if you are planning huge shopping trips in these countries, it is always better to carry foreign exchange from India. At few places, the foreign exchange conversion rates are not favorable.

Is it necessary to have travel insurance?

I feel it is mandatory to have travel insurance when you go on pleasure trips like this. In case of any medical emergency when you are there, travel insurance helps you to meet most of the medical costs. Travel insurance for limited period of foreign travel is available at very attractive prices. We took travel insurance for 3 of us for 7 days at Rs1500/- which gave a cover of USD100, 000. That is quite a sum.

Is it cheaper to buy things abroad?

My experience from this tour is it is not cheaper to buy from places like Singapore or Malaysia. It is on par or higher in most of the cases, particularly with electronic goods like mobiles, cameras, PSP, laptops etc. The only exception is LCD TV’s. It is way cheaper, say by Rs15K or so compared to India. The other big downside if you purchase from these countries are the non-availability of International warranty. They provide only local warranty which is not applicable to India. So check with the vendor if the product you are looking at has international warranty.

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