Four times we’ve said goodbye. Four times we have already left Germany for several months to explore a foreign country, to live elsewhere, to travel, literally: to broaden our horizons.
In two weeks we fly off again: To Panama. Three months we will live there, explore the country, get to know nature and culture. Much closer, much more real and much more intense than would be possible on a short trip.
Our trip to Panama is our first long-term trip to a developing country. To a country, which is hardly touristy, about which we find online only few more detailed information.
We want to live on the spot. While we are making big road trips on our last two long-term trips, this time we consciously want to live in a single accommodation all the time to make day and multi-day trips from here – and really get to know local life. One focus of our travel planning this time was therefore on the choice of a fantastic accommodation – while on a road trip we don’t really care about it. But what else is important when planning a long term trip? What do you have to consider if you are leaving Germany for several months?
We’ll show you what we have planned – and are still planning – and what you need to bear in mind when preparing for a long-term trip.
We divide our preparations into two categories: The planning and considerations for the destination – and the also very important preparations for home. Because it makes sense that you also have to think about your mailbox, doesn’t it?
Long-term travel: Preparations for the destination country
#1 Clarify the formalities
Already during the decision for a destination country you should inform yourself about different formalities, for example about entry restrictions, necessary visas, vaccinations etc.. A good and reliable first port of call are the travel instructions on the website of the Federal Foreign Office (to be found under the security instructions of each country): Travel and Security Instructions of the Federal Foreign Office
Here you will find all the necessities clearly and completely listed. We have already decided several times against a country because of certain legal regulations – for example against Vietnam, because it is not possible to drive a car without a Vietnamese driving licence.
If you have decided on one or more countries to travel to, find out about the following questions and start applying for the relevant documents as early as possible. This often takes weeks or months and you will be happy about everything you have done early.
#2 Inform yourself about the security situation
Read the Foreign Office’s security instructions – but don’t let this drive you crazy. All eventualities are listed here, even travel countries such as France appear relatively insecure here.
However, we find it necessary to have an overview of the security situation of the country you are travelling to, especially in the case of long-term trips, because you will be in contact with the country and its people and will not limit yourself to isolated hotels or guided tours. It is important to us personally that we can move freely in large parts of the country. It is absolutely clear to us that absolute safety cannot be guaranteed even in our tranquil home town.
In order to better assess the real and perceived security situation, it helps to read reports from other travellers or locals in addition to official information – more on this under point 6. Here you will get a good feeling for which areas you should rather avoid.
#3 Take out insurance
You don’t have to insure everything that can be insured, but take care of a foreign health insurance that is valid for your long term trip. Attention, this is really important: Normal travel health insurances, also the almost all credit cards, are only valid for 30 or 60 days, please read the small print!
A good and affordable health insurance for long-term travel is the “long-term protection” of the ADAC, which you can also take out as a non-member. You can find more information here: ADAC Long-term Health Insurance for Foreign Countries
We have all our travel insurances (for long term travel up to 120 days) covered by our credit card: The American Express Platinum Card. The fee for this card is very high (600€ per year), but it is worth it for our travel behaviour.
Further possibly useful insurances are a travel cancellation insurance, a travel interruption insurance (because especially with a long term trip your booking costs will be quite high) and a luggage insurance.
Also here again expressly: Read absolutely after small print of your existing insurances and be vigilant, if you conclude new insurances: Almost all travel insurances do not apply to long-term travel! It’s worth it if you take care of it early and compare offers very carefully.
We have taken out a separate insurance policy for our camera equipment, which is valid worldwide (including at home) and covers almost all damage: The camera insurance from Andreas Matthiessen. Certainly not the cheapest option, but the service and the handling in the event of damage will convince us absolutely.
#4 Refresh your knowledge of foreign languages on
What is quite nice for a short holiday trip, but sometimes negligible, but in our opinion indispensable for a long-term trip, is at least a rudimentary command of the language of your country.
With Panama we have deliberately chosen a destination country whose language we speak at least a little (more info here: We spend the winter abroad! But why Panama?). If we live 3 months on site, we want to be able to communicate with the locals – on the one hand out of respect, on the other hand of course also for practical reasons.
You should find out how well you can get through with English in your destination country – maybe it’s also worth refreshing your English? Independent of this, it is important for us to learn at least basic vocabulary such as greetings, standard phrases and numbers. Depending on the language, this can be much harder than it sounds, but can also be incredibly fun and interesting.
Two years ago we planned a long-term trip through Oman – which we then postponed for various reasons into the future. The learning of the Arabic language (and writing!) was super demanding, for the journey through rural areas however more than meaningful. So we tortured ourselves a bit, but then we were very proud: Who else speaks Arabic (even if badly) as a German?
Of course you shouldn’t let this drive you crazy. In general they will always try to help you in all parts of the world. It is our demand on us to always be very friendly and endeavoured.