In traveling to a different country there are many logistical details to take care of before embarking on your journey. Here are some details to consider:
Obtaining a Passport: It is important to apply for a passport right away because it can take 4-6 weeks to process your information. The process requires getting a passport photo (I got mine taken at Walgreens) and then filling out an application form. You can do this by going into your local post office that houses international services or doing it online.
The steps are listed on the Travel.Gov.State website: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
Obtaining a Student Visa: Unlike your passport, a Student Visa must be obtained from the country in which you are traveling. Therefore, different countries have different requirements. You will need passport -style photos and passport information so make sure to get your passport first. You will also need an Acceptance Letter from the school you are studying at, therefore, you cannot apply for a visa until you are officially accepted at the university. Fortunately, the mail-in process only takes 7-9 working days after they receive your information.
A full list of steps and requirements are listed on the India Visa Center webpage: https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com/guidelines
Immunization: It is important to check with your doctor in case special immunizations are required to travel abroad. First, check to make sure your basic immunizations are up to date. I received a Polio booster but everything else was fine. Here are other travel recommendations:
- Hepatitis A and B: These are recommended for all travelers. It is a three shot series at 0, 1, and 3 months. Since I got my first round in October I am not able to receive the 3rd dose before I go abroad but the doctors confirmed that I will be covered.
- Typhoid: Again recommended for all travelers. This immunization is administered through a pill containing live bacteria! There are only 4 pills that you take every other day at least a week before traveling.
- Japanese Encephalitis: This disease is a mosquito borne illness. The shot is only recommended if you are traveling to certain areas of the country, will have extensive outdoor exposure, or will be doing rural travel. While I will be in Hyderabad for an extended period of time, I will not be doing extensive outdoor activity. Instead my doctor recommended that I apply DEET on a daily basis.
- Rabies: Rabies is acquired through bites or scratches from animals who have rabies. India has the highest percentage of infected animals. However, I am not an animal person and do not plan on touching or even getting near stray animals. Therefore, I personally decided to not receive the vaccination.
- Malaria is also a parasitic disease, but unlike other diseases you can’t just get a shot and be covered. Instead you must take pills before entering a region, while you are in the region, and after exiting the region. Again, the chance of getting malaria depend on where in India you travel. There are mulitple forms of Malaria pills which vary on when and how long you take them. I decided to go with Doxycycline which is taken on a daily basis and is the relatively inexpensive. *Note that you must speak with your pharmacist about obtaining enough refills for your entire stay. At Walgreens, they will call your insurance company for you so that you can get your discounts!
The Centers for Disease Control has a great website with Travel Notices, Disease Updates/Breakouts, and requirements for traveling: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/india.htm
Plane Tickets: The problem with plane tickets is that you cannot book your flight until you have been accepted to the university and know exactly when they want you to arrive. Once you have that information, there are plenty of sites to compare flights. Personally, I found the best deals with flights that I have frequented in the past so I could use “points” and then gain points in traveling. I ended up going with American Airlines. This also secured that I would stay with the same airline for the entire trip. Just a note…there is no such thing as a reasonably priced ticket to India 🙂
Here are some airline resources: