Essential UK life admin to tackle before you travel full-time
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This one’s for all the Brits out there with a burning desire to see the world long-term. When you’re on your way to quitting your job and going full-time travelling, it’s likely that all you’ll be thinking of is trip-planning, destination-browsing and scouring the ASOS bikini sales. However, as a UK citizen there are a few mundane life admin tasks before you travel full-time that we’re afraid need to be taken care of too.
We recommend tackling these tasks at least a couple of months before you leave the UK. Here’s a little checklist so you don’t forget the boring stuff in all your excitement!
1. Get to grips with the visas before you travel full-time
While the UK passport is one of the strongest in the world (pre-Brexit, at least), there are still a few countries that require some visa prep. The more closed countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia need documents and local referrals to be sent to the embassy up to 100 days before travel, so you really do need to get on this if you’re heading to such a country. You may even need to plan your entire trip around a certain country’s visa requirements.
Don’t forget also that even if you’re just connecting in the USA without exiting the airport, you still need to apply for an ESTA a couple of weeks before (it currently lasts 2 years).
2. Tell your bank you’re going abroad
Not much is worse than getting to a new country and realising you can’t get cash out or pay for anything because your UK bank sees your foreign activity as suspicious and therefore blocked your cards. To be fair to them, they’re just doing their job, but it’s usually a hassle to get hold of the bank to unblock it again, especially if you don’t have a roaming SIM card to phone them on.
Although we originally called our banks to tell them we were going abroad (giving the countries and dates so that the system was aware of our movements), we’ve barely needed to use our bank cards in Latin America because of the next step…
3. Order a Revolut card
Wherever you’re heading to in the world, a Revolut account can save you SO MUCH MONEY on transaction fees and foreign exchange. They’ve probably saved us upwards of £1000 by now. If you’re going to LatAm specifically, don’t forget to check out our list of ATMs in Latin America that don’t cost you a single penny to withdraw cash at when coupled with a Revolut card. When suspicious activity was flagged after our card got copied, we were able to block everything and get our stolen money back very easily. A Revolut card usually costs £5 for the P&P of a courier, but you can get it completely free here:
4. Get selling your stuff to fund your travels
Here’s the hardest part. In our heads, it would be really quick and easy to just ‘sell all our things’ and get loads of monies to fund our travels. Six car boot sales later, we weren’t so sure. We didn’t really account for the fact that certain things had a bit of sentimental value, or we knew how much they originally cost to buy so we didn’t want to let them go for too cheap a price. However, your average bargain-hunter doesn’t really give a toss how you acquired the item in the first place, and in the end we had to see some pretty valuable things go for less than £1, all in the name of getting rid of everything we owned. Storage is expensive, remember! We got there in the end though, and managed to scrape around £750 between us (including selling 2 old laptops and a beginner’s DSLR camera).
The best places sell things before you travel full-time:
Local Facebook buy & sell groups (though expect some time-wasters!)
Shpock app (more time-wasters)
Car boot sales (don’t expect anything to go for more than a few quid)
eBay (a lot of effort having to package & post stuff)
5. Use your new funds to stock up on travel gear
Out with the old, in with the new! There’s plenty that you need to take with you for long-term travel, from bare essentials to safety stuff to things to enhance your travel experience and capture memories. Take a look at these packing lists for ideas:
6. Buy travel insurance BEFORE you travel full-time
We knowwww, we knowwww, boringgggg. But you really need to take your health seriously as you explore abroad, especially if you’re going to travel full-time in a country with a health service that’s more difficult to access than at home – or worse, if you’re going to a country that’s all too happy to throw drugs and ambulance rides at you and then hits you with a 6 figure bill (you know who we’re talking about). It’s really important to research what insurance policies will cover, with what upfront payments and for which countries. Morbid as it may seem, we feel that the repatriation cover is incredibly important – you may think nothing matters once you’re no longer alive, but few things could make your family feel worse at that time than being told your body is stuck in Indonesia until they cough up £25,000.
Everywhere on the internet, you’ll see people recommending World Nomads, but that actually tends to be one of the more expensive options. Now call us conspiracy theorists, but it just so happens that World Nomads have a very rewarding affiliate programme… We chose Travel Insurance 4 Medical, because they were one of the few travel insurance providers that allow us to have valid insurance without having already booked a flight home to the UK. This year, it cost us £378 for both of us. Make sure you’ve declared any existing illnesses or they could withdraw coverage if something goes wrong relating to them – the conditions we declared only added about £4 to the total. Multi-search with an aggregator to find your best travel insurance deal, and print the details of your policy off before you travel full-time so that you have them to hand even if you lose or break your tech.
Talking of which, a lot of the cheaper backpacker insurance policies do not cover loss, theft or damage to tech items. You can usually choose to pay a little extra to have technology covered. However, we didn’t as we bought a lot of our tech second-hand, so wouldn’t have the original purchase receipts to be able to claim them back anyway.
7. Get your vaccinations
Reeeally important. Having suffered through a strain of typhoid that his vaccination didn’t cover, Andy can tell you the importance of vaccinating against everything that you can. Some countries won’t actually let you enter unless you can show a certificate for being vaccinated against diseases such as Yellow Fever.
You need to start thinking about your travel vaccinations a couple of months before you leave to travel full-time, since some of them require more than one dose spaced out by a few weeks, and some clinics will have a waiting time, especially leading up to the summer holidays. Check what’s available to you in your local area and shop around; we found that going to a private travel vaccination clinic in Buckinghamshire was actually cheaper than if we got our jabs done by a travel nurse through our NHS GP clinic. NHS Fit for Travel will give you an idea of what you need to be vaccinated against for the areas that you’re planning to travel full-time in, but the nurse will have their own info sheets to go through with you, too. Remember, some types of malaria tablets need to be taken a couple of weeks prior to entering the malaria zone, so plan well ahead.
8. Set up a vote by proxy
Since you’re going to be away for many months when you travel full-time, if you know there’s a vote coming up then you may want to set up a vote by proxy. This would give responsibility of your vote to someone you trust, so that they can legally place your vote for you. Another option is to use postal voting, but it may become difficult depending on which country you’re in, how their postal service is and how long you’ll have an address there. To apply for a vote by proxy in the UK, click here.
9. Tell the Student Loans Company (UK) you’re going to travel full-time
This only applies to UK graduates of course, but if you quit your job to travel full-time and aren’t expecting to earn anything abroad, you will need to notify the Student Loans Company so that they can put your payments on hold. If you don’t they freak out that they can’t extract the money automatically from your non-existent salary and they start hunting you down with pitchforks, probably. Fill in the Overseas Income Assessment form (OVFA) and get it sent off with bank account screenshots asap. The official Student Loans Company website is deliberately useless, so check out a better guide here.
10. Set up a business in your home country
If you’re going to be digital nomading to fund your trip as you go, you’re best to set up a business in your home country before you travel full-time. This enables you to sort your taxes out, invoice clients properly without looking unprofessional and start charging certain items & travel receipts as business expenses if appropriate.
If you do set up a business, we also highly recommend getting yourself an accountant. The thought of doing our first year taxes ourselves seemed so easy, but in fact they were a mess we couldn’t get our heads around (despite doing some accountancy modules at uni), and employing an accountant has made us SOOOO much more efficient in how we pay ourselves and make the most of our tax allowances. Some accountants will just offer access to an online platform, but we have majorly benefited from having someone to manually do things for us. Definitely have calls with a few accountants until you find one that really suits you and understands your needs as a digital nomad.
If you own a property and you’re planning on renting it out while you’re abroad, you either need to switch to a buy-to-let mortgage, which is expensive and quite often requires a 25%+ equity in the property, or you need to obtain consent-to-let from your lending bank. Consent-to-let is permission to rent out your house whilst remaining on your current residential mortgage. Without it, your landlord insurance is at risk of being seen as invalid, and your bank can charge you all sorts on the grounds of fraud.
However, consent-to-let is not given out willy-nilly, and some banks are tougher than others on the circumstances in which they will provide consent-to-let. Some have a 6-12 month time limit in which you have to live in the property yourself before you can even apply, others demand a very strong reason for it, and some want you to have X% of the property’s value already paid off. Consent-to-let exists for circumstances such as being posted to a new base with the military or being offered a job abroad, or moving in with your partner to their owned property. It’s not usually meant for trips that are planned at the time that you buy a property, so be careful.
We were lucky that after all the exchange delays with getting into our flat (we had wanted to live in it for at least 6 months) Natwest accepted our request for consent-to-let after only 3 months of owning it. When we came to re-mortgage this year, we were panicking about being means-tested again or losing the consent-to-let while we still had a tenant, but Natwest were absolute babes and gave us another great rate with an on-going consent-to-let agreement.
10. Property-owners: Find yourself a decent estate agent
We know it sounds nice to be able to rent a place privately without any fees at all, but having an estate agent to represent you while you’re out of the country takes a huge amount of pressure off, and legally they can be a life-saver. The chances of things going really wrong in a flat are probably quite low, and yet sod’s law means that in the 22 months we’ve been out the country we’ve had to deal with a major leak, faulty immersion tank, had-it mattress and broken fridge-freezer, each of which have needed to be dealt with by someone who is in the country and can go round to have a look at the damage before arranging a visit by the appropriate professional.
When the immersion tank broke and our tenant’s mother tried to claim her sweet boy had been without hot water for 11 days, no less, and started mentioning legal rights, (even though the tenant only told us the day before this stern letter that there might be a problem and we’d arranged for a plumber right away), the estate agent was there to fight our corner and get things sorted asap without us getting flustered because we aren’t 100% up to date with what to do if someone starts kicking up a big legal fuss.
Right, now you’ve read about all the boring things you need to do before you travel full-time, get to work and sort your life out! The quicker you get these tasks out of the way, the quicker you can get back to dreaming of your full-time travel full-time 😉
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