Business travel can be stressful, particularly if you are venturing into unknown territory; not just geographically, but also culturally. You are not just responsible for yourself, your wellbeing, your possessions and your business agenda, you are also responsible for your organisation’s reputation. No pressure then! Here are Consularcare’s top ten tips to managing international business travel:
- Visas etc. Make sure you check in advance whether you will need a visa to visit your destination, and leave plenty of time for the application process. Some countries have extremely complex processes and forms, and you may even have to take a trip to their embassy in order to obtain the necessary documentation.
- Research local customs and holidays. You want to make a good impression on your hosts, so show them that you have taken the time to find out a bit more about how they live and work. Demonstrate how flexible and accommodating you can be; you will instil confidence of your organisation doing the same in a corporate set up. Find out the local holidays so you don’t try to schedule meetings on those days. Visit gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for information, or the embassy website for the country you are interested in.
- Local crime spots. Whilst your hotel may be located in a salubrious district, you may find yourself attending meetings in other areas. Do your homework; find out what places to avoid, and ask your hotel to arrange taxis for you. Don’t wander around on your own, particularly after dark and always let someone (even if it is the hotel concierge) know where you are going and what time you expect to be back.
- This applies to business travel as much as it does your family holiday. Check out the weather forecast, pack accordingly, and, if the climate warrants it, wear sunscreen.
- Vaccinations and disease outbreaks. Check what vaccinations you may need prior to travel, and leave enough time for a course of injections if required. You can find out more about the recommended precautions and the latest advice at http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx or http://nathnac.net/ The government website gives up-to-date advice on outbreaks of disease which can be found here gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
- Do your homework on language, non-verbal communication and behaviour that may be deemed offensive in your host country. For example, in some parts of the Middle East a ‘thumbs up’ is considered very rude and in India, Africa, and the Middle East, use the right hand for greeting, touching, and eating. The left hand is considered unclean. Take a look at dress code and pay heed to avoid offence – and in some countries, arrest.
- Avoid jet lag by following three simple rules. i) Set your watch to the time in your destination as soon as you get on the plane so you can start to think in that time zone. ii) Only eat at the appropriate meal times and avoid excessive snacking. Try to opt for high protein rather than carbohydrates iii) No matter how tired you are when you arrive, do not sleep until night time. No naps, no 40 winks, and definitely no ‘just resting your eyes’!
- From a security perspective, one of the simplest, yet most effective things you can do is to blend in. As soon as you arrive, buy a local paper and carry it where it is visible. Before you set off for the airport, look in a mirror. If you’re planning on wearing the same outfit when you land the other end, what does it say about you? Flashy businessman? Rich, powerful business woman? Successful entrepreneur? All splendid robbery or even express-kidnapping targets. Dress comfortably. Keep your valuables hidden. Learn a few key phrases to speak at the airport. You may not pass as a local, but you will give the impression that you are no stranger to the area.
- Before you bury your smartphone and other devices in your hand luggage (see 8), use them to your advantage. Photograph an identifiable object (but not the big white van parked three spaces along) in the airport carpark, so you can find your car easily on return. Email yourself all the addresses you will need for the trip (hotel, company HQ, embassy, meeting locations, recommended restaurants etc.) so they are easily accessible anywhere.
- Back-up copies of important documents e.g. passport, travel insurance, hotel confirmations, bank card details etc. Keep them on a USB drive, on your person, as well as emailed to you and someone at home. Replacing documents can be a hassle, but if you have copies of the originals it will expedite the process, if only as far as form filling goes.
Even if you follow all of these tips, things can go wrong when you are travelling. Who would you turn to for support and advice? Ask your insurance provider about ConsularAssist.