I talk about travelling overseas: future plans; booking airline tickets, accommodation and travel insurance; applying for a visa; and exchanging foreign currency.


Hey. How’re you going? I’m Alena and this is the Along Came English podcast.

I know it’s been a while since my last upload. As some of you may remember, I went to South Korea for 2 weeks early in October. And when I came back, I had to get a number of things done pretty urgently, so that took up a bit of time.

I did say in my last episode I wanted to publish something during my holiday but I felt the episode I had recorded didn’t quite fit what I had in mind for this podcast, so I didn’t publish it in the end.

I also went away for a weekend – like a holiday to recover from my holiday. One of my girlfriends invited me to join her on a getaway with a few of her other friends, so we went to Rosebud for a weekend, which is about an hour away from Melbourne city. We drank a lot, sang karaoke, had awesome food, and just enjoyed each other’s company. It was great.

I should explain, when a girl says “girlfriend,” it doesn’t mean that I’m gay. It just means that I have a friend who’s female. And using it like this casually also implies that we’re fairly close.

Now, if you’re male, you can’t really say that you have a boyfriend, because then it really implies that you’re gay. Now I know there’s a double standard there, but you know… English.

So going back to why I haven’t uploaded for a while. I mean I procrastinated of course. But I do have excuses.

So while I was in the middle of working on this episode, I spilled water on my laptop, which is a big no-no. So I was pretty distraught for a while and wasn’t sure if it would work again. And you know, Mac laptops are quite the investment.

And when I checked online, spilled liquids are not covered by the warranty. So I asked a friend of mine to have a look at it, but he didn’t have the right screwdriver to open the laptop, so we pretty much just left it covered in rice for about 2 days.

And yea, it’s a freaking miracle! I mean, I prayed man… so yea, very relieved to have my laptop back.

I was also a little preoccupied with something else.

Gap year

So starting next February, I’m taking a year off to go travelling. Now quite often, this is referred to as a “gap year” which is typically a 1-year period where a student might take after high school, before university, or after university. Now I haven’t planned everything yet, but I have some idea of what I’d like to do.

Now growing up in South East Asia, I had never heard of a gap year until I came to Australia. Now, I’m not trying to perpetuate stereotypes or anything, but growing up in South East Asia, there were… there was a lot of emphasis on education, studies, going abroad to a good university to get a good qualification etc.

So the concept of a gap year was non-existent when I was growing up. And similarly, a lot of people my age that I’ve met who came over to study from South East Asia, never really did something like that.

So it seems like it’s a pretty recent trend, because I’ve found articles talking about older people who missed out when they were younger. And now going on a “golden gap year” by working and traveling overseas after the kids have grown.

And there are working holidays visas that you can get for certain countries where you can spend 6 months to a year – but you have to be under 30. I’ve met a few people who got working holiday visas in their late 20s before they turned 30 and went to Europe for a year and things like that.

Well, I’m over 30 now. And looking back, I had never really considered it and there was never really a time where I could’ve gone for so long. So I either didn’t have enough money or was in a long-term committed relationship.

I only really considered it when I started teaching English actually, which is one of the reasons why I named this podcast Along Came English. My perspective on life in general has changed a lot in the last 2 years.

Anyway, since I just came back from a trip overseas, and I’m planning to go away for a while. Today’s episode will be about travelling overseas.

Now I know I’ve talked a bit about travelling in episode 4 when I talked about some of the things I did when my mom was here, but the vocabulary in that episode was more about holidays.

Today will be more specific to flying to a different country, visas involved and foreign currency etc. So we’ll see how we go.

Talking about future plans

Now there are some useful verbs when it comes to talking about future plans.

If you want to talk about your desire or wish, you can use the verb “to want” or “would like” – which is more polite. So for example, “I really want to go to Japan.” Or “I would like to go to Japan.”

So using these just means that you want to, but whether it happens or not, or is happening is a different story. The reason may be because a person is limited by financial or personal commitments, it’s not the right time but they might be able to do it in a few years’ time.

So using “want” or “would like” just expresses the desire, but without plans.

Also, quite often people talk about their “bucket list,” which is really a list of experiences or achievements that a person wants to do or accomplish in their lifetime. Now of course, different people will have varying levels of motivation when it comes ticking off their bucket list. But yea, I mean nowadays a lot of people have travelling or visiting particular countries on their bucket lists.

So since I was in University, I really wanted to go to Japan. Not just a short visit, but I want to spend some time there. I used to watch a lot of anime and manga – which are Japanese animation and comics. I was really invested in learning about their culture – I even learnt Japanese for a year even though I’m not good at picking up languages.

I finally went to Tokyo for about a week and a half in my late 20s and am planning to spend a few months there next year. So people have suggested teaching there, but for next year I plan to also go to other places, so I might consider that in the future.

Then there’s “plan,” which means you’re making detailed arrangements. This can be used as a verb or a noun. So for example, “I’m planning to go to Japan next year.” Or “I’m making plans to go to Japan next year.”

And here, I’m using the continuous and it implies that I’m in the middle of arranging and organising my trip.

If all the arrangements are done, it’s more common to use the noun with either the past simple or present perfect tense. So for example, “I made plans to go to Japan.” Or “I’ve made plans to go to Japan next year.”

There’s “going to,” which is used to talk about definite plans and arrangements. So for example, “I’m going to visit Japan next year.”

And then there’s the present continuous tense, which is also used to talk about definite plans and arrangements. So for example:

  • “I’m visiting…”
  • “I’m travelling…”
  • “I’m making my way to…”
  • “I’m taking a trip to…”
  • “I’m going on a trip to…”

When you’re making plans for a trips… for a trip overseas, there are a number of things you have to do:

  • Book airline tickets.
  • Book tours if that’s your thing.
  • Apply for a visa if required.
  • Book your accommodation.
  • Buy travel insurance.

So notice, “to book,” is used as a verb to reserve, arrange, or buy in advance for tickets, tours or accommodation. You can also… you can also book travel insurance, but you have to apply for a visa because that has to be granted to you.

Planning a trip

A “travel agency” is just an agency that makes all the arrangements for your travels through a “travel agent.” This includes booking your tickets, accommodation, tours, even sort out your visa to the country if need be.

And they might do other things these days, but honestly speaking, I’ve only personally used a travel agent 2 or 3 times in my adult life. As soon as there was an option to book things myself, I went for it.

No offence to travel agents and agencies, but I don’t see the point of travelling all the way to the shop and see a travel agent in person when I can just book it all online from the comfort of my own home and laptop in my pyjamas.

And nowadays though, a lot of travel agencies have moved online, so you can compare prices, book flights and hotels, hire a car even. And there’re a lot of only online agencies, which can make it difficult to tell if they’re an authentic service sometimes.

So usually, when I do my research for my trip, I use aggregator websites for travel fares like Skyscanner or Google Flights to compare prices. An “aggregator” is a website or program that collects information about related items and then displays them or links to them. In this case, Skyscanner or Google Flights collects information about travel fares.

I also check out accommodation websites like Booking.com or Airbnb. And this just gives me an idea on how much it might cost to stay in a particular area or country. And in most cases, when you go on trips, tickets and accommodation are the biggest cost. So… yea, if you’re using Booking.com, this is another aggregator website.

Generally, I don’t do tours. So I would also look for information about tourist activities, unique things to do or see, food, currency as well.

When I book tickets, I usually prefer to book online through the specific airline. And this is because I can deal directly with the airline. And if there’re any problems or issues, I don’t have to go through a middle man. Personally, I don’t like getting information from a third party when I can… when I have access to the source.

I also usually book with budget airlines, like AirAsia for example, because I don’t have any kids and I’m short – I don’t need the leg room. I can afford to prioritise cheaper flights over comfort.

And nowadays AirAsia is not so bad. So back when it first started, you really were sacrificing your comfort for cheaper fares. But yea, now it’s actually improved heaps.

Booking flights

When booking flights from a particular airline, there are some associated vocabulary.

So you may decide to book a “return” or a “one-way ticket“. And “return” just means you want to book a flight to another country and then a returning flight back to your country of origin. “One-way” is just one-way.

Departure” and “arrival dates.” “Departure” is when you’re leaving for another city or country and you’re arriving in the next city or country. At airports, this is usually separated to different levels – departure hall and arrival hall.

Baggage allowance” or “checked baggage.” Different airlines will have different limits – anywhere between 20-30 kilos or kilograms. With budget airlines, you usually have to select whether you want this option, and they usually start with 15kg, and you will have to pay more as you purchase more. And they also specify how many pieces of luggages you can check-in.

Cabin luggage” or “carry on luggage.” And these are the small suitcases that you bring onto the cabin with you. Usually there are specific measurements and has a limit of 7kg. There are also restrictions with other things that you can carry into the cabin with you. So things like a handbag, laptop bag, prams – if you have a baby, etc.

Seat selection.” This is when you can choose your seat. You have to pay for this with budget airlines.

In-flight meals” or “airline food.” And this only really matters if you have a dietary requirement or you’re booking with a budget airline – where you have to pay for it of course. Short flights don’t typically serve meals, but will provide snacks and drinks. And also, certain airlines from Muslim countries like Royal Brunei Airlines will not serve pork.

In-flight entertainment.” I’ve only see this in the booking process when you’re booking with a budget airline because you have to select it and pay for it. But I’ve noticed that it also depends on the plane, because not all planes have an entertainment screen in front of the seat, and usually they don’t provide this option on short flights.

Sometimes, depending on the website, they might up try to upsell with other services like hotels, car rentals, travel insurance and such. And “upselling” is a sales technique where the seller provides opportunities to purchase related services or products.

So back to my experience with AirAsia. They will provide a package deal where you can buy checked baggage with seat selection and a meal. And before you complete your air ticket purchase, they will ask if you would like to purchase travel insurance.

And after you complete your purchase, they will show you links to accommodations, car rentals – which is pretty impressive because there’s no need for a sales person to persuade you to buy more of their services. It’s just the pure convenience of a click of a button.

When you’ve completed your booking and paid for it, usually you receive something called a “travel itinerary.” And this is just a document from the airline or travel agency that gives you the details of the flights you’ve booked.

So it has things like your booking or reference number. It tells you the flight, times, dates and airports of departure and arrival. And it may also include a list of things other things like required documents, types of things that you’re not allowed to pack in your checked baggage, when you need to be at the airport, etc.

Now the word “itinerary” can also mean your planned route or journey, like a schedule for your trip. If you’re with a tour group, this will usually be quite detailed, with times, dates, locations the tour will bring you to.

For me, personally, apart from planning out how many days I might spend in a city before I move onto the next, my activities are usually pretty flexible. I might have a list of things I want to do, restaurants I want to go to, but I wouldn’t usually plan the specific dates for them unless they were restricted by public holidays or closing times.

Now before flying, some airlines will let you know when you’re able to check-in online, otherwise you’ll have to check-in at the airport. And the word “check-in” has a few uses but this is specific to flying with an airline, and this is just to register your presence as a passenger of a particular flight.

Previously, before the amazing internet, we’d have to go to the “check-in counter” at the airport and although the process time itself is not that long, it’s the waiting-in-line that’s always a pain.

So often checking-in also means dropping off your luggage at the same time, which is called “checked baggage,” which is the luggage you give to the airline to be stored in the cargo during the flight.

Now there are a few things I’ve learnt with online check-in.

The queues are shorter because you only need to drop off your luggage. And if you don’t have any checked luggage, the process is even shorter because all you now need is a boarding pass.

Now I’ve been in a few situations where I arrived to the airport late and the airport check-in had closed, even though the plane hadn’t left yet. So initially the staff weren’t going to let me through But because I had checked in online, I was able to go to my gate to board the plane. So yea, this has happened to me twice.


Now when you’re travelling to a different country, you may have to apply for a “visa.” And this is a document that allows you to enter a country, for a specific length of time for a specific purpose. Now types of visas for different purposes include tourism, student, business, residence etc. Of course, a tourist visa is the most common if you’re going on holiday.

And whether you can apply for a visa or the type of visa, and even the process depends on your passport, and the country you’re planning to enter. And each visa is different, they have different conditions, so it’s important to always do your research and read information carefully.

So for example, I can go to Europe and travel around the Schengen area – sorry, I’m not pronouncing this correctly. So I can travel around Europe for about 3 months. However, I can only travel around the Schengen area for 3 months within a 6 month period.

So on the other hand, I can stay in Japan for up to 3 months as a tourist without the same restriction like Schengen. Now I could interpret that to mean that I can travel to another foreign country for a week and return to Japan to restart the 3 months.

But honestly speaking, I’m not sure how deliberate they were about this but I’m sure Japanese border security are careful to question anyone who might be taking advantage of the system or this loophole

As a Malaysian – with a Malaysian passport of course, I can travel to most countries in South East Asia without having to apply prior to my visit. So usually I would get a “visa stamp” when I arrive and enter the country – and this is an ink print from a rubber stamp, which would include the date and how long I can stay for in the country. And in some countries, it’s free, and others I might have to pay a small fee.

For other countries however, like Australia for example, my family would have to apply for a tourist visa online, which, for Australia, is an “electronic visa” also called an “e-visa.” And this is different from the standard visa label that’s usually stuck into your passport.

They also have to pay a fee – which I wouldn’t consider cheap. This would… but yea, this would allow them a limited number of visits to Australia, for a certain period per visit.

Types of accommodation

As I mentioned earlier, I usually research for costs of accommodation on Booking.com and Airbnb – which I also usually book through as well. There are many different types of accommodations you can choose from, I’ve selected some here, but there are more of course.

A “hotel,” by definition, is an establishment that provides accommodation and other services for travellers and tourists. They vary in sizes but they can be rated from 1 star to 5 stars depending on the luxury, comfort and facilities they provide. Of course, the more stars the more expensive. Each room should have a private bathroom and offer basic amenities like bathroom essentials, coffee, tea, clean linen, daily cleaning service.

And there are also other specialised hotels.

Like “capsule hotel,” or also known as a “pod hotel.” And this is a concept that started in Japan which really just provides tiny rooms for a night or a short-stay. Amenities and facilities differ of course but they’re usually really cheap.

A “transit hotel” is usually located nearby or at an airport. And these are usually for people who want to rest while they’re waiting for connecting flights.

Motel” is defined as a roadside hotel, with the purpose of providing accommodation to travellers on a long road trip. They’re usually not as luxurious as hotels can get, but pretty much provide the same services.

A “hostel” is usually set up like a dormitory, and beds are booked rather than the room. So it’s set up to be interactive and attracts lots of backpackers or budget travellers. And it’s also very cheap because you’re sharing a room and facilities.

A “resort” is like a hotel and they provide all the essential amenities or facilities but can be designed for recreation or activities – like a golf resort. Or if you want to be lazy and relax – like a beach resort.

A “service apartment” is kind of like a hotel without the premium service, and with apartments instead of rooms. So it has facilities you would expect of an apartment, a kitchen, laundry area, living room.

And then there’s “guesthouse.” Now this is a little confusing for me, because definitions online say that it’s a separate dwelling from the main residence – like a self-sufficient bungalow or granny-flat – as we call it here in Melbourne, which is detached from the actual house.

However, when I was in South Korea, we stayed at guesthouses – or what they called “guesthouses” – which are kind of a cross between a hotel and a hostel with a common area to hang out. But yea, I guess it’s always best to read the description before you book any accommodation.

Bed and Breakfast” or “B&B” for short. This is a small lodging at a private home where the host will provide breakfast as well. And this is probably what a guesthouse is supposed to be but it’s known as B&B here.

Before Airbnb became really popular, I’ve actually been to a few B&Bs outside of Melbourne. It’s just a nice getaway for a weekend. It’s an opportunity for the host to earn a bit of side income.

Now Airbnb has kind of taken this idea of earning something extra with a spare room, but most Airbnbs I’ve been to don’t have the host living there nor do they actually provide breakfast. So they’re not really the same.

Booking accommodation

Now some vocabulary associated with booking accommodation.

Check-in” and “check-out.” Now these have slightly different meanings but it’s all related to your arrival and departure with regard to your selected accommodation.

You might see “check-in” and “check-out dates” when you’re looking for accommodation. And choosing these dates of when you’re arriving and leaving is usually to check if accommodations are available for those dates. And also the cost, since certain places will charge extra for weekends and such.

Typically “check-in” also means to arrive and register at a hotel and “check out” means to settle your hotel bill before leaving.

Now, you can “self-check-in” by inputing a password sent by the host, usually to get into the accommodation or to get… get access to the key to get into the accommodation. And when you leave, you just leave. And this has really taken away the face-to-face contact with staff or the host.

Also on the webpage of the accommodation, it will usually specify the “check-in” and “check-out times” of when you can arrive and when you should leave. And sometimes this can be negotiated if your flight’s late or something.

Location. Duh.

Accessibility.” Now this might be related to how easy it is to enter the accommodation. So things like if it has a lift, if it’s on the ground floor, disability access for wheelchairs, specially designed bathrooms etc.

So when I went to Japan a few years ago, accessibility was very important because some of the Airbnb accommodations didn’t have lifts in their building. Yes, it may be on the third floor, but I’m not going to lug my luggage up 3 flights of stairs. Thank you.

Amenities.” And these are things that come with the accommodation like toiletries, coffee and tea, towels.

Toiletries” are just things you use to wash and take care of your body. Like… so things like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream etc.

So when you go to a hotel, motel, or resort, basic amenities are pretty standard. It’s when you book Airbnb or… you know, other places, you have to be careful to read what amenities they offer. But even then it’s not always accurate.

Facilities.” So these can be facilities within the accommodation like a private bathroom, air conditioning, kitchen, washing machine. Or on the premises like swimming pool, gym or car park.

Reservation” or “cancellation policy.” Policies vary according to the accommodation. So some places may require payment when you book, others only when you check-in. Some allow free cancellation with a full refund, others you can’t. So yea, good idea to read everything carefully.

“Ratings” and “reviews” – also very important. “Rating” is just a measurement of how good other people’s experiences were. So it can be out of 10 or out of 5. And “reviews” are feedback from people who’ve stayed at these accommodations.

Now I don’t read all the reviews of course, but it gives me an idea of what it’s like actually staying at the place. And although I’m willing to compromise certain comforts for cost, I also want to make myself comfortable. So any comments about what the bathroom is actually like, the space, the quality of the amenities provided is helpful for me to make a decision.

Travel insurance

Now another thing to consider is “travel insurance.”

Now “insurance,” technically, is an agreement or arrangement where you pay a company – an insurance company – some money and they will compensate you for any specified loss, like damage to property, or accidents or injuries, death even.

And “travel insurance” is for risks associated with travelling like loss of luggage, delays, missed flights, death or injury in a foreign country.

Now personally I haven’t been that diligent with getting travel insurance because I’ve never had any issues when I’ve travelled. But yea, I’ve definitely heard stories of people getting injured or getting really sick while overseas or losing expensive equipment. So this is something I’ll definitely need to look into for next year.

Foreign currency

And finally, there’s foreign currency. Now I’m not going to go into all the technicalities of what currency, money, inflation laws and politics of what it all means. But in general, “currency” is a system of money in general use in a particular country.

So when you visit a foreign country, quite often you will need to exchange your local currency for the currency of the foreign country.

And usually this can be done at the bank, or at a “foreign exchange service.

And some places will charge a “commission fee” for using their services, which is a small percentage of the amount you’re exchanging.  Some places will do it for free.

Nowadays, you can also withdraw money from ATMs in a foreign country. The ATM will dispense local currency at the exchange rate according to your bank. However, you will probably be charged a kind of fee like a “foreign transaction fee” or some kind “international fee,” for every time you do this.

Similar charges occur when you make purchases overseas with your debit or credit card. Now when you do this, you do need to check the “exchange rate” of converting one currency to another. And this changes over time. It differs slightly between foreign exchange services.

And usually, you know, exchange rates don’t really mean much if you only live in one country and you don’t really travel much.

But if you’re visiting a country where the currency is lower, like Malaysian ringgit for example, which is the name of the currency over there. On top of that, cost of living in Malaysia is significantly lower. So, visiting Malaysia becomes a really cheap, affordable holiday destination for Australians.

On the other hand, Australia is considered expensive for the average Malaysian unless they’re fairly well-off.

Anyway, I think that’s all for today’s episode. I hope you found this helpful. As usual, I’ll post the vocabulary list on my website with any references I made on this episode.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Facebook as well.

Next episode I’ll be talking about my experience going to South Korea, so it’ll be more… from the perspective of cultural differences and things like that. So stay tuned for that. (<- This episode is no longer available.)

But yea, have a good day and I’ll catch you later! Bye!