ok, so you have got yourself booked onto the course and you are wondering what you should bring, what will be difficult to find over here, and perhaps what you shouldn't bring to avoid over-packing and incurring additional airfare fees. Here is my list for you of 10 travel preparation tips before you hop the pond:
1. Travel documents. Make sure that you have a valid passport and that your passport has at least 6 months validity from your date of travel. Don't book the course and then scramble around for your passport - get your passport in order first before committing to the course so that you avoid this unnecessary stress. I also strongly recommend as a precaution making scanned copies of your passport photo page and any other important documents which you will be traveling with and emailing these to yourself so that you have easy access to them in your inbox should you lose them. All work permit documents can be arranged on the ground in Europe if you decide to teach here. This might not apply if wishing to teach outside of Europe so please feel free to pop me an email if you are planning on teaching outside of Europe after taking the course so I can help you out with any pre-course documentation advice. Thank you.
2. Set up an email account with a name which represents your professional side. If you have a hard to spell email address, or one which might give off the wrong impression then I would recommend keeping that email address for your personal affairs and getting a separate one set up for your professional affairs. When applying for jobs this might have an influence on whether employers take your application seriously and remember that you never get a second chance at a first impression.
3. You will get homesick. It's a fact of traveling and even the most hardiest of travelers find themselves missing friends and family back home. Get a free Skype account to keep in touch with folks back home and make sure that your family and friends also have Skype.
4. Most commodities in Prague are very reasonably priced but clothes are not one of these. Clothes here are relatively expensive and the quality tends not to be overall that great. As an example, a pair of jeans here will sent you back from US$50 upwards. A standard pair of Levis sell for around US$130. It can get very cold and wet in the Winter months so I definitely definitely recommend bringing a warm Winter coat and good pair of boots. For interviews you should plan a smart/casual approach - again, that first impression is really important. Once you begin teaching it is fine here in the Czech Republic to wear casual clothes.
5. Invest in a laptop or ipad. Electronics are also quite pricey over here in Europe in general. All Mac products are approx 25% more expensive here. You can find cheaper alternatives so if you are not a Mac lover then HP for example do some great deals on excellent compact computers (again, more affordable in the States). To save you the stress, buy a universal adapter before leaving so that you don't have to run around when you are here trying to find a shop which sells them. Continental Europe has the 2 prong plug sockets.
6. If your phone will work in Europe, bring it. This means that if your phone will work on the Europe network, and in that case if you can replace the sim card with a European one (if the phone is not locked to a particular provider). Don't worry though because mobile phones can be picked up for an affordable price here but having your own phone which you are familiar with does have its advantages (plus you save money on a new one).
7. Bring an affordable and compact camera. You are going to be visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world so take snaps. Also, you will probably want to take snaps of your fellow teachers and students.
8. Booking your airline ticket. This is a really important area which unfortunately usually boils down to simply price and date of flight. There are many airlines plying the Atlantic route but not all of them provide the same service. If you don't want to transfer then there are some airlines which fly direct to Prague. I regularly fly the Atlantic route and find that Lufthansa and Swiss tend to offer the best price/service ratio. Airlinequality.com is a useful resource website for airline reviews and seatguru.com is essential reading if you want to make sure that you get the best possible seat for yourself. Unfortunately these days airlines rarely offer complimentary upgrades but some Economy seats are a lot different in comfort than others. As a general tip, try and get an Emergency Exit seat or bassinet seat. For British and Irish travelers we recommend either British Airways, Easy Jet, or Aer Lingus. For S.African, Australian, and New Zealand travelers we recommend flying Emirates.
9. Arranging travel and health insurance is important for piece of mind. Both can be easily purchased upon arrival to Prague for a fraction of the price that they can in the USA/UK/Australia/New Zealand. You might however want to be covered for your flight just in case it is subject to cancellation or baggage loss - not essential but if you want to then it will provide additional piece of mind.
10. Over-packing. If you over-pack then you run the risk of running up additional charge at the airport. Remember that most of the daily items which you need can be found in Prague. Even Lifesavers as an example can be found in some Expat stores and for the Brits like myself we can stroll into any Marks and Spencers and walk out munching on a packet of Walkers crisps. I would definitely stock up on clothes and of course invest in a compact computer, but I wouldn't worry about bringing too many toiletries or books because these take up space and add to weight. One of the most important things to bring is an open mind and remember that when in Rome to do as the Romans do.