Tips from our trade advisers
Careful preparation will increase the chance that your market visit is successful. Make sure you:
- check visa and other entry requirements well in advance (at least 6 weeks)
- check coronavirus travel advice for the latest guidance on international travel for British nationals
- book flights and hotels well in advance to ensure you get your first preference - this is particularly important if you plan to visit during a busy time
- organise a programme of meetings during your stay, but be realistic about travel time between appointments
- research the location of your meetings
- organise transport to meetings in advance
- check the days and hours of business
- plan in advance for what to expect in business meetings
- don't rush into any agreements
- don't forget insurance
Your first visit – checklist
Visas, health checks and travel insurance
Many countries require you to have a visa before arriving. Check the official requirements on the website of that country’s embassy in the UK or their official immigration website. You can also check country entry requirements on GOV.UK.
There are many third parties offering visa services but their advice may be inaccurate. A reputable visa agency may be a useful and time-saving way to obtain the visa. They will check that all the supporting documents you have sent them are correct before making a submission to the embassy.
Check that your passport is valid for at least 6 months and also that you have blank passport pages available. The visa will cover the arrival date, duration of stay permitted, and whether it is for single use or multi-entry visits. The visa will be stamped into your passport and subsequently checked on arrival at the destination airport or other entry point.
Prepare for your trip a minimum of 4-6 weeks before you travel. Check the health advice on the country you are visiting and ensure your vaccinations are up to date. If you are only travelling to major cities and staying in business hotels this limits any potential risk. However, consider whether you will be travelling into different areas if you are also there over a weekend or at the end of a business trip.
See coronavirus travel advice guidance for British nationals travelling overseas during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
You will require comprehensive travel insurance when taking regular business trips. A 12 month policy should cover the destinations and the duration of your stays, as well as any specific activities you might do. If you are travelling “off the beaten track”, double check that these countries or regions are covered.
Flights and hotels
Most people have a preference for specific airlines, but consider which carriers have direct flights and arrive at a good time to start your first day of business.
Your selection of hotels can be important. Will you be staying in convenient location for your business appointments? In major cities this will determine how many visits are possible in a day. If you are staying in an upmarket hotel your clients may be willing to travel to meet you there for a coffee or dinner.
Internal travel and taxis
Decide how you will travel to meetings. This probably means a regular taxi, but you may need the concierge to discuss your destination and the correct fare with the driver. This is important if the driver doesn’t speak English. If you take a taxi to the appointment your client should be happy to arrange transport to your next meeting.
If you have a lot of meetings all over the city you may have to consider booking a taxi or hotel car for the day. The alternative is to hire a car, particularly if you are driving well outside the city limits.
Check in advance the days and typical hours of business. Even in countries in Southern Europe they may start early and, after a break in the afternoon, work into the evening. In the Middle East will Friday and Saturday be their weekend, or do they work a conventional Monday to Friday week? Knowing the hours when you can arrange meetings will make your visit as efficient as possible. Be aware that your client or partner may expect to take you for lunch or dinner, so make allowances in your schedule.
Meetings, negotiation, and agreements
Set down exactly what you want to achieve from the visit, and the important individual meetings that you are scheduling. Be aware of how the meeting will go depending on your research into the local business culture.
Don’t rush into any agreements, particularly with prospective agents and distributors. Delay any agreement until you have returned to the UK and had time to carefully consider the proposal. You may need to take legal advice and the final agreement should set out your requirements. Remember that agreements entered into in haste can be difficult to change or terminate in the future.