Traveling overseas is a wonderful experience that everyone should have, preferably more than once. But that first trip can be daunting. There’s a lot more to take into consideration and remember with international trips than with domestic trips, and it can seem a bit overwhelming.
Here are 10 tips for first time international travelers to make it all a little more manageable.
1. Start planning well in advance
This isn’t a weekend trip to another city, or even just across the border, for our European readers. Airfare
is expensive and will just get more so the longer you wait, especially during peak travel season.
Give yourself a few months to get all your ducks in a row and make sure you have everything you need. Passports can take up to 8 weeks to get after you apply.
2. Find out what documents and extras you may need
Some countries require visas to enter. US citizens can check with the State Department to find out if they need a visa to enter a certain country. You can also contact the local embassy of whichever country you are traveling to.
Also of note, some countries require you to have proof that you’ve had certain vaccinations. If you need updates or new vaccinations, you want to find out as soon as possible because you may not be able to get them from your primary physician. And certain vaccines require a series of shots.
Some countries charge entry and exit fees, most often in the local currency. Find out before you go so you can arrange to get some before you go if necessary.
3. Make copies of everything
Have copies of all your important documents. This includes the info page of your passport, your visa, if you have one, your flight itinerary and your hotel booking confirmation.
These should travel with you in your carry-on and be locked up in the hotel room safe when you get to your destination. To be safe, I also recommend taking a set of pictures with your phone. Give an extra set of copies to family or trusted friend back home as an extra back-up.
4. Have an itinerary
There’s always room for spontaneity, but the first time you go overseas it can be helpful to have your trip mapped out. This allows you to do things like buy tickets to popular attractions in advance, which helps you skip lines and find discounts. It can also help you avoid getting scammed.
5. Be aware of common travel scams
Sadly, tourists are often the targets of scammers looking to make a quick buck off your inexperience and lack of knowledge. Check out this list from an expert traveler on common scams travelers encounter to get you started.
One thing you can do to try and avoid scammers is to dress as much like a local as possible. Scammers are looking for ignorant tourists, not locals.
6. Call your bank and credit card company
The last thing you want is to get to your destination and have your debit card eaten by the ATM or your
credit card declined. Call in advance and let them know your dates of travel and where you’re traveling to.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have cash, though. Most places that see a lot of tourist traffic will take your foreign credit card. But some places may be cash only, and smaller places off the beaten path may not be equipped to accept foreign issued credit cards.
7. Check your insurance
No one wants to get sick or hurt on vacation, but things happen. Contact your health insurance company before you go to find out if you’re covered while overseas, and, if you are, what they cover and how much of it they’ll pay for. If you aren’t covered, or there are significant gaps, I highly recommend medical travel insurance.
8. Call your cellphone provider
If you have a smart phone (and realistically, who doesn’t?) odds are good that it has global capabilities.
Call your service provider to find out what the charges for international calls and data usage are.
If you are traveling for a significant amount of time, a month or more, it is worthwhile to consider getting a local sim card, however, you’ll have to get your phone unlocked. That will be at the discretion of your service provider.
If they say no, you can probably get a cheap smartphone on Amazon that comes pre-unlocked.
If this is a problem, look into local pay-as-you-go plans.
9. Get an adapter or converter
If you’re just bringing a phone an adapter should by fine. Adapters just allow you to plug a foreign cable
into an outlet. If you’re bringing your laptop you’ll need a converter. A converter converts the voltage to match your device.
Read this travel article for more information about the difference and which you should buy.
Note to women, many countries in Africa and the Middle East have limited women’s rights. You should try to dress as close to the local women a possible, ignore catcalls ad try to stay in a group. There have been situations where it was the woman who was arrested after being attacked.