Tips For First-Time Traveling Abroad

Traveling abroad for the first time can be a daunting undertaking. Let this not dampen your sense of adventure and desire to see new places. Here are some handy pointers to help first time travelers make that first footstep into the unknown.



Get to know your destination

Once you have decided on where to go, gather the necessary information that you will need about your destination. Does the place require a visa? Has there been recent tourist warnings or travel advisories regarding this country? Check also if there are vaccinations required before flying in, as well as the location of your own country’s embassy. The government’s official website and that of the country you are visiting are good places to get information.

Also as practical are the knowledge about the culture of the place you are visiting. Know the do’s and don’ts, especially things that you might say or do that can be offensive. As a visitor, it is also great to know a few handy phrase words in the local language such as hello, thank you, excuse me, good bye, and how much. The locals will appreciate your efforts and will help make your stay more pleasant and fun. Checking the online local newspapers of your destination is will help you get a sense of the place prior to arriving.

Do the necessary paperwork

Prepare travel documents a few weeks or even months in advance. Your passport should be valid and within the expiry date when you travel. Don’t forget to get some travel insurance. Once you have your itinerary, print several copies and distribute them accordingly. Have one for your carry on bag, one for your check in luggage, one to give to family or friends back home, and a soft copy or file that can be retrieved online.

Money matters

Be sure to advise credit card companies of countries you’ll be visiting and when to avoid having your cards declined when you use them abroad. Check also your banks on which will charge the lowest ATM fees when you withdraw money abroad. Determine not just your overall budget but also an estimate of your daily expenses. This will help you determine how much cash to carry. Get familiar with your destination’s currency as well as the exchange rate. As a general rule, don’t exchange money in airports; it is best to do it in banks away from tourist areas.

Going out and about

Be familiar with your flight schedules and make sure that there is enough time in between connecting flights. Know the time difference between your destination and your home. Sleep during the plane ride especially for long flights. This will make you rested and helps minimize jet lag. Do some research as well on the available modes of transportation in your destination. Decide if you will be renting a car or taking public transportation, and plan your budget and itinerary accordingly.



Your baggage

Decide on the type of baggage or luggage combination you will be using. Will it be a money belt and backpack or a day pack and wheeled luggage? What you use will depend on the length of your trip and your planned activities.

Pack a week before and travel light. Bring climate-appropriate attire as well as clothing that will be proper for the places you plan on going. For example, when planning to visit temples, bare shoulders and knees are usually not allowed. Comfortable footwear is a must when traveling. Since brand new shoes are a guaranteed pain on your feet after just one or two hours of walking, be sure to bring those that have been broken in a few weeks before the trip.

Bring essential toiletries only. If you are not that particular about the brand of shampoo, soap, or toothpaste you use, you can buy them in groceries or pharmacies when you arrive. If bringing prescription medicine, they should be in their original containers as much as possible, and have clear labels. Don’t forget to bring adapter plugs for devices you need to charge.



Your home away from home

Your budget and what matters to you will decide the type of accommodation to take. Whether you have decided on hostel or a hotel, note its location to the attractions that you plan to visit and its proximity to transportation sources.

Food and drink

Bring a reusable water bottle. You can refill this one the plane and stay hydrated throughout the flight. It will also come handy when touring your destination. Refill it in the hotel lobby or restaurant, and you’re sure to have a supply of safe water for the day in case bottled water is nowhere to be found. For the first few days, go easy on the local food to give your body time to get used to the new sensations and taste.



Things to do and see

Balance your itinerary based on the number of days of your stay. Plan but do not be too rigid; make provisions for change in weather or if information you have on the attractions you want to visit turn out to be different from the actual facts. Opening times may have changed or an attraction may have been closed for the season upon your arrival.

Get a guidebook and read it cover to cover a few weeks before going. That said, don’t rely on guidebooks too much as they tend to be outdated by the time you take your trip. Augment your information with up to date advise from online travel forums as well. As you go out and about, keep calm, maintain your sense of adventure, stay open minded and friendly but always keep an eye on belongings and be aware of your surroundings.


Staying connected

Keep a list of the following telephone numbers:  the local police hotline, your embassy’s numbers, credit card and bank toll-free numbers, and the customer service hotlines of hotels and airlines you are using. Before leaving, get assurance from your cell phone provider that your phone will work overseas as well as get information on roaming charges. Research on possible Wi-Fi hotspots in your destination especially if your smartphone has Skype so you can call home or your travel companions cheaply.

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