Don't be intimated by international travel, just take a little extra time to be prepared so that you can enjoy jetting off to your first international destination.
1. DO YOU NEED A VISA?
Even for Americans, Canadians, and Europeans who rarely need visas, this is an important step. I have had several friends be surprised to find out they need a visa at the last minute because they aren’t accustomed to checking. Even without a visa, there may be entry or exit fees for certain countries. You want to check all the requirements for your destination before arrival.
2. PASSPORT CHECK
Even if you don’t need a visa some countries will not allow entry if your passport is within 3-6 months of expiration. Additionally, I usually keep an electronic copy of my passport that I save in my phone and just in case email it to myself so I can access it from another device if needed. It would also be helpful to keep a printed copy just in case.
3. CHECK YOUR MEDICAL NEEDS
Firstly, check if your medical insurance covers you internationally, if not consider getting some for your trip. It’s just one of those things that in an emergency you would have wished you had.
Depending on where you’re going, you may need to get special vaccines or medications as a precaution against various diseases.
If you routinely take any prescription medication, make sure you have enough to cover the duration of your travels so that you don’t run out while you’re overseas. Finally—and especially if you’re going to any remote regions—it’s wise to pack non-prescription medicines (aspirin, Imodium, etc.)
4. RESEARCH THE CUSTOMS OF THE COUNTRY YOU ARE VISITING
As a new international traveler, it will be helpful to read up on the customs and culture of the country you a visiting. You may be surprised to find that certain behaviors where you are from would be considered rude elsewhere. Something as simple as how we point at something. Plus I think it’s a fun way to start your journey before you get there.
5. LEARN A FEW PHRASES IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE
Learn a few basics like “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Where is the bathroom?” But if you have severe food allergies or medical conditions, I would make sure to have it written down in the local language so that you can show someone if you aren’t confident memorizing it. China was where I struggled most with language barriers and I often asked the front desk to write down directions for me in the local language. It came in handy almost every day I got lost.
6. PACK A PEN
This separates the prepared from the unprepared a pen is just one of those items you don’t want to be without when you need one it seems like no one has one.
7. ALERT YOUR BANK
Before you travel overseas, call your bank and credit card providers to let them know where you’ll be; if they see foreign charges with no notice that you’re abroad, they might freeze your cards. Before you travel internationally, be aware of the exchange rate and know how much things generally cost wherever you’re going so that you get some sense of how much you’re going to spend. I personally prefer withdrawing cash from a local ATM than exchanging upon arrival as it is a more favorable rate.
8. CONTACT YOUR CELL PHONE PROVIDER
You might be surprised that the phone provider you have may have some international coverage included in your plan already, if not you can inquire about the cost to add coverage for where you are going. I mostly rely on WIFI and make sure to have my offline maps saved etc. But if I really need data available at all times, I will buy a local chip at the airport. Make sure your phone is unlocked and can accept foreign chips.
9. CHECK WHAT KIND OF ELECTRICITY YOUR DESTINATION USES
Electrical outlets are different all over the world, so you’ll need to have an adapter to be able to plug your devices into foreign sockets. We live in an electronic world, so you want to invest in a quality one. Mine is from 2012 and still going strong. You also need to check the strength of the electrical current wherever you’re going and make sure your devices are compatible – we don’t want any blow dryer explosive situations ladies.
10. HAND LUGGAGE PREP
Always plan for the worst and pack your hand luggage not just for the flight, but in the expectation that your luggage could get lost/delayed. Make sure it has your travel documents, wallet, some toiletries, chargers, valuables, electronics, converters, and a spare change of clothes.
11. DOUBLE CHECK FLIGHT TIMES
The day before your flight double check to make sure no changes have been made to your check-in time. Give yourself ample time to get to the airport, as a new traveler you don’t want to be rushing and stressed.
Set your alarm, reminders, and make sure your passport and flight reservation are in your bag (double-check before you leave the house).
12. KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING AND HOW TO GET THERE WHEN YOU LAND
Nothing worse than traveling long hours and then struggling to figure out how to get to your accommodation. Plan ahead and decide if you will be using public transport, a taxi, how far it is from the airport etc. Make sure to save the address of where you are staying. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen tourists stumbling to connect to WIFI to find an address. Save yourself the headache and figure it out before your arrival.
FOR AMERICANS: SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP)
My friend told me about this program and I would 100% sign up if I was an American. STEP is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and allows the U.S. Embassy to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. For more information visit: https://step.state.gov/step/