A couple of years ago, I coordinated a trip to Italy that included a number of new international travelers. From that trip and others, I have come up with a few tips for first-time travelers abroad. Let’s get to it…..
- Check the weather – this may sound like common sense, but this saves headaches in plans for tours and wardrobe. Also, it may be the opposite season where you are headed.
- Check local customs/culture/requirements – You don’t have to do a full research project, but be aware so that there are no misunderstandings. Be aware of customs or laws pertaining to clothing. For example, you will not be allowed to go into St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome with short shorts and a tank top.
- Language – learn a few words in the language of the country. For example, please, thank you, yes, no and numbers would be a good place to start.
- Have an open mind – Some may be surprised at meeting an American, especially if you are an African American. Be open to questions and curiosities. Try the food.
- Money – Forget travelers checks and don’t bring all of your money in cash. Get a good rate and avoid scams by getting money out of an ATM abroad. Bring some money for tips and snacks, a reliable credit card or 2 (just in case) and an ATM card to get more cash when needed. When you use an ATM, the money will be dispersed in the local currency and the negotiating of exchange to VISA or MC.
- Register with the US State Department – Visit here to enroll in a free program by the State Department. Benefits include: updates from a foreign embassy, help your embassy get in touch with you in case of emergency and to help family/friends get in touch with you in case of emergency.
- Travel Insurance – I am a member of a travel club that includes insurance and it gives me piece of mind. Also, you may be able to get travel insurance with your tour company if you are using one. You can also check with your current medical or property insurance company to see if they have plans. It could make a big difference in the case of medical emergencies, trip cancellations or if you run into any issues abroad.
- Cell Phones – Think about how you will keep in touch with family and friends when you are away. Cell phone carriers offer international plans, but they are quite expensive. I usually keep my phone on airplane mode the whole time and use only wifi. You can download apps like WhatsApp or Skype, and you can use FaceTime with wifi if you have an iPhone or Ipad.
- Maps & Apps – Google Translate has an awesome feature that allows you to read written words in real time with your phone. You can also download a specific language so that it will work offline. Also, check out Tripit for travel planing and maps and Shutterfly to store and order photos.
- Airport – Be ready! It can be hectic. Check TSA guidelines. Have all your liquids in travel size and in a ziplock bag. Be ready to show passport and boarding pass at every stop. Also, you can check strollers and car seats for free, just ask.
- Transportation – Make a plan on how to get from the airport to your hotel or hostel. There are shuttles, trains, buses, and taxis. Sometimes your tour company or hotel will pick you up. You need to know what your plan is before getting there because you can save money by booking early.
- Tips – Especially if you are on a tour, make sure you have a bit of cash for tips for drivers, guides etc. You may think everything is included, but tips rarely are. Also, research tipping customs in your destination. Americans tip, but many other countries don’t. Save some money and headache with a little research.
What other things do you recommend for new travelers?
Have fun and Happy Traveling!