FIRST TIME INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL TIPS
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
How to travel internationally and what to expect.
There are so many important aspects to traveling that I take for granted. These are things I have learned along the way, which are crucial for first time travelers to know. Here are the top things to consider if you are taking your first international trip!
The rules and restrictions for what different countries allow varies. Are you taking a carry on bag only? Or are you checking your bags? If you are only traveling with carry on baggage, check to see how many toiletries you can take, what sizes and if there are any restrictions.
For example, if you visit London, you are only allowed one ziplock sandwich bag worth of toiletries in your carry on. If you have more than this, then you have to throw the toiletries that do not fit into your one sandwich bag away.
Once you are on the plane to the country you are going to, about an hour before landing you will receive a customs sheet. You need to fill this out for yourself with you passport and flight information. You also need to claim if you are bringing in items that are not allowed or if you have items worth more than $10,000 dollars (the amount depends on the country). Sometimes, you may not receive the immigration documents on the plane. In these cases, you will either get them as soon as you land, or be directed to a kiosks where you can submit your information. In either case, you will end up with a piece of paper which will be presented to a Customs Agent. The agent might ask you a series of questions like what you are doing in that country, and how long you will be there for, all you have to do is answer them truthfully.
It is always good to bring cash. How much depends on you! Think about what you will actually spend your money on that you wouldn't use a card for. Prior to your trip, you likely already booked flights, hotels and sometimes activities, so consider what you will actually need cash for... Maybe for a taxi (if there is no uber/lyft in the country), or food? You definitely will need cash if you plan on purchasing from local or street vendors.
Pro Tip: Before your trip (about 2 weeks prior - not later) go to your local bank and let them know you would like foreign currency. Sometimes the bank has the foreign currency readily available, but other times, they do not and you have to wait for them to order it.
Many credit cards have international fees, so you might consider getting a travel credit card that has no Foreign Transaction Fee.
A few weeks before going on your trip, check in with your phone carrier to find out what options there are with your plan for traveling internationally. Are there countries that are included at no cost? If you are going to a country that requires fees, what are they? Does it make sense for you to pay per day? For the month? Or, should you get a sim card?
There have been trips where I've gotten by without adjusting my phone plan, but this can be hard if you are traveling in a country you are not familiar with, and without a guide. In these cases, I choose to have my phone plan updated so that I can use GoogleMaps when exploring, or be able to check in with friends and family via text or calls.
Another way I have maneuvered not updating my phone plan is by only using wifi and using iMessages or the WhatsApp to communicate with loved ones.
Know what language is spoken in the country you are going to. If possible, learn a few key phrases that may be helpful to know. This can also be a way to show respect.
When I went to Croatia, I learned the following:
Hi = Bok
Good Morning = Dobro Jutro
Thank You = Hvala (pronounced fala)
Bye = Bok or Adio
Wherever you go, remember that you are a guest in that country and to not expect for people to speak english. They may not, and that is something you will have to adjust to. If you want to learn more about the languages spoken before traveling, my go to is always Duolingo.
There are also apps which can translate something in one language to another. Some examples include iTranslate, iTranslate Voice, and Google Translate. These can be helpful when you are in a pinch and need to communicate or read in the moment.
Look into the different methods of transportation for once you arrive. This might depend on the time of day.. and the area you will arrive in. Is there train available? Can you take the bus to your destination? What about the subway or metro? Many countries have Uber, Lyft, or ride share options.
If you choose to rent a car, check out the international license laws and insurance regulations for that country. You can find this out from the company you decide to rent with.
Traveling to a new country can be very fun, but it can also be dangerous. Consider traveling in a group. Use the buddy system and be aware of your surroundings. Do some research about the area you will be staying in and what the safest locations to move around through are. There will be a lot of new things, so soak them up, enjoy the experience, and make sure to come back in one piece!