I’ve been asked this question so many times by people that want to see something different and go somewhere new, but are scared or don’t know how to do so. So, I’m here to provide a few tips that I have found exceptionally useful while travelling abroad.
First things first, if you are afraid of traveling to a new place, put your scardey pants back in the closet and focus on the goal. You may be intimated, but I promise it will be worth it if you do.
Step 1: Acquire passport and any required visas
Apply for your passport and ensure the country you want to go to doesn’t require a visa prior to arrival. You can check that out online. Most won’t require anything additional, but do a little research and look up the local embassy for any potential requirements. If you are from the U.S., the state department will have the rules and regulations for acquiring your passport: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html
If you are from another country, you will want to check with your own government agency.
Step 2: Location selection and rentals
Once you have your location chosen and your passport in hand, I recommend booking lodging in the country you are visiting for 3 or 4 days that is close to the airport in the destination. The other option is to book a location in the city that you want to stay in, but also limit it to 3-4 days. I recommend this strategy because it will give you time to talk to the locals. They will be able to make recommendations on how to get around, where to go, etc that may not be found online. If you stay closer to the airport, you can hop over to your hotel on the day of arrival and sleep off the jet lag rather than trying to find your way through the city to your actual destination.
I’ve taken the route of booking a long-term rental and found that when I got there that the rental was not in the location I truly wanted to be in. I decided that I wanted to move around rather than being stuck in one location. Attempting to get my money back after that was not a fun process either. Also, once you get there, you will find cheaper places than you can online. The search engines tend to focus on posts that were created and marketed to your home country. Also, many postings you can find locally may not even be posted online. This is where you will need to talk to the locals upon your arrival. They’ll certainly help!
As far as how much money you will need, that will depend on the location you are going to and what you want to do when you are there. Make sure you have a variety of payment options, cash/credit/debit and make sure to keep enough to get home (just in case).
Step 3: Currency Requirements
How much money do I take and in which currency? Personally I take a look at how long I will be there and the average cost for a hotel stay and the average daily cost of your meals. After I have the average cost I add in a bit of fluff to ensure I am covered. You can always find a cheaper hotel or cook your own food, but at least you will know an average of what it should cost. Make sure to account for transportation as well and in the end keep a bit of a slush fund that you don’t touch to ensure you can get home again (if that is your intent).
Overall, I take only a portion of my funds in cash. I don’t usually worry about changing currencies (in most cases) until I get to the country I fly into. Upon landing, I locate the ATM in the airport and take out several hundred dollars’ worth in local currency. I do this to ensure that the cab ride is covered and enough for my first several days in country. Most locations take a credit card (but I would use either a MasterCard or Visa) American Express and Discover aren’t accepted in every location and it becomes frustrating if this is the only card you have in your possession.
Step 4: Travel to your hotel the first night
Make sure you prepare how you will get to your hotel prior to leaving home. Are you going to take a cab? Are you going to request a service to come and pick you up? Will the hotel provide a car? Knowing how you will deal with this step will ease a lot of tension when you arrive. Be careful with your valuables and don’t take rides with people that come up to you and ask. Ensure you utilize the cab stands rather than random individuals that come out of nowhere. These people could be dangerous or charge a significantly higher price for the same ride just because they know you aren’t from there.
Step 5: Packing
How do I to pack for a trip overseas? Pack for the season, throw in a sweatshirt or two as well and dress appropriately for the flight, in layers so you can always take something off or put it on. I always pack to ensure I have additional space in my suitcase for whatever I bring home. You will tend to collect things and/or what you pack in the first place may not fit again after it’s worn. I’m not sure what happens to clothes, but they morph and grow and sitting on it won’t work. So make sure you have extra space or bring an empty one along for your purchases. Remember to go buy the type of charger or a universal charger for your electronic devices. There are many types, so you’ll want the universal kind that can be used in every situation.
Step 6: Communication/Cell phone
Cell phones may or may not work in your destination. You will want to check with your carrier at home to see if they can unlock your phone to be utilized abroad. If not you may need a different type of cell phone. So while it is possible to get service through your home carrier, you will want to also check your rate plan. It can get super expensive to make a call. You could also purchase a phone once you are in country. This is a pain, but it can be done. The phone generally takes time to activate. The third option would be to purchase a sim card once you get in country at the airport as well as minutes. Just a heads, this option may take a little longer to process but having the ability to communicate is priceless!
A last little nugget of advice:
The last bit of advice I could give you is: keep an open mind!! It’s a big world out there and while humans are humans, cultures are very different (which is what makes travel so much fun). Other cultures do things sometimes very different than your own culture and keeping that open mind may allow you to see the world from another perspective.
So, get up, don’t be scared, get going, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!
***These are just a few tips for starters. If you have tips that you have found useful and make international travel easier, please share below!