That to-do list, those dreams, and the years of hard work finally pay off as you plan your first international trip. But all it takes is a few mistakes and hasty decisions to ruin your special moment.
Here are a few things you should do if you’re planning your first trip abroad.
Sort your passport and visa requirements
You might already know this, but you need to have a passport and a visa to travel to another country. In fact, you’ll usually need a passport number when booking international flights or hotels.
If you’re planning international travel and you don’t have a passport yet, apply for one as soon as possible. A regular passport application process can take anywhere between a week to a few months. So, understand the passport application procedure in your country before you think of going abroad.
Once you get hold of your passport, it’s time to get a visa. Different countries have different visa policies, and different application procedures, too. For example, if you are a citizen of the U.S., you have visa-free access to various countries, like Canada, Mexico, EU countries, and most South American countries.
Some countries like Nepal and Bangladesh issue visas upon arrival to U.S. citizens, whereas countries like India, Australia, and Turkey provide eVisa functionality (online authorization). However, you’ll need a visa prior to arrival in countries like Russia, China, and Iran. And different countries have different visa policies, so make sure to get a visa in advance if required.
Look for travel programs
Traveling to an entirely new destination with a new language and people can be challenging. But what can be more difficult is going there without any planning.
When creating plans for your first overseas trip, always look for a travel package that at least consists of housing and travel. The last thing you want is roaming around in a foreign country with no idea where to go.
So, search for the best travel agencies in your country and the packages they provide. In most cases, they’ll also take care of your visa requirements, which is a bonus. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting a foreign travel package.
- Cost and budget
- What is included in the package (accommodation, food, flight tickets, local travel)?
- Rules and regulations of the package
- Is the package shared or individual?
Conduct thorough research
If you have a place to visit in mind, make sure to do plenty of research aside from what is presented to you by your program provider. Learn about the country’s language, traditions, and norms to ensure you start blending in as soon as you land there.
If the country doesn’t speak English, it would be wise to get acquainted with the local language spoken there. You don’t need to be a fluent speaker of the language, but learning a few common phrases can help you interact with the locals.
Besides, they also look for any particular norms and traditions. Countries like Indonesia, India, Japan, and Middle Eastern countries have strong traditional and cultural values. Be sure to know what’s acceptable in the country and what’s not. For example, wearing clothes that are too revealing might attract a few eyeballs. So, it’s better to stick with clothing that covers most of your skin.
Notify your bank beforehand
Imagine being on your first international trip; you are excited, nervous, and happy. A plethora of emotions would be flooding through your head when you suddenly find out that your bank has blocked your credit card. So now, you’re stuck as you can’t make any transactions in a foreign country.
It sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? So, make sure to inform your bank or credit card companies about your international travel plans. Also, check with your bank and credit card companies whether there’s a foreign transaction surcharge.
Understand the risks
Your first international trip might seem scary. But once you’re traveling, the experience becomes more pleasant and exciting.
However, there are a few safety tips international travelers should always follow, especially if it’s your first time. Petty theft and pickpocketing are some of the common crimes associated with newbie international travelers.
So, understand the safety risks in the country you are traveling, and plan your trip accordingly. For example, roaming alone in Chicago in the night can be dangerous as crimes like pickpocketing and robbery are common.
Most seasoned travelers know these possible threats, so they always opt for a travel insurance while traveling. Travel insurance covers both health and property, and if you are a new traveler, travel insurance is a must to help if something bad happens while you’re abroad.
Regardless of where you’re traveling, keep these safety tips in mind.
- Carry contact details of the host embassy.
- Research local emergency centers.
- Enable international calling on your phone.
- Track and secure your valuables.
- Make copies of your passport.
- Only bring what is necessary
- Get travel insurance
Pack like a pro
Now that we’ve covered procedures and safety, let’s get the packing started. Seasoned international travelers pack light and carry only what is necessary. You might be tempted to overpack and carry whatever possible, but it can make your traveling difficult.
Of course, you need to bring the essentials. For example, take enough clothes for the time you’ll be there. And keep in mind that laundry is an option. Also, pack clothes according to the weather of the country you’re heading to. It would suck to show up with a just pair of linen shirts and shorts in a country like Norway or Canada.
Talking about technology, bring a portable battery as you don’t know if you’ll get access to charging terminals. And don’t rely on Wi-Fi when it comes to connectivity. Consider buying a SIM card that works internationally. That being said, don’t overload yourself with tech products. The first international trip would be one of the most memorable moments of your life, so make sure you spend most of it with yourself.
Don’t rush, and give yourself enough time to get over jet lag
If you’re planning a trip to Spain, you may want to pack it all in. You might be thinking of how many cities you can fit in one trip and how much can you see in one day. Don’t treat your trip like an office task where you need to finish as much as you can in the least possible time.
Firstly, give yourself a day or two to recover from the affliction of every traveler: jet lag. But don’t take a nap even if your mind and body are craving for it. Instead, take a stroll in your neighborhood. Visit a café or a local restaurant and put something in your stomach to get you going. Get a sense of the local life, interact with a few locals, and give yourself some time to adjust.
If you are traveling under a travel program, your schedule might be already fixed. If not, make a to-do list for what you plan to do on the trip. Be realistic and give each task an ample amount of time instead of accommodating as many items on the list as possible.
But that being said, don’t be a sloth either as you don’t know when you’ll visit the country again. So, if you’re visiting Spain, Barcelona and Madrid should be on your list. Once you’ve spent enough time in the cities and explored all the attractions but are still left with some time, look forward to visiting Seville and Granada. But don’t be upset if your entire trip is exhausted in Madrid and Barcelona; it’s worth it.
The first international trip is always the most special one, but you don’t want to ruin it by making some silly yet common traveler mistakes. Follow the tips mentioned above to make your first international travel memorable and enjoyable.