Preparing for your first international adventure can be overwhelming. For many, booking an international trip seems so daunting, it never gets done. But even the most experienced traveler had to start somewhere. And to tell you a secret, we still get nervous sometimes too!
If you are considering a big trip somewhere new, take a deep breath and check out our list of things you should know before going abroad!
1) Remember, Blogger’s ARE NOT Always Experts
The first thing travelers should know is that anyone can make a blog. A large follower count does not correlate to expertise. As someone who works in a hotel, it is always shocking to see how many “hotel hacks” listed on Pinterest are completely false.
This is not to say all bloggers give bad advice or have ill intentions. Most of us do lots of research before posting, but even then, things change! It is always good to check out official websites to see if there have been any updates to travel advisories, policies or hours of operation. Here at Loving the Layover, we always try to link directly to other knowledgeable sites whenever we can. If you ever notice something that needs an update, leave us a comment!
2) Know the Visas & Medical Requirements at Your Destination
Speaking of checking out official websites, don’t forget to research the legal requirements needed before traveling. It’s easy to spend your day looking at the best places to visit, and scoping out where you’ll eat, but none of that matters if you can’t get out of the airport!
If you hold a US passport, you can travel extensively without a applying for visas or getting special immunizations, but some countries still require these precautions. Additionally, it is common requirement that your passport be valid for 90 days past your return date. So even if your passport doesn’t expire until December, you often can’t stay abroad past September. Each destination is different, so plan accordingly.
3) Know How to Get Around
Another topic you must research; methods of transportation.
Uber, Lyft or other ride shares are not available in all countries. You may need to use a taxi or pre arrange a private car. You’ll also want to check to see if credit cards are commonly accepted. Airport exchange rates are not traveler friendly, so if you need cash for a cab as soon as you get off your flight, it is best to have it handy ahead of time.
If you are looking to use public transportation, keep in mind, many trains require reservations. Check to see if these reserved seats can be purchased at the station or if seats are commonly sold out and need to be purchased in advance. This is especially important if you plan on using a Eurail pass.Additionally, if you are planning to using public transit late at night, you will want to check the hours of operations. Some cities do not have late night services so if you’re getting in on a late flight, plan accordingly.
Finally, if you want to rent a car, you may need an international driving permit. Look up to see if local law enforcement is generally trustworthy or if you should be wary of being pulled over. This is not to scare you or make you wary of authority, but many governments are less than thrilled with foreigners and it is important to be aware of your rights.
Pro Tip: look up common transportation scams at the destination you are visiting. Some countries are famous for the presence of fake taxis, charging you an outrageous amount for short distances. In other places, petty criminals take advantage of crowded busses in order to pick pocket criminals. This is not to say that nothing is safe, but it is far better to be prepared!
4) Research Local Dining Customs
Food is a language all of us share, so if you don’t have time to research anything else, take a moment to whet your appetite and learn what you will be eating. Almost everywhere you visit has a specialty regional cuisine. Make the most of your trip by look up what is most popular at your destination and enjoying authentic offerings during your trip.
You will also want to know about the local dining etiquette. Are tips expected (like in the USA), included (like in Europe) or unwanted (like in Japan)? Knowing this information will make it easier to navigate the cultural landscape of a new place.
Pro Tip: Check to see if the tap water is safe to drink at your destination. In some European cities, the tap water is perfectly fine, but restaurants will offer you bottled water in order to make more money. In other places, like parts of Indonesia, the tap water is unsafe and you’ll need to purchase bottles (or pack a life-straw).
5) Know what to Pack
Last but not least, you should know what to pack for your trip! There is lots of online advice about general items to always take with you, but specifics are always needed.
Some religious sites you may be visiting require special head coverings or long dresses with sleeves.