6 Tips For First-Time Travelers Abroad

These are some great tips to help you travel abroad for the first-time. Do you dream of traveling to a foreign country? You’ve always wanted to travel to Africa, Asia, or any other country where you might be immersed in a different culture. This is your chance to travel outside your home country. It seems like traveling is a great idea. You can also explore other parts of the world. Butit can also be very intimidating, especially for first-timers.

You already know what it’s like traveling around your country. This means you are familiar with the excitement of seeing new places and trying new things. It can be frightening to imagine misunderstandings, cultural norms and being lost in another country when you are first traveling abroad. Traveling abroad is quite different from home.

It’s okay to not sweat it. You will soon get used to the feeling of culture shock when you travel overseas for the first time. Preparation is key to your success when you travel internationally solo. These are some simple tips to help you travel abroad for the first-time.

Tips for first time travelers abroad to follow

1. Make sure you have your passport ready and see if a visa is required.

Your program provider probably already told you this, but you need to have your visa and passport sorted in advance of your departure. The process to apply for a passport can take a lot of time and several weeks to be delivered, so don’t try to apply for one last minute before your departure time. Before you start booking flights and places to stay, make sure your passport has been handled well in advance. When booking international flights and hotels, a passport number is usually required.

Once your passport is delivered, scan the identification page and keep copies of it. Allow a family member or a trusted friend to keep one page and then keep another copy with you in your wallet as you travel. The reason that you would have to keep one for yourself is because sometimes when you check into a hotel, the hotel may hold onto your passport during your stay to make sure you have paid for your stay, and to also help prevent it from getting stolen. (Although, there are sometimes safes in hotel rooms that you can use to lock your passport in.)

The hassle that comes along with the fine details will ALL be worth it once you experience views like this.

Check which places in your itinerary will require a passport check, as some places do require you to bring your passport to visit an attraction. Also, depending how long you’re staying and what country you’re staying in, a visa may be required. A visa is a document issued by a country that gives you permission to travel there. Your provider will have information on the procedures for applying, but there are great resources online too.

2. Research the country, program options, its norms and traditions, and the language.

When you create your plans for your first time overseas, you should do plenty of research aside from the introductions and resources presented by your program. You should find out what that country is like by accessing message boards or Facebook groups for your program, and talking to others who have already traveled there.

You should always check first with your program to see if they have accommodations such as housing and meals to provide you. Find out if you should exchange any currencies ahead of traveling, what are considered the local norms and traditions to get a feel for the culture, and maybe learn some basics of the language(s) spoken there. It always helps to know how to say “hello”, “bye”, “thank you”, and “where’s the bathroom?” Luckily, there are now apps that can help you simply translate languages, such as the Google Translate App. Always try to be as accepting of others’ cultures as much as you can.

You should also check with your bank to see if you need to set up travel alerts as you use your bank cards. That way your bank will be notified that you have left your country, and they won’t shut off your access due to what they think are strange charges. Ask your bank about international fees and if there are any partner banks in your next destination. Using your card can create fees that add up fast!

Pro tip: Check with your program to see if there are available resources that they recommend to you to get you acquainted with your host culture. These resources can vary from articles, suggested book lists, and maybe even popular music groups from your destination. You can also do a lot of research online on sites like TripAdvisor, Travel Channel, and Matador Network.

3. Understand the procedures to stay safe and to avoid disappointment.

One purpose of doing research before going abroad is to be prepared ahead of time and to open up your mind to avoid disappointment. See where your comfort levels lie. Can you handle bad traffic, pollution, trash, a different scenery, poverty, or language barriers? Do you like experiencing mountains, cities, or beaches? If you research all the possibilities and types of places you’ll come across as you travel abroad, your expectations will stay realistic.

Research is important for your first time traveling abroad. So is a map.

It’s important you always stay aware of your safety when traveling to a new country. Your program will probably go over safety protocols with you for disasters and other emergencies, but having street-smart knowledge is key too. You should always keep your senses heightened to thwart pick-pockets. Keep your bags and wallets secure as you’re walking around. Avoid wearing anything too over-the-top or lavish, and keep your money away when walking. If possible, try to leave your credit cards behind in a safe along with other valuables.

Wandering around a place you aren’t too familiar with, along with the language barrier, can make things feel more uncomfortable and place you at risk for “wrong place, wrong time” situations. Make sure you also have your itineraries handy for your flights, information for the hotels you’re staying in, and tour guides booked ahead of time to avoid scams. Share this information with a reliable family member or friend so that someone knows where you’re supposed to be, just in case.

4. Try to avoid overpacking and bring some useful technology with you.

It’s a common mistake to overpack. However, packing light abroad will help you travel much more easily. You can take your luggage up a flight of stairs more easily, and the process of getting on and off public transport will be WAY less cumbersome. As you’re packing, determine the amount of days you’ll be staying, and adjust accordingly.

Obviously pack enough clothes for the whole time you’ll be there (and remember that doing laundry abroad is an option), and make sure to check out the weather forecast of the country you’re heading to. It would suck to show up to Bali with a parka. You should avoid overpacking, because it will help leave some space for important items too, such as your medicines, technology, and some space to bring home some souvenirs.

For technology, bringing a portable battery—it will be a life saver in your travels. Don’t count on WiFi to be available everywhere, since it’s hard to access in many countries, especially in the developing world. But hey, it’s always nice to unplug once in a while! There are options to get WiFi from portable WiFi routers too, in case you really need it for communication.

Pack light and pack smart. And DON’T pack two hours before your flight!

You should also check with your phone company about using your data abroad, and how much it will cost. You might even want to consider buying a SIM card when you arrive in your new country, if your phone allows one. They are usually about $20 on a prepaid card; notify your phone company to let them know they should forward your current phone number to a new one.

Power adapters are essential to buy before traveling abroad as well. They aren’t always easy to find unless you’re in a major tourist place, so bringing one with you will save you the hassle of finding one abroad. You may find one in your country or online for a lot cheaper than other countries will sell it for.

5. Get travel insurance!

A common fear that comes across most first-time travelers abroad is, “What if I get hurt or sick?”. Anything can happen as you travel so it’s essential to know how you’ll cover medical expenses. It can be expensive to receive medical help overseas, and some healthcare providers overseas may ask you to pay up front for the treatment. However, travel insurance that has emergency medical benefits can cover those expenses, and even emergency medical transportation costs. If your injury or illness is beyond help in your destination, your travel insurance can cover the costs of getting you home.

There are so many other things to consider as you travel abroad that may go wrong besides feeling hurt or sick. Travel insurance can reimburse you for any additional accommodations that are required during your trip if you run into a long delay. A lot of Americans call the US Embassy for help when emergencies come up, but there is only so much that they can do.

When you have travel insurance, it can cover financial losses, medical care, emergency transportation, lost baggage, and canceled or delayed flights. Compass Student Insurance and CareMed affordably cover a wide range of issues and are perfect for students, interns, and workers who travel through program providers.

6. Learn how to deal with jet lag.

After a fulfilling trip abroad, along with the stress of culture shock and preparation of traveling abroad, jet lag can be a handful to deal with too (luckily, we have 12 ideas for how to beat jet lag to the punch!). Try not to take a nap on your first day abroad, even though it may seem tempting.

Fight against jet lag by getting rest before your trip. Drinking a lot of water during your flights helps combat the effects of jet lag as well. You should also try to take it easy the day you arrive in your new destination; scheduling too many tours or activities is a surefire way to cause burnout or crashes in energy. It’s always easier in the long run to give yourself some time to take it slow until you can overcome jet lag completely.



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