International Travel Tips for the Novice Traveler

International Travel: Be Safe, Have Fun!

Travel provides everyone with an amazing opportunity to see the world and experience new cultures, languages and people. The world is so diverse in its cultures, landscapes and traditions that those with the opportunity for travel are truly blessed. If you have not traveled out of the country before or haven't done it in awhile it can feel somewhat overwhelming. But there are plenty of tips that will help you to have a safe and enjoyable experience.

PACK WISELY

  • Do not bring a different outfit for every day, and certainly not more than one outfit per day.
  • Pack only one dressier outfit for nice dinners on the town. If you're not planning a dressier evening, do not pack for one.
  • Book with hotels, where possible, that provide access to laundry services.
  • Use hotel towels, even for swimming.
  • Wear your everyday, comfortable walking shoes and only bring one additional pair of dressier shoes if you know you'll need them.
  • If needed, plan to wash underwear and socks in your hotel room sink or tub. Do not pack a new pair for everyday.
  • Avoid excess toiletry bags by asking each person in your party to put their own toiletries in their personal luggage.
  • Use the hair dryers provided by the hotel. Do not pack your own.
  • Avoid large suitcases. Instead, pack a bag that can fit in your overhead compartment to avoid checking luggage.

Money and Credit Cards

  • Exchange some currency prior to your trip so you have cash upon arrival for ground transportation, gratuities, food vendors, etc.
  • Contact your credit card company prior to departure to let them know where you are traveling and how long you will be in each place. If you do not, they will likely deny your charges and leave you stranded with no money. Also, some credit cards are not accepted in certain destinations. The card company can tell you if you can use your card where you're going.
  • Use a small, passport style sling bag and not a big, shoulder bag. Sling bags are easy to carry and difficult to steal. You don't want to carry heavy belongings around all day, so only bring what you need.
  • Book a hotel with an in-room safe. Keep valuables such as excess cash, credit cards, and travelers checks in the safe when not in use.
  • Be aware of the exchange rate before traveling to avoid being taken advantage of by shopkeepers and vendors.
  • To avoid excess loss if pick-pocketed, keep money in separate pockets and on separate persons in your party. Do not ever keep all money together. Use front pockets, never back pockets. Use the sling-style bag and keep hand resting on your bag, especially in crowded areas.
  • Know the currency of the place to which you are traveling. Not all countries in Europe, for example, use the Euro. Educate yourself about the currency in advance.

TIPS AND GRATUITIES

In the U.S., hotels and restaurants expect to receive gratuities. In other countries, this is not always the case. In fact, some service employees may find it offensive. Be sure you know whether or not tipping is expected. You can check with your hotel's concierge if you are not certain about the protocol.

PASSPORT AND VISA

  • Keep your passport and VISA, where applicable, on you at all times. If you are asked for your papers, you must present them or you will be detained.
  • Passports and VISAs can take a long time to process, so if you don't have one, you'll need to allow at least 6 weeks prior to travel, to get one. Expedited passports are possible, they will cost in the neighborhood of $200 extra.
  • If you need to renew a passport, it can take less time than if you are arranging for your first one. You will have to send your original passport in with your application, but it will be returned to you after processing.

ELECTRONICS

Most other countries use different voltage than the U.S. You may need to purchase a voltage converter prior to travel. Without one, if you try to use your electronics, you will destroy them. This includes cell-phone chargers, hair products, i-Pod chargers, radios, computers, and other electronic devices. Converters can be purchased at Radio Shack for about $65. If you forget to do so, inquire with the concierge at your hotel. They may be able to lend you one.

BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS

  • This is good advice whether you are traveling or not. Being hyper-vigilant is never a bad idea.
  • Keep all members of your party together at all times.
  • Keep a hand on your purse at all times.
  • Do not carry a lot of excess baggage while traveling. When possible, keep your camera around your neck or in a small bag with other items instead of in a separate bag.
  • Do not make eye contact with panhandlers or street vendors. If not buying, keep walking and be firm in your dissent.
  • Do not walk down darkened or deserted streets.
  • Do not follow "friendly" strangers into areas that you are not familiar with to get "a good deal" on something.
  • Do not venture into unknown areas unless with a professional tour guide.

Most of all, it is important to be safe, and have fun.

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© 2011 Jaynie2000

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Comments 2 comments

simeonvisser profile image

simeonvisser 5 years ago

These are very good tips indeed and some tips, like packing light, usually only come from previous travel experience. Many people pack too much the first few times they travel but the more you travel, the less you take with you.

The article refers to the U.S. several times so if someone from the U.S. is reading this, here's another tip: be aware that the default language is not English in many countries and they may not even understand you. Be patient, use hand signals and learn a little bit about their language if you wish to communicate.


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 5 years ago Author

Thanks. The language suggestion is a great one. I'd carry a pocket dictionary or have a language app on your i-phone to help you out. Street signs, metro-stop signs, menus, etc. will be in the country's native language, not YOUR language, so if you only speak English, prepare in advance.

Along with that, I would also suggest being very accommodating. Most people are kind and helpful to tourists, but not everyone is. Remember that you are in their country so always put your best foot forward. Be gracious. If you have rudimentary language skills, don't be embarrassed to use them. Locals appreciate and reward the effort by meeting you half way. Bother to learn at least the basic pleasantries such as local greetings and how to say "thank you" in the host country's language. It will earn you huge points indeed, and perhaps even some new friends! I spoke broken German as often as I could while traveling throughout Germany and I was rewarded by kind and helpful locals everywhere I went. Same thing in France because my husband speaks fluent French.

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