The “Need to Know” List Before Traveling Somewhere New

The “Need to Know” List Before Traveling Somewhere New

June 26, 2013

Going somewhere new can be one of the most exciting things you’ll ever experience. It can be very easy, though, to get caught up in this excitement and forget to do the needed research, preparation and planning that it takes to make your trip a success. Fear not, I have the tips that you can follow to become the perfect international traveler.


1. Passports and Visas
Probably the most important thing to do before you travel is to check your destination’s passport and visa requirements. Every country has its own set of guidelines, and sometimes it could take several weeks or months to get proper documentation. You must prepare for this well in advance.


One very important thing to check is the expiration date of your passport. Sometimes it lasting through the end of your trip may not be enough. Many countries require that your passport be valid for up to six months beyond the end date of your vacation. For example, I took a trip to end in the beginning of January, but my passport expired in February (one month later). If this had been in one of those countries, I wouldn’t have been able to go on my trip at all.

You may need to add pages to your passport, because some countries have requirements on the number of blank spaces you have before traveling, or because you made decide to take a side trip while abroad. This takes time. You then need to see if your destination requires a visa. Some do, some don’t. You can check this on the State Department’s website or the country you are visiting’s U.S. embassy website.

You may also need to get your passport expedited because of a sudden travel trip. This can be done at a regular passport agency, or through other companies like Passport Express where you can get your passport in just days for a little extra money.


2. Entry and Exit Taxes
Beyond the passport and visa, some countries have additional entry or exit taxes for visitors. You can check the State Department’s country-by-country entry requirements to see if your destination if on the list.

The amount of the fee and how and when it is charged could vary drastically by destination. U.S. visitors going into Chile must pay a $160 “reciprocity fee” when they enter the country via the Santiago International Airport, while travelers departing from the Jakarta airport in Indonesia get charged 150,000 Rupiah as a departure tax, and it must be paid in Rupiah. You don’t want a surprise entry or exit tax and a lack of money to spoil your trip so make sure you’re prepared with the right amount and kind of money in tow.



3. Money
While on the topic of money, you should talk to your bank and your credit card company to let them know that you will be traveling abroad and to where you’ll be going. This prevents your accounts from being flagged for suspicious activity. Also, ask them if they charge a foreign-transaction fee and how much it might be. Depending on their answer, you might consider using a different credit card while abroad, or depending on the length of your stay, opening up an account abroad. You may also want to take some time to learn about the money you will be using abroad, so you can use their bills and/or coins with ease.

Once you arrive, make big purchases with your credit card but withdraw local currency with a debit card through an ATM within your bank’s global network. If your bank isn’t global, consider taking a traveler’s check to change into local money.


4. Travel Advisories and Warnings
Before you leave on your grand adventure, you need to check to see if the country you are visiting is under any travel advisories or warnings. You can check this on the State Department’s website.

It is important not to judge an entire country by just a few regions, or by its reputation. If a travel warning advises against only a certain region, you can use your best judgment as to whether to visit the country or not, just making sure to stay away from the warning area. That being said, a country with a bad reputation might be a good place to travel because it might be in a rebuilding mode with lots of good deals. You just have to do your research and use your best judgment.

There also may be health related alerts or notices for your destination. Check with the CDC and they will outline whether it is safe or not to visit and how best to protect yourself when you are there.


5. Health
Before you travel anywhere, you’ll want to check the health situation in your destination. This can be done on the CDC website (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which has health information for more than 200 destinations, travel notices, food and water safety measures, and so much more helpful health related information.


Now I fully understand that no vaccines are fun, but without them, you won’t be allowed to travel. This website breaks them down into routine, recommended and required. Make sure you do your research so you can get what you need before you leave so you can be healthy and happy for your whole trip.

You can keep the CDC’s plethora of knowledge right at your fingertips by downloading their free app, available for Apple and Android.


6. Blend In
images-1Whether the country you are visiting is thought to be safe or not, you should take some precautions to make sure you arebeing safe. Do some research to find out the good and bad neighborhoods, if your destination has a problem with pickpockets, whether it’s okay to be out after dark, etc.

To stay from potential thieves divide your money and cards into multiple spots. Leave some in your hotel. I always pack an extra $50 bill in a secret part of my suitcase as emergency money incase something happens, but you can usually avoid thieves by doing your best to blend in. Carry a purse, not a fanny pack.Yes tennis shoes are comfortable, but locals don’t walk around in them, and they’ll make you stick out to those looking for an easy target.



7. Learn the Language
Another way to blend into the country you are visiting is to know the language. If you can’t learn the entire language, do your best to learn some important phrases to get by. The locals will notice your effort, and often times will be friendlier because of it. In addition, it will keep you from looking ignorant or could possibly save your life.

Simple phrases like “please,” “thank you,” “help,” and “Do you speak English?” will go a long way in your travels. For extra help, there are many free apps to download like Google Translate available on Apple and Android, which can translate anything you type or speak into your phone.


8. Learn Local Laws and Customs
One other way to immerse yourself into the country is to learn some of their local laws and customs. This could also help you to have a more enjoyable and successful experience at your destination.

Some countries have some weird laws, so if you have the time, it wouldn’t hurt to learn them. When I was in Australia, a friend almost had to pay a $400 ticket because he didn’t know that even though the train gates were open at night and you didn’t have to use your train pass, you still had to have it with you, and they would check. Another local rule for many European churches is that you won’t be allowed to enter if you’re wearing tank tops or shorts. These local laws are definitely worth checking up on! It’s also respectful to learn customs and traditions of the country you are visiting. No one wants to be the annoying tourist!


9. Local Transportation
An excellent way to save money (and energy!) while abroad is to use public transportation. Besides saving money, it allows you to see the city the way the locals do.


While planning out your itinerary, check to see how you might get from place to place along a train, subway, streetcar, bus, etc. route. Also, plan into your budget to buy a multiday transit pass. It’s almost always more of a money saver than single tickets for each ride, or daily tickets.

Researching the systems before you go will reduce the likelihood of a mishap before you arrive. And once again, there are many apps you can download that are free for Apple and Android that are city specific, so download away!


10. Seasonal Closings, Festivals, Holidays, etc.
Another important step in successful travel abroad that is often overlooked is researching seasonal closings, festivals and holidays. So you’ve planned a great trip to Italy shortly after Easter? It’d be a shame to get there and realize that most of Italy shuts down after the Easter holiday. Or it could make for an awkward family trip if you accidentally booked your travel to Brazil over their Carnival dates and you’re greeted by half-naked women and drunken partiers. Or maybe that’s just your thing, and you want to party right along. The important thing to do is research so you make sure you miss or don’t miss these dates.

Keep in mind, though, that while partaking in these holiday celebrations may be fun, they should expect the logistics of your travel to be more difficult, the crowds to be bigger, and many local businesses to be closed. If that’s all worth it, then go for it!



11. Weather
Last, but not least, you’ll need to research the weather. After you’ve done all of this other research and preparation, you’ve finally come to the point where you need to pack. The weather determines what you pack, and while I advise not to pack too much, I do advise you be prepared for surprise weather. No one expects to need gloves on a trip to Australia, but I decided to bring them along. Then on a weekend trip to Tasmania I brought them and we encountered a surprise blizzard! I’m very glad I brought them, as my friends were not prepared!

Another important factor to consider about weather is how it factors into your day of travel. If you have any adverse conditions you may need to get to the airport earlier and then in turn you may encounter airline delays. It’s just important to be in the know.



I realize that was a lot to take in, but if you follow all of those tips, you’ll be the perfect international in no time!


For more in depth description of tips, please refer to original article: here. 

Previous post:

Next post: