Everyone should at some point in their lifetime travel overseas.You’ll get firsthand experience in a different culture and you’ll gain an appreciation of our country. The following are tips to help make traveling outside of America a little easier.
- Get at least $100 of that country’s equivalent before you go. That amount will at least pay for your transportation to your hotel and will start your trip off with some cash in case you need it. Check online for banks that will exchange currency but be prepared to pay a fee if you don’t have an account at that bank.The best way I found to get cash was to use my debit card at ATM’s over there and get cash when I was running low. The exchange rate is actually better at the ATM’s since most of the exchange companies overseas charge a processing fee and ATM’s will just charge a normal ATM fee. ATM’s are also easier to find in most neighborhoods compared to exchange companies.
- Speaking of cash, don’t carry a lot of it. You wouldn’t walk around your hometown with $1000 in cash and you shouldn’t do it overseas. You’re making yourself a target for pickpockets/muggers and there’s a chance you’ll lose it if you aren’t diligent about keeping track of it. For the guys, put your wallet in your front pocket and for the ladies, consider bringing a purse that is close to your body. For either gender, there’s plenty of money holders that can be worn under your clothes so if you’re going to places that are notorious for pickpocketing, consider buying one of those. The trouble with those though is getting the cash out once you need it. Use a bathroom or somewhere private to get it out to avoid showing off your hidden money.
- Dress to the point that the locals can’t tell where you’re actually from. Try to research how the locals dress and emulate them. I try to avoid wearing clothes that show I’m from Iowa or even the United States so there’s some question as to if I may live there or not. Don’t go overboard and buy a new wardrobe but do try to wear neutrals that won’t make your outfit scream “I’m a tourist, feel free to mug me”.
- I keep mentioning mugging and I don’t want you to feel like you need to be on constant alert but you do need to be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for people who suddenly turn around and start following you. Watch for people who are extra close to you in crowds. Don’t have large bundles of cash when you pay for things. Break down your money into smaller groups and don’t take it all with you when you go out. Most hotels have safes you can leave your valuables in so utilize them to give yourself peace of mind while you’re out seeing the sights.
- Wear comfortable shoes. For the love of all that is holy, wear comfortable shoes. I made this horrible mistake- even though I knew better- on my trip to London and I instantly got bloody blisters within an hour of walking and was hobbling the rest of the ten days I was there. Lots of websites will tell you not to wear white tennis shoes but honestly I saw a ton of them overseas so wear what is comfortable to you. Your feet will thank you. You are most likely not a famous person who needs to care about being photographed and then made fun in the tabloids if you wear comfortable shoes versus fancy ones so put comfort above fashion if you plan on doing a lot of walking.
- Don’t pack your bag all the way full and pack an extra bag. You’re most likely going to want to bring home souvenirs which may or may not take up a large chunk of your bag so leave some space before you go so you don’t have to leave things behind to make room. Pack an extra bag so if you fall in love with something and it can’t fit in your bag, you’ll have an extra bag to put it in. Plus you can use that extra bag while you’re visiting things to put any souvenirs that you find in.
- If you’re buying food from a street vendor, check to see how clean the cooking surfaces are and if they practice basic sanitation standards in terms of handling meat/cross contamination prevention. The dirtier the stand the more likely you are to get sick from it. The food may be a bargain for under $5 but it isn’t going to be worth the hospital stay if it ends up making you violently ill.
- Buy a travel adaptor if you plan on using any electronic devices on your trip. They are sold at most big box stores for under $30. You’ll need it to use charge your cell phones/tablets/laptops so you might as well buy it over here for a bargain then to rely on the airport to sell you one for triple the price or trying to find one at a drugstore that may not sell them.
- Research as much as you can about the country you’re going to. Try to find the best ways to get around without relying on cabs if at all possible- I wrote about how to save for a vacation here and I really stand by the use of public transportation as much as possible. Research the customs of the country- do they add the tip in the total at restaurants or is it an add on like in America? What is considered rude behavior to locals there? When is the best time to go there to avoid crowds/bad weather? Find out as much as you can to maximize your time there.
- Lower your expectations. I had very high expectations for my honeymoon in Paris and I regret doing so. Paris is a wonderful vacation spot and I want to stress I would more than recommend it as a place to visit but I wanted too much out of it for my honeymoon than what I ended up getting. Remember that you’re going to be one of probably hundreds of other people wanting to see the major attractions so expect crowds and long lines. Don’t expect whatever country you’re visiting to be anything like America. You’ll find some similarities sometimes especially with places in Europe but you’re going to this other country to see a different lifestyle and culture.
For more travel ideas, click here.