As a first-time traveler, the biggest hurdle you will face is your own state-of-mind. Most international travel is fairly straight-forward and is not really all that difficult. Every year there are millions and millions of tourists that travel overseas. You will find families with babies and children, single women on their own, people 80+ years old, people with disabilities and tons of average, everyday-normal people traversing the globe. If they can do it, so can you!
If you haven’t traveled internationally before, then the first thing you will want to do is make sure that you give yourself some time to prepare. As with anything, being prepared and knowledgeable about what you are doing makes everything go easier – especially if the unexpected happens and something goes wrong. Good pre-departure planning and preparation can do wonders for your confidence. That is what this guide is for – to help you prepare and provide you with all the information you need so you can travel with ease and peace of mind and know what to do when the unexpected does happen.
Deciding on a Vacation
If you haven’t yet made the decision to travel or are still unsure about it all, then you can check out our inspirations section. If you have already decided to travel, then here are the basics of what you will want to know before setting out on an International Journey.
Give Yourself Time. While most international travel is fairly straightforward, for some countries you will need anywhere from 1 week to several months to receive a Visa. Also, depending on what type of travel you are planning on doing, and where you will be going, you may want to get some inoculations to protect yourself from diseases – most of these can be completed in a week or two, but some of these may take up to 6 months to complete the full series.
Decide if you are going to travel with some friends, go with other people either on agroup-tour or if you like having the freedom and flexibility of traveling solo. Also decide if you want the safety of pre-arranging everything on your trip – possibly working with a travel agent, or just planning and arranging everything yourself. Even if you use a travel agent to help, you will still want to do some preliminary research so you at least know the basics.
Before you research and plan the rest of your trip you need to answer two basic questions: Where are you going and when are you going to go, realize that weather will play a factor on what you can do.
Plan based on type of traveler you are – are you going for a short holiday, a business trip or a long-term traveler. We have information for business travelers, students, women travelers, traveling with children and even for preparing for a trip around the world!
“Be Prepared” is the Boy Scout motto and it is very apropos for travel. What you need to know, and what you need to do before setting out on the road is covered in our Before You Go section. Here are the major points to keep in mind:
- All international travelers are required to have a passport. If you don’t have one you will have to get one. In addition some countries require that you have a Visa before entering their country. You will also want to check into getting an International Health Certificate (also known as the “Yellow Card”), and you will want to check that your Insurance covers you while you are overseas. This is all covered in our Before You Go documentation section, and if you aren’t even sure what a Passport and Visaare, you can find that out as well.
- Do some research into the places you are traveling to; not only the travel essentials but also learn about the country’s history and culture. Find out if there are any special safety or health issues – including any vaccinations that may be required, Visa requirement and climate and travel conditions. Learning about the culture and history of your destination will lead to a much more rewarding and fulfilling trip.
- Learn about diseases and health issues that you can encounter internationally – it may just save your life. While most people know about making sure they eat at clean places and only drink bottled or purified water in foreign countries, there are several other health issues to be aware of. Malaria can occur up to six months after the initial exposure, is easily mistaken for the flu and the worst form of it can kill you. If you are going to do any climbing or going to be at high altitudes you also need to know about Acute Altitude Sickness. You can find out more in our health section.
- How much a vacation costs is a major concern of many travelers, however there are many strategies for saving money especially if you create a budget up-front. You will also need to decide on a strategy for dealing with money while on the road. Your money options include cash, ATM cards (Automated Teller Machine), credit cards and traveler’s checks, each of these payment methods having pros and cons. Most countries are now hooked up to the major ATM network, so traveling with an ATM card is one of the best ways to deal with money while on the road.
- Pack light!!!
Getting There and Around
You’ve decided on a vacation, picked the place to go and learned about the ins-and-outs of travel; now all you need to do is actually get there. But, are you going to go by land, sea or air? The various forms of transportation are covered in our Getting There section. In general, traveling by air is the quickest and most-convenient form of international travel however it is usually more costly then other forms of transportation. Going overland, whether by car, bus or bicycle will also give you much more chance to enjoy the scenery and give you a true sense of the size of our world.
Life on the Road
How to deal with life on the road, finding a place to sleep and eat, shopping and bargaining overseas and dealing with local customs and culture are dealt with in our On The Road section. There are however, some basic tips which help when dealing with the great out-there:
- Talk to locals and your fellow travelers – Meeting fellow travelers and locals is one of the great pleasures of any trip and are also the best source of information and tips. They can keep you informed of the latest news, tell you what to see and what to avoid.
- Be Patient and understanding – things don’t always work the same way as you are used to at home, customs and ways of doing things are different. You won’t get far by demanding western standards, it is best to be persistent, patient and most of all polite. A smile will many times work wonders.
- Trust your instincts – Always take your security seriously and if something seems wrong to you, or unnerving – then get out of there. Also remember the old adage; “if something seems to good to be true…”. Keep your wits about you and learn to judge people and situations out there. There are thieves and con-men in all countries and you need to be careful.
- Enjoy Yourself! – Let yourself enjoy the wonder of the world, laugh, be happy and enjoy life! Don’t take everything too seriously; you are supposed to be having a good time after all.