When you travel to a new country, it is both exciting and overwhelming. Especially in places where they don’t speak your native language. But there’s some things you can do ahead of time to make adjusting to new countries a breeze. It’s become so easy and routine that now I often don’t even plan until the night before. After traveling for the past 10 months, here’s a few tips I picked up for planning your first trip abroad.
Understand the requirements
While having a US passport often makes traveling easy, different countries often have different entry requirements. Even places that offer visa free entry for Americans often requirement proof of onward travel. Before you go somewhere, make sure you research the entry requirements for your nationality.
Many countries in Asia require proof of onward travel. This can be a bit frustrating, as often you don’t know what your plans will be over a month ahead of time. An easy solution I found is using a ticket rental service. Sites like flyonward allow you to rent a ticket for the day you enter a country. Its completely legit and costs only $10, much less than buying a confirmed ticket. I’ll write up a full guide for ticket rental services in a future post.
Get a Personal Translator for your Phone
Having a translator in countries where you dont speak the language makes things immensely easier. When I went to Taiwan a few weeks ago, I was able to communicate flawlessly with people who couldnt speak a world of English. It’s a simple and straightforward process.
1) Download the google translate app
2) Download the Offline language pack for your Destination
3) Try out a few translations of English to the language to make sure its working.
Note: when your connection drops, the app may give you a warning that it cannot perform the translation. This is just for the audio portion. If this happens, put your phone in airplane mode, restart the app and try again using the offline language pack.
Even though this is a great tool, it still only works as long as your phone has battery left. If you’re gonna be in another country for a long time, consider memorizing a few common phrases like where is, how much is it, for a more full proof method.
Know how to get Around
Imagine you’re landing in a new country at 3AM, all SIM card vendors are closed, and the train from the airport is closed. How will you get to your hotel? Will the front desk allow you in? I faced such a situation last month, but was able to get to my destination without a hitch.
By researching ahead of time, I knew how to get from the airport to the city using a 24hr bus service. I knew where to drop off by looking up the route ahead of tine. And I paid a fraction of what I would have if I used a taxi. Search online for the fastest and cheapest way to get around your destination. Often the government tourism agency has information, or bloggers will post helpful articles.
Pro tip: if you have the google maps app, you can download an offline map of your destination before you get there. That way, you can still see where you are even if you don’t have data service at your destination.
Understand the law
Not everywhere in the world is the same. Even when countries feel and look the same, they can have drastically different policies. For instance, drug use may be relatively accepted in the Netherlands, but if you’re carrying drugs into the country, it may be punishable by death in Singapore. Do a quick web search for the laws in your destination and avoid major headaches.
Print your Important Documents
There have been many times when having printouts of my airbnb address, flight itinerary, and other documents have been a lifesaver. Even though many officials and businesses will accept documents shown from a phone screen, having a physical document in your hands eases the process. You also don’t have to worry about your phone dying after a long haul flight and losing your proof of meeting entry requirements. Some common printouts to have are:
- Flight itinerary showing full legal name, departure and arrival airports
- Proof of onward travel (where required)
- Hotel/Airbnb or place of stay at destination
- Proof of funds to cover travel (A recent bank account statement)
- Any eVisas or other required documents.
Enjoy your Trip!
By following these tips, planning your first trip abroad should be easy. Getting through immigration, navigating a new country, and communicating with the locals will be something you no longer have to worry about. That way, you can focus on enjoying your trip, as it should be!