Tips for Traveling Abroad for the First Time

02.20.23 by Travelex Insurance
Image credit: Getty Images

It’s a big world out there and wanderlust has struck — or your job requires you — to travel internationally for the first time. You may be excited or intimidated. Traveling abroad can be an exciting adventure of discovering different cultures, meeting interesting people and more beauty in the landscape than a camera could ever capture.

But your first trip abroad can be a bit nerve-wracking, even if you're very organized. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a friend, use our quick tips to help get you prepared. You can travel internationally with confidence, and you'll come home with some great stories to tell.

What to do before you go abroad

Gather international travel documents in advance

Necessary travel documents are the first thing you need to address. For your protection, scan and keep digital copies of all documents so you could retrieve them at any time. Keep copies with you while you travel, and consider leaving copies of all the information about your hotel, flights and itinerary with someone you trust back home. That way someone is aware of your plans in the event something happens to you. Keep all of your travel documents together so you feel organized and less stressed when departure day arrives.

Passport and necessary visas

If it’s your first time applying for a passport, the normal processing time is 6-9 weeks, so plan ahead. If you’re going last minute, choose expedited processing for a 3-5 week turnaround (for a higher fee). Already have a passport? Make sure it’s more than 6 months from its expiration, as some countries are picky about that and may not allow you entry.

ID, credit cards, cash, and plane tickets

Give your bank and credit cards a heads up when you’ll be traveling so your purchases aren’t flagged as fraud. Check on any fees you may have to pay when using your cards abroad, or apply for a credit card that won’t charge you. Book plane tickets in advance. Decide how you'll handle cash and how much you’ll want to take.

Work out these details ahead of time

  • Check if you need any special vaccinations or prescriptions renewed before travel.
  • Look into your health insurance. Most health insurance plans don’t provide coverage when you’re overseas, so consider purchasing travel insurance.
  • Find out if there are any government travel advisories and register with the embassy.
  • Is there an entry or departure tax where you are going? Some countries require payment to enter or leave the country, and these fees are not usually included in the airline ticket price.
  • What's the monetary conversion rate? Know before you go. Prefer local banks or ATMs (over airport or hotel exchange) where conversions are exact. Heading to Europe? Check our guide for using credit, debit and ATMs while there.
  • Learn a few basics of the language and utilize translation apps while in a foreign country.
  • Be prepared for tipping before you go by researching the international tipping customs of your travel destination.
  • Upgrade your phone plan for global capability. Consider international travel pass plans, sim card rental, or pocket Wi-Fi. Load the travel apps you’ll need on your trip.
  • Do research on your chosen destination. Get guidebooks, explore upcoming events and purchase advance tickets for target tourist locations or tours.
  • Consider if you’ll need an international driving permit or rental car insurance.
  • Travel light — you’ll be glad you did.
  • Find out peak travel seasons and corresponding weather, book your trip accordingly.
  • Know how to deal with jetlag and how to survive long international flights.
  • Keep valuables and flight essentials with you on the plane. Don’t forget your tech and chargers.
  • If it helps you to feel more confident, explore the airports you’ll be visiting online. Sometimes it helps to get a feel for the landscape before you get there, especially if you have a layover or two.

What to remember while you’re abroad

  • Protect your ID, cash, and credit cards while out and about. Keep your ID and passport on you at all times. Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Things will be different than at home. Be flexible and remain positive even if some things don’t go as planned. Adapt to your new surroundings and savor the differences.
  • Practice safety and use common sense. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
  • Foster your curiosity and try new things. You may not pass that way again.
  • Respect local customs and mind your manners. Remember that you're the visitor, so respect the circumstances of the people and towns you are visiting.
  • Enjoy local cuisine and experience as much of the local culture as you can.
  • Meet new people and seek to learn from them. Everyone has a story.
  • By all means take some photos, but don’t spend your whole trip behind a camera. Soak in your experiences and take time to relax and breathe.
  • Keep your heart and mind open to whatever new experiences open up for you.

International travel is exciting and widens your world in so many ways. With our tips, some advance preparation and your sense of adventure, you’ll be prepared and exploring the world like a pro in no time.    

Want to protect your upcoming trip abroad? Get a travel insurance quote now.

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