Traveling without preparation is a recipe for disaster.
You’ve got a lot of planning to do. You’ve got lots of factors to consider.
It’s a tedious but necessary process.
No worries, though! We’ll help you get organized with this foreign travel guide.
We’ll present you with 17 tips for a smooth travel experience.
This guide is aimed at those traveling abroad the first time, but it’s also suitable for experienced travelers.
It’ll help you prepare for smooth (and disaster-free) travel!
We’d like to give you an important tip.
Don’t rush through this foreign travel guide. We want you to start crossing items off this list at least three weeks in advance.
The earlier you do that, the better. You save time and reduce stress, and you ensure that everything is in order before you leave.
What You’ll Get from This Foreign Travel Guide
This guide is quite long, so we’re dividing the tips into four categories:
- Research and Planning
- Money and Documentation
- Health and Security
- Organization and Packing
Each category is structured for easy execution.
Go through one category at a time, and do one item at a time. Cross off each tip on the list as you complete it.
So to start off…
(A) Research and Planning
(1) What Kind of Country Are You Going To?
Are you going to a developing or a developed country?
This is an important question. You see, you need to prepare for well for travel in the developing world. It isn’t like developed regions. You’ll experience a lower standard of living, sometimes including lower quality of food and drinks. You’re likelier to find worse accommodations, pollution problems, crowds, poverty, and disease.
Time to Make a List…
Make a traveling-abroad checklist of all countries you are considering. Then, cross countries off as you go through this foreign travel guide.
Keep developed countries on top of your list.
(2) Stay Safe: Avoid Countries with Social or Political Instability
This one’s obvious.
Countries with social or political instability equal danger. They mean tighter security, which makes mobility hard for any visitor.
If a country has a reputation for being unstable, stay clear.
Needless to say, you don’t need a foreign travel guide to tell you this. But we think it best to add this tip, just in case.
Look at Thailand in 2014. The country went through a coup d’état that year.
2014 was definitely not a time to visit Thailand. You would have been better off somewhere else on the map.
Modify the List You Made in Step 1
Check the local news of countries you want to visit, or ask people who have recently been there.
Try to get information on the current conditions of the location, and if it isn’t good news, cross it off your list, especially if you have family with you.
(3) Keep Loved Ones Safe: Who Is Coming Along?
The average foreign travel guide targets solo visitors. This one is a bit different—we care about who you bring along too.
Are you traveling alone? Or are you traveling abroad with family and friends?
This question matters a lot. In case of sickness or an accident, you’re shouldering the burden of another person.
Is It Safe to Bring Kids and a Spouse?
They limit your international travel options.
If you have kids, unstable countries are not an option.
Modify Your List Again (for Children)
This is the last time you modify your travel list. Whatever countries remain are good for traveling.
Research places with a child-friendly culture. Look for areas that supply children’s activities.
Some cities in developed countries have locations tailored for children’s recreation.
A renowned example would be the northern and eastern parts of Australia’s Melbourne. A coastal city, Melbourne accommodates tourist families. There are play spots where you can just drop off the kids and have fun alone!
(4) After Deciding on a Country, Start Planning Activities.
No foreign travel guide is complete without activities.
This is where you map out a schedule of all the places you want to enjoy.
Those could be museums, cafés, cool shorelines, and more!
Obviously, you don’t plan activities overnight; you need resources.
Let the Internet Inspire You.
Take time to do some online research, or buy a guidebook that shows you the hotspots of the place you want to visit.
You should find plenty of useful guides online with ease.
Also, make sure that your plans are realistic. Don’t cram too many activities into a day, exhausting yourself and everyone around you!
Finally, try to purchase tickets in advance for popular attractions you want to visit. This’ll help you avoid delays, allowing you to enjoy where you want to be.
It also avoids problems with crowds. You know, like at international World Cup stadiums.
How About Organized Tours?
They’re a safe option.
You’ll tour in a group, and you’ll have a travel guide showing you around. The guidance is comforting, and it saves you the stress of navigating on your own.
Unethical locals will sometimes prey on visitors, and as you can guess, it’s for financial reasons.
Hassle and hustle aside, organized tours save you the need for maps. This is also comforting, if you struggle to follow them.
(We’d still recommend you get a map, though.)
(B) Money and Documentation
Money matters when traveling, and we can’t give you a foreign travel guide without financial tips.
Below is a list of tips for your financial preparation. Cross off each item when you have completed it.
(5) Calculate Lodging Expenses
If you’re traveling abroad, you’re likely staying at a hotel, especially if you’re traveling with a family.
Research lodging options at your destination and book stay, depending on the schedule you made in Step 4.
If you ended up planning a multi-city visit, be sure to research and book stays in different hotels.
Here’s a Potentially Less Costly Option
Try Airbnb, possibly a lower-cost alternative, and it’s one we recommend for solo visitors on a budget.
An Airbnb can save you hundreds in residency costs. The money you save can be spent on more activities!
Add a Margin of Error, Just In Case…
After calculating the full costs of your stay, add a bit extra as a buffer. This is to account for tips or extra costs you forget to take into account.
We recommend a margin of 25%. So for example, if you calculate a cost of $500, add $125 extra just to be safe.
We doubt you’ll need that extra money, but it’s for security. After all, better safe than sorry!
(6) Calculate Transport and Travel Expenses
This includes everything from getting a visa to paying for the airplane seat.
There’s a lot to account for on this list. This is the step where you get your documentation in order!
What Paperwork Do I Need?
Get your visa and renew your passport if you need to. Also, check your travel insurance (especially the health coverage), in case you or a loved one gets into an accident.
These are basics before traveling, and you should account for their costs as part of your travel budget.
Next: Transport Expenses
They include fees to get to and from the airport.
They also include the costs of getting through the airport, such as luggage fees. And then there are the ticket costs… Depending on where you’re going, your air tickets could cost thousands.
Also, some countries have entry and exit fees, something else to pay attention to.
If you’re not traveling by airplane, you’ll need to budget for the other modes of transport you’re taking. It could be for ferry, train, a cruise ship, or even a good old bus!
Tip: How to Easily Calculate Your Transport Expenses
Map out your travel.
Visualize your travel day, and write down all the expenses you will incur.
Make sure to map out your return journey too. Don’t make the mistake of accounting for only a one-way ticket!
Calculating travel costs is easy if you’ve had travel experience before. But if you haven’t, look to well-traveled friends and family, and ask them for guidance. They should give you expectations as to the real costs of a trip.
(7) You’ll Spend a Lot on “Fun” When You’re Traveling.
We can’t give you exact numbers in this foreign travel guide. The entertainment costs are all up to you.
And when it comes to personal choices, “fun” expenditures are totally subjective. The costs here depend on what you scheduled in steps 4 and 5.
Your definition of fun might be expensive, like going to a resort, or you might be planning a few shopping sprees where you’re going.
What to Do
If you’re doing a special activity, ask about its costs. Consult someone who’s been there and done that.
For example, you might be traveling for some kind of convention, for a hobby or a professional reason.
Ask about the expenses required for your activity. Look online—check forums, social media pages, and individual websites.
Get as much info as possible.
(8) The Obvious—Basic Living Expenses
That’s right. You need normal stuff. You need food, lodging, transport, you name it.
This step is simple. It’s a matter of listing your monthly budget, and then transposing that onto your travel timeframe.
And when accounting for basic expenses, don’t forget people coming along too.
(9) Spend Using Debit Card or Cash Only.
Don’t use a credit card when traveling.
We recommend you travel using your savings. That way, you’ll have an easier time respecting your budget and not overspending.
If you want to bring along a credit card, keep it aside for emergency use only.
If you lose your cash or wallet, or if you find that your debit card is not working, resort to credit.
And in those scenarios, we recommend you keep credit cards separate from your cash and debit card. That way, you’ll be truly prepared for a financial emergency.
One More Thing: Local Currency
Be sure to get some of the local currency, and preferably, get a few days’ supply.
You see, not all areas accept plastic cards. And in those situations, you have no options but to pay in cash.
You can get local cash at a nearby exchange before you leave home, or you can get it after you land at your destination.
If you choose to get local cash after landing, change little if any at airports. Airport exchange booths tend to offer unfavorable exchange rates.
Instead, look for a bank. They’ll quote you fair rates and fees for currency exchanges.
(C) Health and Security
Most foreign travel guides discuss health, and that’s not something we’ve forgotten.
Your health should be at optimal levels when traveling.
To ensure optimum health, take some precautionary measures before you leave. We’ll mention some tips for those below.
(10) Get Vaccinated: Some Local Diseases Can Kill You.
The types of vaccines you will need depend upon where you land on the map.
For example, if you’re going to Central or West Africa, you’re looking at malaria vaccine. You may also need typhoid and hepatitis shots.
This foreign travel guide can’t give you an exact list of the vaccines you need. This depends on where you’re going, plus your own medical history.
As a General Rule…
Vaccinations are advisable for developing countries more so than for developed nations.
These include many African, South American, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries.
Health risks are fewer in developed regions. The level of healthcare quality and environmental cleanliness likely mean a safer travel experience.
And speaking of environmental cleanliness…
(11) Do You Have Breathing Problems?
Air pollution differs from one country to another.
Depending on where you come from, your level of sensitivity to bad air will differ.
If you’re from a developed country, you might be used to excellent air quality, so traveling to an air-polluted environment is a danger to you.
If you’ve got sensitive lungs and are heading to a polluted city, we recommend you reconsider. Steer clear of places where you can’t breathe.
A place like Beijing may be on your travel list, but unfortunately, it is one of the smoggiest places on Earth.
You wouldn’t want to be there with breathing problems, especially during the winter, when cold air and smog can kill you.
Don’t Suffocate: Research the Air Pollution Index
The internet has many websites that offer air pollution info.
For example, we recommend numbeo.com, one of the best databases for that purpose. It provides international data on air pollution by city.
Compare the air pollution at home with that of your travel destination. Then get the opinion of other visitors on the air quality there.
What Should I Do After Research?
Prepare medications you need for breathing problems.
Mainly, this advice is for asthmatics. You should keep your inhaler with you at all times and carry a backup inhaler with you.
Apply the same advice for other respiratory medications you might need, and always carry backups.
(12) What About Allergies?
Again, this is a case-by-case situation. If you’re of traveling age, you should be aware of what you’re allergic to. You might be allergic to certain compounds, foods, etc.
Now, most allergies aren’t much of a problem, because you can avoid the things that trigger them.
But allergies matter most when it comes to the environment. You might have seasonal allergies or be allergic to flora at your destination.
An example is hay fever. The last thing you need is to travel to a location only to find that your hay fever is triggered…
That would make for a horrible travel experience.
Again, Do More Research.
Needless to say, this is obvious. But you’ve got to make sure that your travel spot doesn’t trigger your known allergies or those of loved ones coming along.
This advice applies especially to travelers with children. If your child has seasonal allergies, we recommend you keep them home.
(13) Pack Some Staple Medications.
By staple medications, we mean drugs for common health problems.
Carry these with you, just in case. Not having them isn’t life-threatening; it’s more a matter of convenience than anything.
You should carry medications for
- Influenza and colds
- Sore throats
Add any other remedies that you use frequently.
For example, you might have joint problems (arthritis). In that case, you definitely need to bring some arthritis meds with you.
Why Bringing Meds Matters: OTC Policies Where You’re Going
Staple meds are available over the counter (OTC) in most countries.
Unfortunately, the ease of getting those meds differs from one country to another. Some international pharmacies are stricter about disseminating medications than others.
For example, Japan is very strict when it comes to OTC meds. You may need a doctor’s prescription there for even simple cold remedies.
(D) Organization and Packing
This is it—the seemingly endless research part of your foreign travel is over.
It’s time to get everything ready to go!
The previous steps were all about researching and mapping your needs. Now it’s time to pack and get ready for travel.
(14) Prepare Your Carry-On Bag.
That’s right, you’ve got to get your hand luggage ready. You’ll be carrying this with you throughout your travel hours.
All items needed during transit should be in this bag.
Just to note, this could be a duffel bag, a small, wheeled suitcase, or a backpack. Backpacks are more convenient to carry around and usually have more space.
Your carry-on bag should include…
- Your passport and other travel documents
- Transport tickets (ferry, bus, cruiser, or airplane tickets)
- The local cash and plastic cards prepared in step 9
- Medications (as mentioned in Section C)
- A fully charged phone (with your phone charger)
Important Reminder (for Medications)
Speaking of medications, be sure to carry them in their manufacturers’ bottles.
The last thing you need is security stopping you for “shady pills in a plastic bag.” You want to make it clear that the meds you carry are certified and legal.
Another Important Reminder (for Phones)
Make sure you bring a charger and/or adapter along with you.
The country you’re traveling to might have a different voltage and wall sockets. Bring local chargers or adaptors along as needed.
Research the country you’re going to. And get a charger (and plug types) to keep your electronic devices charged during your journey.
Global Mode for Phones?
This isn’t mentioned often in foreign travel guides, but here it is…
Some phone services come with a global mode. They let you receive and send signals through phone towers in foreign countries.
Make sure you’re subscribed to a phone service that provides that option. It’ll make contacting people easier overseas.
(15) Packing Your Clothes
Don’t over-pack, especially if you won’t be outdoors much.
Most of your clothes packing will involve comfort items. As for anything else, you need only enough clothing for four days.
Your clothes should fit into a small bag. The fewer bags, the better.
Obviously, if you’re bringing the family along, you need a larger bag.
Get Used to Laundromats.
Research the address of the nearest laundromat to your temporary residence (hotel, overseas home, etc.). You’ll be paying that place a few visits during your stay.
Frequenting an overseas laundromat is less of a hassle than carrying a ton of bags with you. It makes your traveling easier and more relaxing—less stress getting to your destination, and less stress going back.
But You Can Bring Cosmetics With You
This advice applies to men too.
You can bring your colognes, shaving devices, and nail clippers. In fact, bringing them is a must, especially if your destination involves a lot of sweating.
For women, feel free to bring along make-up. That’s an important part of a woman’s looks these days.
(16) Don’t Forget the Electronics.
If your travel is for vacation, be sure to bring along a camera, and don’t forget your laptop or tablet. It gives you something to do when you’re not enjoying the outdoors.
The place you’re staying at should supply internet. If they don’t offer a Wi-Fi connection, find a USB or hotspot Wi-Fi nearby.
Electronics Can Guide You.
With a phone at hand, you can use a map or GPS at your destination.
This will help you if you get lost.
A GPS and map will guide you to tourist attractions you want to visit or back to your lodging.
(17) Final Preparation—Food and Some Entertainment
If you’re traveling for long hours, bring along some sandwiches.
A little entertainment also works well. Your phone should be enough, but you can bring along books too!