A new stamp on your passport, experiencing a new culture and taking way too many pictures – traveling abroad is an amazing opportunity! You are able to immerse yourself in a country that has unique customs, languages, and food. However, international travel can also bring a wave of emotions: excitement, fear, anxiousness.
We are bringing you some tips and pieces of advice that will help you when traveling to a foreign country so you can simply enjoy your trip! After all, there is no such thing as being over-prepared. Whether you are traveling for fun or business, or going on a mission trip, we hope these recommendations will help prevent any complications and keep you safe.
1. Be Respectful of the Culture
Chances are you are embarking to a country whose culture is very different from your own. Learn the basic etiquette of the local culture so you do not unintentionally offend someone with a hug when a handshake is more appropriate; or poor table manners. Be careful when taking photos. You should, of course, document your travels but not at the expense of upsetting those around you. Your goal should always be to glorify God with your words and actions, but also represent Americans well.
2. Stay Mindful of your Surroundings
Try to be cautious and constantly aware of your surroundings while on your trip. We suggest leaving your most valuable jewelry and belongings at home, and keeping your wallet and cell phone in your front pockets to prevent them from being pickpocketed. Be careful about taking short cuts through alleys or less-traveled streets, and avoid walking by yourself at night. Keep your camera around your neck or in your pocket when it is not being used and remain alert while walking – being distracted by your phone or a map is something thieves look for.
3. Take Precautions before Departing
We want to make sure you are as prepared as possible for your international adventure! We suggest making a few paper copies of your passport before you leave and placing them in a safe place in your suitcase. If your passport is lost or stolen, you may be stranded for 6 weeks until your new passport arrives – yikes!
Stay in touch with someone at home about any changes in your schedule. Leave a copy of your itinerary with them so if anything should happen, they will know where you were planning to be and when. Keep a list of phone numbers and addresses for police stations, fire departments, hospitals, and the nearest U.S. Embassy. You can find a list of all U.S. Embassies here. You might also consider enrolling in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), which is a free, government-sponsored initiative to keep U.S. citizens safe while traveling abroad. Your trip will be enrolled with the nearest U.S. Embassy and you’ll receive travel alerts and warnings. Find out more about STEP by clicking here.
4. Learn the Language
It’s always a good idea to learn as much of the local language as you can. Depending on how remote the area is, the people there may not even know a word or two of English. Try to learn at least a few basic phrases and words in the local dialect.
5. Credit Cards, Cash, and Cell Phone
Prior to your trip, call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you’ll be traveling outside of the country. Hopefully, this will prevent them from closing your accounts due to a concern about fraud. Store your cash and credit cards in separate places. For example, you might keep some cash and credit cards in your wallet and put the rest in a safe place in your luggage. This way, if something should happen to one stash, you’ll have another as a backup.
No one likes to pay outrageous charges for international phone calls. We suggest looking into a cell phone plan that will allow you to make calls and use data while abroad. You can often choose the start and end dates of the plan so you’re not paying for international services longer than you need to.
6. Take Steps to Stay Healthy
Be aware of any potential health concerns in your destination, such as is the tap water safe to drink? See a nurse or doctor to get any required vaccinations. While abroad, keep up with taking any prescriptions you may have as well as vitamins; and keep a list of local hospitals and medical centers just in case.
We hope you have a wonderful adventure abroad! Let us know in the comments below where you’re traveling to. Bon voyage!