First Time Abroad Travel Tips

Buddha statue in Kamakura, Japan.

OK. We have been here before for some of these. Many involve before you travel. What happens though, after you land? We will offer you several first time abroad travel tips to help you have a better vacation than without them.

A Quick Recap

  • Before you get on that plane..a few key things to remember.
  • Travel Insurance (It is still possible…even on the last day)
  • Drugs/Medicine/Prescriptions? (Your usual aspirin/bathroom meds, etc)
  • Vaccines (If going to major modern cities not as needed but….did you check)
  • Calling plan with cell provider (International)
  • Copy Passport/Email it to yourself and another
  • Don’t over pack
  • Buy earplugs/eye mask/good book for your flight (music too)
  • Copy your card numbers/email to yourself
  • Tell your bank your travel plan
  • Do you have the right credit/debit cards? (Visa/MC/Chipped)
  • Take a Photo of your luggage (Much easier if lost)
  • Have a paper copy of your plane/hotel reservations (Just in case)

Those are some major things to do. Once you become more experienced you will decide on more (or less) for yourself. You will know how happy you were with your luggage decision. The type of room you stayed in. The airline and the area you stayed in. Like anything else you will become a veteran, ready to tell the tales to your less frequent traveling friends who are used to American rules and regulations and always over pack and never have to change currency etc.

The Aeroplane Has Landed

Yes I said aeroplane. You will still see that word frequently abroad.

After you land and collect your baggage and pass through immigration you are now a traveler! Your feet are on foreign soil. Maybe it isn’t the first time but that trip to the Caribbean was so easy with all your pals. Now it is solo time! We will get into airport tips in the future but in a nutshell, go to the information desk and catch your breath. So you know, you can usually make arrangements for a shuttle to your hotel but not always for free if you are not at an expensive hotel. Many airports are too far for a quick trip.

Now that I am writing this I just remembered to tell you to decide this course of action in advance. During your research of this airport, how will you get to your room? A taxi? A train? A bus? A shuttle van? In at least 10 cities abroad last year it was mostly train and bus for me every time, with a taxi or two. In Milan, Italy the furthest airport was about $100 per cab. Suffice to say I took a bus and a train on different occasions, always less than 10 bucks. Find your mode of travel and get going. Have Google Maps for that area downloaded on your phone so you can use it without data. Head over to the nearest ATM and get some local currency.

Making a Better Trip

So now you’re on the ground. You have slept (or not) depending on how you travel. I handle jet lag quite well as my sleep patterns at home are abnormal and always have been. If you are nervous, arrange for the walking tour to get acquainted and learn a little. Your hotel can sometimes help you arrange it or just go online and get info before you hit the sack. It is easy. In developing countries sometimes an off duty employee would love to earn $20-30 bucks taking you around for a full day (late morning to eve) and helping you with the local markets and language. Even showing you local transport. That is one thing that hostels are good for is an ear to the ground and many budget travelers with info.

Remember if you are a sensitive stomach type, eat in small portions for a couple of days and get used to new bacteria for your insides. Drink bottled water until you feel comfortable. In most modern cities the issues are small. In developing countries avoid ice and uncooked food. Buy fruit like bananas and oranges and apples and things you can easily peel or pare with a small knife (apple skins). The salads and such might be rinsed with water you shouldn’t drink so be careful. I have been fine mostly 90% for years…until…yeah…there is always that one time haha! In most places you will have no problem buying over the counter stomach aids or just have some small amounts with you like tums/pepto. If it gets bad, in many developing places antibiotics are cheap and easy to obtain at certified pharmacies.

Another thing for hot weather places like South East Asia, bring synthetic t-shirts and undergarments that are easy to hand wash and dry quickly in the breeze. You may have laundry done for you, and you may be going from place to place in the region. Packing light and bringing easy wash things is a blessing. You can get a little baggy of detergent for mere cents. Not an issue. Soak in a sink, hand scrub for several minutes, rinse in the shower, hang up. simple. Of course this is for those road warriors. City slickers may never do this. I am in a habit of doing it and I also have clothes laundered or find a local washer/dryer place. If you are out of town more than 5 days this will be a consideration.

More Safety Tips

I will never get tired of telling you safety tips but most are common sense. If you meet friends at your accommodation, walk together in the evening. If not get a good taxi number from the local staff that is trustworthy if you are in a place that may call for it. Never leave a drink unattended. Don’t get too drunk. Unless you have plans for fun, go home with NO ONE and don’t allow them into your room. (Or give all your info to someone you really don’t know well). You can find out about the local party, club, or bar scene online and make a plan while in your room before you head out. Which brings me to..scams. It is easy to avoid them if you just listen to yourself. Something sounds too good to be true..? It is.

In Europe, you have street kids or even adults wanting to help you with your train tickets and subway fees. Especially in Italy. They are easy to avoid if you get an unlimited pass. Usually a local getting his/her own tickets will help you. But watch your stuff around the street kids. No loose wallets or open bags. They are quick. Some loose bills and change in your front pocket is all you need in transit. I never had a problem scaring them away being firm. They show up during the busiest times of course. In some places locals just suddenly wanting to be your friend out of nowhere is a sign in many cases. Just in the middle of the street? Forget it. At some tourist trap, with nice conversation? Hmmm. When the conversation leads to something that costs money, move on. In Bangkok, local women befriend a foreign lass and show her the nice jewelry she just got at the going out of business sale nearby. Don’t fall for it.

Fung Ying Seen Koon temple

Don’t let me scare you. Most tourists come home with no bad stories. Just don’t offer up all your info to someone on the street. Sure I have met many locals everywhere I have been but I usually did the approaching to ask a question. You can easily develop an eye for locals who are walking hand in hand just enjoying the day. They are usually quick to snap a picture or show you the way to something. Don’t write off travelers like me from your country. While pointing our cameras at the same thing just ask for the pic if you have no selfie stick. (Actually banned in some spots). You can also take turns watching each others backs while preoccupied with something. Those homies you meet have sometimes been around more than you and have good tips!

10 Comments

  1. Aeroplane! I always chuckle when I see that when traveling! 🙂

    Taking a photo of your luggage is a very insightful and solid tip. I had a situation when my luggage was misplaced and then I had to pick it out in an entire pile of misplaced luggage.

    Where was your first trip abroad? Mine was Italy. Loved it!

    1. Yes I had a hard time explaining to the baggage folks what my bag looked like in Beijing! A photo would have been perfect 7 or so years ago! My first trip abroad was to Tokyo! I lived there for 6 years! I really miss it! Definitely a place you should check out!! Stop by again, Thanks!

  2. Hi Thomas,

    Great post! I love travelling and plan on doing more of it this year along with taking a group to New Zealand for some hiking and cycling. Can’t wait for that!

    I love the tip about taking a photo of your luggage. Very handy. In fact I will now take photos of everything I take away in case it goes missing. Great tips, great website. Cheers,

    Kev

    1. New Zealand! Awesome! Lived in Asia and met many a Kiwi! You should photo what you put in it all sitting on your bed too! Great for insurance purposes! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Wow, great article with a lot of helpful tips and advises. Travelling for the first time is fun but also a tension and confusion as about what to take and what not to take and a lot of countless questions. You have explained so nicely every bit for first timers.

  4. Hi,
    Having these international phone plans is a great idea. You don’t want to come home with a $800 cell phone bill.
    There are some countries where you can buy a SIM card with a small plan. Just make sure your phone frequency works in that country and your phone is unlocked. That might be a cheaper option using your current carriers international add-on. You can then text or email your friends of this temp phone number.

    Alot of good tips for travel. Thanks.

    1. I have a cheap little quad band phone but now it is not that expensive to get the international plan. Too many apps have forced the companies to lower the prices! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Great tips on traveling. Thank you very much for putting this together. I found it very helpful. My husband and I are planning to travel soon on the west coast. These are great tips and advice to have.

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