International travel is really exciting! You might have noticed that it’s my favorite type of travel. Experiencing different cultures and ways of life is a blessing. I welcome it every chance I get. Having said that, if you have never left the country before it can be intimidating. Different languages, currencies, laws, etc. Before you take your next international trip don’t forget to check off the items on this list of important things to do before you leave the country. Your life will be a lot easier if you do.
Important Things to do Before you Leave the Country
Important Documents: Obtain them, copy them, keep them
If you’re traveling abroad you need to have a Passport. Plain and simple. If you don’t already have one, you need to submit your application ASAP. It can take months to receive a renewed Passport, and longer to receive a new or first time Passport. You should also make sure your Passport is valid for at least 6 months after your trip. You can experience issues while traveling if it is close to expiring, and if you need a Visa – you will not be able to obtain one.
Building upon that, make sure the country you are traveling to does not require you to get a Tourist Visa. If it does, you will need to follow the instructions on that Country’s government website. Some countries are willing to issue Visas upon arrival, and some require you to apply months in advance. Luckily, with a United States Passport, you can travel to a lot of places without a Visa as long as you stay less than 90 days.
Once you obtain all your documents, make copies. Make copies of your Passport, Visas, Credit Cards (both the front and the back), ID’s, Insurance Cards, Travel Insurance, Medical Information, anything that is important that you may need access to in an Emergency. You’re going to do two things with these copies. The first thing, is to leave a set of copies with a loved one. Your parents, a trusted friend, a significant other. The second is to upload these pictures to your email, google drive, dropbox, or whatever internet based storage you prefer. This way, you will have access to these copies as long as you have access to the internet. If you don’t, your family has them. Another advantage is if you lose your credit card, you now have no problem accessing the number on the back of the card to cancel.
Banking: Credit Cards, Pin Numbers, and Traveling
A few weeks before your trip, you must make sure you call your bank, credit card companies, anyone who holds onto your money that you plan on accessing while abroad. If you don’t you run the risk of having your card shut off as a form of fraud prevention. Nothing like enjoying your whirlwind vacation, only to be slapped by cold, hard reality – when you can’t pay for lunch, and can’t pull cash out of the ATM. Your bank will want to know which countries you are visiting and for which dates. In addition to letting your banks and credit card companies know, find out the policy for using credit cards abroad. Some credit cards may charge foreign transaction fees, and any card with a chip in it will require you to use a pin number when paying for things abroad, even if it is not a debit card. Make sure you set up a pin number ahead of time. Also check out what options your credit card offers. I have the Master Barclay Arrival Travel Card, and It provides a lot of different types of travel insurance and no foreign transaction fees.
Cell Phone: Don’t get slammed with data costs!
Figure out what you are going to do about your cell phone. You have a few different options. If you want an “unplugged” trip, then leave it at home! For most of us though, having your phone on you is comforting and can be really helpful. However international fees can be outrageous. Call your phone company and find out how much they charge for an international plan to be added. You can add these by the month. I usually opt for International Data and Text messaging. Making phone calls is still very expensive even WITH the international plan and I have never had to make a phone call abroad. If there is an emergency I will just foot the bill later on. Make sure you know how to monitor your data on your phone. That 1gig goes quicker than you think it will when you’re checking all those Facebook Likes on your last picture. Utilize wifi when you can and save your data for when you need to look up walking directions while you’re lost on the street. Some companies like Tmobile offer free unlimited international data – which is awesome.
Your other option, if you have an unlocked phone, is to purchase a local SIM card. You can purchase a small prepaid data plan for around 30.00 (depending on location and amount of data of course) and it should be more than enough to get you through your trip. Just swap it out for your original SIM card (DON’T LOSE YOUR ORIGINAL SIM CARD), and swap it back when you leave.
Safety: Protect yourself by being prepared!
Always keep safety in mind. Of course there are the obvious things like be aware of your surroundings, don’t carry large amounts of cash, etc; but don’t forget about your medical safety. If you have necessary medications, make sure they are filled. Check if the place you are going requires that you receive any vaccines. You will probably not need vaccines for most places you will be visiting, but if you do – you want to be prepared. If you’re going somewhere remote, or you think you will be doing a lot of adventure activities – Buy Travel Insurance!!! You never know what can happen, and you may need expensive medical attention. worldnomads is a very popular choice for travel insurance.
You can also register with the United States Embassy, to let them know which countries you will be visiting. This can be helpful in a state of emergency. The United States Embassy will know you’re there, and will assist in getting you home. You can sign up for an account, register, and find out more information here: https://step.state.gov/step/.
Social Norms: Be Respectful!
Look up the social norms of the country you’re visiting. Remember, you’re a guest on your trip and you should be respectful. Different countries have different expectations and behaviors. For example, in Thailand it is disrespectful to point your feet at someone, and there are many countries in which common American hand symbols can be offensive. Take care not to majorly offend anyone.
Learn some words in the local language. “Hello”, “How are you”, “How much”, “Where is…”, “Please”, “Thank you”, “Have a nice day”, and “Do you speak English”, are all great phrases to try and learn and will help you immensely.
Did I miss anything? What do you always do before you leave the country?