First time abroad? Wow! There are so many feelings that go along with being in another country for the first time. Excitement and nervousness. Freaking out; not knowing what to expect. Pre-trip jitters are natural, even for those who have traveled many times before.
Keep an open mind and know that you can’t possibly account for everything that could happen. You can take certain precautions, however, to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.
Here are 13 tips to help guide your first time abroad.
Where should I go for the first time abroad?
USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia.
France, Germany, Italy, Scotland, the Netherlands, the UK.
Bali, Singapore, Costa Rica, Thailand.
These are just a few countries that will make your first time abroad more seamless. They are beautiful countries where it is easy to get around and easy to meet people. In most of these countries locals are friendly and speak English well. Of course this list isn’t comprehensive, but these are a few great choices for a first time abroad.
How do I know what to pack?
Think you’ve packed perfectly? Unpack your bag and put half the stuff back in your closet. Seriously.
When in doubt don’t pack it because you probably won’t wear it. And you definitely have more stuff than you need. What is more, you will feel so much better moving around with less luggage. What you honestly need is a pair of comfortable shoes and lots of underwear.
What should I see?
Believe it or not, Google is your best friend! Type in where you are and it will spit out great recommendations on things to do, what to see, and where to get the best enchiladas.
Speak to the locals. Ask the receptionist at your hostel or your host where are the best places to go. They give the best advice because they are actually from the area.
Speak to people at your hostel. Ask their journey, what they’ve loved and not loved about the place. This is the best way to create a great itinerary for yourself.
How do I settle in?
Arriving someplace new is overwhelming – you don’t know anyone, people might be speaking an unfamiliar language, and you don’t know where to go. After you’ve found your accommodation, spend a little time wandering aimlessly. Of course only do this if it feels safe, but ‘getting lost’ in a new city is a great way to get your bearings. Look around for the grocery store, a nice local cafe, and the tourist information point.
How do I know where to stay?
** Fun Fact; I’ve Couchsurfed almost 20 times and have never actually had to sleep on a couch – always a bed!**
Hostelworld.com is your best friend if it’s your first time abroad (or any traveler really). Hostels are great ways to meet other travelers so get your bearings by talking to other backpackers. Ask where they’re from, where they’re going, what’s their life story, etc.
Try Couchsurfing.com if you are on a tight budget (or are just looking for a ‘lil more adventure). Not only is Couchsurfing a great way to get a feel for how locals live, but it is also a platform to meet up with travelers and locals for sightseeing, bar-hopping, or any activity to share stories and have fun.
If you’re looking to stay someplace long-term consider Workaway.info or WWOOF.net for homestays, odd jobs, and hostel and farm work. Volunteers work for a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation. It is a great way to learn about the local culture, how people live, and to get settled in a new country.
Important things to note…
Make photocopies of your essential documents to take with you
This is the nitty-gritty of traveling – not so fun to prepare for but definitely critical. Always have extra copies of your valuable documents with you: your passport, drivers license, and immigration documents. Keep these in a different place than the originals. These will help you on the off chance that your ID gets lost or stolen.
Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months
Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months from when you leave. Depending on where you are traveling, airport security might not even let you get on the plane. This could be a very expensive mistake for you but is also easy to avoid.
Sort out your visa situation before you get there
Before you leave, Google this: “your passport country + destination country + visa requirements.”
This will let you know how long you can be there without a Visa or what type of Visa you need with your country of origin. Do this every time you go to a new country to avoid getting stuck at the airport. You can save both time and money by taking these precautions before you go.
Think about health insurance
I’ve never had a health related problem while traveling (knock on wood) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Find out whether the insurance in your home country will cover you while abroad. If it doesn’t, research in-country providers that will cover potential medical expenses. Depending on where you go this will probably costs a hundred-ish dollars. In New Zealand for example, local travel insurance costs 80$ for two months. The expense is worth it – for taking care of yourself, being prepared for uncertainty, and for your peace of mind.
Cell phones are the perfect way to have easy access to knowledge about where to eat or great areas to explore. Your phone is great for staying in contact with friends and family from anywhere.
However, using your service provider from back home can be very expensive. Instead get a SIM card in the local country. It isn’t expensive and when you leave the country, you can just get rid of it.
Personally, I typically travel without a phone. I get travel information and stay connected with friends and family when I have wifi. That’s my personal preference, and for your first time abroad I would recommend having a bit more support.
So matter where you are, there will be creeps. Be on your guard and aware of your surroundings. Don’t get really drunk or walk around at night by yourself (especially with headphones!). Don’t stop in the middle of the street and stare at your phone while talking loudly about how you are lost. You will be fine as long as you keep your wits about you and try to blend in. If you’re really lost, ask a local convenient store for advice.
This isn’t meant to scare you – just keep your eyes open and be smart! You’ve got this.
Don’t worry about doing and seeing everything
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you feel like you need to do and see everything. Instead, pick the top few things you desperately want to do and if you don’t love art museums, don’t go. Don’t feel bad about it.
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Do what you want to do, be social when you want to, be alone when you want to, eat and drink what you want to. Period.
Give yourself freedom. Allow yourself to chill on the beach for a day, or latch on to new friends you meet and have awesome adventures with them. Don’t overbook yourself. Travel slowly. Give yourself time to relax and go with the flow.
Your first time abroad can be scary. Just remember that the world is on your side and there are tons of kind humans out there to support you on your journey. Do less, ask for help when you need it, and challenge yourself to try new things.
Have fun and enjoy the ride. You are amazing!
Get most awesome tips for traveling abroad here.
What advice would you give first time travelers? Share it in the comments below!