Mistakes To Avoid On Your First International Trip

Traveling internationally can be an exciting and terrifying experience.  The thrill and fear of the unknown awaits.  With a little research you can relieve a lot of the anxiety.  If you are planning your first international trip, here are some common mistakes to avoid that will make that trip go much smoother.


  • Not Knowing The Visa and Health Requirements

Some may think that getting a passport is all you need to enter any country.  That is not the case.  Every country has different requirements to enter.  With an American or European passport you will be allowed to enter many countries without applying for a Visa in advance.  However, popular tourist destinations like Brazil require getting a Visa in advance.  Not doing so and you will either not make it on the plane or worse, getting to the destination and not being able to clear immigration at the airport and have to return home.

Some countries also have health concerns and may require immunizations prior to leaving.  These are required to be done well in advance of your trip.  Be sure to research your destination and know even the basic health concerns for that country.  Can you drink the water or is there any food that is unsafe for you?  Failure to do so may cause you to get sick.  On that note also research the medical situation in your destination country so you will know what to do if you do get sick or have an accident.  Travel insurance can take care of health issues if they arise or cover valuables if they get stolen.

  • Not Knowing How Crowded Your Destination Will Be

You can usually guess that summer will be a busy travel season for many destinations.  However, the busy season may vary from place to place.  Parts of Japan for example are very crowded during part of spring for Cherry Bloom Season or fall during Fall foliage season.  It is also a good idea to check out the holiday schedule for your travel destination.  A local holiday will bring an increase of locals to popular places.

You may plan a trip around large evens like Oktoberfest, but also be sure to do your research for local events that may bring in crowds.  Even smaller events can cause hotel rates to spike and add additional crowds during your trip.  If you are one who likes to book  lodging right before your trip or even wait until you are at your destination, rooms maybe booked up already if there is an event in town.

  • Not Knowing What Needs Booking In Advance

Similar to overall crowding, specific attractions can get overcrowded certain times of the year or may need to be booked in advance.  Many cities like Barcelona have reservations for popular attractions online.  You book a day and time to visit.  You may want the flexibility of not having a reserved time but by not doing so you may have to wait hours in line and may not get in at all. If you want to see La Sagrada Familia you want to book in advance.  There are even some attractions that are exclusively booked online or by phone and fill up months in advance.

  • Not Researching Safety or Local Area Scams

In your local area, you know what places are best to avoid at night.  Most cities have them and you should research which areas pose safety concerns.  This increases your odds of having a safe trip.

Most places will also have area scams that rely on the uninformed.  For example the tea scam is common in China and broken taxi meter scams are common in many places.  Heavy trafficked tourist zones are pick pocket havens.  A quick search can save you from falling for one of these scams.

  • Not Bringing The Right Electronic Equipment
Electronics have become an essential part of travel.  Every country has their own system of electrical outlets and plugs.  Be sure to research the electronics you plan on bringing and be ensure you have the right adapters or if you can use them at all.  Some electronics may not be compatible with your destinations electrical set up.
It is important to check your phone plan as well.  Most basic phone plans charge a lot for data and phone calls made abroad.  You can either sign up for an international plan or if your phone is unlocked you may buy a sim card at your destination and use your phone on the countries local network.
  • Not Knowing How to Deal With Money

Currency exchange rates can be one of the most confusing aspects of international travel.  Currency exchanges often have the worst exchange rate.  ATM’s will typically offer the best exchange rate.  After landing at your destination, take out some cash using your ATM card.  Be aware that most banks will charge a fee for using a foreign ATM.  It is important to also know the value of the local currency.  Some businesses will rely on naive tourists and short them on change.

Credit Cards are widely accepted in some places while barely used in others.  It is also important to check out the type of credit card used.  For example chip and pin cards are common in Europe and some machines may not even accept a card if it is not a chip and pin card.  It is also important to note that many credit cards charge an extra fee on an international purchase.  Choose a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees.  Finally, if you are given the option always accept charges in the local currency.  The exchange rate is terrible.

You should always inform your bank when you plan to travel abroad.  Most banks allow you to notify them online.  The bank is more likely to deny a potential charge to a card or ATM withdrawal if they are not aware of your travel plans.  This may even occur if you do notify your bank so always bring multiple credit cards and payment methods in case you are denied.

  • Don’t Overpack

Any experienced traveler will tell you that they pack less with every trip. Less is indeed more.  Pack your absolute essentials and if you need anything while on the road, simply buy it.  Having to carry excess baggage everywhere you go becomes an absolute pain after a while.  Learn now or learn later.

  • Trying To Do Too Much

It’s a great big world out there and it can be easy to over plan and overbook your destination.  Bouncing from one landmark to another to check it off your bucket list can be tiring and rarely will you get the full enjoyment of being there.  Live in the moment and you will have a more valuable experience.  One of the best parts of travel are the unplanned spontaneous moments that occur.  You have fewer of them if you are trying to do too much.  As people travel more they tend to travel slower over time.

  • Not Knowing The Customs Laws Or Political Situation In That Country

Visiting another country is so much more than seeing another place.  You are experiencing another culture.  Among the most common mistakes is not being aware of the customs and politics of the country you are in.  It could be as simple as not sticking your chopsticks into a bowl as rice in Japan as that is considered bad luck.  You want to respect the traditions and customs of the local people you flew so far to experience.

It is also important to know the  laws and politics of the country you are visiting.  Places can have strange laws. It is illegal to chew gum in Singapore.  It is probably not a good idea to talk politics with locals, especially if you do not have an understanding of their situation.  Many countries will have more stringent laws about criticizing the government for instance than you are used to.  You can get in big trouble for criticizing the King of Thailand.
Locals may bring up the subject with you as they are interested in the politics of your country, particularly if you are American.  Be aware that they may have misconceptions about your country as well.  Engage with them with some background on their political situation and you will have a more thoughtful discussion.

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