With the start of a new year, you may find yourself adding international travel to your list of must-dos. Whether you’re rearing to go next month or you’re saving for a once in a lifetime trip further out, read the following things to keep in mind as you gear up.
– Get a valid passport now. If you’re already set, great. If it’s going to expire within a few months of when you’d like to travel (before or after) or you still have yet to get one, get it done. Add urgency to this as you can’t go abroad without it, processing times take up to 2 months, and rush fees cost a pretty penny. Remember you may need to apply in person and must have proof of citizenship, so getting everything you need together may take some time, too. Get prepped on U.S. passports here: http://travel.state.gov/passport/.
– Know if you need visas for the countries you’re visiting. No, not the credit card, but documents needed to enter and stay in foreign countries. Some countries will merely stamp your passport, some require payment, and others need you to submit your passport and travel confirmations to the corresponding embassy ahead of time. Get info on entry visas, length of stay, and types of visas needed by country on the U.S. Department of State website. (Country information listed is regularly updated and good for the next 2 points, too.)
– Make sure your health is good to go. You may be healthy, but depending on where you travel, you may need vaccinations or medicines, or certain things you’re used to for health maintenance stateside may not be available where you’re going. Have prescriptions filled accounting for your trip and tune up in plenty of time so any preventative measures you need to start are given time to take effect on your bod.
– Be in the know. Are you going during the local election time? Is there public transportation? How do you hail a cab? Are men and women treated differently? Do you need to pack specific gear or attire? What are the safety concerns? Don’t be the ignorant one; check out basic background on your destination before you board.
– Get a grasp on the language. You don’t need to be immediately fluent, but at least have greetings and traditional sayings under your belt. The worldwide web is a great resource as you can hear pronunciation through easy searches instead of risking saying the wrong word. Also, be sure to check out the written language of where you’re going. Have your accommodation information in writing in your own plus the country’s common language. Trust me, you’d rather point at an address instead of attempting the Arabic alphabet after a long flight.
– Get your money set. You know to budget, but be sure to account for conversions and the cost of living there. Plan on how you’ll pay (cash, credit card, ATM card), where you’ll withdraw or change money, and what currency to use (some places prefer not to use the local currency if it’s weak). Tell your bank when you’re going and for how long, and have a back up method for money access. You may not find a compatible ATM, international fees and exchange rates vary on different cards and by institutions, and some places only take cash. No matter what plan you go with, allot for some extra cash to use (U.S. dollars translate into use or exchange in most countries) in case you’re crunched for money while away.
– Figure out phone and email plans. Perhaps you’re going to get away to be unplugged, or perhaps you will be working abroad. Either way, set up with someone back home to check in with (or at the least who knows when to expect you back) and get information on your cell phone and data plans now. You may want to temporarily switch plans when you travel, buy a SIM card, use internet cafes, or secure a phone card. Research what’s best for your needs.
No matter what your purpose or destination, think ahead, prepare, be safe, and have a great time!
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