Unfortunately it’s not as simple as choosing a destination and flying over. Planning a vacation international requires knowing what’s mandated of you, on top of that you’ll want to consider some things that can make or break your your plans. If you’re traveling international for the first time alone, here are some things you should know about any destination before you purchase a flight.
What to know before you go:
- Visa requirement
- Vaccination requirement
- Travel warnings
Have you ever really thought about the climate you live in, probably not. For me it goes as far as- on December it’s cold, in July it’s hot, in January it snows, and that’s about it.. But when you travel to another country and you’re spending money, you’ll want to know what the climate is like year round.
The World Climate Guide website is an amazing source for finding out what weather will be like anywhere in the world during anytime of the year. You don’t want to overlook this. The last thing you want to do is take a vacation and have it rain every single day that you’re there (vacations are rare enough as it is). It happens, but at least you can minimize the possibility. The website tells you everything from how many hours of light to expect to how many days of rain on a monthly basis. Ever heard of hurricane season? Yea, you’ll want to know what season hits your destination and when. Thank me later.
You’ll definitely want to know how far your money takes you. Do you want to go to a country where your currency is worth more? How about worth less? Developed countries are generally more expensive where as developing countries are pretty cheap. Your decision to visit a particular country may depend on costs alone.
Believe it or not, some countries may charge you for entering or existing. These fees or taxes are different for every country. It may or may not be included in the cost of your flight, consider this a heads up. Entry and exit information for each country is subject to change without notice.
Language and customs
It doesn’t hurt to learn to say ‘hello’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘sorry’ in the local language. It’s likely that when you visit a foreign country there will be a language barrier, but this isn’t such a big deal. Those four words will definitely help. Using your hands to communicate is very effective to get your message across, but be careful of doing something wrong with them!
That’s a nice segue into customs. You must know what is and isn’t appropriate wherever you are. A thumbs up in America is all good, but keep your thumbs down in west Africa and Greece. Don’t point the soles of your feet at anyone in Thailand. Every country has their own customs, so take note of them before arriving. You don’t want to come off as rude.
You probably want to know if the country you’re visiting is in political turmoil. Egypt is a fairly popular travel destination but just a few years ago it was part of the Arab Spring. In 2011 democratic uprisings arose independently and spread across the Arab world. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. See the State Department’s official website for travel warnings.
If you plan on entering another country, you need a passport. The country you want to visit may want your passport to be valid for at least six months. You can also be denied entry if your passport is expiring in less than six months. It seems rather silly I’m sure, but it’s your responsibility to do your homework.
Do you need a visa? That depends on the reason for visiting and the length of stay. There a many kinds. There are tourist visas, business, student, journalist, and so on. Find which one is appropriate for you. Don’t go to any source other than the official website of the country’s embassy you wish to visit. Regulations are subject to change and they change frequently, so stay up-to-date with the official source. Check with your home country’s official government website for info as well, for Americans that’s the State Department.
You may be required to present official documentation of vaccinations in order to be permitted entry into another country. Go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to find out health information and vaccination requirements for your destination.
Better safe than sorry. First check with your insurance provider to see if they cover anything when you travel outside the country. You may want to consider travel insurance. Travel insurance can minimize financial risks for expenses related to injury, illness, missed flights, canceled tours, lost baggage, theft, terrorism, and emergency evacuation.
In case of a crisis, it’s good to know that the U.S. embassies and Consulates know of your travel plans. The U.S. government will know about your presence in the country and where to contact you. You can also submit your itinerary and share it with friends and family. Go to https://step.state.gov/step/ to register your future trips abroad.
If you are an American citizen, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html for more information.
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