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The ultimate guide: How to prepare for international travel

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Natasha Weiss

Preparing for a trip is a key to making it comfortable, regardless of its duration or your chosen destination. By thinking through your plan of action in advance, you will protect yourself from many unpleasant surprises. Let us take a look at tips on how to prepare for international travel.

Get to know the place a little better

How do you start preparing for a trip to an unfamiliar country? First of all, you need to learn about its characteristics. In a way, each country is a new world to discover. Try to learn more about the traditions and customs of the particular place – they are the basis of unspoken rules of conduct.

For example, in the Czech Republic, it is forbidden to eat food on public transport. In Turkey, you must always have closed clothes, even in hot weather, and in most European countries, you are unlikely to do evening shopping because all institutions close early.

Before purchasing your flight tickets, it is a good idea to check whether your planned departure date falls on a public holiday, as many tourist attractions and shops may be closed then.

Also, it never hurts to research local laws. If you are traveling in your own car or plan to use a car-sharing service, pay special attention to traffic rules and parking locations. There are many places where only locals are allowed to park, and for this reason, a tourist risks being heavily fined for stopping in the wrong place.

Make your vacation safe

Many factors relate to the topic of safety. First of all – seasonality and weather conditions. Not every period in a particular area is favorable for tourism. For example, the rainy seasons in some parts of the world may provoke floods.

Another critical factor is the seismic situation. You can check the status of seismic activity yourself using special online earthquake maps. The same goes for tsunami risks.

The political situation is no less important. You can find reliable information about it at numerous news sites and tourist forums. Eyewitnesses’ personal blogs usually contain the most accurate and up-to-date information. 

The existence or occurrence of military conflicts should be known before traveling. Planning to visit several countries in a row? Make sure they maintain a stable relationship. Because of political disagreements, borders may be closed or restricted to tourists.

When planning your trip, also take into account the crime situation in your destination. For example, India and Indonesia have the highest theft rates.

If you are traveling to these countries, make sure your money is safe – it is best to store it in smaller amounts and in various places. 

Make a plan of action

When preparing for a trip, you need a travel plan which will define the concept of your trip. Here is what you should consider:

  • Leisure style – depending on your goals, you can have an active or relaxing holiday. Make a plan of what you want to do if you have a little or a lot of free time on your hands. For example, sometimes the weather can take you by surprise, which means you need to consider opportunities for exploring the country and its history indoors. For instance, if you are traveling to Spain, make sure to visit the Picasso Museum. Today, the museum houses 4,251 works that testify to Picasso’s legacy, making it the biggest collection of his works.
  • Stopping points – make a list of cities and potential overnight stays. To avoid unnecessary costs and to choose the most comfortable option, it is better to book hotel rooms in advance. Searching for accommodation is easy with online booking services.
  • Attractions – make a list of cultural monuments, museums, and institutions that you want to visit abroad.
  • Calculate your time and effort – although a to-do list can be extensive when planning your holiday, it is advisable to allow time for rest between sightseeing and other planned excursions.

In case you are in search of a perfect travel itinerary, take a look at our guide and learn all the necessary tools to create one.

Plan your finances

Most expenses can be foreseen before you set off. The costs abroad fall into several categories:

  • Tickets
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Travel by local public transport
  • Paid visits to attractions, clubs, theaters, and other cultural and entertainment venues
  • Unforeseen expenses

Planning your budget will help you understand how to prepare for your trip and where you can save some extra money. 

Stick to the following plan to determine your level of spending:

  • Decide how much of your budget you are willing to spend on the trip.
  • Find information on price levels abroad. Try to calculate the average bill for lunch at a restaurant. Find out how much public transportation tickets, cabs, and carshare services cost.
  • Make a list of future expenses by category.
  • Allocate funds between categories based on your priorities.

Take care of your visa and documents

Many countries allow visa-free travel. If you need a visa, think about applying for one in advance. You can do this yourself or contact a specialized visa center.

Take out insurance

Travel insurance is not always required but can save a significant amount of money in unforeseen situations. The cost of medical care for foreign citizens is usually much higher than for locals. Without a doctor’s prescription, tourists are often not sold medication.

Think about buying insurance in advance to financially protect yourself if you have health problems. 

The contents of insurance can vary. For example, you can add extra options to the package in case you will be engaging in extreme sports, like surfing, diving, off-roading, and rock-climbing.

For example, in Portugal, more specifically in Sintra, you can take part in great buggy tours. A journey through the off-road trails of the Sintra forests in a thoroughbred Polaris RZR with 570 CC – doesn’t that sound tempting?

Usually, insurance is valid from the next day after purchase, so you should arrange it in advance. After the purchase, the policy will be sent to your email. If necessary, online consultants will help you choose the best content for your package.

Think about your health

First of all, you need to solve the issue of vaccinations. Some countries may not be visited without prior vaccination. Yellow fever shots are required for travelers to Angola, Cameroon, Congo, and other African countries. 

If you are thinking about visiting an African country, here you will find great ideas for your itinerary.

Vaccinations typically must be done at least one month before departure. After the shot, it takes 3-4 weeks for immunity to develop successfully. In addition, some vaccinations require a course of injections at specific intervals. You can check with your physician to determine which vaccinations are needed.

Remember that you should also bring a first-aid kit with essential supplies on your trip. Mandatory minimum medications include:

  • Painkillers
  • Medications for upset stomach
  • Medications for colds
  • Bandages, plasters, cotton swabs
  • Antiseptics to treat injuries

Choose your individual first aid kit carefully, especially if you have a chronic illness. Consider what medicines you will need in an unfamiliar country, taking into account the specificities of the destination and your plans. For example, in exotic countries, you should take antihistamines even if you do not suffer from allergies.

Stay connected

Going on a trip, think about ways to stay in touch with your loved ones. There are two main options for organizing communication abroad:

  • Use your home mobile operator to connect with the most favorable plan. However, this can sometimes be the more expensive option.
  • Buy a foreign cell phone SIM card when you arrive at your destination. You can typically find SIM cards in supermarkets or specialized shops. Sometimes you can order its delivery to the hotel before arrival.

When traveling abroad, make sure you have all the chargers, cables, and spare batteries you need. Also, do not forget to take a few adapters suitable for the type of sockets used at the stops.

Learn the basics of a foreign language

English is a universal language and is most commonly used to communicate abroad. But some situations require knowledge of a country’s native language. 

Before you go on a trip, familiarize yourself with the basics of the national vocabulary – make a list of phrases that may come in handy.

Some travelers begin to prepare thoroughly for their dream trip 6 to 12 months in advance in order to have time to learn the basic language of the local population. This approach is especially useful when you go to a country with underdeveloped tourist infrastructure.

Do not take anything unnecessary

Once all the preparations are done, it is time to pack. Check in advance the size and weight requirements of the airlines for luggage and hand luggage. Find out whether the baggage is included in the ticket price.

Follow the rule of not taking anything unnecessary, and determine the minimum number of things you need while abroad:

  • Documents -– passport, ticket, your bookings, insurance
  • A basic set of clothes
  • Hygiene products
  • Gadgets and chargers
  • Medications

Often on short trips, a large backpack or travel bag you can take in the cabin is enough. Remember that – if necessary – you can always buy a few items during your trip. Therefore, it is advisable to leave some space for the new things you may purchase.

Whether you are traveling to a nearby city or the other side of the world, careful planning helps you make your dream vacation a reality. Proper preparation enables you to avoid potential disasters such as credit card cancellation or even something less terrifying but still unpleasant, like a lack of clean clothes.

Hopefully, these tips on how to prepare for international travel can be useful when planning your next adventure.

Natasha Weiss

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