06 June 2018

5 Things to Do Before Leaving the Country for the First Time


You are so ready to travel outside of the United States, and you have been mapping out all the places you want to see. But you’ve never traveled to a foreign country before and aren’t sure what all this talk about papers and visas is about.

What formalities do you need to complete before you can get on that plane and go? Check out these five basics to get started.

#1 - Papers

Almost before anything else, you need to get the right identification. If you don’t have a passport, then it’s time to apply for one. These can take a few months in processing or longer during busy times, so give yourself plenty of time to gather up all the legal documents like your birth certificate and driver’s license. You’ll send these originals and/or copies along with the appropriate fees to your U.S. issuer.

Depending on the country you are traveling to and how long you plan to stay, you may need to apply for a visa as well. There can be specific visa types for visitors, students, or working professionals, and you’ll need to apply for this through the governmental agency of the country you are visiting. These can also take at least a few months and require additional processing fees.

Do some further research to determine whether visiting that country requires any other documentation.

#2 - Money

Of course, you’ll need money to buy food and souvenirs, so find out which currency is used in the country you’re visiting. It’s smart to have some cash on you at all times (though not too much), and you can get it in a few different ways.

If you’re nervous about the switch, contact your bank about converting some currency prior to travel. They usually need a week or so to get the requested bills and will charge a conversion fee as well.

You should notify your bank of your travel dates and locations as well so you can use your debit or credit card while you’re abroad. You can usually find an ATM at your arrival airport and frequently on the streets of foreign cities.

You can also look into different credit cards that offer travel rewards. Some of these don’t charge foreign transaction fees or have much lower fees than your regular bank card. Most U.S. cards are using chips now, but make sure the cards you plan to use are chipped so they can be accepted universally.

#3 - Health

You may be planning to travel for a week or for a month, but either way, sneak in a check-up with your family doctor beforehand. You can get any additional vaccines required by the visiting country, and if you have extreme issues with flying or travel in general, your doctor can prescribe or recommend medications which can help you relax.

#4 - Emergency Plans

The idea of being free of regular life is appealing, but don’t throw all caution to the wind. Gather up emergency contact information for all your travel buddies, and give someone back home your travel itinerary.

If you’re planning to take your phone with you, contact your provider to enable international service in case you need to call home, call your hotel or transportation service, or use your GPS when you get lost. You can also purchase prepaid phones in your destination country to use while you’re there.

#5 - Communication

Chances are, you won’t understand everything the locals say when you arrive, so get in some language study before leaving. Even countries that speak your first language will have different accents, slang, and products that might get confusing, so be prepared to ask people to repeat themselves and be patient with yourself.

You should discuss what your plan is with your travel buddies, too. Set down any travel rules and talk about how to deal with one another in close quarters. Don’t forget to purchase a good adapter for your electronics as well, otherwise, your phone and camera will be useless. Likely, someone will forget, and you can be their savior.

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