Happy International Travel Day! I really wish I were celebrating in a foreign country, eating food I’ve never tried before and listening to a language I don’t understand. Instead, I’ll spend it in Providence… daydreaming about where to travel next.
In honor of the day, I’ve been thinking about how exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking it can be to travel internationally. Need a few tips on traveling internationally?
Do the necessary prep work for the country you’re visiting
Entry requirements can vary widely, and you don’t want to be surprised at check-in that you need a special visa. Think beyond paperwork too. Do you need any special vaccines or medication for this part of the world? What about health insurance?
Do research the tipping culture for where you’re going
Americans are well trained at tipping, but many parts of the world have much different tipping cultures. Check out what the norms are wherever you’re going so you don’t accidentally offend someone, or spend money you shouldn’t be.
Do try all the foods
A country can show you so much about itself by sharing its food with you. Sit at the bar, ask for recommendations, and look for restaurants that have more locals than tourists. Even in heavily touristed areas, if you head a few blocks away you can almost always find places filled with locals. Some of the best meals I’ve had have been from asking people, “Where would you go for lunch?”.
Do talk to local people
Bartenders and taxi drivers are great sources of knowledge and easy to strike up conversations with while out and about. People who love their home want to share it with you, so don’t be too shy to ask for recommendations or directions.
Do wake up for sunrises
If there’s a place that is known for its sunrise, get up early for it, even if you’re not a morning person. There is no way you’ll be disappointed. And be sure to bundle up!
Don’t assume everyone speaks English
A few simple words, a big smile, and a genuine effort go far in showing a country your respect. Learn to say a handful of words before you go and it will have a huge impact on your trip.
Don’t spend your entire time on social media
Balance out the experiencing and the documenting. Don’t let your phone take your attention away from the actual experience you’re having.
Don’t skip the markets
A local market is one of the best ways to dive straight into a culture. Try and find a market that’s less geared for tourists, and more a place where the locals are shopping. Ask a lot of questions. Vendors are usually excited to show off their goods.
Don’t avoid public transportation
Taxis are handy, but they can also be expensive and isolating. Get a taste of local culture by riding the subway or the local bus.
Don’t try and do everything
Pace yourself so that you actually get to absorb the place you’re visiting. If you’re rushing from site to site to snap your selfie and keep moving, you may be missing out on what the culture has to share. Slow down and pace yourself. For popular sites, buy a ticket ahead of time so that you’re using your time wisely.
Now go get that passport and plan your next international adventure! Where would you like to head to next?
Photo credit: David Hansen