Looking to travel abroad? Here are some top tips on international travel
International travel can be pretty stressful. At the same time, it opens our eyes to the world – making us smarter travelers and better people. Whether you’re traveling abroad for the first time or you’re a seasoned globetrotter looking for a refresher, we’ve got you covered. Here are 20 tips on international travel that will serve you well on your next vacation.
1. Check with your doctor to see if any vaccinations are required or recommended
This international travel tip is particularly important if you’re traveling abroad to places in Asia or Africa, where medical experts believe there are heightened health risks.
In addition to contacting your doctor, government websites are also a valuable resource. I always check the US Department of State website for advisories and recommended vaccinations prior to traveling. Such government resources are crucial, as they tend to be updated regularly, as health conditions in a given place can suddenly change.
Though you may already have the required vaccinations for most countries, it’s always a smart idea to double check.
2. Ensure your passport will not expire within 6 months of visiting
This is one of the most important tips that should be on your international travel checklist.
Most countries don’t allow entry for tourists unless their passport will expire at least 6 months after the final travel date. In other words, if your passport has less than 6 months until expiration, you must renew it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you won’t be allowed to travel internationally. Don’t wait til the last minute – be sure to check your passport’s expiration date now!
3. Make copies of your passport
Got a valid passport? Great! Now make a few copies and bring at least one with you on your trip. This is a good idea in case your passport gets lost or stolen. If such a thing happens, having a copy will help you prove your citizenship and allow you to get back into your home country.
4. Register with your country’s embassy
This is a best practice wherever you go, but it’s especially important if you’re heading to a country that’s known for having crime or political/social unrest. By registering with the embassy in your destination, you’ll have a contact that can help you in case of an emergency.
5. Check to see if the country you’re visiting requires a visa
This tip on international travel is often overlooked (or put off until the last minute), but it shouldn’t be.
In addition to needing a passport, some nations require that visitors obtain a visa before entering. In some countries like Turkey and Oman, you can purchase the visa upon arrival at the airport. However, countries with strict immigration laws (i.e. China) require that you submit a visa application well in advance.
Obtaining a tourism visa can sometimes take a long time (and be a cumbersome process), so it’s best to get a jump start on that early.
6. Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
This is definitely one of the top tips on international travel.
Thanks to credit cards, the days of carrying copious amounts of local currency are over. I have the Chase Sapphire Card, which offers no foreign transaction fees, 2x points on travel and dining, and 25% additional value when redeeming travel expenses (airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises). I highly recommend getting a credit card like this, so you won’t have to worry about international transaction fees. It also allows you to rack up travel rewards that you can use for future trips!
7. Make sure your credit card works internationally
Before traveling to another country, there are two things you’ll want to do with your credit card.
Firstly, make sure the card actually works abroad. Some countries in Europe, for example, require that you use a card with chip and PIN technology. If you’re using an outdated card with a magnetic strip, you’ll want to make sure establishments in your destination will accept it. Many European eateries and other businesses will accept a signature in lieu of a PIN/chip, but things are changing fast. It wouldn’t surprise me if magnetic strip cards stopped working over there in the near future.
In addition, notify your credit card company about your international travel plans. This will ensure the card is “unlocked” so it works abroad and you won’t have to worry about it being declined due to a suspicious activity. To do this, either call your credit card company directly or set it up yourself on the company’s website or app.
8. Always carry local cash
Though credit cards can cover most international expenses these days, you should still carry local cash when visiting a foreign country. Not all establishments take credit cards, particularly in off-the-beaten-path destinations.
9. Look up the exchange rate before arriving in your destination
Before getting to your destination, be sure to familiarize yourself with the currency conversion or exchange rate. Whether you’re buying street food or souvenirs, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the local currency so you won’t get ripped off.
Doing so could even prevent a mini heart attack. For example, seeing 10,000 Icelandic Króna on my dinner bill sent a jolt through my body (thankfully it’s only $75). In addition to doing quick mental math, Travel apps like XE Currency can help with this. This is definitely one of the most important tips on international travel.
10. Get local currency from an ATM in your destination (rather than at home)
Exchange rates tend to be more favorable in the destination than at home. As such, you should plan to go to a bank or ATM once you arrive in the country you’re visiting to get the best bang for your buck.
Note: the exchange rates provided at airports (and even at currency conversion centers in the city), are typically a rip off. Instead, go to a bank or ATM, where there are no hidden fees beyond what your credit/debit card company may charge. That way, you’ll know you’re getting a fair conversion rate that’s in alignment with the market.
11. Wear a money belt to protect your passport and valuables
I wish I had a penny for every time somebody tried to pickpocket me in Barcelona. Wearing a money belt in a foreign country is a great idea, especially if your hotel room doesn’t have a safe. I know many people who were pickpocketed without even knowing (be sure to never leave your wallet in a back pocket). If you’re vehemently against wearing a money belt (for style or other reasons), I recommend making copies of your passport and credit cards. Better safe than sorry!
12. Research places where the locals go
One of the best things about traveling is being able to immerse yourself in the local culture. Rather than eating at McDonalds or shopping at international chains, I recommend researching spots where you’ll find many locals. TripAdvisor reviews are particularly helpful with this. There are many other travel apps out there as well. Walking tours are also a great way to learn about the hidden gems and neighborhoods where the locals hang out.
13. Purchase tickets for attractions in advance
I’ve made the mistake of not buying tickets beforehand for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Needless to say, this lack of planning cost me valuable time in each city. Time is precious when you’re traveling!
14. Read travel blogs and guidebooks
To help you plan your international trip, it’s a good idea to read guides and itineraries from travel bloggers and experts who know the destination best. I’ve always enjoyed reading guidebooks by Rick Steves and Lonely Planet. I write some guides too! Here are some of my most popular ones right now:
More travel guides and itineraries can be found on my Travel Destinations page.
15. Find out what events are happening during your visit
This is one of those tips on international travel that will really come in handy later on.
Research what’s happening during the week or weekend of your trip using a simple Google search (i.e. “New England festivals in October“) That’s it. Hopefully some interesting events will be happening during your visit!
16. Print your boarding pass (in case your phone dies)
Though I use mobile boarding passes whenever possible, I always print one as a backup. There was an instance last year when my phone was at 70% battery life, and suddenly died at the gate prior to boarding. Bad luck? Perhaps. But this traumatic experience proved to me that it’s always smarter to have a physical backup.
Planning to travel anytime soon? Subscribe to my email list for exclusive travel tips, hacks, and other resources to save time and money!
17. Bring snacks
Airport food is grossly overpriced, so I recommend eating a big meal before arriving at the airport, and bringing snacks with you on the plane.
Unless you’re on a guided tour, you can expect that your international travels will never go exactly according to plan. It’s likely that you won’t be having lunch at 12:00pm sharp, so plan accordingly and pack some tasty snacks!
18. Pack extra clothes in your carry-on
This is one of those international travel tips that many overlook.
If you’re planning to bring a checked bag on your flight, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Even in 2020, there is a possibility that airlines can mishandle your checked luggage.
Some of my family members and friends have been the last people at the baggage claim, only to find out that their luggage didn’t arrive. Sometimes, there could be a 24-hour delay before receiving your luggage. In order to avoid having to purchase clothes at your destination (who has time for that?), I recommend packing a few clothing items in your carry-on just in case.
19. Bring an international travel adapter
This international travel tip applies to everyone, especially those who use cell phones and cameras to document their adventures.
Many countries around the world have different voltages. Rather than buying individual adapters, and having to remember how many prongs apply to each place, I recommend buying a universal travel adapter/converter.
In case you were wondering – American outlets take 2 flat prongs, continental Europe takes two round prongs, and the UK takes three rectangular prongs.
20. Plan ahead on your phone plan
Don’t wait until you arrive at your destination to figure out your phone and data plan arrangement. Instead, be proactive by researching local SIM cards, or activating a global phone/data plan with your cell phone provider.
Each of these options are infinitely cheaper than the roaming charges you might accidentally incur. Be careful of that, and when in doubt, remember to put your phone on airplane mode (and use Wi-Fi)!
International travel tips and gift ideas
Looking for a travel-themed gift for a family member or friend on your next international vacation? Here are a few essential travel accessories that will enhance your next international adventure:
*Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from the affiliate links below.
- A neck pillow for long flights. Nothing is worse than having neck and back pain during long flights. I recently bought a neck pillow, which has made long flights and bus rides much more bearable.
- A drone to capture the perfect vantage point. Not only are drones a fun toy, but they also capture spectacular landscapes and memorable moments. My best travel investment was the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum, which I use to take aerial shots and videos. A more portable and cheaper alternative is the DJI Mavic Air. Both drones are very fun and easy to use!
- An international travel adapter. A universal travel adapter isn’t the most exciting gift idea out there, but it’s absolutely necessary for international travel.
- A nifty travel suitcase with packing cubes. During international travels, it’s all about packing light and efficiently. That’s why I prefer to travel with a nifty suitcase wherever I go. In addition, I always use packing cubes, an awesome way to efficiently pack the space inside.
- A travel backpack with sufficient compartment space. I prefer to travel with a versatile Swiss Gear backpack at all times. This backpack contains a lot of durable compartments – perfect for city trips and nature walks!
Travel tips and tricks for your next international adventure
Whether you’re a frequent globetrotter or an occasional traveler, I hope these international travel tips and tricks will serve you well! Traveling abroad should be all about enjoying new experiences, rather than feeling stress and anxiety.
Are you planning a trip to Europe in 2020? Looking for ideas and inspiration of cities to visit on this beautiful continent? If so, check out my long weekend itinerary in Barcelona and top things to do in Verona, Italy blog posts!
Are these tips helpful? Are there any other important international travel tips that you think I should mention? Please feel free to let me know! Happy Travels! -Jon
For further reading on this topic, check out the following articles:
Happy Travels! -Jon
Looking some more travel inspiration? Check out my latest blog posts below.
- Best Wine Regions in the World That Every Traveler Should Know
- Most Beautiful Cities in Europe You Should Visit in 2020
- Best Hidden Gems in Europe: 12 Unique Places to Visit in 2020
- 13 Travel Hacks for Flying
- Best Travel Apps for iPhone and Android in 2020
- 12 Simple and Effective Tips to Save Money on Travel
Itineraries & Travel Guides:
- Oman Travel Guide: Tips and Inspiration for Your First Visit
- Long Weekend in Barcelona: A 3-Day Barcelona Itinerary
- Most Beautiful Castles in the World That’ll Inspire You
For more articles and videos, be sure to check out my homepage!
Check out the links below to see what’s new in the Global Viewpoint world!