As tourists and travelers you put a lot of time into planning your trip. A lot of that is around your itinerary. Which is understandable because you want to make the most of your time and come back telling others all the amazing things you saw and did. However, most tourists and even seasoned travelers have been caught off guard with one thing or another when it comes to International Travel. We have compiled a list of some things to consider when traveling abroad.
Where In the World Am I: Know which continent and country you are going to. I know this one seems simple and a no brainer but not everyone knows Africa is a continent with 50+ countries or that the European Union (EU) includes 26 countries: 22 of the 27 EU member states and all members of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). However Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom are EU states that are not, or not yet, part of the Schengen area. It is important to know where in the world you are going so that you can check into any local laws or regulations and be prepared ahead of time.
Visas: Be aware of any visa requirements and apply in the required amount of time.
Vaccinations: Know which vaccinations may be required to enter a country and how long before travelling you need to have them done. Don’t forget to pack your vaccinations card in your handbag (along with passport and visa (if needed)) so you can easily show it at Border Control when entering the country.
Health Care: It is helpful to understand the health care offered. In some countries visitors are covered the same as residents/citizens. For example in the United Kingdom if you are injured you will get care and the bill will be very little in comparison to the United States. It is important to know where there is not coverage and decide if you will purchase travel insurance that covers health care expenses. For example we would recommend anyone traveling to the USA to get travel insurance. Travel Insurance companies we recommend:Allianz Travel Insurance and World Nomads Travel Insurance.
Brief History: Read up on the history of where you are visiting and understand some cultural norms, do’s and don’ts. This could include things such as tipping, what time do they typically eat (some countries eat late), bargaining, attire (do women need a headdress), local delicacies, can they accommodate food allergies, etc. According to TripLingo’s website “TripLingo is the ultimate tool for international travelers. Learn essential phrases, instantly translate your voice or connect to a live translator, get a crash course on the local culture and so much more.” It offers over 100 languages with voice translator, phrasebook, learning tools, safety tools, tip calculator, culture notes and travel tools.
Language: Know what the local language is and how much English is spoken. Although English (American or British) may be common there will be parts of countries where they speak very little of it. It is always helpful to know a few key words or phrases before you travel to a new country. One the locals appreciate your efforts and two it is helpful to be able to ask where the bathroom is. Google Translate is good to have on your phone or any other translation app you like. In addition to TripLingo, SayHi and iTranslate are other great ones.
Good to Know Phrases:
- Thank You
- You’re Welcome
- Excuse Me
- I understand/I don’t understand
- One moment, please
- Where is the bathroom
- Table for ____, please
Electricity (outlets): Do your research and know which type of outlets are used. We recommend either SKROSS (because you can find other country adapters or replacements for this brand in almost any airport) or MINIX (we like the portability of it).
Hotel Tourist Taxes: This tourist fee exists in many European cities. The tourist tax is a fee charged to all guests staying in tourist or local accommodation developments in cities where the tax is in effect. An extra amount is charged, per night and person, on top of the room rate (roughly 1-2 euros). You will either pay for this tax via the booking platform used or directly upon check-in or check-out. Sometimes they require this tax to be paid in cash.
Currency/Credit Cards/ATMs: First, when preparing to travel abroad it is a good idea to notify your bank and credit card companies that you will be traveling abroad. Usually this can be done online in your account. Not notifying them can lead to them shutting your card off if they believe it to be suspicious activity. This is no fun to deal with when traveling abroad.
Next, it is important to know what the local currency is and how you will be paying for items on your trip. Some common misconceptions are that because a country is part of the EU it accepts the Euro. This is not necessarily true. For example, the Czech Republic uses the Czech Crown and the Euro is not widely accepted there. In Africa they have over 40 currencies. In South America there are 14 different currencies. In the Arab world there are 22 currencies. Wherever you intend to go it is good to know what currency you need. We always recommend having some local currency with you because not all stores and restaurants will accept credit cards. Order it from your bank ahead of time. Sometimes it can take several weeks and some currencies may not be available.
When you are on your trip it is beneficial to understand the best way to access cash and be aware of scams or ATMs with high fees. If you need to withdraw cash while in a country we recommend finding a local bank and using a bank teller or bank ATM and your bank card to take out money. There will still be fees to withdraw money from both the ATM being used and your bank but using a bank ATM usually comes at a lower charge than a Euronet type ATM.
There is also the option to get a universal debit card. Cards that allow you to load money in your local currency but pay in the currency of the country you are traveling to. You can check out companies such as Revolut (for global traveling), Monese (for travel between the EU and UK), Chime® (best for travelling from the US), N26 (for traveling in the Eurozone).
Credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. American Express is less accepted. We recommend you carry a couple credit cards with you when traveling. You will want to check and see if your company charges foreign transaction fees. These can add up so if possible choose a card that does not have these fees. We also recommend you pay in the currency of the country you are in. The credit card companies get better exchange rates and you are likely to pay a lower exchange fee by paying in pounds, euros, etc vs paying in your currency such as USD.
Data/Connectivity: You can check with your mobile carrier to see what plans they offer for coverage in the country(ies) you are visiting. We recommend you do this a few weeks before your trip begins. Most USA carriers can set a date to turn International coverage on and off. Some carriers in the EU include EU countries in their plan but it is always good to check.
You can also purchase an esim from RedteaGo. Use Code This0015 to save $3.
Another option is to purchase a sim card when you arrive. Most airports will sell them or you can find one in local shops throughout the city. They range in price, data usage and coverage.
In addition, you can find places with free wi-fi to stay connected.
Two apps we recommend to stay connected when abroad are Whatsapp and Telegram. They are free to use and all messages are encrypted. Download before you leave and ask your friends and family to as well. Data usage does apply so if you have not purchased a plan it is best to use it while on wi-fi.
Parking – If you rent a car it can be helpful to determine parking options. Some places may have garages, parking lots and/or street parking. This can impact your day if you are not able to find a parking spot.
Holidays – It is important to know if there are holidays during your travels. Holidays can impact your travels in many ways. There could be large crowds to filter through, locals are not working which could mean the beaches or lakes are busier than normal, and parking can be more difficult. It also could mean your experience something that becomes a highlight of your travels. Such as a festival or parade.
Tipping – Tipping is not required in some European cities. In bars, cafes, restaurants, etc., staff are paid a living wage. In some places there is a % Service Fee automatically added to orders. It does not show up as a tip fee, but is included in the price of what you order, like coffee, croissant, dinner, etc. If you think the service is fantastic, you could leave a 5% tip.
Getting Your Food or Drink Bill – In the US, as soon as your food or drink gets delivered, the waiter places the bill on your table and says, “no rush.” That is code for eat fast and get out so the waiter can turn the table often to make good tips. In Europe, servers will not offer you the bill unless you motion to them or ask for it. You could sit at a table for hours in some European cities, people watching and talking about your trip, and no bill would arrive. It’s only when you gesture to the waiter and ask for the bill, they will deliver it. Why? Because the staff is salaried, and tipping is not a thing, there is no incentive for the establishment to turn tables. The reason we mention this is because if you are from a culture like the US, you may get frustrated asking, “why haven’t they given us the bill yet?”
Hydration: Staying hydrated on long haul flights and while traveling is important. One way to save money is to bring an empty water bottle with you. This can be as simple as a used plastic bottle or 720 DGREE; Hydroflask; or Vapur Solid Flexible Water Bottle. Remember to empty it before going through security.
Restrooms: We recommend carrying tissues, hand sanitizer/wipes and coins with you when traveling abroad. In some countries, restrooms running out of toilet paper is common, as is not having hand soap or sanitizer. In some cities or locations (i.e. bus terminals, train terminals, etc) you may have to pay to use the restroom. Also try to take note if you are supposed to flush toilet paper or throw it in the bin.
Washcloths: Most hotels/Air BnBs in Europe do not have American size washcloths. They typically have body towels and hand towels. We carry with us Mini-sized Norwex® antibacterial EnviroCloths. These are the perfect size and their antibacterial properties make it easy to stay clean and not worry about them get icky. They “remove bacteria, dust, dirt and grease from all washable surfaces using only water—no chemicals!” We also recommend their water-resistant, two-pocket reusable travel bag. Please contact Louise Macri to order in the US.
Other Helpful Resources: Visit our Resources page.
All of these tips and more, tailored to your trip, with our customized travel planning.