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December 29, 2013

Tips for First-Timers: Traveling Abroad

     So you are traveling abroad...for the first time. Traveling outside of your own country can be very "scary" at first especially if it's your first time to do so. Even scarier if you will be doing it on your own. However, the experience can be memorable if you know how and what to prepare before your travel. You can have a variety of reasons for traveling abroad: vacation, work, conference or a mix of everything. Here are some personal tips that I can give you based on my own experience.

    Tip No. 1: Plan out your itinerary weeks before your intended travel. Booking your flights is now easier since almost everything went online. You can book your flight, hotel or even rent a car on the internet. It is now even cheaper to do online booking rather than getting help from a travel agency. What's great about online booking is that you can have a variety of choices and you can compare prices without even have to move around.

     Make sure you choose the right dates and times for your flights. Consider travel time from your residence to the airport. When you book a hotel, get to read the reviews of those who have also checked in with the particular hotel before. I would recommend  if you want to search for cheap hotels. I have tried using the website. You can even contact toll free an agent which can do the booking for you. In choosing your hotel, you may want to take a look at it on a map and see how accessible it is from any modes of transportation or places where you can eat.

     Tip No. 2: Get your documents ready. You would need your passport (with a validity of at least 6 months) and probably a visa (depending on which country you are visiting). You have to make sure that your passport is secure and placed in a handy bag which you can easily access. You may need to photocopy the first few pages of your passport and visa as well just in case you will misplace them while you are traveling. Be sure to have your country's consul or embassy number in your phone should you need to contact them for a lost passport.

     You will need to write in some important details on the embarkation or disembarkation cards at the airport which along with your passport and visa will be presented to the immigration officer. You would probably need to memorize your passport number, date of expiry and date of issuance just in case.

     Tip No. 3: Travel light. Depending on how long you will be staying abroad, you might need to consider how much luggage you will be bringing with you. Airlines would also have restrictions on baggage weights, both for carry-on and checked in luggage. Make sure when you book your flight, you indicate how much baggage weight you will need to check in. Of course, the heavier your luggage, the more pricey it will be.

     Backpacks or small-size strollers would be preferable if you are expecting to do a lot of walking around in your travel. Other than your check-in luggage, you may need to bring with you a small handbag or belt bag where you can place your phone or passport or other gadgets you shouldn't be checking in at the airport with your luggage.

     Label your luggage as well either with your name and address and/or a tag that would identify it from other similar-looking luggage. Some airlines would provide free bag tags where you can right your name, address and even contact number just in case your bags will be misplaced or lost in transit. This can actually happen and it can be a traveler's nightmare. So make sure that you have some extra piece of shirt or pants in your carry-on bag to last you a night in case you won't get your check-in luggage at the arrival area.

  Tip No. 4: Learn to Read the Signs. You need not have a good sense of direction to find your way in other countries. Many countries would have very good visuals for directions which you can actually follow. Of course, it would be better to know this before hand. You may need to purchase a map of the country you are visiting or you can grab a free copy usually in the arrival area at the airport.
     Depending on the country you are visiting, one of the maps you should grab is a map of its trains and bus routes. By knowing which bus stop or train station to get on and get off, you can maximize your time hopping from one tourist attraction to the other. Or you can just hire a tour guide or join a tour to get around the place.

     Tip No. 5: Have local currency at hand. You can check your local banks or local money changers for current exchange rates between your local currency and the currency of the country you are visiting. You can visit to check as well. Money changers may have cheaper rates than the banks. Of course, having your money changed at the airport would be pretty expensive. Don't have all of your money changed though. Be sure you leave some ample amount of local currency which you will spend for transportation as soon as you get back from your trip abroad.

   Using a credit card may be handy. Make sure that you call your bank before you leave and inform that you are planning to use your credit card abroad. Some credit cards may need to be pre-approved before being used abroad.

     Tip No. 6: Leave bread crumbs. At this day and age, it is easy to be online and leave messages to family and friends about your whereabouts. Airports would usually offer free internet access where you can change your Facebook status or tweet about where you are going to next. It is important to leave a trail not only for your safety but also a log which you can later on review and reminisce as you return from your trip.

     Tip No. 7: Roam with your phone. Before you leave, make sure you make arrangements with your local telecommunications provider and clarify their roaming rates. If it is cheaper to buy a local sim card, you can do so as you arrive in the country you are visiting. Some roaming rates do not include the use of internet. You may have to clarify this with the provider. It is definitely better to have your phone at hand so you can be reached easily unless you wish not to be disturbed during your vacation.

   Tip No. 8: Connect with friends. If you happen to have friends in the country you are visiting, find time to link up with them. They are the most reliable tour guides you can have. Get tips from them on where to buy souvenirs or where to eat or where to stay. You can even probably make arrangements with them and stay for a night or two in their place, thereby making you save more money during your trip. If you plan to meet up with friends, make sure you communicate with them before you leave. They might need to take some time off from work or re-arrange their schedules so they can also spend some time with you.

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