Before Traveling Internationally, Know These Tips

International travel takes a lot of planning. Beyond buying plane tickets and booking the hotel, there are other things to consider. For instance, if you do not warn your bank, your card will not work. Some countries have different phone chargers and voltage, too. Before you step on the plane, know these travel tips.

Print Copies Of Your Passport

A man checks his passport while in an airport.
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Your passport is the most important form of identification while traveling abroad. To be safe, make copies of your passport before you leave. If you lose your passport, or if it gets stolen, you’ll have another copy.

Keep one copy in your suitcase (or another bag), and leave one copy at home. Give that copy to a loved one. If you need information on your passport, you can call them, or they will send you a photo. You do not want to get stuck abroad with no passport.

Warn Your Bank, Or Your Card Won’t Work

A woman uses a credit card to pay for gas at a station.
Jay LaPrete/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jay LaPrete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Before you leave, warn your bank or credit card company. If you do not, your card might stop working. Most companies are designed to detect fraud and will immediately cancel your card if they do.

Banks will detect fraud if you use your card somewhere far away from where you live. What’s farther than an international purchase? You can reactivate your card, but you will have to call your bank. Remember to call them beforehand, and always carry extra cash while you are walking around.

Learn Luggage Restrictions Before Packing

A blue suitcase is packed with clothes.
Sigmund/Unsplash
Sigmund/Unsplash

How big can your suitcase be? And how much can it weigh? Check these restrictions before packing. Although every country has different limits, most cap off at 50 pounds and 62 inches. Carry-ons can be up to 45 inches.

If you plan to purchase souvenirs, remember that these will increase your luggage weight. You might need to ship the souvenirs to yourself if you do not have enough room. This is why it is imperative to check the luggage maximum before you begin packing for your trip.

Learn To Say (And Read) Phrases In The Native Language

A woman reads airport signs for her terminal.
JESHOOTS-com/Pixabay
JESHOOTS-com/Pixabay

If you are traveling to a country with a different native language, learn a few key phrases in their language. Never assume that everyone can speak English. If you are going to navigate street names, train stations, or subways, you need some knowledge of the native language.

Some key phrases to learn include “Excuse me,” “Where is the restroom?” and “Can you take a card?” Learn how to follow signs, including “Exit,” “Open,” and “Restrooms.” Some travel guide books include these phrases for you to reference while on-the-go.

How To Save Money On Utilities

A woman's hand flips the light switch.
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

While you’re traveling, you can save money on utilities. Turn off electronics before you leave, including lights and AC (or set the AC to low). Unplug electronics that you are not using; they will still soak up electricity even when they are not on.

If you will be gone for a long time, you can turn off your water heater or set it to a low temperature. Some lights also have timers; you can set a timer for when you get back, or you can put your outdoor light on a timer. All of these tricks will save money.

Get The Right Chargers For Your Phone Or Laptop

A myriad of phone chargers lie on a white table.
Tessa Bunney/In Pictures via Getty Images Images
Tessa Bunney/In Pictures via Getty Images Images

Some countries have different sized outlets, and they might use a different amount of voltage. If you bring a U.S. charger, you will not be able to charge your phone or laptop. And if you try, it might damage the battery.

Before you leave, get a travel adapter. This adapter will connect your charger to the country’s outlet. There are dozens of unique outlets and voltages out there, so double-check that you are getting the right one. Do not wait until you land to purchase an adapter.

Do Not Fall For Airport ATMs

A woman gets cash at an airport ATM in Tokyo.
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Airport ATMs tend to rip people off. They usually charge a fee, and they might make the conversation rate higher than it is. Instead, use an ATM in the city or town you’re visiting. Better yet, get some of the nation’s cash before you leave.

If you can find a bank that does conversions within the country, use it. Those banks are usually accurate, and they do not charge fees. That said, you should always have some cash while walking around. You never know which businesses will not accept cards.

Are Special Events Happening During Your Trip?

People toss colored chalk into the air during an Indian festival.
Debashis RC Biswas/Unsplash
Debashis RC Biswas/Unsplash

Depending on when you travel, the country might have time-specific events that you’ll want to see. Is there a cultural festival? Does the town have a flea market every weekend? Are some restaurants only open in the morning or night?

While you do not need to plan a full itinerary, you should research what is happening during your trip. Schedule those days. Ensure that you land those once-in-a-lifetime events. You would hate to learn that you missed a local event by only a few days!

Double-Check What You Can And Cannot Bring

A man packs a water bottle, phone, and wallet into his backpack.
Joby Sessions/N-Photo Magazine/Future via Getty Images
Joby Sessions/N-Photo Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Some items are prohibited in specific countries. If the airport finds these objects in your luggage, you might get delayed before even getting on the plane. Specifically, certain foods, seeds, and drinks are not allowed to cross international borders.

In the United States, prohibited or restricted items include alcohol, certain medications, food or food products, seeds, soil, ceramic tableware, and some textiles. Normal toiletries and medications should be fine, but double-check which foods, drinks, and liquids you can pack. It will make travel much smoother.

How Will You Use Your Phone?

A tourist takes photos of Venice.
Max Kukurudziak/Unsplash
Max Kukurudziak/Unsplash

Before you travel, make a mental note about how you will use your phone. Check your phone’s user manual to see if it is a “world phone.” If it is, then it should work in most of the world.

To lower the cost of texts and calls, research international roaming packages. These are usually cheaper than paying as you go. When not using your phone, put it on airplane mode, rely on wifi, or talk through messenger apps. You might end up paying quite a bit if you do not make a phone plan ahead of time.

Never Assume The Weather

A man presses his head on the back of a bus seat as rain pours on the window.
Lily Banse/Unsplash
Lily Banse/Unsplash

Some tourists will assume that, because of the season or the country, the weather will automatically be hot or cold. Never assume that. Tropical beaches can rain, and snowy mountains can still have warm, sunny days. Always check the weather before you pack.

That said, remember that weather predictions can be incorrect. Pack an extra outfit in case of spontaneous rainy days. If the nights get cold, pack warm socks or a robe. If you plan to shop for clothing while there, leave some extra room in your suitcase.

Heed The State Department Travel Warnings

A woman reads something on her laptop.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

If you are wondering whether a certain travel location is safe, check the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories. This website lists any location that is potentially unsafe or unstable. Some areas in Mexico, Europe, and Egypt have these warnings.

In some cases, the State recommends that you avoid these areas. In others, you can visit, but you need to keep your wits about you. A Level Three area means that you should reconsider travel, and a Level Four spot is somewhere that you should not travel.

Know The Country’s Etiquette

A lion dance is performed in a Japanese restaurant.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

You might want to research some etiquette rules before the plane lands. For instance, many countries have different tip rules. Some Middle Eastern countries require higher tips than people are used to in the U.S. In Japan, it is considered rude to offer a tip.

On top of that, always pack with the country’s etiquette in mind. If you are visiting a conservative nation, do not wear shorts or tank tops. Some businesses might require people to cover visible tattoos. It’s not personal; it’s just how the country runs.

Know How To Travel From The Airport To The Hotel

Taxis are in line waiting for passengers from the airport.
Michael Brennan/Getty Images
Michael Brennan/Getty Images

When you get off the plane, you’ll likely feel exhausted. But the trip has not yet ended. You will have to travel from the airport to your hotel or Airbnb. However, many taxi and Uber drivers will overcharge you to leave the airport.

Before you land, create a plan for how you will leave the hotel. Sometimes, you cannot avoid the high taxi prices. Other times, you can walk a bit away from the airport to catch a taxi at a flat rate. Make sure you have your destination’s address, too.

Budget The Country’s Entry Fee

People with luggage step onto a Jet Blue plane.
Elizabeth French/Unsplash
Elizabeth French/Unsplash

Did you know that the United States has an entry fee? To cross the border, tourists need to pay around $7. Other countries also have entry and exit fees, but they might cost much more. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 56 countries have entry or exit fees.

These fees can range from $14 to $100, but that is in American dollars. You will need to pay with the country’s currency. Research those fees and grab the money before you even get on the plane.

Protect Yourself From Scams And Thieves

Shoppers walk along Nanjing East Road, a pedestrian street and one of the main shopping districts in Shanghai, China.
Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images
Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images

While you might assume that you can easily spot a scam, this is not always the case. Companies have learned how to lure in visitors, especially in international airports and tourist hotspots. Be prepared for these.

Avoid any booth that looks overly ostentatious or has aggressive salesmen. Keep your belongings close to your person, especially your wallet and passport. If you use open networks, get a VPN on your phone to avoid data theft. Finally, never accept rides from unmarked vehicles or cars that look different from what an Uber describes.

Always Carry Paper Or Photo Copies

A camera and passport are on top of a paper map of the world.
Pamjpat/Pixabay
Pamjpat/Pixabay

If you are going sightseeing, you will probably need a map. Never assume that your phone’s map will work. You might lose Wifi and cell signal, and if that happens, you will get lost. Print out a map before hitting the town, or download an offline version of Google Maps.

You might need paper or picture copies of other travel info. For instance, do you know which train stations to get off at? Do you need the names of certain museums or restaurants? Do you have an itinerary? If your phone dies or you lose signal, then you’ll want paper copies.

Ensure That Your Bills Get Paid

A person counts dozens of $100 bills.
YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images
YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Although you will be on vacation, your home bills will still need to get paid. Will your rent be due while you’re abroad? What about your water and electric bills? If you boarded your pets somewhere, will you have to pay the pet sitter?

Whenever you can, set up automatic payments. Settle a payment plan for any pet or house-sitter before you leave. And when you depart, let your neighbors know. If a package lands on your doorstep, your neighbors can hold it for you until you get back.

Before You Leave, Clean Your Home

A woman cleans out her refrigerator.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Before you depart, take a bit of time to clean your house or apartment. You don’t want your food or trash to rot while you’re away. Throw out perishable food and take out the trash. If you can, tidy the home a bit; it will help you relax when you return.

This is also a good time to double-check belongings. Are your plants watered? Do your blinds need to open for the plants? Do you have a spare house key just in case? Remember, you’ll feel tired when you get home. You’ll want to crash, not clean and organize.

Make Sure You Have The Right Vaccinations

A doctor places his hand on his chin.
Austin Distel/Unsplash
Austin Distel/Unsplash

Before you travel, talk to your doctor to ensure that you are up-to-date on vaccinations. Some countries require certain vaccinations to enter. Sharona Hoffman, co-director of the Law-Medicine Center at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, says that many countries will require a COVID-19 vaccine to travel.

If you are traveling for employment, then you should check with your company which vaccines are required. Visit the World Health Organization’s website to learn which vaccinations you need to travel, and get it done before you leave.