Preparing for travel abroad can be daunting. You want the trip to be enjoyable and hassle free, but you’re not only leaving your comfort zone, you’re leaving the country. Doing a little research ahead of time will help prevent any unnecessary surprises so you don’t end up like Clark Griswald on his European Vacation.
Know How to Go
You know you want to go on vacation; now you just have to get there. Transportation to and from your destination can be expensive and stressful, especially if you don’t plan ahead. Rome was not built in a day, and you’ll need longer than that to plan a trip there. Flights tend to be less expensive when purchased well ahead of time. Being flexible with your travel dates and times can help save you money, too. You may find cheaper flights if you’re willing to travel during the night and on weekdays.
Once you get there, you’ll want to get around, and a rickshaw might not be the most comfortable way to travel. Some areas have extensive public transportation systems, and in other areas you may be limited to rental cars or taxis. Contact your destination’s U.S. Embassy to find out the best way to do your sightseeing. Things will go more smoothly if you don’t have to beg for change to ride the bus and if you know how to purchase a metro card.
Better Safe than Sorry
Unless your idea of adventure is civil unrest or your expectation of living like the locals involves joining a mass protest, you’ll want to stay aware of the political climate in the area you’re planning to visit. Check out the U.S. Department of State website (http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html) to help ensure a welcoming atmosphere. The website can clue you in to possible areas where travelers may experience difficulties or hostility. You can also register your travel itinerary so the U.S. Department of State can contact you if there is an emergency that may turn your sweet trip sour. Keep the phone number for the U.S. Embassy in your destination handy in case you need assistance while traveling.
Don’t Leave Empty-Handed
Now you’ve left home, but you also want to make sure you can enter the country to which you’re traveling. Being stranded in an airport because you didn’t research your destination’s entry requirements isn’t the ideal way to spend a vacation. When traveling abroad, you’ll need your passport and another form of photo identification. Some locations require certain vaccinations or health certificates. Being aware of these and bringing any necessary documentation with you will ensure a smooth experience. Travelers with prescription medications must bring along the original prescription bottle and prescription information sheet.
American dollars may not get you very far in another country. You’ll have to exchange your money when you get to your destination, and the currency there may seem like Monopoly money. Researching the exchange rate before you leave will help you determine how much cash to bring and help you figure out exactly how many pesos, euros, or yen a hamburger costs. Although you can usually find an automatic teller machine (ATM) or another service that will allow you to withdraw money using a debit or credit card, there may be large fees for the service.
When in Rome…
Americans traveling abroad don’t have the cushion of American laws to fall back on. Different countries, cities, and towns have different laws. The U.S. Department of State can tell you if it’s against the law to chew gum in Singapore, drive a car with the headlights off in Denmark, or feed the pigeons in Venice. Make a quick list of any laws that might affect you so you can enjoy your trip without a visit to the local police department.
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