Tips for First Time International Travelers

by Caitlin
small plane sitting on top of small toy globe

We all remember our first time. It isn’t easy, in fact it’s pretty scary! Embarking on a journey beyond the bounds of our comfort zones, beyond the bounds of our countries borders, it takes guts. But, believe me when I tell you you’ll be so glad you did it. And once you’ve done it once, the second, third, fourth, fiftieth times, are so much easier! You’ll soon find that the butterflies are full of excitement rather than dread and fear. And, to get fewer of those dread and fear butterflies for your first international trip, here are some top tips, directly from the travel experts…[no_toc]


Carry a first aid box with essential medications

By: Sapna, My Simple Sojourn

red first aid pouch with supplies

A simple first aid kit

The essential medicines are one of the most important things to carry while traveling abroad. Carry medication for flu, fever, stomach problems, allergies, and general ailments. These medicines are often available over the counter, but carrying your own is always very helpful. Our body is used to some medicines so it’s better to use the tried and tested ones when visiting a new country.

I was traveling to Siem Reap by road from Bangkok and during my long road travel, I had a severe headache. Having a medicine in my handbag was a lifesaver. On another occasion, I had some stomach issues and took the medication at night. The next morning I was good to go.

Carrying medicines means that you have a sure shot remedy. It also saves time and trouble locating a drug store in a new city, especially if you are traveling solo. Moreover, you never know how different brands of medicine act on your body. When packing a first aid box, think of the common health issues you had in the last 4-5 years. Pack a strip of the medicine you used during these ailments.


Use an ATM When You Arrive

By: Sydney, A World in Reach

man holding one and wallet next to atm

Use an ATM in country

When traveling overseas, the best way to obtain local currency is to use your debit card at an ATM when you arrive. You can use an ATM at the airport or find a bank or convenience store with an ATM while you’re out exploring. You may be subject to an ATM fee and a foreign transaction fee, however this will still be much cheaper than using a currency exchange stand. Some banks, such as Charles Schwab, even refund ATM fees and foreign transaction fees!

One important thing to remember: make sure to notify your bank of your travels so that they won’t flag an overseas transaction as being fraudulent, which may lead to a freeze being placed on your account.

When Paying by Credit Card Abroad Always Choose to Pay in the Local Currency

By: Jacquie, Flashpacking Family

person holding credit card to payment terminal

Use a credit card

General advice about your travel money these days is to ditch the wads of foreign currency in favour of credit cards which offer more security.

Credit cards are widely accepted, but there’s one vital thing you need to know about using your card abroad. If you’re given the option when using a chip and pin machine or the ATM, always opt to pay in the local currency. Your bank back home will then convert using their rate. If you opt to pay in your home currency, the foreign bank or shop will do the conversion for you and they will most likely use a much worse rate making the whole transaction more expensive.


Always Have Access to Translation Services

By: Jo, Backpack and Bushcraft

French and German phrase books laid out on table

Phrase books are very important

It can be scary traveling in new places, and this all becomes a lot harder if you don’t speak the language.

Always be prepared and carry a small pocket phrasebook in the local language. You can pull it out of your pocket in times of need and it will help you to no end.

Many travellers also download Google translate and ensure it works offline in case of no phone signal. I recommend both, but always carry a physical phrase book in case your phone battery dies and you need to ask for help.

Pack Snacks in Your Carry-On

By: Ingrid, Second Half Travels

bags of chips and cheetos

Bring snacks

Bringing healthy snacks saves you from having to purchase overpriced airport food. When my flights include a mealtime layover, I pack filling foods like a sandwich, hard-boiled eggs, and celery or carrot sticks.

Non-perishable snacks can also provide emergency sustenance after you arrive at your destination. I always pack protein bars and trail mix with dried fruit and nuts. I’ve subsisted on these survival rations many times on long bus rides or evenings when I’m too tired to go forage for food.

Note: Fresh fruit, veggies, cheese, and meat products are often prohibited import items and should be consumed before passing through customs.


Buy Travel Insurance

By: Caitlin, That’s Me!

lifebuoy on water

Travel insurance could save your trip

I seriously thought about just making a list that had ‘buy travel insurance’ ten times – it’s that important. I’ll be honest, when I was younger, I did not buy travel insurance. I was insured back home in the states on my parents insurance (thanks Obamacare!) but, that doesn’t cut it. Since 2014 I have bought travel insurance for absolutely every single trip I’ve gone on. And I have exclusively bought World Nomads – my one brand loyalty.

The first time I bought with the company was in Vietnam, a trip on which a friend ended up in hospital for about three weeks, they paid out. Since then, I’ve had to claim twice – once when I got bit by a pig in The Bahamas, and once when I got bit by a dog in Bali – I know, I know, what’s with all the animal bites? But the good news, each time they’ve paid out, in full, with my receipts and no further hassle. While you may not all be as unlucky as me when it comes to animals and their teeth, there is so much that can go wrong. Missed flights, lost luggage, damaged rental cars, illness, the list goes on. And while they can’t fix a trip that’s been derailed, travel insurance can make it so much easier to make it through without the whole thing going up in flames. Buy it. Every. Single. Time.

Scan Copies of All Important Documents

By: Nassie, Snippets of Paris

stack of white papers

Scan important documents

Traveling from place to place will by necessity include a lot of packing and unpacking.  Luggage, wallets, purses, carried around with important documents inside.  One of the best tips I can give new travelers is to scan copies of all important documents (passport, health insurance, plane tickets, hotel reservations, important phone numbers, etc) and keep a copy in your email account.

That way should you ever need it, you will quickly be able to access it without having to call “home” to sort it out for you.  And with email, you can also quickly send a copy to family members, so that they have access as well, in case of an emergency.  We always hope all goes well, but be prepared in case of hiccups!


Leave a Copy of Important Documents at Home Too

By: Caitlin, That’s Me!

man in white shirt with glasses talking on cell phone

Have someone to call at home, just in case.

While having a copy of everything important with you is vitally important, so is making sure someone else does too. This includes a copy of your passport, ticket info, health insurance, bookings, and vaccination or other important medical records. While you don’t want to have to call home, and want to be completely reliant on yourself while you’re out there (it’ll make you feel better, I promise) you also want to have that back up, just in case. So whether it’s a partner, a parent, a friend, or a colleague, ask someone to stash the info so you can get in touch should the very worst come about.


Always Pack a Change of Clothes, Basic Toiletries and Any Medication You Need in Your Hand Luggage

By: James, Travel Collecting

Lower half of man holding leather backpack in hand

Pack essentials in your carry on

Unfortunately, it isn’t safe to assume that your checked luggage will always arrive on time.  It’s a terrible feeling when you wait and wait for your bag to pop out on to the luggage carousel, and finally realize that it is not going to.

Airlines usually do locate your luggage and will deliver it to you, but this typically takes a day or two.  If you have something fresh to wear and your regular toiletries to use, then this is not such a big deal.  However, if you have packed everything, it can either make for an unpleasant period of time at the start of your vacation, or mean you have to spend the first few hours of your trip shopping for basics.  One thing to keep in mind is the limit on the size of liquids you can take with you in the cabin, so make sure you have travel sizes of any toiletries. 


Organize an Airport Pick up Before You Depart

By: Caitlin, That’s Me!

man with watch holding steering wheel driving

Arrange a driver

It’s easier to sort out transportation form the airport in some locations than others, but you’ll be glad no matter where you are not to have to think about it. In the past year I’ve arranged several airport pick ups, particularly for late night arrivals or when I had a long trip over land to make immediately upon landing. I cannot tell you how much of a relief it is to walk out and straight into the car of someone who knows exactly where I’m going and with whom I do not need to haggle a price.

Some airports – particularly throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, can be extremely hectic with people jostling for your business. And while you might be able to probably sort out things like Uber or Grab later on, you may not immediately have data. So just save yourself the headache and look for your name on a sign. Often, your accommodation can sort out the driver and you can pay them after, otherwise look into local guides through Viator or even Groupon.



Taking your first international vacation can be a scary prospect. The best way to make it easier to stomach is to make sure you are as prepared as you can. Here are the top travel tips from seasoned pros. From finances to snacks - read how to have the best trip ever! #internationaltrip #firsttimetraveler #traveltips

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Monica Sharma December 28, 2019 - 4:22 am

This blog is surely for my mom who will travelling to Paris for her first international trip, I am surely gonna share this with her so that she does not panic at the end time and can handle the situations well, Thank you so much for providing such wonderful and unique blog with us.

Caitlin December 28, 2019 - 10:37 am

Thank you for reading Monica! I am thrilled for your mom, Paris is a terrific city I hope she has a great trip and that she’s able to put these tips to good use.


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