So I have traveled to Uganda, China and the Philippines. I have learned some things from friends and other things from experience. Hopefully the following will help you in your current or future international travel plans. Take it with a grain of salt, because where you travel may be very different from where I have traveled.
- Get a passport as soon as you know you are traveling somewhere — if you don’t already have a passport.
- When getting your visa I like using a visa processing service. You pay more but it goes smoothly.
- Make sure you leave plenty of time for shots. Some shots require more than one visit, so if you wait until the last week before you leave you might not get all the necessary shots.
- Leave plenty of time at the airport to get through security. Unless you are flying into San Francisco, because the fog delays cancel out any need to rush through security.
- If you have several connecting flights, make sure your luggage has strong identifying tags on the outside. Why? Because if you travel enough eventually the airport is going to misplace your luggage. My wife and I arrived in the Philippines on a Wednesday night… our luggage arrived on a Friday morning. At some point the airport is going to keep your luggage in Hawaii (or some other place) while you are having fun in a different country. If possible, pack one or two changes of clothes in your carry-on bag… plus travel size toothbrush, deodorant, etc in your carry-on. The airports provide small paper tags, but if you can get something stronger… pay for it attach it. The paper tags tear off pretty easily.
- If you are married, and there was a name change involved for one (or both) of you, get your passport changed now. My wife and I got married last year, and she did not change her passport because she did not expect to be traveling internationally any time soon. But then an opportunity opened up, and the scramble to change the name on her passport was a headache because of the time constraint. So if you have traveled internationally before, even if you don’t think it is a priority, get the passport change done.
- If you travel to a place with giant spiders… realize the giant spiders look bigger and hairier in person than they do in the pictures. Seriously, what is up with the giant jumping spiders in the Philippines? At least these aren’t poisonous!
- If you are an international traveler people are going to beg you for money. So be ready for it. Especially if you are American. China wasn’t too bad, but Uganda and the Philippines seem really bad for begging. I was not prepared for beggars when I went to Uganda (my first international trip)… and getting mobbed by several Ugandan children begging for money was overwhelming. Which brings me to #9.
- If you are an international traveler you are an easy target for pickpockets. Why? Because you are experiencing culture shock and can’t focus on anything. When you are unfocused, pickpockets have laser guided precision.
- Pack plenty of medicines to help you deal with the exotic new foods that taste great but keep you up at night!
- A taxi driver in China lied to me about a fare. That is my fault for being an American and not fully understanding the language. Do your best to pay attention to the fares you pay. He said it was $10, I thought it was $5 because I had already taken this route a couple times… but he insisted it was $10. I asked someone later, and they confirmed that I had been lied to.
- A taxi usher basically pushed my two friends and I into a cab when we arrived in Beijing. It was a nice minivan cab. We had asked for one of the regular car cabs, but we were pushed into this one. When we arrived at our hotel we discovered we were paying $90 for that cab ride! This made us angry because we had wanted one of the small ones, but the usher (physically guided us) into the expensive cab. So, don’t get bullied into a cab… because the guy who is “escorting” you into the cab is probably getting a percentage of the cab fare and wants you to get into the expensive cabs.
- Last point… if you are from America, then people in other countries assume you have lots of money. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO or a waitress. American = money.
I hope this helps prepare you. This list is not comprehensive but hopefully it should help get you started traveling internationally!