Practical Tips for International Travel.

 SUMMARY   In this article, we won’t dazzle you with grandiose promises or extravagant tales of wanderlust. Instead, we aim to provide you with practical advice and insights to make your international travels smoother, more enjoyable, and, most importantly, hassle-free. It’s not about the number of passport stamps or the most Instagram-worthy shots; it’s about savoring the beauty of diverse cultures (аnd savoring local cuisine), embracing new flavors, and creating cherished memories.

As we embark on this journey together, we’ll explore essential tips and tricks to help you navigate international travel with ease. From packing hacks to cultural etiquette, safety precautions to budget-friendly options, we’ve got you covered.

“I’m talking about real travel, son. Not all the nonsense from the travel brochures. Paris New Bridge in the early morning, when no one is there, some tramps crawl out from under the bridges and from the metro, and the sun is reflected in the water. New York, Central Park in spring. Rome. Ascension Island. Cross the Italian Alps on a donkey. Sail from Crete in a greengrocer’s caik. Cross the Himalayas on foot. There is rice from the leaves at the Ganesha temple. Get caught in a storm off the coast of New Guinea. Meet the spring in Moscow, when a whole winter of dog shit from under the melted snow is climbing. “ – Joan Harris. “Blackberry Wine”

Introduction.

First and foremost, every journey will change you. Change is an integral part of the travel experience, replacing stereotypes. Regardless of your initial reasons for embarking on a journey, the outcome of your trip will be a new experience and transformations. Plan without fanaticism, allowing serendipity to fill your journey with adventures.

Here we are talking about long international trips that you plan and carry out independently in urban environments.

Don’t be afraid of other countries. Corporate mass media love to report on the murders or kidnappings of tourists because it’s sensational and gets clicks. But compare how many serious incidents have occurred in your own country or city.

Patience is the second principle to guide you. You may encounter delays in buses, issues with accommodation or taxi payments. Your wallet, documents, or phone might even get stolen. It may seem like this misfortune could only happen to someone as unlucky as you, but that’s not the case. Tens of thousands of people experience petty theft every day. You should consider the possibility of these incidents, making them less tragic for you.

This article is not written to teach you how to travel ‘correctly’ or how to feel. The information presented here will help you plan your trip and make it smoother in practical terms.

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General Recommendations.

Travel solo from time to time. While traveling with friends is a lot of fun, in solo travel, you truly discover yourself and what you are made of.

Wake up early. Get up before sunrise to see the best sights, avoiding the large tourist crowds. It’s also a magical time for photography due to the soft, diffused light, and it’s usually easier to interact with locals who are getting ready for a new day.

Observe the everyday life around you. If you really want to feel the pulse of a place, one of my favorite traveler tips is to spend a few hours alone in a park or on a busy street corner, simply observing everyday life unfolding before you.

Slow down and pay attention to the details around you. Smells, colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation, and you’ll notice things you didn’t before.

Slow down to savor the journey. Please don’t try to cram six countries into a six-week trip. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore.

Stay open-minded. Don’t judge the lifestyles or customs of others if they differ from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with.

Be flexible and don’t over-plan. I cringe when readers ask how many days they should spend in a particular country or city. The truth is, I have no idea what you’ll like and who you’ll meet.

Wandering aimlessly through a new city is a good way to get to know it.

Don’t expect places to look exactly like they do in photos.

Avoid TripAdvisor.

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Trip Planning.

Flights. Purchase flights between major airports, take a break in the city upon arrival, and then travel to your final destination by land. Be flexible with your travel dates and times. Don’t buy into myths about super cheap flights. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to get the absolute cheapest fare – there’s no magic bullet or one secret ninja trick.

Start your search with Skyscanner and Momondo, then compare with Google Flights. After checking these three websites, go to the airline’s own website to see if you can find better deals.

Most of the time, it’s cheaper to fly in the middle of the week rather than on weekends, as most people travel on weekends and airlines raise prices. Prices can also be lower if you fly after a major holiday or during it.

Budget airlines often charge for checked bags, carry-on luggage, printing your boarding pass, using a credit card, and anything else they can get away with. Be sure to add up the cost of the ticket and the fees to make sure it’s lower than a larger carrier.

Accommodation. If you’re planning to visit a well-known and popular destination, you should plan your trip at least 4-6 months in advance, especially if you’re traveling during the peak season for that destination.

Purchase travel insurance. Listen, no one wants to spend money on international travel insurance. But do it anyway. Trust me on this.

Talk to your bank. Your bank will flag your account if you start spending money in a foreign country without warning, and believe me, you don’t want to find yourself in a foreign country without access to your bank account.

Split your luggage. One of the key pieces of advice I would give to first-time travelers, especially if they want to bring a backpack, is ‘pack a light backpack.’ All your items should fit into a 40-liter backpack (plus an additional 10-liter one for carry-on and essentials). If you’re in doubt about something, you don’t need it. And believe me, you’ll be surprised, but you can literally buy anything for daily life locally at any time.

First Aid Kit. Take your regular medications, the ones you need at home consistently. Prepare for stomach upset, which happens more often during a trip, due to stress and new foods. Everything else can be bought locally.

Documents. Don’t forget to make copies of all important documents, such as your passport and visas, in case the originals are lost or stolen. Email copies to yourself. Also, record important addresses and phone numbers for both home and your travel destinations, save them in your email, and print a copy.

Photos. Take extra visa photos in advance if you plan to visit multiple countries.

Download city maps to your phone when you first arrive in a new city. This way, you can use them even when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.

Research how you’re going to get from the airport to your hotel. During my travels, I have never encountered an airport that wasn’t serviced by public transportation systems. Taking a taxi for transfers can often be expensive.

Take a few hours to study the city’s transportation system and basic landmarks. Look for the direction to your accommodation relative to these landmarks. Once you figure that out, the city will become much smaller and less intimidating.

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Luggage, Clothing & Gear.

If you’re planning to travel for an extended period, a good backpack that suits you and a comfortable pair of shoes will be the two most important investments before leaving home. If you’re going to splurge on anything, spend it on these two essentials.

All of my clothing doesn’t require ironing and is made from quick-drying fabric. I have one cotton t-shirt and regular jeans, the same ones I use at home.

Light microfiber towel.

Do not bring white clothing with you. Take a scarf or a sarong. I use a shemagh, but sarongs work great too. This simple piece of cotton fabric is one of my most useful travel accessories with many practical uses and doesn’t take up much space.

Take photos of your luggage and clothes. This will make it easier to identify and claim your luggage.

Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on (during flights). I always carry a toiletry bag, important documents, and an external battery with me. That way, if my main backpack goes missing, I have something to wear and essentials for a couple of days without my main luggage.

Additionally, ensure that your carry-on luggage conforms to the dimensions outlined in their size guidelines.

Some airlines deliver lost bags to your accommodation, while others require you to pick them up. Before leaving the airport, make sure you know the exact procedure: do they have your information, and do you have theirs?

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Useful Household Items.

A lightweight rain jacket. Do not bring an umbrella, as one gust of wind will carry it away or break it. It’s better to buy a rain jacket.

Take a reusable water bottle with you. Buy a large water bottle at your accommodation and refill the bottle you brought with you. Avoid contributing to plastic pollution by buying small plastic bottles.

Universal power adapter. Retractable prongs allow it to work in more than 150 countries.

The inCharge 6 is the only charging cable you need. It’s a 6-in-1 connector cable that allows you to connect various types of USB devices. Specifically, inCharge 6 supports USB, Type C, Lightning, and Micro USB connections. There are 6 combinations that you can mix and match.

If you’re traveling as a couple and planning to visit remote areas, consider the Midland LXT630VP3, a two-way radio with a range of up to 30 miles. Additionally, satellite communication devices like the Garmin inReach offer two-way communication, allowing you to send and receive text messages in areas with limited or no cellular coverage.

Gravel Layover is a portable travel blanket. Whether you believe it or not, this cool blanket will fit in a very small carrying bag that may not even take up 10% of your travel backpack. It weighs only about 350 grams.

A portable door lock is something you should consider, especially if you’re traveling alone.

Bottle protectors, “wine angels.” / Headlamp, AAA batteries. / High-capacity portable power bank. / Solar charger. / Waterproof pouches for important items and spare clothing. / A piece of soap. / Always carry hygiene wipes. / Bring earplugs.

Sunburn. If you have access to aloe vera, use it! It works wonders for sunburns.

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Food & Street Food.

I love to eat. In fact, food is one of my favorite pastimes and one of my favorite aspects of traveling. I could spend a couple of days telling you about the best places and delicious dishes around the world.

Remember a few fundamental rules when it comes to street food in distant countries:

  • Freshly cooked or fried is good; you should see where the food is coming from.
  • Avoid eating at touristy places. If you see many locals enjoying the same food you want to order, that’s a good sign. It doesn’t matter how it visually appears – it could often be a street kiosk on a bicycle cart.
  • Everything you drink (water, juice, alcohol), you should print out yourself.
  • Fruits that you peel by yourself and eat are a good idea. Fruits without peel that need to be washed before consumption – set aside for later.

Stomach discomfort in the first few days after arriving in Southeast Asia may not only be due to food. It could be a result of acclimatization. Try to avoid excessive consumption of freshly squeezed juices and rushing to taste local dishes at least during the first couple of days.

You should know that there are countries with a developed culture of eating out, and there are countries where regular dining out is not the norm. If you eat out constantly in Europe, you’ll go broke. In Southeast Asia, street food is part of the traditional culture, and there’s no need to cook much at home, except maybe for breakfast because I’m too lazy to go somewhere early in the morning.

I always carry my titanium spoon with me. Eating with chopsticks? That’s not my style :) I eat things that can’t be eaten with a spoon with my hands. Of course, hands should be clean. Bring wet wipes with you in case you can’t wash your hands before eating.

Avoid dairy products. Avoid ice in bars or from street vendors, could make you very ill. Beware of Sauces.

In countries such as India Its best to avoid meat all together and eat like the locals.

Street Food | Official Trailer | Netflix (From the creators of Chef’s Table, comes a new mouth-watering documentary series that celebrates the local heroes of street food in Thailand, India, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam.)

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Money, Banks & ATMs.

A couple of basic things you’ve probably heard of but are often overlooked. Do not carry all your money with you due to worries that ATMs might suddenly stop working and you’ll be left without money in a foreign country. Trust me, you’re not the first tourist in that country, and banks have taken care of making a profit from tourists, etc. If you’re in a challenging country, carry a small amount, like a ten or twenty, to give in case of trouble in a dark alley.

Whenever possible, use ATMs located inside bank premises.

Don’t agree to anything related to money without knowing exactly how much it will cost.

Apply for a credit/debit card with zero international transaction fees.

Airports and banks offer terrible exchange rates.

Don’t exchange money in your own country; typically, it’s most cost-effective to withdraw the local currency upon arriving in another country, but not immediately at the airport. Most airports have ATMs in the terminals; withdraw enough to get to your hotel.

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Your Safety.

Respect local traditions. In some countries, it’s advisable not to overly expose your body. In this context, your personal perception of modesty is irrelevant. Local traditions matter, so don’t disregard them, as ignoring them in some countries could lead to serious issues for you.

Avoid carrying your passport with you. Your passport is undeniably the most crucial possession during your travels. Remember I told you to make copies of your documents? Take those copies with you, and leave your passport at the hotel (preferably in the safe).

Losing your phone. Make sure you know all your important passwords, update all your account data before departure, have a backup email address to receive those annoying security codes without a phone. It’s also better to have a second basic phone for receiving important SMS, for example from the bank, and also store important numbers on it.

Back up files and photos! Buy space on Google Drive, store all your documents, photos, and everything else there. Your laptop can be stolen or break, and its hard drive can fail. Just keep this in mind. An external drive, preferably an SSD, keep it in your clothing away from the walls of your backpack.

Before you leave, tell several family members or close friends about your route. Then make it a habit to check in with them at specific intervals. It can be as simple as sending an email every night before bed, but having someone who knows your whereabouts and expects you to check in every day can be a big help if something goes wrong during your trip.

In the United States, there is an excellent government service for international travelers (Travel Advisories). Even if you are not a U.S. citizen, this service provides you with a wealth of useful information about countries.

Stop using the back pocket or external pockets of your backpack for valuable items. Carry your backpack in front in crowded places.

Be aware of your surroundings. You should always be aware of what you’re doing and what’s happening around you.

If something doesn’t feel right or seems unsafe to you, trust your intuition.

Download Safety Apps. Popular safety apps include bSafe, ICE, Shake2Safety, Kitestring, Smart24x7, and many others. These apps offer features like 24/7 monitoring, emergency alerts, location-based services, and can deliver instant or delayed messages. Many of these apps also work with a locked phone screen and without internet access.

Use a VPN.

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Don’t take this with you!

Paper guidebooks, including Lonely Planet; everything is available online.

Money belts. Money belts won’t protect you from theft. Most thieves are not dumb and know about money belts as much as you do.

Zip-off pants/shorts or a multi-pocket vest. Do you wear these at home? I think not, and I’m sure people where you’re going don’t wear strange clothing in their daily lives.

Hiking boots. If hiking in rugged terrain is not your primary goal during the trip and you plan to explore the urban environment, leave hiking boots at home. Choose the most comfortable trekking shoes or sneakers. Take your time to try them on and select the most comfortable and lightweight ones.

Sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are designed for people camping in the woods, not for tourists in urban settings. No tent means no sleeping bag, mat, camping stove, and the like.

Jewelry. Pillow, coffee press, hula hoop, surfboard… It goes without saying, but you’d be surprised by what people bring on their travels.

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After arriving in a new country.

First of all, take a deep breath. Don’t feel obligated to dive right into an intense travel itinerary.

Take a hotel business card at the registration desk and always carry it with you. Open Google Maps, locate your hotel’s position, and take a screenshot.

Don’t plan big activities for your first day. Instead, take it easy and try to go to sleep at a normal time local to where you are. In my plans, I always include a “Road Day” for rest and dealing with practical matters.

Take a walk along the street where you’re staying. It doesn’t have to be far, but stepping out of your room for a walk in the vicinity of your accommodation will be a good start.

You’ll get some fresh air, hopefully a bit of sunlight, and the movement will benefit your body after the time spent in transit. It will also allow you to start getting familiar with the area while staying close to your base.

Smile and express gratitude for everything people do for you, even when it involves money.

Remember, nobody in another country is obligated to know the language you speak. Make an effort to prepare for communication in advance. Save essential terms, food names, necessary everyday phrases, and addresses in the local language beforehand.

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