Travel Abroad

Now that you know where to go, its time to prepare for the trip. What will the temperature be like? What vaccinations are recommended? Am I going during any national holidays? What type of money will I need? Do they drive on the left or right? Do I need to worry about any of their unique laws? When going abroad there are so many issues to deal with, it helps to prepare.

Vaccinations

MDTravelHealth.com has vaccination recommendations for many countries. In addition to web research, checking with your doctor for recommendations is also advised. Vaccinations can be tricky in that it is not only the country you are visiting, but what other countries you have visited recently can also affect what is required for entry into your destination country.

Currency Conversion

It is hard to keep track of which country uses what currency, so xe.com and Oanda.com provide assistance. But if you already know the currency then Google lets you do the conversion as ‘100 euro in dollars‘ to get a rough idea of the conversion rate.

Visa Requirements

Visa requirements vary from country to country and are complicated by the nationality of the passport you hold. Different countries have made different arrangements about whose citizens need entry visas and whose do not. Also the time allowed for a short term visit varies from country to country. Often the easiest way to figure out what is required is by visiting the embassy web sites of the countries you want to visit. EmbassyWorld makes finding these websites easy.

National Holidays

Sometimes you want to travel during a holiday in a foreign country, and other times you want to avoid being trampled as the locals rush to get to their vacation destinations. In either case a quick check at Q++Studio helps to find days to go or to avoid.

Weather

Sites like WorldClimate allow you to see the high, average, and low temperatures throughout the year.  Also check whether or not you will visit during the rainy season (search: [country] rainy season).

Embassy Contact Information

When traveling abroad you may encounter situations where you need assistance. Preparing the phone number for your embassy or consulate is worthwhile, even though you probably will not need it. Once again, EmbassyWorld can help track down the local web site containing the contact information.

Emergency Contact Information

Another essential that is not standardized around the world is how to call for help from police, fire, and ambulance. Preparing a list of these contact numbers for each country is recommended. Skytravel, and Wikipedia have two nice lists. In the event that you do not have the numbers on hand when an emergency strikes, then just find a native or the nearest pay phone. Pay phones tend to have the emergency numbers prominently displayed. But, since the pay phone is a dying breed in the age of cell phones, best to prepare the list ahead of time and place it in your wallet.

Driving Information

Driving rules differ from country to country. Do you drive on the left or the right? Is my International Driver’s License valid there? Where do I get an International Driver’s License? What do the traffic signs mean?

The best site I have found for information on driving in a foreign country is WikiTravel. The Driving-In.com site also has high level information for many countries. I am still looking for a good site that describes the various traffic signs of a country.

If you are going to drive in another country, make sure to pick up the International Driver’s License before you leave. Once you arrive at your destination it is too late.

Can I drink the water?

When traveling to a new country, one immediate concern is whether the water from the tap is drinkable. The best solution is to ask the locals, but a search of ‘[country] drinking water‘ will usually provide the answer.

Background Information

Before visiting a country, it is nice to get a little background on its history, customs, unique laws, and more. This is particularly good material for passing the time on the flight to the country. One would not want to make the mistake of getting caned for carrying a pound of chewing gum bought at Costo while entering Singapore, when a few moments would have shown that there are legal limits on the importing of chewing gum. A good background site is WikiTravel for travel related information for cities and countries. WikiPedia and the CIA Factbook are good references for more in-depth historical and economic information.

Packing Lists

Figuring out what to pack can be aided by the sites: ‘Don’t Forget Your Tooth brush‘ and ‘The Universal Packing List‘. These sites create packing lists, along with additional information about what to prepare for the trip.

Restrooms

Different countries have different style restrooms.  Some are much more public than others. The bathroom rating site ‘The Bathroom Diaries‘ can help get an idea of what to expect as you travel. Toilet seats do not exist everywhere.  Probably one of my most embarrassing moments traveling in Japan was walking up to a police box to ask the officer for directions, only to discover that it was just a restroom with a star on top with the officer inside using it.

Additional References

LifeHacker has two articles on preparing for a trip. Part one discusses preparing for the flight: reservations, seat assignments, packing, and the like. Part two discusses the day of the flight, and being on board.

Wrap Up

Traveling to foreign countries is fun, but can sometimes be intimidating. A little preparation and a lot of the foreignness will disappear, and you will have a great time. A little advance planning will give you interesting places to visit, food to try, and a chance to see that there is definitely more than one way to live. The web, GSM phones, and GPS can help make the trip easier, but there is still a long way to go before technology can provide more than assistance on a vacation. In reality, a vacation is more about the people and the scenery than technology. Enjoy your trip.

What preparation do you make before traveling internationally?

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