Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

If you’ve decided that you want to take your first overseas trip, I envy you. There’s nothing like the feeling you get the first time you see a new country rise up to greet you from out of the plane’s window. It’s something I think everyone should experience for themselves at least once. 

That being said, international travel is nothing to take lightly. There’s ample opportunity for things to go wrong if you haven’t prepared.

To make sure you don’t ruin your trip with a simple mistake, read the following four things that most new travelers get wrong when they travel overseas, and ensure you don’t make the same mistakes.

1. Not Researching the Culture

If you’ve never been out of the country, you tend to form the impression that the entire world is just like where you live. Common sense would tell you this couldn’t be the case, but new travelers still fail to figure out just how different other countries are until it’s too late.

If you haven’t researched the cultural norms of your destination, this can get you in a lot of trouble. International tourists, especially Americans, have a reputation for being rude and inconsiderate in the international community. It’s because they don’t take the time to figure out what’s considered disrespectful in other nations.

For example, did you know you shouldn’t leave tips in Japan? If you do, you’re suggesting that the business owner doesn’t pay their employees enough. That’s a severe insult to Japanese business, and you might find your welcome worn out very quickly.

2. Not Figuring Out How Money Works

Many people new to international travel don’t take the time to figure out how money works in their destination. There are a couple of crucial things to consider:

The Type of Currency

The type of currency used in your destination will tell you how much your money is really worth. For example, 1 U.S. dollar is worth 1.40 Australian dollars, according to Google conversions. Some countries will accept your home country’s currency, others won’t. You need to know which is the case before you travel. You should also ensure you exchange at least some of the cash you’re carrying for the country’s currency before you leave the airport.

How to Get Money

You’re probably used to pulling out a debit/credit card when you make a purchase. In another country, you may not have that luxury. Bloomberg reports that Germans still predominantly use cash Euros to make their purchases. Other countries, like Sweden, are nearly cash-free.

Wherever you go, know what the preferred method of payment is. Even if debit/credit cards are accepted, know what the transaction limits on ATMs are. You also need to call your card provider before you leave and let them know how long you’ll be traveling. Otherwise, they may flag your overseas purchases and decline your card.

3. Not Preparing for Emergencies

Disaster can strike at any time when you travel internationally. It could be as bad as a tsunami hitting the Philippines, or something as simple as a delayed flight. Many travelers fail to plan for how they’ll deal with any emergencies that come up.

The U.S. Travel Insurance Association listed a few of the common emergencies that international travelers face:

  • Needing emergency medical attention
  • A lost or stolen passport
  • Lost or stolen money
  • Getting into an auto accident
  • Delayed or canceled flights
  • Lost or damaged luggage
  • Requiring legal assistance

Before you set out abroad, you need to make a plan for how to deal with each of these emergencies. Research which agencies in your destination can help you, such as the police force, hospitals, and your country’s embassy, and how to contact them. You also need to ensure that you take steps to protect yourself from severe loss. 

4. Not Accounting for Electronics

Many travelers don’t realize that it costs more to make a phone call internationally than it does at home. calculated that the average cost to make an international call is $0.17 per minute. This is because your service provider will apply roaming charges if your plan doesn’t include international calls. Before you travel, you need to contact your cell provider and see what your plan covers. If it isn’t enough, swap to an international plan, at least until your trip is over.

Also, be aware that trying to charge your electronics in another country without an adapter may fry them. Before you travel, see what the standard voltage in your destination is. Europe, for example, uses 220 volts standard current, while America uses 110. Then, check the technical info on your electronics, usually found near the plug, and look for the “Input” data. This will tell you how much of a charge your electronics can handle.