How to Travel Abroad for The First Time ~ The first time that I ever went abroad was back in 2007 when I studied in Spain. Over the last few days I have racked my brain trying to remember what kinds of worries and questions I had before my trip and answer them so that if you’re thinking about traveling abroad, at least you’ll have the answers to the things that I worried about before my first trip abroad.
My first and biggest concern was what would happen at the airport? How did it work entering another country and then also what would happen on the way back when I wanted to re-enter America? This concern also included what would happen with my luggage? If I had multiple flights, when did I need to pick up my bag and when would it just go through to my final destination?
As for the first part, getting into Spain was pretty uneventful. As an American, I automatically had a 90-day tourist visa, which meant that I didn’t have to fill out any special paperwork.
This also applies for most of the other European countries. I simply arrived, followed the signs to the exit, got in line behind everyone else, and then told the person at the border that I was there as a tourist for three months. I did have the paperwork of my booked return flight home, just in case they asked me for it, but they didn’t. They just stamped my passport and I went through.
But keep in mind that every country is different, and it also depends on which country you’re from, so make sure to look into it before you buy your plane ticket anywhere.
When flying into many places around the world, you’ll have to fill out a customs declaration, which is a skinny little paper they give to you on the flight. You write down how much stuff you’re bringing into the country with you and what it’s worth, and sometimes you also have to mark whether or not you were on a farm abroad or if you’re bringing any food with you.
And, yeah, definitely don’t forget about that apple at the bottom of your backpack when flying into America because, well, that’s a video in and of itself.
Regarding luggage, generally, if you’ve booked your flights all together with one airline, your luggage will just go through to the final destination. So if you’ve booked a ticket from California to France on Delta, but you have to stop and change planes in London, as long as you paid for it all as one and with that one airline, your bags should just go through all the way to France, but I would suggest you check at the ticket counter every time when you check in your bags just to be sure.
Flying into America, however, it’s different. In America, you have to pick up your bags and go through customs in the first city that you touch down in no matter what kind of a ticket you have.
So if you are flying from Germany to Florida with a layover in Chicago, when you touch down in Chicago, that’s your first U.S. city, so you have to get your luggage from baggage claim at the airport, go through customs, check your bag once again, then go through security again, because you might have taken something dangerous out of your luggage, and then you fly on to your final destination in America.
Okay, something else that I wondered about…money. Should I get traveler’s checks? Would my debit card work in the ATMs abroad? What did I need to do?
First of all, my experience was that traveler’s checks are just not practical anymore. I did bring some with me, but I had a really hard time finding a bank that would cash them, and my overall experience was just they were just too much of hassle to use.
My debit card did work in the ATMs, and I found that that was really the best way to get money out abroad. But just be sure to call your bank and let them know ahead of time that you’ll be going abroad and for how long so that they can mark that in the system, and then that way they don’t think that someone stole your card and then block your account because the last thing you want while you’re traveling abroad is a blocked bank account.
But in addition to that, I would also recommend exchanging some money before you go, just so that you have some cash in the local currency when you land in case you should need it for anything. Keep in mind, that in a lot of places around the world, people don’t pay with plastic like they do in America. Cash is king, so make sure that you have some on hand at all times.
Oh, and don’t try paying with a personal check from your bank. That doesn’t work. You can’t cash them at the banks abroad either. So if someone wants to give you some money while you’re traveling abroad, mailing you a personal check won’t do the trick. They should just wire it into your bank account.
Okay, a few more quick tips!
Just don’t bring your blow drier and hair straightener with you. Even if you buy an adapter and a converter, you’ll still probably fry the device. Just buy a local one when you arrive.
Also something else to buy upon arrival, if you have an unlocked smartphone, instead of paying the horrendous roaming fees, just buy a pre-paid card at your travel destination.
And lastly something you should definitely buy before leaving your home country: all the electronic adapters you’ll need.
This is because, the adapters only go one way and I’ve found, for example here in Germany, it’s easy to find adapters for people getting ready to travel elsewhere, such as Germany to the UK or Germany to America adapters, but it’s not so easy to find the equipment adapting to the German system here. So bottom line, just buy it before you go.