When you set off traveling, whether you are going for a week, a month, a year – or never coming back, it’s an amazing experience and SO exciting. The lead up can be thrilling and full of mental lists of what to do. The fun planning comes into play when you’re deciding on where to go, what to see and do, and even who to go with.
The not so fun stuff follows those decisions. How are you funding your travels? What do you need to do to ensure your own safety there? What do you do with all the boring, day-to-day stuff back home?
And while all that is extremely important, so is actually looking into the country or countries that you are going to be visiting. You don’t want to cause unnecessary offense because of ignorance. Nor do you want to simply skim over the sights there. Learning a little about where you’re going forces you to immerse yourself and enjoy where you are on a deeper level.
Where Are You Staying?
First, you need to figure out where you are going to stay. Finding a hotel, hostel or apartment in a city is a lot easier than finding one out in the sticks. So if you’re looking to stay away from cities, then you might need to do a bit more digging.
Research the type of areas you’re looking to visit and narrow down your search. Look at reviews and ratings before booking anything. If you’re staying for an extended amount of time, you might find it easier and cheaper to rent affordable houses instead of staying in hotels. If you’re going somewhere like Malaysia, where the cost of houses in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur, is incredibly high, you might find that the opposite is the cheaper path and just stay in hotels for the duration of your visit.
You need to think about how long your flight will be, especially if you’re traveling with young or elderly relatives or friends. There’s not much you can do about a long flight. However, if you can anticipate it, then you can properly prepare.
If you have a layover in a new country you might have the chance to get out and see a bit of whichever city you land in. You will want to have a look at what is there and how far away it is from the airport beforehand because there is no way that you want to miss your connecting flight.
If we use Malaysia as an example again, flights from most places west tend to switch over in Singapore, which is strange due to the fact that the island is right next door. But if you choose to stay in Singapore for the day you do have the option to take a boat across to Malaysia rather than another flight. This is a nice option if you really want to immerse yourself from the get-go.
Getting From Point A to Point B
Do they drive on the left or right? Even if you don’t plan on renting a car while you are there, the switch up of lanes can really throw you off. Imagine when you cross a one-way street, and the car comes at you from the other direction. Or having a full on panic attack at the car speeding down the road on the wrong side. Waiting for a bus on the wrong side of the street, and attempting to get into the front of a taxi to see the driver already sitting there. All these things are hilarious on paper, but mortifying in person.
If you are planning on taking public transport, then see what will be available where you are. Not all countries have buses that run on a regular basis and many areas don’t have any running at all. If you rent a car, then be prepared, in some countries, to put your life on the line to get from point A to point B.
Again, in Malaysia, there are incredibly poor traffic controls, missing signs, misplaced signs, outdated and inaccurate maps, and a total haphazard design to all roads. This is nicely coupled with general aggressive driving. So be careful!
What Money Do They Use?
No matter where you go, you need to have a decent understanding of the local currency. It’s useful to know how much you are spending while handing over their notes. Use a simple converter to keep track of your spending.
It’s important that you let your bank know that you’re going abroad. Otherwise, it is highly likely that your card could get blocked.
Depending on where you go, a lot of the food you buy will have been imported into the country. This can make it more expensive than you are used to spending. However, you should always look into trying the local delicacies. These are much more likely to have been locally sourced and SO much cheaper.
Do You Know The Language?
Learning some of the common phrases for the country you are going to is key to having a fully immersive experience wherever you are. Unfortunately, there is no way that you would be able to become completely fluent in time for your trip. But if you try it shows a level of respect to the natives in that country.
There is too often a general feeling that people expect other countries to speak English, and where many do, there are those who only speak their native tongue. You will find some countries have mastered another language as their second choice due to proximity and usefulness. For example, in Poland, many people speak Russian as their second language.