Paragliding in Colombia.

The Best Travel Tips for First-Time International Travellers

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Traveling is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and enriching experiences a person can have. It broadens your horizons and provides plenty of material to share on social media. However, let’s be honest, even seasoned globetrotters can find it a bit daunting, and for first-timers, it’s a whole new world waiting to be explored.

Whether you’re an experienced traveler or a newbie, we can all benefit from some international travel tips to help elevate the journey. In this article, I’ll share some of the top travel tips for beginners I’ve learned along the way.

15 International Travel Tips

1. DON’T overpack.

This is one of those travel tips for beginners that you’ll hear from everyone, and honestly, I used to be the same. I thought, ‘Of course I won’t pack two full backpacks!’ But then I realized I didn’t know how to pack properly. I ended up with things I never used and missed out on other essentials. Biggest travel mistake!

So, take it from me and pack light, unless you want to look like a human moving van. I know we all want to be prepared for any situation, but you won’t need that extra pair of shoes or that bulky jacket in the middle of a tropical country. Overpacking just makes it harder to navigate through airports or run to catch a train. Save yourself time and energy, and remember, the more space you leave, the more shopping you can do before coming back!

2. DON’T forget your travel insurance.

To be honest with you, I’m not usually someone who gets insured for everything – far from it – it’s not my mindset. But when I travel outside of Europe, I always take out a policy, just for the repatriation fees that I wouldn’t fancy having to pay in case something happens.

Plus, this international travel tip can be quite handy when you lose your luggage or miss a flight, as it can save you a lot of hassle and money. Think of this travel tip as your travel BFF that’s got your back when things get messy.

3. DON’T plan too much.

Are you a planner? Do you like to have every minute of your trip accounted for? Well, don’t overdo it! Planning too much can leave you feeling rushed, stressed, and prevent you from truly enjoying the moment. After all, you’re on vacation to relax and have fun!

Instead of scheduling every minute of your trip, leave some room for spontaneity and flexibility. Who knows what amazing experiences you might stumble upon when you’re not glued to a rigid itinerary? Maybe you’ll discover a hidden gem of a restaurant, stumble upon a charming street festival, or discover a new spot. Personally, I believe that the best experiences and memories come from unplanned situations. That’s why I love slow travel so much.

Snorkelling adventures in Similan Islands, Thailand. Some of the best travel hidden gems experiences
Snorkeling in Similan Islands : an unplanned last-minute adventure

4. DON’T have high expectations.

We’ve all been there, dreaming of the perfect vacation with perfect weather, perfect food, and perfect company. But nothing is perfect, especially not travel.

So, do yourselves a favor with this travel tip for beginner and lower those expectations. Because no matter how much you prepare or plan, something will always go wrong. That’s the beauty of traveling, your flight might get delayed, your hotel might not look like the pictures, and it might rain the whole week, or you might not get along with the people you’re traveling with.

I experienced this in Bocas del Toro, I had been dreaming about that place for years, and when I finally got there, it just wasn’t what I had imagined. Don’t get me wrong, it was stunning, but not in the way I had wanted it to be. The first few days, I was upset, and I think that’s the worst thing to do, so avoid making that mistake and just try to see the situation with a new eye and go with the flow. You will see that in the end, you’ll discover new things and try experiences you didn’t plan for just by staying open-minded and not expecting anything.

5. DON’T forget your passport or let it expire.

I know this travel tip sounds like a no-brainer, but trust me, it’s easy to get so caught up in the excitement of planning your trip that you forget the most crucial item – your passport! Without it, you won’t be able to travel anywhere abroad.

And let’s not forget about the expiration date. You don’t want to be turned away at the airport because your passport has expired. That’s just a major bummer, and not to mention, a waste of money and time.

So, make sure to double-check that you have your passport with you before you leave for your trip, and that it’s valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date. It may seem like a hassle to renew your passport, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You can also check my international travel checklist here to not forget anything.

6. DON’T underestimate jetlag.

Jet lag, the pesky side effect of traveling across different time zones. Don’t underestimate it!

Jet lag can really mess with your body clock and leave you feeling tired, irritable, and just not your best self. Take it seriously, especially if you’re traveling for work or have a tight itinerary.

I’ve gathered a few travel tips for beginners here to help you deal with jet lag.

7. DON’T forget your travel adapter and power bank.

Before you pack your bags and jet off, there’s one travel tip you can’t forget: your trusty travel adapter! Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the power outlets in your destination country will be the same as the ones back home. Different countries have different voltage and socket types, and using the wrong adapter could potentially damage your electronics or even start a fire.

Another handy device to bring along is a reliable power bank. When you’re on the go, your phone or other devices may run out of battery at the most inconvenient times, and finding an outlet to charge them can be a challenge. A power bank allows you to charge your electronics on the go, ensuring that you always have a backup source of power. I bought this one and couldn’t be happier.

8. DON’T limit yourself to popular spots.

Don’t stick too much to popular tourist spots. While it’s tempting to visit famous landmarks and crowded cities – popular destinations are popular for a reason – you’ll often find a more authentic and budget-friendly travel experience by venturing off the beaten path.

By avoiding tourist hotspots, you can also save money on accommodations, food, and activities. Popular destinations often come with a higher price tag, so you’ll find that prices are much more reasonable in less-known areas. For example, instead of dining on the main plaza, follow the locals to find the best local cuisine.

Of course, traveling to a less popular destination can be a challenge, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. You’ll need to navigate unfamiliar territory and communicate with locals who may not speak your language. But these challenges will be worth it when you discover hidden treasures that other tourists may have missed.

9. DO check visa requirements.

Visa requirements, the one thing that can make or break your travel plans. Forget about the beautiful beaches or scenic mountains, visa requirements are what nightmares are made of.

But the solution is simple, check the visa requirements before you go. It’s not rocket science, it’s just a matter of Googling the visa requirements for your destination. I know, reading fine print is not exciting at all, but it’s better that than being stuck at the airport and having to spend your vacations there.

10. DO check the weather and choose your time wisely.

When it comes to choosing your travel time and destination, remember this travel tip: consult the weather gods. Do you want to bask in the sun on a tropical beach? Then avoid monsoon season. Do you want to hit the ski slopes in the Alps? Better check the snow forecast first.

For digital nomads and long-term travelers, this may not matter as much since they can stay longer. But for short vacations, it’s best not to be too adventurous. I’ll never forget that week in Thailand when it rained nonstop, making it impossible to do anything outdoors. Imagine if that were your only vacation week of the year…

And let’s not forget Mother Nature’s power. She can be unpredictable, so always have a backup plan in case of sudden thunderstorms or other weather-related issues.

11. DO live in the moment.

Who doesn’t love taking pictures and sharing them with friends and family? But sometimes, we can get so caught up in capturing the perfect shot for our social media feeds that we forget to actually enjoy the moment.

I remember the good old days before social media – here I am talking like an old lady – when we just lived in the moment without any pressure to show off or impress anyone. But times have changed, and social media has become a big part of our lives.

Anyway, my travel tip here is to take a step back, enjoy the present moment, soak it all in, and create memories that we’ll keep forever. Try not to let taking pictures consume your entire trip. Take a few snaps to capture the essence of the moment, but then put the camera down and just live in the moment.

Live in the moment: Travel Tip. A palm tree, sand and sea

12. DO use the right credit card.

When it comes to saving money on currency exchanges and ATM fees while traveling, using the right credit card can make all the difference. But with so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

One card that I personally use is the REVOLUT bank card. With the free plan, you can enjoy up to €200 in free ATM withdrawals and €1,000 of currency exchange, and with the premium plan (€7.99 a month), up to 400€ with travel insurance and unlimited currency exchanges. Of course, there are other cards available on the market as well, so do your research to find the best fit for your needs.

When using your credit card overseas, be aware of foreign transaction fees and exchange rates. It’s also important to plan ahead and be mindful of where you withdraw money. Avoid withdrawing cash at airports, as they often have higher fees than other locations. Also, always reject any conversion fees offered by the ATM so your bank handles the conversion instead.

Another important money-related travel tip is to diversify your cash and valuables. Don’t carry all of your money with you in one place, and try to avoid carrying large amounts of cash in general. Consider hiding some of your money and important documents in different locations, like a money belt or a hidden pocket in your bag, to reduce the risk of theft or loss.

13. DO buy a local SIM card.

When traveling abroad, your home cellphone plan may not allow you to use it in foreign countries or continents. That’s where buying a local SIM card can come in handy.

A local SIM card enables you to make calls, send texts, and use data to access the internet and social media, keeping you connected with friends and family back home. Additionally, by following this travel tip for beginners, you can avoid expensive roaming charges that can quickly add up if you use your phone regularly while traveling.

A local SIM card also allows you to use GPS and maps to navigate your destination, find attractions, and locate restaurants and hotels, which can be especially helpful if you’re in an unfamiliar place and don’t speak the language.

Remember not to purchase your SIM card at the airport though, as it will usually be more expensive than other places. Don’t fall for that tourist trap!

14. DO go with the right mindset.

While it’s understandable to be excited about being in a new place, it’s important not to act like the world revolves around you. Avoid being an obnoxious tourist and show respect towards the locals. Refrain from haggling over small amounts or complaining about things that might be different from what you’re used to, such as the lack of air conditioning. Instead, try to make the most out of your experience.

To truly embrace your travel experience, approach it with an open mind, be willing to try new things, and remain flexible and adaptable. Whether it means adjusting your itinerary, sampling local cuisine, or making friends with the locals, being flexible can lead to some of the most memorable travel experiences.

15. DO always ask the final price.

And the last travel tip to keep in mind when traveling is to always ask for the final price of a service or product. This is especially important when it comes to taxis, tours, and other experiences that may have hidden costs or fees.

When taking a taxi, ask for the final price upfront, including any additional charges such as tolls or airport fees. This can prevent any surprises when you reach your destination and avoid any potential conflicts with the driver.

The same international travel tip goes for guided tours, especially those that include admission fees or other costs. Before booking a tour, make sure to ask about any additional fees that may not be included in the initial price.

It’s also a good idea to get the agreement in writing, especially for larger expenses. This can provide you with additional protection in case of any disputes or misunderstandings.

Final Thoughts on International Travel Tips for Beginners

After reading through all of these travel tips for beginners, you’re now armed with practical and helpful advice to make your next trip a success. You may have seen other similar lists before, but I hope this one stands out as one of the most practical and useful ones.

However, I’m always open to feedback and suggestions. If you have any additional international travel tips that you think I missed, please share them in the comments below.

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