Whether you’re embarking on a two week adventure to Central America for a community service trip or moving to Paris for a year to study abroad, traveling in another country can be an exhilarating experience.
When you exit the airplane and step into that country's airport, the list of things to do may pile up. You want to see that museum, travel to an island off the coast, and try the local coffee. How do you come home completely fulfilled, without feeling like there’s something you missed?
We've compiled a list of what we believe are some universal guidelines to maximize your experience. Click through the slideshow and let us know what you think in the comments section!
Learn About The Local Laws
Once you enter a country, you are subjected to its laws. Therefore, for your own safety, it's important to learn them before visiting. For instance, in Singapore you can be arrested for spitting in public.
Be Mindful Of The Culture
Even if the new culture's way of life is unnatural to you, you want to be respectful of it. Be aware of traditions and customs so you can pack appropriate clothes or learn basic skills like how to use chopsticks.
Learn the native language
Pick up enough phrases to help you when you get inevitably lost, or to ensure that you don't get ripped off at the local markets. If you're staying for awhile, then immerse yourself in the language fully to be able to spark interesting conversations everyday and become more of a member of the community. It's no fun having to always respond to someone with "I don't understand".
Take precautions for the worst
Just to be safe, leave copies of your passport and address/contact information of where you are going with someone at home. Also, make a few extra copies to keep in your suitcase during your trip in case the original gets lost or stolen. Furthermore, become fully acquainted with the whereabouts of the U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting.
Know what may be hazardous to you
If you are visiting a country that serves mainly spicy food and you know that won't sit well with your stomach, pack appropriate medicines and supplements. If you are visiting a country that is prone to specific bugs or diseases such as malaria, give yourself time to receive the necessary vaccinations and shots.
Watch the news
Be fully up to date with the happenings in the city you are visiting as well as neighboring countries. Don't be ignorant of potential dangers.
Be smart with your belongings
Always firmly hold your belongings in a way that they can't be snatched from you and don't dress extravagantly in expensive jewelry or accessories. Travelling abroad may turn you into a photographer but be cautious of flaunting your digital SLR camera. It's important not to make yourself seem vulnerable to robbery and theft.
Keep in touch just enough
Though you shouldn't lose touch with your family and friends at home, don't let them inhibit your experience. Consider starting a blog or sending a postcard from your travels so your family and friends can be kept up to date on your adventures. Be in contact enough so you don't lose touch with what's happening at home but also focus on your adventure.
If you're spending a more lengthy time abroad, take advantage of your location to travel. A ticket to Berlin may cost you 200 euros, but do you know how much it costs to get from the U.S. to berlin? About 100x more.
Do What Natives Do
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Ride the elephant in Thailand, drink the snake blood in Vietnam, go sand duning in Dubai and brave through the Singaporean fish pedicure. And have fun!