Guide to International Travel for Beginners

So you decided that it was time for you to embark on the adventure for a few weeks. I mean, take a trip somewhere with your family. Instead, take a trip to another exotic country

So you decided that it was time for you to embark on the adventure for a few weeks. I mean, take a trip somewhere with your family. Instead, take a trip to another exotic country and cool your heels. What preparations do you need to make such a trip or tour a success? Here are some quick tips:

1. Geopolitical basics of your destination: Location and demographics: The first thing you need to do for any international trip is to know more about the place you need to visit. Where is it located? Which states/provinces are important? Politics: What type of government does it have? Does it have a monarchy (Brunei) or a democratic (India) or communist (Cuba) government? Does it recognize human rights? Is the country part of the UN? Is it a religious state, especially an Islamic country (Saudi Arabia)? Is the country politically unstable (Pakistan or Iran)? Society: Is the country socially safe? Are there ethnic/religious discord among its inhabitants, as in Iraq, Myanmar or Indonesia? Is the country safe for tourists where Afghanistan is not? And if you are a Westerner, check twice.

2. Weather conditions: Try to find out what the weather conditions are like for the duration of the visit. If the climate is colder, you will need to pack more warm and woolly clothes. Warmer weather or seaside means mostly T-shirts and light-colored clothing. If you are traveling to the Middle East, you should also pack sunscreen. You should therefore be aware of the climate and the expected temperatures there.

3. Culture and society: Some countries have very orthodox religions and expect the same for all citizens and residents or even travelers coming to their country. The best example of this would be Saudi Arabia. They do not tolerate any deterrence of the rules and cultures they have and would like you to observe them on their soil. Women must be completely covered from the top of their heads to their toes. No movies or alcohol in their country. Any violation will result in severe punishment, up to and including public beheading. Some other countries, which have an orthodox culture, do not impose themselves. Japan, for example, has a very conservative and strict way of life, but does not impose it on foreigners or travelers. It is therefore essential, before embarking on your trip, to learn about the cultures and practices of the society of the country you are going to visit.

4. Language: Try to know the main language(s) spoken and the regions where they are spoken. In many countries, one or two languages are generally spoken, and a small glimpse of one of them will help you navigate. You will find that in almost all British colonies, English is excellent, as is French for the French colonies. In most South American countries, Latin or Spanish would do the trick. But in some states, many languages are spoken, and this changes with each province you pass through. An excellent example is India, which has about 17 popular languages and Hindi, which is their national language and about 53 dialects. So for most countries you can keep a language/translation book handy, and it is best to know the basic issues and basic cordiality.

5. Eating habits: Learn the essential eating habits of your destination country. In most countries, sandwiches and juice/milk/cereals are available for your essential diet. Learn the cooking techniques used. Far Eastern countries prefer lightly cooked foods, with steamed foods being more popular. China is used to serving snakes and scorpions as delicacies. Orientals have also heard of monkey brains. India serves one of the spiciest foods in the world, as does Mexico. The Middle East serves grilled and smoked dishes. Russia serves vodka during the day. Italians serve wine for lunch. So it is always better to know the local eating habits. Identify some local foods that might be suitable for you or that you would like to taste during your visit. Keep a few essential digestive pills on hand before you do so. And always drink bottled water when you’re a stranger.

6. Logistics: When zooming in on the travel location, it is always best to know the common modes of transportation available in the area. Can you rent a car there? Is the driver’s license you obtained recognized in that particular country? How far do you have to travel for sightseeing? Where is the nearest airport terminal or local train station? Is there public transportation? Is it safe for tourists to use it? What are the chances of being mugged or stung in the streets? My advice is not to take risks when in a foreign country and to play it safe.

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