Tips for Traveling Abroad For the First Time

On my recent adventure to Mission Dolores in San Francisco, I heard a story that brought on a new kind of anxiety. But before I get into a few tips for traveling abroad for the first time, I’d like to give you the back story of what inspired me to write this blog post.

I love to travel with my Sign and hear stories from strangers that I meet abroad. If you haven’t read about how freaking awesome Mission Dolores Park is, I highly recommend checking that blog post out first! So, while I was in San Francisco, I decided to hold my sign up and wait for the travel stories. It took less than a minute for two guys to walk up with a story to tell. This is the tale that instigated my desire to share tips for traveling abroad for the first time! Here it is:

The two guys that walked up to tell us a story had recently studied abroad in London. While they were abroad, one of their friends had the brilliant idea to buy some “party favors” online for her friends. This girl went ahead and met a stranger from online in Hyde Park with about $1,000 in cash. She received a big, taped up bag and handed over the cash in exchange. Of course, she was unable to open the bag in public, because that would be the stupidest thing, right? So, she waited until she got home to open up her “party favors”.

As she opened up her bag, a familiar stench hit her nose. No, unfortunately for her it was not marijuana. It was oregano. The entire bag was filled with asprin, salt, and oregano. This had me howling in laughter. I mean, come on! What did she expect? She carried on with her $1,000 bag of goodies and did not tell anyone what had happened. After a few weeks, the “party favor” distributor messaged her online again. He claimed that he just wanted to make sure she was not the police and that she could now come and collect her goods.

The guys continued on with the story and said that at this point, their friend let them know that she had been robbed. They highly advised her that it was a bad idea to go meet with the man again. Unfortunately, they knew that she would go with or without them. So, they agreed to go with her. They journeyed to a pretty sketchy area in London known as West Ham. There, the group of them waited on a street corner for about an hour and a half. The guys were saying how out of place they felt. There were strangers that would walk by multiple times watching them. One of the guys telling the story shared that he was also texting the dude asking where he was. Just when they were about to give up, the girl found the online man and ran off with him.

Everything went a little bit crazy after there. They could not find their girlfriend for about an hour and were in a complete state of panic. The online “party favor” distributor was asking for more money. Thankfully, she was able to get away by giving him her cell phone. She found her friends and they jumped on the next bus and got out of there. Unfortunately, the man continued to text and harass the guy since he had his phone number. About an hour later, his phone was receiving nonstop calls from hundreds of different numbers.

Thankfully, T-Mobile can change numbers when you are abroad. And that was the end of it! They never heard from that man again. Sadly for their friend, she had lost $1,000 and a cell phone. But, in my opinion, the story could have ended a lot worse. So, folks, next time you try to buy drugs online in a foreign country, just don’t.

Now that the story is out of the way, we can dive into the tips for traveling abroad for the first time:

1. Do not trust strangers online that offer you drugs (duh)!

I hope that all of you are thinking, “Well yeah, duh!” right now. But clearly, this is a tip for traveling abroad for the first time that some people have missed! First off, drugs are bad. But if you do feel the need to enhance your experiences abroad, please (please, please, please) do not turn to the internet. In this day and age, scams are around every corner. First off, giving money to a stranger online should never be an option. Second off, buying drugs online is all kinds of wrong. Just don’t. The end!

2. Call your bank before embarking on your adventure!

When banks detect transactions in a new and unfamiliar location, they flag it as fraud. This could lead to your bank shutting off your credit or debit card altogether. Obviously, being abroad without having access to your bank account could put you into a troubling situation.

My tip for traveling abroad for the first time would be to definitely call the bank before your adventure begins! After you tell your bank you will be traveling, they will add a record to your account and share it the fraud detection system. This means that you are now free to use your card abroad without having to worry about it being frozen.

Some banks do offer an online travel notice option to enter your travel location. If you are unsure what to do, I would recommend calling your bank and asking the necessary steps. Trust me, you do not want to be stuck abroad with no money! I’m not going to say it’s happened to me. But it might have happened to me.

Another tip for traveling abroad for the first time that has to do with your bank account would be to have an emergency fund. I highly recommend saving a good chunk of money for emergencies! You never know when things will go wrong. It’s smart to be prepared for the worst while you are still in your best.

3. Share your location with someone you trust

A great tip for traveling abroad for the first time would be to send your pre-booked itineraries to one of more people that you trust. If you have transportation bookings (such as plane, train, etc.), it is always smart to have others knowing where you are and where you will be going, just in case anything goes wrong. On top of sending your travel itinerary, I would also recommend sharing your hostel or hotel bookings!

Safety first! Another tip for traveling abroad for the first time that is somewhat similar is to use the Find My Friend application on your phone. This application allows you to share your GPS location to your trusted friend or family member. They are able to view the application at any time and locate you. Yes, kind of creepy. But when it comes to traveling abroad, there is never harm in having someone know your exact location.

4. Do your research!

There is a lot that goes into this tip for traveling abroad for the first time. Obviously, if you have chosen your travel destination, there is something there that you are interested in. There is no excuse to not research your destination before your travels! And I don’t just mean what you want to do and where you want to eat. I mean do your research on the culture and what the environment is like for tourists.

Learn about the current scams in the country and areas in the city to avoid when you’re alone. The internet will be your best friend! There are endless articles and blogs dedicated to travelers that are constantly being updated. You can also find great Facebook travel groups for women that are filled with advice. My personal favorite is Girls Love Travel. I’ve posted on the page multiple times and have received incredible advice and support. These pages are filled with tips for traveling abroad for the first time!

5. Just don’t forget your passport!

I hope that this is obvious. But, seriously, do not forget your passport! This tip for traveling abroad for the first time could save you having to buy another plane ticket. You will not be allowed to check in to your flight if you show up to the airport without your passport.  

Also, make sure you check out the visa requirements for each country you are going to! Every country has different conditions for entering. My favorite tip for traveling abroad for the first time that I received was to double check each country’s requirements individually. If you are a US Passport holder, you can check out your travel destinations’ visa requirements here:

6. Travel Insurance

Travel insurance might be one of the most important tips for traveling abroad for the first time. Emergencies are unpredictable and you do not want to be screwed over because you did not prepare ahead of time. There are many different reasons why you should listen to this tip for traveling abroad for the first time. If you spend a decent chunk of money on a cruise in the Bahamas and have a family emergency right before you leave, they are not going to let you cancel and get a refund! But, if you have travel insurance, these companies cover certain emergencies and will refund you your money.

Also, having a medical emergency abroad is NOT CHEAP! I repeat, NOT CHEAP! It can cost you over $100,000 in some situations. I do not know anyone that has that much money in their travel savings account. If you buy travel insurance that includes emergency medical benefits, the covered medical and dental emergencies would be covered. Even the transportation to the nearest hospital could be covered!

I truly believed travel insurance is worth it. For the small amount you pay, you could be saving thousands in the long run. And the best part is that travel insurance is not that expensive! There are so many affordable options out there. There are always different coverage options, so you can pick and choose which suits your travel plans the best!

You can read more about what the US State Department says about travel insurance here!

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