Whether you’re considering planning a vacation for you and your partner or looking for some respite for yourself with some solo travel, you must be able to check off several important tasks off your international travel to-do list first. For some of the most crucial and important aspects to take into consideration when traveling abroad, check out our three-part series about how to make your trip one to remember- and not because of stressful planning.
Part II: Safely Navigating a Foreign City
Congrats on arriving at your destination! However, you’re not done yet. Make sure to keep the following safety and social tips in mind as you explore.
Protecting Your Belongings: Taking a stroll in a busy city is one of the most exciting ways to experience a new place. However, with tons of people and sights to see, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and become distracted, a tourist habit of which local pickpockets are well aware. Pickpocketing is extremely common in tourist-focused cities, so make sure to keep your belongings somewhere on your body where you can feel them at all times. Invest in a small, cross-body purse with a latch, button, or buckle. If a purse or satchel isn’t your style, get a small fannypack. While they might seem foolish, they are great for keeping your belongings close to you.
When sitting down to eat at a restaurant or café, make sure to keep your bag or purse under the table, and either tucked under the chair leg or your own leg. By keeping your belongings close to you, you will prevent any pickpockets from trying to snatch your bag when you are distracted by your meal.
Breaking Through Language Barriers: Even though English is considered the “universal language,” many locals that you might have to communicate with during your trip might not speak the language, especially in smaller cities where tourism might not be as prominent. You shouldn’t assume that everyone will understand you, and to some locals, you might come across as rude when assuming the other speaks English. Before you leave, try and learn a few common phrases in the native language. Not only will this help you navigate your way around, it will also show locals that you are trying to fit in with the culture. Invest in a phrasebook that can be easily tucked into your purse or suitcase, or download a translator app on your phone. Some popular translator apps include Google Translate (can be found on the app store here), TripLingo and iTranslate. Or, check out top-rated phrasebooks available on Amazon that you can purchase in time for your trip.
Want more fun facts? Language isn’t the only way to rub people the wrong way while traveling. Check out this article from Smarter Travel on 10 Surprising Ways to Offend People in Other Countries.
Transportation: Figuring out how you’re going to get around is one of the most important parts of traveling. By planning ahead, you can make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. For one, make sure you have some sort of transportation arranged for getting to and from the airport. Nothing is more stressful than arriving in a foreign place without a plan for getting to your accommodations, so consider booking a car service that will be waiting for you. By planning this in advance, you will rest easy the night before knowing you will be able to get right to your hotel and rest up before starting to explore!
However, chances are getting to and from the airport won’t be the only time you’ll need a reliable source of transportation. Ask your host or an employee at the hotel what their recommendations are for getting around. Europe offers great public transportation systems that are reliable, inexpensive, and relatively easy to figure out. Consider buying a pass or pack of tickets for public transportation if you plan on doing a lot of exploring throughout your stay. If you consider yourself smartphone-savy, some countries even have apps, such as Citymapper, that tell you different routes and timetables for public transit.
If you’re skeptical about public transportation, taxis are always an option, but be careful, as some drivers will charge you extra or add extra fees if they know you are a tourist. In addition, many countries around the world have started to implement ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft, which are provide the direct service of a taxi, but often at a cheaper cost.
No matter what your experience level is in navigating your destination, however, transportation is a need for everyone, so you can rest assured there are plenty of ways to explore efficiently.
Traveling to a foreign country is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks. Unprecedented experiences can certainly be alarming, but hopefully the tips and tricks for staying safe and aware of your surroundings will help you feel more at ease. However, problems while traveling are not uncommon, so stay tuned for our next upcoming article about common emergencies while traveling abroad, and what you should do if you experience any.
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