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10 Practical Tips for First-Time Travelers

I love to travel. It is such an exhilarating, enriching experience. I first rode a plane when I was 10 years old, and I was hooked ever since.

There are people to whom travel comes second nature. They don’t need to think about the step-by-step process. However, there are people who have yet to explore the world, and who feel antsy about the thought of leaving the country.

Below are practical tips to help guide first-time travelers:

1. Make sure you have a valid passport and that’s actually YOU  in the picture.

Some of you might think that it’s such a dumb thing to say. But what if I told you that some people (especially those who come from poor countries) actually use fake or stolen passports just to seek employment abroad?

According to an article on cnn.com people travel with stolen passports for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism. And despite what seems like an extremely tight airport security, people with stolen passports still manage to board a plane. Case in point:  Pouri Nourmohammadi, 18, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29, who were on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

You could get in serious trouble so please make sure you have the proper documents when you travel.

2. Know your travel details.

An immigration officer asks you, “How long are you here for?” Your heart starts to beat fast, exceeding the heart rate limit. Sweat beads begin to form on your forehead. You stutter your reply. You say, “Ten days?” unsure of your answer. Never allow this to ever happen to you. You have to know how many days you’re staying, your departure date, and the address of the hotel or apartment where you’re staying.

3. Have the proper visa.

If you’re traveling as a tourist and the country you’re going to requires a visa, then have a tourist visa. If you are going to work there, then you should have a work visa. Don’t even try to seek employment in a place if you don’t have the proper documents. You wouldn’t want to be repatriated in handcuffs, would you?

4. Never volunteer information.

Some people tend to talk way too much when they are nervous. Please resist the urge to overshare when talking to an immigration officer. Answer the questions that are asked and nothing more. This is not the time to be friendly. After the immigration officer hands you your passport, smile and say, “Thank you” and walk away.

5. Don’t let anyone bully you into taking their cab.

I had to find this out the hard way. I was in Madrid and right before I stepped out of the airport, a man grabbed my bag and said he was a taxi driver. Well he was a driver all right, but he had a private car and he ended up charging me way too much. Remember, there are regular cabs right outside the airport. Also, there are other ways to get to the city center or to other parts of the city.

6. Take the train or bus instead of a taxi from the airport to the city center.

In some cities the airport is quite far from the city center. The Osaka airport is in Kansai, the Seoul airport is in Incheon, etc. Go online and check how to get to your hotel from the airport.

7. Know your host country’s culture and laws. 

Is tipping okay or not? Is chewing gum illegal or not? Is it okay to cross the border with a packet of cigarettes in your back pocket? We represent our home countries whenever we travel, and our behavior is a reflection not just of our own upbringing but of our own country as well. No one is above the law. We should always act accordingly.

8. When in Rome…

Some people are too set in their ways that they refuse to try something new. This kind of attitude defeats the purpose of traveling. Be open minded. Do something you haven’t done before. Eat something you wouldn’t normally try back home. Try to immerse yourselves in another culture.  Believe me, it will make the experience a whole lot richer!

9. Don’t be shy to use your coins.

Not all cities have Coinstar where you can change your coins. If you don’t want to end up with a bag full of coins at the end of your trip, then don’t be shy to pay with coins. When you go to a convenience store or a fast food restaurant or a laundromat, always have your coin purse ready.

10. Buy a transportation card.

To avoid the long queues when buying metro tickets, buy a transportation card which you can load at metro stations or convenience stores. This will save you time and money for in some cities, fares paid with a transportation card are discounted.

By: Cynthia Yushida

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