Traveling can be a dreamlike experience or travel can be a nightmare. It all depends on how well you plan. So many things can go wrong such as: getting bit by a monkey with horns, going to jail for chewing peppermint gum, unknowingly joining a cult by engaging in a simple hand shake, getting a nice, clean shave with an ax, or many other countless aggravations or absurdities that can ruin your whole travel experience. Traveling right is the only way you should want to travel outside of the country you reside. There are steps to take to avoid disappointment when traveling abroad.
PASSPORT OR DIE!
Having a physical passport in your hand is the most important thing that can make or break your plans. You can have a full trip planned and paid for and end up wasting all of your time and money, just because your passport did not arrive on time. There are expedited services that can possibly get your passport to you within days, but why place your trip in jeopardy over procrastination? You can’t go wrong with going through your local or state government agencies (i.e. post office, embassies, credible travel agencies, etc.) to apply for your passport. Each country has it’s own requirements that should be strictly followed.
2. VISA, the credit you can’t buy
What is worst than finally landing in the country you are visiting after a long, rather uncomfortable flight, with passport in hand, ready to get your first stamp, to only be soon surrounded by officers ready to ship you back to wherever you came from and do so without a blink? This can happen, if you don’t have a visa upon entering a country that requires it, and most times you may not even make it past the check-in counter.
U.S. and European citizens can pretty much go to a lot of places that won’t require a visa, but just because you are American or European does not mean that you are exempt from ALL countries. There are some countries that do require a visa upon entry. Some countries may offer visas on arrival, but don’t always expect that privilege as a U.S. or European citizen. Visa requirements should also be taken very seriously, as they can change. If the requirements are: at least three recent selfies, 500 bucks in pennies, proof of a hater vaccination, string cheese, and a shot of rum, you better make sure you get on it!
3. THIS AIN’T IT!
Know where you are going! Have you ever saw a flyer for an event that sounded like the place to be, to only later find out that that “place to be” is no longer where you want to be? The same thing goes for traveling. Although, I do encourage taking chances and going to places where media lens tend to shy away, I also want to emphasize the importance of research. DON’T strictly abide by what the media tells you about places. The joy in traveling is seeing for yourself that half the time, the media is wrong. Information is at your finger tips. Visit directories like, Noir Mien, and read reviews. Join travel groups and see what people are saying and where they are going, and talk to people who has visited the places or are from the places that you want to go.
4. Remember “YOU” are the foreigner
Remember when traveling abroad that YOU are the foreigner and will get treated as such. This may be a good or bad thing, considering which region of the world map you represent. Stereotypes play a big role in countries with a low concentration of tourism and that is okay, but it may be annoying or offensive to you on your first few encounters. You may get stared at like you have three legs, pictures of you may be taken with or without your consent, and people may want to touch your skin, hair, or any physical characteristic on you that makes you different than they are. Don’t panic. Don’t be offended. A lot of the time these people have never left their back yards and are only used to seeing people, who look like you, on their television screens. They are usually more curious and excited than they are angry or afraid of your presence.
5. When not in Rome, DON’T do as the Romans do!
Your expectations should be at a very minimum when you travel into another country. Things that are valued in your country may not be valued elsewhere. You may go to a restaurant and get served a fresh, warm glass of water with one ice cube in it, or better yet, no ice at all. You will find that ice may be a luxury in many other countries and will notice that many countries don’t honor the free refill privileges on fountain beverages like the “most generous USA”.
Learn the culture before you go. See what is acceptable and what is not. Learn the etiquette, the dress code (yes some places have dress codes, especially for women), the language, and etc. Small things, such as tipping a waiter, may be deemed offensive in some countries. You can go to jail or deported for kissing in public in others. Obnoxious and/or boisterous behavior may be a form of disrespect in some cultures. Keep a low profile. Dress down. No flashy jewelry or flashy clothing to draw attention to yourself.
6. Cash is not money when worn!
You will find that the U.S. currency is favored in some countries. As a matter of fact, it may be so favored that you dare not attempt to spend a dollar bill with a small tear on it…because 2 times out of 3, they will NOT accept it. Yes! Even if you have a hundred dollar bill, and you are ready to shop your little heart out. Know that if that hundred dollar bill is wrinkled, stained, soiled, torn, or even dated back a few years, they will look at it as if it is trash that you are trying to pay them with. When using U.S. currency, make sure you have new and crisp bills, or you can simply exchange your country’s cash for that visiting country’s currency, and make your life a whole lot easier.
7. “Do you speak-a-de-English?”
Lastly, don’t assume that everyone speaks English. Although, there are a lot of countries where English may be a second language, don’t automatically assume that people know or care to speak it. Attempt to speak their language first when communicating. This may be another insult to some, and you will be brushed off or ignored when you are seeking assistance or guidance. Help seems to come a lot easier when your respect is shown and given.
Another, don’t think that ‘black community’ is universal. One thing I’ve found out early-on while living in Europe was that (some) people from African countries have serious problem and attitudes towards African-Americans. They’re tribal and still consider us ‘slaves’. I learned this in 2007 when I was in Rotterdam. I was at the Tuesday market and saw a group of black people and was thinking to myself “Hey! I see some of “my people”, that’s what’s up!” Then one of them (a woman) looked and me, sucked her tongue and said…”UM! Black American!, pfff. I knew if the revolution was to happen while I was traveling I was doomed.
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I love it! Keep them coming!
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Great article and the points you made are spot on. While in Thailand, the currency exchange wouldn’t take my perfectly good $20 bill because it has a stain on it. Also while visiting France, experienced a few locals who wouldn’t help us because we didn’t speak the language although they clearly understood English. Only when my trilingual friend spoke up did they assist. Humbling experience to say the least.
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Thank you. I will.
Thank you for confirming your experiences and thanks for reading.
I’m sorry that you had such a negative experience. However, I do disagree about Africans having attitudes towards African Americans. Have you ever stopped to think that those attitudes is in response to how they have been treated or have been accepted in Europe by the black community there? Have you actually visited the country of Africa? My experiences when visiting Africa, has been nothing but welcoming and pleasant. I’m not saying there is no tension within the 2 groups you mention, but I am a firm believer that this “so-called divide” is separated by a bunch of assumptions from both sides and it doesn’t have to be that way.