My experience traveling to Europe was incredible, to say the least. Though extremely busy and exhausting, moments like standing at the very top of the Eiffel tower in the pouring rain, made the fatigue extremely worth it. Although I tried my best to be prepared for traveling abroad, there were still some things that I wish I had known before my adventure. So to all my fellow wanderlusters, here are 10 things you should know before you traveling abroad!
1. Always keep an open mind.
When you are traveling abroad, you are bound to experience things that you are not used to, whether that be the type of food or the traditional customs. One thing to keep in mind is to not let the idea of unfamiliar things stop you from truly experiencing all the country has to offer. You do not travel to do the same old things you can do where you are from, so take advantage of this opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone.
2. Beware of the bread.
This might seem weird, but I feel that is important to mention. Be careful when asking for bread or water when you are out at a restaurant. While here in America these things are free of charge, abroad they will cost you money – and if you are traveling on a budget, like I was, you can use all the money you can get. Thinking it was free, I indulged and had to pay the price. But it is okay – my mistakes will now become your knowledge.
3. Pack light, seriously.
This was probably one of the hardest things for me to do. I was leaving for 17 days and I wanted to have options. But trust me, you will not wear every single thing you end up packing, but you will still carry the extra weight. It was especially hard to maneuver my way through the train with my heavy suitcase. Save the heavy lifting for the gym and pack lightly, but efficiently!
4. Check your wireless data package ahead of time.
You are definitely going to want to keep in contact with your friends and family while you are traveling abroad, so make sure to check if your phone plan covers international roaming. Luckily for me, mine did and I was able to text wherever I went. If your plan does not cover it, you are still able to communicate when you get access to wifi, which is not always a bad thing. This way you are able to escape the digital world and fully immerse yourself in the culture.
5. Contact your banks, again, ahead of time.
This is a MUST when traveling abroad. Contact your bank at least two weeks before your travel dates and inform them of the dates you will be traveling, and the places you will be going. This way if you use your card overseas they will know it is you and not someone who has stolen your card. It might also be helpful to know if your bank has a limit to how much cash you can take out a day – you don’t want to be left stranded somewhere with not even money.
6. Pay attention to pickpocketers.
Pickpocketing is a big problem abroad, and if you are tourist (and look like one) you might as well have a big target on your back. When in Spain and Paris, this was a very prevalent issue. Take extra precautions and never let your things out of your sight. Put all important belongings such as cell phones, money and passports in a backpack and wear it on the front of you. Better safe than sorry.
7. Know the language.
While I don’t expect you to be proficient in the language of every country you visit, it will definitely be useful to know some common phrases to help you get by. Try not to be that person who assumes all foreigners speak English. Put all those years of studying a foreign language to good use!
8. Trust the locals.
We all want to find that perfect little place that serves the best paella or gelato, and who better to tell you where that place is than someone who actually lives there and knows the area. Abandon trip advisor, you’ll be better for it.
9. Shop, shop, shop!
If there was one thing that I loved doing overseas, it was shopping! There were so many cute markets that didn’t break the bank. Buy something nice for yourself to remember the trip by, or get keepsakes for your family. If you are ever in London, Camden Town is the place to start. In Spain, I found the best souvenirs at Las Ramblas (but again, beware of pickpocketers).
10. Cherish your trip. Every second of it.
Seriously – enjoy every moment while traveling abroad. You never know when you will have the opportunity to do these same things over again. 17 days flew by for me and I am itching to go back, but I have a ton of memories to hold on to until then.