International Travel Tips

Read these 13 International Travel Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Hotels tips and hundreds of other topics.

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How can I communicate??

Language no problem with this tool

This is the coolest thing! The "International Translator", by Alan Stillman- it's all icons and easily recognizable symbols for everything from foods, services, transportation, numbers, directions, you name it- in a fold out 4" x 10" folder. Get one..highly recommended! Email THIS WOULD WORK ON ANOTHER PLANET!!

Should I buy duty free goods on the airplane going to my destination?

Purchasing Duty-Free goods

Perfumes, alcohol, scarves, silk ties are some of the luxury items for sale on the plane when you travel internationally. Jot down the airline prices, then plan to make your purchases on the return flight, after determining that department or specialty stores aren't cheaper. If you can delay buying on your outbound, you also have less to lug around. Keep receipts for declaration purposes.

How can I make sure I can get to my hotel, if I don´t speak the lingo?

write address down

Make sure you write down your hotels name, address, and phone number; keep it on you at all times when in a foreign country. This would come in handy if you get lost and you're in a country like Greece with a different alphabet where not even a phone book would help. It also makes it easy for taxi to take you "home".

How long is a passport valid?

Passport validity

Adult US passport are usually valid for 10 years. Since it will eventually expire, make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after the end of your trip, or you may not be allowed to enter a country which requires one for entry. Do not rely on the airlines to verify the status of your passport or visas. They may incur a large penalty for boarding you without the correct paperwork, but that won't help you enjoy a much anticipated vacation that you are denied when Australia or Brazil send you home the day you arrive!

How can I control restaurant spending when menus are in lira/pesos/etc

Foreign menus

Like in the USA, menus will feature local currency. Rather than guess, make sure to bring your calculator or exchange-tool with you to restaurants. Many courses and foreign values can add up to a monster bill!

Do I need to leave my original password with a European hotel?

Passports and European hotels

European hotels are sometimes required to hold your passport overnight to comply with local regulations. You should keep a copy for yourself for those times when a hotel is retaining your original. You should contact the hotels you will be staying at to check their policy and local regulation. Refusal to hand over a passport if required can lead to them refusing to register you for a room. You need to contact the appropriate hotels directly since requirements vary greatly.

What name should I travel under right after the wedding?

Passport- Just Married

Congratulation! A foreign/exotic honeymoon will top off the dream wedding experience...unless you aren't allowed on the plane or cruise ship! Make sure the name on your passport matches the travel documents- airline tickets, etc., even if it means that you travel under your maiden name this one time. Probably not a problem, but technically you could be denied boarding. Play it safe.

What can I do to help replace my passport if it is lost?

Passport- Backup

Keep a copy of the inside front pages of your passport in your office, at home, with your travel agent, and/or with a travel companion. Also travel with two extra passport size pictures in case you need them. In the event it becomes lost or stolen, the information can save hours in replacement time.

What is a passport and visa?

Passports and other ID for travel

THIS IS ACCURATE FOR U.S. CITIZENS (Born here). If you are going to leave the US, even to go to Canada or Mexico, you should bring with you proof of citizenship. This is used primarily to return to the US, not as a requirement of the other country. The very best proof is a passport. For about $100 you can have photos taken, get your application processed, wait a couple of weeks (longer in peak seasons), and be set for 10 years. Other methods normally accepted for proof of citizenship include: an original or certified copy of your birth certificate, military discharge, and expired passport, or naturalization papers. Not accepted are: social security card, drivers license, any credit card, voter's registration (because every district is unique-easily faked), a marriage license, or a "green card" which is used by resident aliens to show they legally reside in the US. A visa is permission from a country to enter their borders for purposes of tourism, business, or schooling. They are granted by the foreign consulate or embassy after submission of an application along with any fees, letter, invitations, or travel information they require. The visa is usually a stamp which is placed in the passport and is good for a specific duration. Persons who were not born in the United States may have different qualifications in order to receive a passport or visa. Check with a good travel agent for your special needs.

How can I safeguard my documents when traveling?

Passport backup

When traveling abroad it is best to make copies of your passport and give your traveling partner a copy of your passport. You can place other copies of your passport in your suitcases. Should your passport become lost, your copies will quickly enable you to get a replacement passport.

(Also a good idea to have two extra passport photos handy.)

What should I do about foreign currency before & after traveling?

Currency- before and after

BEFORE you leave the States, arrange with a large local bank to buy at least $100 worth of foreign money so that you land with some "cash" in hand. It may take a week's notice at your bank, so place an order for ..(pounds. Deutchmarks, yen, lira, etc.) as well as a supply of traveler's checks. Upon arrival at the foreign airport, go past the first bank of currency exchange windows, (where half your plane is in line)..there are more windows further into the airport with shorter lines.
AFTER your vacation, at the airport waiting to fly home, exchange your foreign money back to dollars. Unless you collect them, do the same with the coins. US banks will only accept bills for conversion.
(If I know I will be going back to that country again
I keep some currency...label an envelope at home with the country name, and keep it until next time.)

How can I communicate??

Foreign Language help

Not everyone speaks English, therefore if we travel we should learn another language to be able to ask the natives questions. Rosetta Stone Online has an interactive language tools to build up your confidence. Everything is done in the selected language. Also feedback is given immediately. Note there is a fee for most of the lessons. But you can have a free trial offer, which gives you a week full of lessons in many languages.

What about language problems and food allergies and restricted diets?

Ordering in Restaurants

If you have an allergy or a restricted diet (low fat/no salt/etc.,) learn the words required to make yourself understood in the destination country. Or, have your specifications written in the language, prepared from home, which you can hand to your waitperson.

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Guru Spotlight
Ray Lokar