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"Must Do's" Before going Abroad


1. Research

No matter where you are going, it is important to look up current events to ensure that each of the areas you are traveling to are safe. Just a few minutes of research can make your trip that much more smooth. Weather is a part of this as well. Visiting parts of Southeast Asia during monsoon season can be very dangerous!

Cultural norms are also extremely important. For example, if you plan on visiting temples or walking around areas that are highly religious during your trip, shoulders and ankles should be covered in these areas. Body language is important to understand as well. It took Danielle and I a few weeks in Sri Lanka before we understood that someone who is tipping their head from side to side was actually telling us "yes"....

2. Money

The debit card I recommend for frequent or even one-time travelers is the Charles Schwab Debit Card. This card is awesome because it has no foreign transaction fees AND no ATM fees. Although technically you will pay the fee upfront at the ATM, Charles Schwab will reimburse you for all of your ATM fees at the end of each month. In some places, like Vietnam, this isn’t a huge deal because the ATM fees are only $1-$2, but in places like Thailand where every ATM fee is $7-$8, this card can really help you save money while you’re on the go!

3. Vaccines

You don’t need to get vaccines for most places you go, but when traveling to places like Asia, checking to make sure you’re vaccinated is an important step in preparing for your trip.

I’ve found that getting vaccinated at my local county building was the cheapest option for my vaccines. Call ahead of time though because travel docs are only in the clinic certain days of the month! (Downfall of county building- they only administer shots, so they do not prescribe medications such as malaria med, antidiarrheals)

If you need vaccines that aren't provided at the county building (or you just don’t want to go there), you need to start looking for a travel doctor who can administer the shots or prescribe you the medication you will need.

Also, be aware that most travel vaccines are not covered by insurance so do your research on what you NEED (cdc.com).

4. Pack

You can always buy new clothes while traveling, but these are some of the things I never leave home without...

Hand sanitizer/disinfectant wipes

Sunblock /Face Sunblock

Bug spray with DEET/Lotion with DEET/Wipes with DEET

Bandaids/Allergy Medication/Cold and Flu Medication/Advil/Nightquil

Necessary prescriptions

Contacts/glasses/contact solution

5. Phone Plan

If you plan on using your US phone while you are overseas, it's a good idea to find out if you are covered internationally prior to your departure.

If your phone plan does not cover international areas, you can just settle with keeping your phone on airplane mode the whole trip and only using your phone when you’re on WiFi. This is what I STILL do in Vietnam and I live here now…

You can also buy an unlocked phone and a sim card wherever you go as well. In Asia, buying a sim card and ‘topping up’ your phone is extremely cheap - so bring an unlocked phone with you if you prefer this option and want to get data everywhere you go.

6. Apply for a VISA

Depending on where you are going, this can vary in price. Some places are free for a certain amount of time (like Thailand) but most are not. You must apply for a VISA prior to entering the country so make sure you do your research and apply for one at least a few days before you leave.

7. Airport Transportation

After a very long flight, it is nice to know that your transportation to your hostel/hotel is waiting for you at the airport right when you arrive.

Although jumping into a new culture is the point of traveling, after a long flight, I prefer scheduling my ride in advance so that I don't have to try to figure out public transportation in a brand new place with all of my luggage.