As a seasoned traveler myself and an often/occasional expat in Asia, there are a handful of must-dos before I leave on any trip. Now, that list has gotten shorter over the years, it used to include things like: vaccinations, mail, pre-trip freakout, etc, but that’s not the case anymore. Now there are several things I do each and every time I am switching to a new country…sometimes that means merely hopping across a border, other times I start out from the United States, where I return yearly to visit with family and friends.
What Should you Do Before You Board the Plane?
That’s a great question, and one that, as I mentioned, used to cause a bit of stress in the early days of traveling. Even when I was living in Italy for a bit, on my very first trip, switching to a new city for the weekend could cause an instant fret-session. Take my advice though, there are really only a few basic necessities you need to make sure are in place before you leave to ensure your trip runs smoothly!
Book Your Accommodation
This rule applies particularly if you are coming off of a long international flight, do yourself the favor and book at least your first night of accommodation before you step foot on the airplane. Now, if you’re taking a short bus ride to a nearby town, sure, you can likely find a great guesthouse during the daylight hours. But if you arrive late at night, if you’re under the weather, or if you’re likely to be incredibly tired from days of travel, then pick a hotel or guesthouse (and maybe even pick one a bit nicer than your usual fare as a treat) for the first night or two.
Know How You’re Leaving the Airport
If you’ve booked a guesthouse they will likely include detailed information in your confirmation email about how to get to the hotel or guesthouse. Print this out, write it down, tattoo it on your arm. In short, keep it close. If you’re unsure of how to get into the city (some airports can be very far out from the city center) check out travel forums like Lonely Planet or BootsnAll for advice on how to leave the airport and get to your accommodation. Many times you can save yourself significant money by taking a public bus or train into the downtown and then cabbing it from there, rather than taking a cab all the way from a distant airport.
Research the Exchange Rate
Do yourself a big favor in a new country and know your new currency and the current exchange rate. This is very important when you first get the airport and are sitting in front of the ATM scratching your head about how much money you need to withdrawal!
Learn Any Important Local Phrases if You Have Special Needs
Knowing the local language is not imperative in most new cities–usually English is sufficient to get you to the guesthouse as long as you have an address. That being said, if you have any special food requirements (such as vegetarians, those with severe food allergies, etc) then study up and know how to say the key phrases in the local language.
And that’s it! Truly, there are simply four main steps to leaving the country, the rest you can figure out once your there in person and can ask questions of your guesthouse and hotel owners!