A first trip abroad is usually filled with a flurry of emotions. There are so many nerve-racking thoughts rushing through your mind at any given point that it’s hard to say tell whether you are happy or terrified about the journey to come. Especially because there are so many things to plan and execute in time before you get on that plane and see yourself leaving your home country through the tiny peepholes called windows in flights.
We know that feeling and have been in those shoes quite a few times. In fact, a funny thing you wouldn’t expect is that the butterflies in your stomach won’t actually disappear after the first travel. You might experience them on the consecutive ones too but with time as you get comfortable with nation hopping, you do get calmer about such travels. In this article, we are exploring some of the things we would have loved to know going into our first international travel, that we hope will make things simpler for you as you embark on the adventurous journey of your life.
There are many nuances to travelling, whether it is by flight to a foreign country or taking a drive to a nearby town and these nuances help you become a more equipped traveller. Be it keeping yourself and your belongings safe or taking the best international travel insurance plans to ensure you have a protective backing for your journey, these simple aspects of travelling will keep you on top of most things.
Your documents, your identity.
Your documentation is very important. While this stands true even within the country, it’s doubly important for those of you travelling outside the country. Your passport is your only source of valid identification and for any identity disputes, it will be the go-to document for authorities in the foreign country. This is mainly because other national identity cards like driving licence or aadharetc are not recognized by the foreign country and not admissible as proof of identity. Same as in India, we don’t accept US Social Security Card as a proof of identity.
Apart from your passport, make sure to keep your airline ticket or boarding pass handy with you. You may need it to gain access to various aspects of the airport or airline. Lounges will only provide passengers with valid boarding passes to enter and enjoy the amenities.
Get to the airport on time.
Reaching the airport with sufficient time to spare is paramount to making your first journey abroad smooth and successful. There are various reasons for this. Primarily, you may not be familiar with international flight protocols and also boarding gates may be a considerable walk from the airport terminal for which a lack of time can make the experience a hurried and discomforting one.
Furthermore, when you pass through immigration, which is a mandate for any international travel, you might be scrutinized a little. Don’t be alarmed, this happens to anyone travelling for the first time because you basically have a virgin passport and authorities tend to ask more questions to first time travellers.
What to keep in mind when talking to the immigration officer?
Immigration officers can be intimidating and I can vouch for this because even though I have travelled to countless countries, every time I walk up to the immigration desk at an airport, I can feel a shiver run up my spine and my legs getting weaker the longer I stand there. But over the years, I have learnt some important things that will make your first time a pleasant one. For starters, most people are confused about whether to smile or act seriously in front of the immigration officer.
Most people might tell you to behave the latter in order to make the transactional interaction as simple as possible but honestly, in my opinion, there isn’t a mandate. You can give a pleasant smile to the officer when you walk up with a greeting because that’s the norm for any interaction. Also, immigration officers sit in their tiny cubicles for many hours at a stretch looking at people’s passports more than their faces and staring at screens while thousands of people walk past their booths. The job is a bit monotonous. So a smiling face is always a pleasure. Although don’t end up making ideal conversation or speaking unnecessarily as this will raise a few eyebrows and might even annoy the officer. Also always wait in behind the yellow line till the person before you has passed the booth and then ask for permission to approach the booth. This projects an air of respect for the procedure and will reduce inhibitions towards you.
As you walk up, greet and smile if you wish to, otherwise simply hand over your passport with the boarding pass placed in the page of the respective country visa. This makes things easier for the officer than having to look through your passport for the right page. Also makes you look like a regular. Last but not least, keep all conversation only limited to the questions asked and always be courteous in your tone. Immigration officers have the power to withhold your entry into international transit or the country if they feel a sense of misinformation or inconsistency in your documentation. While this happens rarely, if you stay crisp and clear in your communication, everything will flow smoothly.
Carry your entertainment along.
International flights can be long and depending on your booking may or may not include entertainment. While most international airlines will provide food and beverage services some are paid for. A good practice to keep in mind is when booking your flights, look for recliner seats and classes that provide entertainment services especially if the flight is over 3-5 hours. Also look for offers on food and beverage services when you are finalizing your booking. Another great practice is to ensure you include the best international travelin surance plan during booking. Most often these plans are really cheap and provide you good cover in the event of any mishap during your travel.
Travelling light is always a good tip for travellers but don’t travel too light.
It’s your first international trip so you will want to be better equipped. Always ensure you have a small carry on bag with you which should contain the following – a jacket, a book or something to entertain you for a while, your identity and travel documents as well as some food and water.
Money and plastic items that you need to keep in mind.
Since you are off to a foreign country, make sure you are well versed with their cost of living and currency. You’ll be best suited with exchanging some money into the international currency at the departing airport and consecutively exchange at the arriving airport. Also be sure to carry some international credit or debit card for situations when you run out of cash in hand.
While these were a curated list of a few things we felt you should know, remember that when you are travelling to a foreign country, no amount of information is too much. The more you know the better prepared you are for any situation.