I get a lot of questions from novice travelers who are setting out on their first international travels, and I thought that I would share the most asked, and most helpful, of the bunch!
1. Can I use my cellphone in a different country?
There are a few different options for cellphone use overseas.
First, some providers have an international plan that you can add on to your regular phone plan for the time you are away. This is often the most expensive of the options, but it will allow you to use your phone the same way you would at home with no disturbances.
The second option is to purchase a sim card when you arrive. The sim will give you a local phone number and allow you to purchase time as you need it. The cost of this will vary depending on the country that you are in.
The third option is to disable the data function and use only wifi. If you have an iPhone, you will still be able to text and call people (using FaceTime) at home who also have iPhones, and will be able to use all other apps and functions whenever you are connected to wireless. In most countries in the world you will have no trouble finding a signal.
2. How do I figure out what to do/what sights to see? Do I need to book ahead?
My suggestion is always to do some research before you get on a plane. Buy a travel guide and have a read through it, search through travel blogs, ask people you know if they have any advice — even if you do nothing that is suggested, at least it gives you a place to start, and a sense of the place that you are headed to.
When it comes to booking ahead, I strongly advocate against it. Of course, there are some exceptions — your flight, your first night's accommodation etc. But, unless you are travelling in the high season, or booking into an all-inclusive, I recommended seeing where your adventure takes you!
3. Should I rent a car to get around?
This absolutely depends on where you are going and how much ground you are going to cover. There are a few things that you need to consider before even thinking about renting a car however. Firstly, do you need an International Driver's License to rent a car in the country you are headed? Secondly, can you drive a stick shift? (In most of Europe, this is the only option.) Next, does traffic drive on the opposite side of the road than you are used to? Are you prepared for that? You also need to consider time and the cost of renting a car. Cheap airlines can offer you flights that cost under $50 and will get you to your destination in a fraction of the time driving would. In other words, do your research!
4. How do I get money? Can I use ATMs?
I would try and exchange some money in your home country (around $100-$200) so that you aren't scrambling to find a bank as soon as you get there. This will help if you need to grab food, a cab, or other miscellaneous items before you settle in. ATMs and banks that accept international debit and credit cards are widespread, just make sure that you have a four-digit pin code.
IMPORTANT TIP: Call your bank and credit card companies before you leave and tell them exactly where you are going and for how long. This will prevent your cards from getting cancelled while you are gone. Most banks also have a toll-free or international phone number that you can use while you are away if you have any issues.
5. Are there any scams that I should watch out for?
There sure are! Especially if you are traveling in the high season which draws pickpockets and scammers in droves to major tourist sites. Click here for my blog on top scams to watch out for.