International travel tips for first-time travelers

Your first trip abroad will bring mixed feelings (Photo: iStock)

The first trip abroad can be both exciting to look forward to but can cause anxiety, especially when planning it.

When I had my first opportunity to travel abroad, it brought out mixed feelings. I was overwhelmed with excitement (flying out of the country for the first time) and worried about the do’s and don’ts across the border.

I spent weeks planning this first trip out of the country – to the Spice Islands of Zanzibar. When I left, I was exhausted.

However, my first trip gave me lessons and insights into travel etiquette – whether traveling to the next door neighbor or to other global destinations.

The first thing to remember is that you are embarking on a journey of a lifetime that could give you complete culture shock. Research this thoroughly so that you are well equipped with the do’s and don’ts of the cultural aspects of your destination country.

Familiarize yourself with the cultural etiquette of the country of your destination. In some countries, for example, pointing fingers or showing the soles of your feet may be considered rude and may cause offense.

Be careful when taking pictures of places, people, and things. Check the guidelines for taking photos in the country you are visiting.

Check entry etiquette at religious institutions. The majority of these places require you to cover your head and dress modestly – covering your neck, shoulders and legs, as well as your tattoos.

In some countries, using drugs, including khat and cigarettes, is illegal. Find out about this and the consequences before you travel.

Always check the rules regarding tipping etiquette. In the cultures of some countries, tipping is viewed negatively – as an insult – and this label is therefore discouraged.

Learn a few words of the language of the country of your destination. A few words in the jargon of the country such as “hello”, “how are you”, “please” and “thank you”.

A general practice, especially when entering someone’s home, is to remove your shoes. Some commercial spaces (found in Zanzibar) require the same. You should always pay attention to signs that ask for it, among other instructions.

In some countries, the culture of putting both hands in pockets while talking or addressing people can be interpreted as anger towards them. That’s why it’s important to check the cultural trends of your destination before you travel.

In the same breath, never use your finger to point at people as this could be interpreted as a sign of rudeness.

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