Seven Things That Might Surprise You as a First-Time International Traveler

Traveling internationally for the first time is an exciting and enriching experience. On such a big occasion, you’ll probably be tempted to hop over to other nearby countries or cities while you have the chance. However, it can also be an overwhelming experience, especially if you don’t know what to expect. 

Let’s dive in and discuss seven things that might surprise you as a first-time international traveler.

1. The Ease of Visiting Multiple Countries at Once

The U.S. is massive, and traveling anywhere takes effort. However, countries in Europe are grouped very closely, making it easy to visit multiple countries and cities in one go. 

You might consider flying to a major city like Warsaw, visiting for a few days, then hopping onto a train and arriving in Krakow on a Saturday morning for a secondary weekend getaway. Store your belongings in a Krakow luggage storage station until it’s time to check in at your hotel, and start exploring the moment you arrive.

2. Customs and Etiquette

Countries have different customs and etiquette, so it’s important to be aware of these before you go. For example, in some countries, it’s considered rude to tip, while in others, it’s expected. In some cultures, it’s customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, while in others, it’s considered impolite. 

Researching the customs and etiquette of your destination before you go can help you avoid any unintentional cultural faux pas.

3. Currency

Another difference that might surprise you as a first-time international traveler is the currency used in your destination. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the currency and exchange rate before you go to avoid getting ripped off by street vendors or overpaying for goods and services. 

It’s also smart to have some local currency on hand when you arrive in case you need to pay for transportation or other essentials before you can exchange your money. You can typically find currency exchange stations immediately upon your arrival in the airport or in a train station. 

4. Power Outlets and Voltages

Groups of countries use different power outlets and voltages, so it’s important to pack the right adapters and converters for your electronic devices. This can be especially important if you’re traveling with expensive electronics such as cameras or laptops. 

We recommend bringing a power bank or portable charger in case you cannot find an outlet to charge your devices while out and about. You don’t want to be stranded with a dead phone, especially if you rely on an online map to get from point A to point B.

5. Food and Drink

The food and drink at your destination may differ from what you’re used to at home. This can be a pleasant surprise as you try new and exciting flavors and dishes. However, it’s also important to be aware of any dietary restrictions or allergies and to be cautious about what you eat and drink. Look into the local cuisine before you go, so you know what to expect and can plan your meals accordingly.

6. Transportation Options

The transportation options at your destination may also be different from what you’re used to at home. For example, in some cities, the primary mode of transportation is by foot, bicycle, or public transportation, while in others, taxis or private cars may be more common. 

Familiarize yourself with the transportation options before you go, so you can plan your routes and budget accordingly. Stay aware of any safety concerns or scams related to transportation to avoid potential dangers.

7. Attitudes Toward Time

Different cultures have different attitudes toward time, which can be especially surprising for first-time international travelers. In some cultures, punctuality is highly valued, while in others, being a few minutes late is not a big deal at all. It’s important to be aware of these attitudes to avoid offending anyone or being perceived as disrespectful. Be patient and flexible with your schedule, as unexpected delays or changes may arise suddenly.

Prepare for the Unexpected

As a first-time international traveler, it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed and surprised by language, customs, currency, and other differences. However, with some research and preparation, you can navigate these differences and make the most of your travels. 

By being aware of your destination’s cultural norms and customs, familiarizing yourself with the local currency and transportation options, and being open to new experiences, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip. Remember to keep an open mind, be respectful of local customs, and embrace the differences you encounter along the way. Happy travels!

Photo by Steven Lewis on Unsplash