Ten tips for travelling abroad

Brandon YeoPlanning an overseas holiday in the summer break? International Medicine student Brandon Yeo offers his top ten tips for students travelling abroad, so you can be sure of having a great trip…

1) Learn the language

If you’re going to a place where English isn’t the main language, learn some basic phrases. It will help you get around, ask for directions and help, and order food.

Most people will be glad you’re making the effort to communicate and be more helpful and friendly, even if they don’t speak a word of English!

Omniglot.com has useful tables of standard phrases to learn.

2) Be considerate

This might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many callous tourists will leave their litter on the streets, assume traffic rules are the same globally, and disrupt the lives of the locals by taking photos or being excessively loud and obnoxious.

People are more likely to be welcoming if you respect the local laws and cultural practices (including dress codes), so do take some time to educate yourself, which brings me to my next point…

3) Read up on the places you’re visiting

Reading travel guide

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is important when travelling. Most tourists snap photos and move on, unaware of the significance and history of the place or sight they just witnessed.

Having some background knowledge of the site or attraction that you’re viewing will give that much more meaning to your visit, and you will go away having learnt something new.

4) Travel with someone who has the same intentions as you

I cannot begin to stress how important this is when travelling with anyone, ever. If one party prefers to climb mountains and see breath-taking scenery, and the other wants to shop and eat as much as possible, your trip won’t go very smoothly.

It’s unlikely that everyone will have the same goals for the trip in mind, but as long as they are discussed and agreed upon beforehand, everyone will be satisfied with the experiences they have.

5) Know your budget

Counting cash

Planning is crucial for this. You don’t want to be stuck in a foreign land with not enough cash to get back home! Everyone has different budgets, and you’ll need to arrange things like transportation, accommodation, accounting for daily spending, as well as souvenirs or gifts to bring back home.

I personally like to carry an excess of about 15% more than what I’ve calculated for my spending, in case of emergencies.

6) Know your luggage

Packing bag

This includes packing for the trip and packing at the end of the trip. Do you really need that spare coat? What about that generic snow globe?

You only have so much luggage space, and you’ll need to prepare for how much (or how little) you can survive on, as well as how much you like to take away from your travels.

7) Check the weather

This is the one practical thing that may not seem very important, but it can and will drastically change itineraries. Knowing the temperature range and weather forecast of the areas you’re visiting will allow you to prepare wet weather plans, and help you and your gang dress appropriately as well.

I was once stuck on a mountain range in southern Spain in 2 degree weather – with hail coming down around me – while wearing a hoodie and jeans. Don’t be me. Accuweather.com has forecasts up to two weeks in advance.

8) Step outside your comfort zone, but be safe

Why travel if you’re not going to try and experience things you’ve never done before? Life really does become that much more vibrant at the edges of your comfort zone, and pushing yourself to try something will almost certainly be worth it.

Just be wise when venturing somewhere new; where there are tourists, there are almost certainly people waiting to take advantage of naivety.

A quick search on travel forums such as TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree will keep you on the lookout for scams, tourist traps and other such pitfalls.

9) Take photos and videos

Holiday photo

Not just for the #gram, or for bragging rights to show people where you’ve been. Photos and videos are a way of capturing memories, a split moment (or moments) in time that you witnessed.

No one else will experience that moment the same way you did, ever again. Isn’t that something worth remembering? Years later you will have something to look at to remind yourself of where and what you did.

Don’t get caught up in capturing the ‘perfect shot’. After you’ve taken some time for the photos and videos mentioned above, remember that an experience can only be truly lived out. Immerse yourself in the moment.

10) Take time to reflect

Whether you’ve stumbled back to your hostel/hotel room/Airbnb room of choice, can’t sleep on the long-distance bus ride, or are transiting in an airport, use some free time to process what you’ve seen and done so far.

I truly believe that travelling, if done right, can change a person’s perspective for the better. Go on and explore!

Read our FBMH Story with Brandon to find out about his experience of life at The University of Manchester.

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