Embark with confidence – A first timer’s voyage into international travel adventures
Travelling overseas for the first time is an exhilarating experience for many, but it can quickly become nerve-racking, especially when travellers are caught off guard by travel requirements or while navigating the culture, norms, and even laws of different countries.
Still, travel can be incredibly fulfilling and enriching with the right information and attitude at hand. What’s more, once the travel bug bites, there’s no going back! Here is a comprehensive guide to help first-time international travellers avoid common mistakes and enjoy a hassle-free trip abroad.
Researching your destination
With the wealth of information on virtually every aspect of travel to most countries in the world available online, the first and most important step every traveller should take is to spend some time browsing travel blogs and websites offering expert advice and tips for the country one intends on travelling to.
You may want to find out ahead of time, useful information that include the cultural, political, and economic environment of your intended destination to help you make an informed decision about your travels. You can also look up the Visa requirements – there are many countries that do not require South Africans to apply for a Visa for entry, including Hong Kong, Thailand, and South Korea.
Planning the trip
While budgets tend to be more of a guideline than a strictly followed plan, it’s still a good idea to draw up a budget that includes all travel costs – flights, accommodation, food, entertainment, tours, souvenirs, and more. Create a detailed itinerary that covers as many bases as you need, remembering that a touch of spontaneity here and there also adds to the charm and excitement of travel experiences.
For flights, booking directly with an airline is easy and convenient, and allows you to keep an eye on your own flight itinerary. Check for specials and, most importantly, direct flight routes to your intended destination to avoid lengthy layovers.
Cathay Pacific, for instance is currently offering a flat ZAR300 exclusive online discounton Economy, Premium Economy, and Business Class fares for flights from Johannesburg to select destinations in Asia until 31 October 2023. Connect from any other city in South Africa to Johannesburg through one of the airline’s many interline partners. Cathay Pacific has also recently resumed direct flights between South Africa and Hong Kong, broadening the travel horizons for South Africans into the rest of Asia and beyond.
Whether you choose to work with a travel agent or self-bookings, it’s a good idea to look up accommodation options based on reviews and feedback from tourists who have stayed there before – these will give you great insight into what to expect. It’s also best to book hotels or other accommodation in advance to avoid higher fees and give you peace of mind that your stay is sorted before your arrival.
When searching for places to dine – opt for a good mix of ‘popular’ restaurants and eateries, as well as others that are located off the beaten track. This allows you to immerse yourself in local culture and enjoy cuisine prepared the way people who live there prefer it. It’s also a great way to socialise with people, make friends, and potentially get great travel tips and advice from people familiar with the local scene.
Safety tips while travelling
Of course, it’s always advisable to keep your wits about you when travelling or experiencing a new country. Avoid carrying too much money; leave valuables and travel documents in a hotel safe or use money belt to carry cash safely and avoid attracting the wrong attention. Take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers hospitalisation and other medical costs while abroad. If you’re travelling as a family, make sure that travel insurance covers all members of your travel party too.
Lastly, accidents happen and there have been many travellers who have lost their passports and other important travel documentation while abroad. Have an idea of where the local South African High Commission, Embassy or Consulate General is located in the country you are visiting and carry certified copies of your passport and identity documents with you just in case.
With adequate, research, detailed planning, and knowing what to expect, you can take the hassle and uncertainty out of first-time international travel and enjoy the experience.