International travel tips for first-time travellers

Your first time travelling abroad will bring out mixed feelings (Photo: iStock)

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

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

I spent weeks planning for this first trip ever out of the country – to the Spice Islands of Zanzibar. By the time of departure, I was exhausted.

However, my first trip gave me lessons and insights on travel etiquette - whether travelling to the next-door neighbour or to other global destinations.

The first thing to remember is that you are embarking on a trip of a lifetime that might give you a complete culture shock. Do thorough research on this so that you can be well equipped on the dos and don’ts of the cultural aspects of the country of your destination.

Bring yourself up to speed with the cultural etiquette of the country of your destination. In some countries, for example, pointing or showing the soles of your feet can be seen as rude and may offend.

Be careful when taking photographs of places, people, and things. Check the guidelines about taking photographs in the country you are visiting.

Check out the etiquette of entering religious institutions. The majority of these places require that you cover your head, and dress modestly – covering your neck, shoulders, and legs, as well as your tattoos.

In some countries, doing drugs, including khat and cigarettes is illegal. Find out this and the consequences before travelling.

Always check out the rules about tipping etiquette. In some countries’ cultures, tipping is viewed negatively – as an insult - and so this etiquette is discouraged.

Learn a few words of the language of the country of your destination. A few words in the country’s lingo 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 shopping spaces (found this in Zanzibar), demand the same. You must always look out for signs asking this among other instructions.

In some countries, the culture of putting both hands in their pockets while talking or addressing people may be interpreted as being angry with them. This is why it is important to check on the cultural trends of your destination before travelling.

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

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