Best 29 International Travel Tips

Whether you’re traveling internationally for business or leisure, here are 29 practical tips and advice that will help your next trip to be more successful, trouble-free and safe.


  • Enroll in STEP. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  • Your passport. Keep color copies and email a copy to yourself and/or store in a secure cloud-based storage. Hide copies in your luggage.
  • Copy important credit cards and IDs – Front and Back. If lost or stolen, you have the numbers to call the respective companies. Check with your credit card company and bank to ensure that your credit cards / ATM will work in the countries you’ll visit.
  • Enter your destination country on the right visa. Each country has its specific visa entry requirements. If you are traveling for business purposes (or actually working), you may think it is less hassle to enter on a visitor’s visa. With global business mobility increasing, government officials around the world are attuned and checking for fraud. You and your company will not be treated favorably if you are caught upon entry, while in-country or at departure if you’ve entered on the incorrect visa.
  • Avoid cell phone bill shock. Add an international calling plan for the time you’re traveling abroad, acquire a prepaid phone, have additional options available like Skype or a local mobile phone.
  • Devices, computers, and adapters. Decide in advance what phone, laptop or tablet you need overseas. If the device stores confidential business or personal information that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, think about how to protect it before you take off – locking, cleaned devices, etc. Electrical outlets around the world are not the same. Universal adapters are available for purchase. Sometimes hotels will provide adapters or have built-in outlets for different geographies but don’t rely on this.
  • RFID blocking. Carry your credit and ATM cards or anything with a magnetic strip or chip in an RFID-blocking wallet or case that cannot be RFID scanned for your personal ID, account numbers and PINs.
  • No uninvited visitors. Post about your trip on social media AFTER you return from your trip. Don’t alert unwanted visitors your home is unoccupied. Have the post office hold your mail and a trusted neighbor or friend check on your place periodically.
  • Be medically prepared. Get the proper inoculations, check with your insurance company to see if you have medical travel coverage or buy medical travel insurance.
  • Toll-free numbers (800 / 888) will not work to dial into the U.S from overseas. Make sure you have your direct dial numbers for providers you may need to contact (bank, insurance, airline, etc.)


  • Use covered luggage tags on your bags. It’s too easy to obtain your personal information if you have an open luggage tag. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of all your luggage.
  • Carry-on bags. Store your carry-on bag as close to you as possible. Ideally, store in your line of sight, diagonally, a few rows ahead of you. Store in the overhead bin with the zipper side down or at a minimum with zipper side not up.
  • Keep your medication (prescription or OTC) in the original container. If questioned, medication in original bottles with labels will be easier to explain. Also, if you have a medical condition that may need attention, carry the appropriate medical records.
  • Elude “airplane germs”. Traveling in confined airplane cabins with recirculated air may make you cringe and wonder if we’re going to get sick afterward. Dan Pink, the famous author/world traveler, has shared two practical tips. The first tip is to travel with antiseptic wipes. On the plane, wipe down the pull-down table, armrests, and chairs. Best advice ever, rub the inside of your nose with an antibiotic ointment (e.g., Neosporin) to help combat the germs that you may inhale when breathing airplane cabin air. Although not medically validated, I haven’t gotten sick after any of my trips since doing these two things.


  • Back home should know where you are. Text, connect or call your at-home family members and/or business contacts each time you arrive at your destination. 
  • Money. Know in advance the currency exchange rate and the in-country tipping protocols. There are apps available this. Always keep a little local cash on hand and easily reachable. It’s called “mugger’s money.” Just in case, it may be the little amount that you hand over to a thief and he/she will immediately go away.
  • Driver pick-up or taxis. The driver’s placard/sign should contain the logo of the transit company or a hotel logo as well as your name. Be wary of anyone who has a sign that only has your name on it. Also, if you’re taking a taxi from an unfamiliar airport, make a quick visit to the taxi company’s desk and ask the distance and much it will cost to get to your destination.
  • Be culturally sensitive. Whether your trip is for business or leisure, increasing your cultural intelligence (CQ) will make your trip more successful or enjoyable.
  • Language. If you don’t know the host-country language, learn a few important phrases or get a translation app.
  • Dress culturally appropriate and do not attract attention to yourself. Don’t stand out a tourist as much as possible. Tone down the “bling”, loud clothing and apparel with logos. Go without the designer purses and clothes, jewelry, expensive shoes. They will make you stand out and may draw undesirable attention from people with criminal intent. In some countries, wearing sneakers will make you stand out or may be frowned upon. Dress appropriately in religious regions. This may mean no shorts, short sleeves or short skirts. It’s advisable for women to carry a pashmina or large scarf.
  • Food. A threat while you’re traveling is getting sick and that can happen by contaminated food. Enjoy the local cuisine but be careful what and where you eat. Ice cubes, tap water and raw food should be avoided.
  • Know and follow local law. It’s starts with being honest (not deceptive) with immigration and border personnel on entry and departure. While in the country, penalties for breaking


  • Street Scams.  As you travel around, be aware of potential travel or street scams. Here are 11 Common Travel Scams and How to Deal With Them. The best way to avoid a scam is to be hyper-vigilant to avoid being put in a compromising situation from the start. Trust your gut.  If it doesn’t feel right, be confident and stand your ground and don’t worry about offending anyone.
  • Request a room from the 2nd to 7th floor. The first floor is accessible to the public. Fire is one of the biggest dangers to hotel guests. You want to be able to quickly exit by through a stairwell so it’s better to be closer to the ground floor. If you’re trapped by fire in your room, fire ladders generally only reach to the 7th floor.
  • Fire exits. Check where your fire exits are and count number of doors to exit. If the building fills with smoke, you will know quickly how to escape.
  • Hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door handle at all times – even when you’re not in the room. You can also keep the television or lights on. Occasionally, a hotel will mistakenly double book a room. This will alert the mistakenly, double-booked guest (who has a key card) that there is a problem with the room before they open the door.
  • Adjoining rooms. Even if there’s a lock on the adjacent door, do not accept an adjoining room suite. Ask for a different room.
  • Ordering in food from outside your hotel. Ask the delivery service to deliver food to the front desk or meet the delivery person in the lobby. Never give your room number to a stranger. If a hotel clerk says your room number aloud while others are present, ask for a different room.
  • Returning to your hotel. Vary your route. Do not take the same route every time you return to your hotel.

Note: The list is far from all-encompassing. If you have more tips or advice you’d like to share, please feel free to add your comments.


New Traits of Exceptional Multicultural Leaders


Advice for the Next Generation of Multicultural Leaders

At the National Diversity Council’s 2nd Annual Multicultural Leadership Roundtable in San Diego in August, I was among five leaders of color who hold executive positions within their organization asked to speak on topics related to multicultural leadership and diversity.

This is a very timely topic. The world is reeling right now with intense discussions around religious conflicts, political discord, and challenging social issues. With all this in the background, people and companies continue to move into new geographies, expand operations, and want to sell in new cultures. More students, tourists, and workers are globetrotting around the world. As a result, the world is getting smaller and leaders are presented with more global challenges every day.

How does this generation of leaders (and the next) navigate through these unavoidable cultural differences and clashes? By developing the four main traits that exceptional multicultural leaders possess.

1. Great leaders resist being ethnocentric.

Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture. The aptitude to understand and be introspective about your own culture is an indispensable talent of a multicultural leader. The capability to see your own biases and know how you view others through your own cultural lens is vital as well.

My mother, who immigrated to the U.S. when she was 25 years old, taught me my earliest life lesson about ethnocentrism: “People speak, act and think differently from you; just remember, they are just as right as you are.”

Trusted and respectful multicultural leaders understand, relate to, and can adjust to the perspectives of others. All leaders learn valuable lessons when they are open to see the significance of diversity of thought, perspective, and cultures. Exceptional leaders actually search out different perspectives and opinions which, in turn, challenge them and others to reach higher.

2. Great leaders plan ahead for cultural differences.

Highly effective multicultural leaders wisely avoid minimizing cultural differences and, better yet, plan for differences. Business guru Peter Drucker said it quite aptly, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” 

Leaders who work across cultures know, with certainty, that cultural differences will surface with interactions among employees, peers or customers. The best leaders will plan and help their teams to recognize and adjust to these cultural differences.

3. Great leaders foster personal connections and relationships while building trust.

Effective leaders foster positive relationships and trust. Shrewd leaders understand that the first step to building rapport and trust is establishing personal connections. The challenge is that blazing the path to constructive connections, rapport and trust is unique in each culture.

Great leaders proactively plan and prepare to build bridges, not walls. This starts with asking key questions, such as:

  • Does this culture expect a business-first or a relationship-first approach?
  • Do managers and employees interact in an equal or a hierarchical manner?
  • Are communication styles direct or indirect?
  • How does this culture value time?
  • How are decisions made and executed?
  • How do we move these diverse groups closer together?

Forging trust is a difficult and fragile concept, even in one’s own culture. Doing it in another culture takes a tremendous amount of knowledge and effort.

4. Great leaders have high cultural intelligence (CQ). 

Successful multicultural leaders have high cultural intelligence (CQ), which is the capability to relate to and work effectively across cultures. The concept of cultural intelligence was developed by the work done by Ang and Van Dyne (2003) as a research-based way of measuring and predicting intercultural performance.

CQ can be thought of in the same way one considers an individual’s intellectual quotient (IQ) or emotional intelligence (EQ). These “quotients” are research-based measurements of human competence and capability. The remarkable thing about cultural intelligence is that it is malleable and can be increased. People with high CQ can lead, adapt or blend in more effectively within any environment than those with a lower CQ.

Mastering these key competencies will help multicultural leaders to successfully navigate cultural differences in this rapidly changing world.

Research has also shown that teams with higher levels of CQ are more successful. While homogenous teams will outperform diverse teams if both teams have low CQ, a diverse team with high CQ will outperform a homogenous team by an estimated factor of five. This concept can be crucial for leaders who are reaching for higher levels of innovation, productivity, profitability, speed, efficiency, employee engagement, marketing, and selling into cross-cultural markets. Cross-cultural explorers can take a CQ assessment to measure their baseline CQ levels and participate in training programs to enhance it, thus increasing their effectiveness across cultures.

Developing these four traits will help leaders understand and embrace the value of diversity and be most successful in this multicultural environment.

Originally published on


CQ Works for Business, Millennials and In-Laws (Part 2)

In Part 1 of our discussion on cultural intelligence, we explored how CQ helps leaders and employees in a global business environment. Since anyone’s CQ can be enhanced and improved, organizations are bringing cultural intelligence assessments, CQ and cross-cultural training to their business leaders to help them succeed in an ever-expanding, multicultural global business world.

As promised in Part 2, we will look into how CQ principles can help us to effectively maneuver through other cultural situations such as within families and generations.

We appreciate that culture fits in a variety of contexts. Culture is defined as “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time”. Beliefs and customs can vary dramatically between generations, organizations, ethnicities, families as well as geographies. Let’s explore how cultural intelligence principles can apply in other cultural contexts.

Family: Your In-Laws

Without even being aware of it, you possibly at some level already use this problem-solving tool in a social (cultural) environment familiar to you or similar to your own. Even though the environment may not be considerably different than yours, it still varies and you may need to adjust.

There is a good chance you’ve been invited before to a relative’s or in-law’s house for a dinner or party. Within their home, your hosts have their own lifestyle (i.e., “culture”). So what happens when you go? We imagine a situation similar to this:

First, Before you go, you may be really looking forward to the occasion or dread having to go. This is your Drive.

Secondly, You think forward to the event or you may flash back to your last visit there. Who will be there? Will they serve food or alcohol? What time do they serve dinner? What are the activities and conversations expected when we’re there? The list can go on and on. This is your Knowledge.

Third, After acquiring knowledge, you plan your Strategy on how to behave. Do you know they eat dinner at 9:00 pm and you usually eat at 5:00? Should you eat a little before you go or do you just plan to be hungry until they serve dinner at 9:00?

Lastly, you arrive and if you’re motivated, you put your knowledge and strategy into Action. For example, you know the dinner guests often talk politics or religion and have divergent views than your own. When you’re there, do you actively engage in the lively discussion or do you decide to be an observant bystander?

Cultural Intelligence components can be applied with less effort when the cultural or social differences are small and adjustments need only to occur over a short period of time – like a dinner party. When the four CQ components are applied well, it can mean the difference between a good or bad experience for you, the other guests and your hosts.

Generational: Millennials

Let’s look at a more complex cultural scenario: generations. CQ principles can be applied to generational cultures too. For example, millennials (aka Generation Y) are the generation born between approximately 1980 and 2000, They are soon to be the largest generation ever both in size and in the workforce.The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that millennials will make up approximately 75% of the workforce by 2030.

If you’re an employer, how do you prepare to this new influx of employees who have their own ideas, beliefs and customs? First, you decide that it matters.You’re motivated because you have a business need to understand this generation.

Because you will hire this generation that’s now entering the workforce, let’s take a high-level look at “recruiting” this group. What knowledge should you gain to attract millennial candidates? Knowledge such as Gen Y is very social media and Internet connected. The millennial culture is life- and friend-centered. Millennials also expect career development and approachable managers.

When developing your recruiting strategy, you should consider how millennials find out about jobs (social media) and how they apply (mobile apps). When you’re wooing these candidates, do you have the right employee benefits packages and attractive work schedules and environment? Are your interviewers delivering the messages that resonate with Gen Y-ers?

Finally, if you’re competing for the best, have you put into action the necessary strategies and steps to effectively recruit and attract millennials?

A note of caution: If you work and recruit in countries outside of North America, the traits listed above are attributed to millennials in this geography. Recent research has shown that millennials in other regions and countries have very different expectations and needs. This give us even more reason to further explore and become more knowledgeable in principles of Cultural Intelligence.

Cultural Intelligence Helps with Business, Millennials and In-Laws (Part 1)

What is cultural intelligence? Cultural intelligence (CQ) is defined as the capability to function effectively across a variety of cultural contexts. It’s proven that your success today’s globalized world is strongly linked to your ability to adapt effectively in multicultural situations.

Many of us might immediately think “culture” refers to international cultures. After all, we know that the culture in Japan is different than Brazilian culture which is different than U.S. culture. In the global business world, increasing one’s cultural intelligence is linked to global potential and effectiveness which in turn leads to improved efficiencies, enhanced negotiations, better results and increased profit.

Expanding the above concept of “culture“, Merriam-Webster defines culture as “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time”. We now appreciate that culture fits in a variety of contexts. Beliefs and customs can vary dramatically between generations, organizations, ethnicities, families as well as geographies.

Can improving your cultural intelligence (CQ) increase your effectiveness across different types of cultures? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

To understand how, let’s expand a little more on cultural intelligence. Similar to IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence), CQ is an academically-validated measurement of a capability within human beings. Cultural Intelligence (CQ) was introduced in 2003 by Professors P. Christopher Earley and Soon Ang. More recently, CQ has gone mainstream within corporations, non-profits, universities and government agencies. The increased global awareness of the tangible benefits of CQ can be attributed to the notable work of Dr. David Livermore at the Cultural Intelligence Center. Organizations are bringing CQ assessments and training to their leaders and employees because they recognize that high CQ proves to be a key differentiator and a competitive business edge.

There are 4 main components in the cultural intelligence quotient (CQ) construct.

  1. CQ Drive (motivation) is your interest, drive and confidence in functioning effectively in culturally diverse settings. This is a sometimes overlooked component. Without intrinsic or extrinsic motivation, the chances of being successful in a multicultural situation greatly diminish.
  2. CQ Knowledge (cognition) is your knowledge about how cultures are similar and different. It’s not about being an expert in every culture you encounter. It’s about the relativity of your differences. Also to what extent you understand the core cultural differences and their impact.
  3. CQ Strategy (meta-cognition) is how you make sense of culturally diverse experiences. It’s about how you plan effectively in light of cultural differences.
  4. CQ Action (behavior) is your capability to adapt your behavior appropriately for different cultures. While still remaining true to yourself, do you have the flexibility and repertoire of responses to adjust successfully in various cultural situations?

In the global business world, there are well-known examples of failures that are attributed to cultural gaps and disconnects. Remember the American Dairy Association’s 10-year advertising slogan, “Got Milk”? The ADA launched the “Got Milk” campaign into Mexico with a dismal outcome. “Got Milk” translated into Spanish as “Are you lactating?”

Another famous failure blamed on culture is the 1998 Daimler-Chrysler merger. Differences in German and American cultural viewpoints on hierarchy, decision making and lack of trust were deemed as major contributors to the overall failure. The Germany-based Daimler-Benz bought U.S.-based Chrysler for $38 billion and sold it in 2007 for $7.4 billion – loss of over $30 billion!

Through a 20-20 hindsight CQ lens, one can construe if the leaders of these two examples had prepared and deployed CQ interventions to address the dramatic, underlying cultural differences, possibly these failures could have been avoided. From these examples, it’s clear that before attempting cross-border ventures, business and marketing executives would benefit from increasing their CQ.

Unlike EQ and IQ which are considered to be relatively “fixed” capabilities, CQ can be developed and increased.

Who else would benefit from developing high CQ? The answer is easy. It’s anyone who interacts with people in multicultural situations such as university study-abroad students, tourists, teachers, managers, military personnel, health care and religious workers, business people in HR, Finance and technology workers. All can benefit and become more globally effective by increasing their cultural intelligence.

Note: This post was written to describe how cultural intelligence helps within a global business environment. In Part 2, I’ll share with you how applying CQ can help you in different multicultural situations with Millennials (generational) and with your in-laws (family / societal).


People are People Everywhere

Soweto, South AfricaWork takes me to many amazing and exotic destinations. The people and experiences I encounter are incredible. During this last visit to South Africa, we made sure on the weekend we saw some sites besides the inside of our office walls. We decided to visit the Apartheid Museum and the Nelson Mandela Family Home in the township of Soweto. I had a preconceived notion that visiting Madiba’s home would inspire me to write about “leadership”. Afterall, HR espouses about leadership all the time and Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential leaders our lifetime. Right? That notion quickly changed after spending the day with our tour driver, Davis.

One Saturday morning, we hired a car from the hotel to take us into the township of Soweto. For those who are too young or possibly don’t remember, Soweto is a township outside of Johannesburg where in the 1980s-90s was a place known for incredible violence, poverty and strife. Davis talked about the past when residents of neighboring townships would not dare to cross town lines for fear of being attacked or killed.

During tour through Soweto, Davis vividly described historical facts and stories about the people and sites we saw. He proudly described Nelson Mandela and how under his leadership and through his actions, people from different townships can now freely interact and connect with each other.

All of a sudden, right out of the blue, Davis pulled over to the side of the road and started speaking in Zulu or Xhosa to a female resident. Near the woman was a little girl smiling and sheepishly waving at us. Then without warning, the barefoot 5-year old, smiling and nodding, climbed into the front seat of our car. We asked Davis if he knew this family. He said ‘No, not really.” What?!  My colleague and I looked at each other in astonishment, thinking the same thoughts. What’s happening right now? Are we abducting a child?

With the little girl in the front seat, peeking and smiling at us, we drove about 20 yards and stopped at a small corner bungalow that sold food. We all got out and Davis bought the girl two bags of chips.He then brought a loaf of bread and a liter of soda.  By that time, the little girl’s mother had walked down to join us. Davis exchanged a few words with her and handed her the bread and soda. The little girl and her mom walked back to their home and we drove off to see the sites

Yes, I know, this event could have several explanations behind it. What I took away from this encounter dawned on me after what Davis told us the at the end of our 6-hour day.  He said he was so happy when he could take outsiders into Soweto. Davis said to us that he wants “outsiders” to see and experience that Soweto was not the unsafe or dangerous area that many believe.  He changed my perception and, I believe, he had this planned the whole time.