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.

PRE-TRIP PREP

  • 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.)

IN TRANSIT

  • 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.

ON ARRIVAL

  • 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

IN-COUNTRY AND AT YOUR HOTEL

  • 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.

 

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).