Know Before You Go – International Version

Most people who take vacations perform some type of research in advance of the trip.  Few people are as spontaneous to just pack a suitcase, purchase a ticket and book a hotel room.  However, most people generally only research the hotel where they are interested in staying, which airline carrier has the best schedule and most economically priced ticket to get them to their destination, and how much the total trip will cost.  But, there are other factors that one should take into consideration before even purchasing a ticket or booking a flight and accommodations, especially if you are not one to watch the news, read the paper or listen to the radio for current events.  It is advisable to have a thorough understanding of the destination prior to making a final decision on where to vacation.

Part of one’s research should include obtaining information regarding the entry and exit requirements, culture, customs and laws of your desired destination, as well as any specific events that may take place during your visit.  Unearthing this information does not require a law degree or detective’s badge.  There are several resources that you can use to find out the basic information.  The US State Department posts travel advisories on their website that are updated frequently and provide security information on various foreign territories.  The website also provides information pertaining to health warnings and outbreaks in a particular international territory.  There is also an option to register your travel plans with the agency (DoS), so that they can provide assistance to you in event that adverse situation take place during your visit abroad.

Another resource that one can use to obtain country specific information on your desired destination is the country’s official tourism website.  Most websites contain information that provides information on the exit and entry requirements, currency (money), culture, customs and laws, in addition to providing information regarding accommodations, list of events and activities, and recommendations for places to dine.  As with any destination (foreign or domestic) it is highly recommended that you verify the information, especially regarding the accommodations, with at least two other sources.  Sometimes the hotel or restaurant descriptions may not accurately depict the true nature of the property or establishment.  The point of the tourism board is to get visitors to come the country.  Why most tourism board websites are typically spot on with regard to their descriptions, others blur the lines on overstating the facts.

Information on the internet is perhaps the easiest way to find out information; however, you can also obtain much-needed details on an international destination from a native of the country at a traveling expo.  During the year there are numerous traveling expos that feature performances, cooking demonstrations and informational booths highlighting various countries.  One such expo is the Travel and Adventure Expo (do an internet search for specific information).  This is an expo that is open to the public, for a nominal fee, and allows visitors to get up close and personal with the representatives from the participating tourism boards.  This is your opportunity to ask any and every question that your heart desires.  Keep in mind that the participants are representing their country and must paint the country in a positive light, so you will probably not hear anything bad about a particular destination.  However, if you are able to get the representative alone and ask them to shoot straight, most representatives will tell you where to avoid, what tourist traps to look out for, and how to save money while in country.  The wealth of information you can glean from the expo is priceless.

The last method that one can use to obtain background information on a particular country?  The library.  There are several books, guides and other resources available to get the information you need.  While you may not get the type of up-to-date information from various websites and at expos, you will be able to obtain information pertaining to customs and the culture of the country you wish to visit.  That information rarely changes.

Bottom line- researching your destination ahead of time is the best way to ensure that you will have a great vacation, filled with great memories!

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