No matter how much of your home country you’ve seen, it’s exciting to think about going somewhere completely new, different, and foreign. It can also be a little scary, confusing, and may require some additional logistics.
According to Maria Kandjungu, the thought of travelling for the first time seemed unreal with so many thoughts ‘what if’. However there is more to travelling than just packing your luggage and getting enroute. A lot of planning goes into travelling to a foreign country such as having a valid passport, to booking a flight or bus ticket and health insurance.
Maria says that the first thing to consider is one’s safety. “Think about your safety first, find out about the safety of the place that you will be travelling to. If you have to look for somebody to take you around then make sure that you trust the person or consider getting recommendations from a trust worthy person, should something happen,” she advises.
Maria also alludes that before embarking on the journey, one must make sure that you have enough money to cater for all of your expenses. These include money for booking, food and transport because you wouldn’t want to travel and not have anywhere to stay. Also book before you leave even if you will have to pay upon arrival just to ensure that you are on the safe side.
Most of the time you end up spending a little less or a little more, but those are your basic essentials. Also, do not take on a journey with a small amount of money and expect a certain amount to be sent to you later.
While it may be advisable to exchange money before leaving the country, Maria says that it is better to keep your money in the bank and only withdraw wherever you will be travelling to. “It’s also critical to know whether they use the same ATMs like the ones in your home country or whether you have a visa card. Most of the time ATMs also accept other cards especially the national bank ATMS and it is ideal to use the national bank of that particular country because it is likely to charge you less.
Keeping the money in the bank also helps with the currency rates because the currency exchange rate might be 13USD today and be more or less the next day. It’s also not safe to have money in cash because people know when you are a tourist. Even when it’s another African country they are more likely to tell that you are not from there,” she says.
It is also advisable to keep in touch with people back home to keep updating them on everything that happens. Also make sure that you verify the number of days that you are given to stay in that country to avoid overstaying.
Apart from having enough finances and securing a safe place to stay, it is also advisable to go through your embassy in that particular country and notify them that you will be visiting that particular country. Upon arrival, it would be great to make an effort to visit the embassy because it makes it easier for them to intervene if something happens to you. They might even offer to guide you around the country. They are also in a better position to advise you in regards places to go to and where not to go.
Prepare for culture shock and language barrier
Travelling can be dreadful as you will meet different people who do things differently. Maria says that it could be frustrating. “It’s frustrating when you are trying to ask directions from people who do not understand what you are saying. You want to go to the bathroom and you wouldn’t even know that they charge in the first place let alone how much money they are asking for. The good thing is that we were five and whenever we asked for something and people didn’t understand we would just laugh it off.
People also have different ways of living. Their hotels are not the same as yours – what you regard to be a luxury might not be the same that side. You get there and you really see that they are different,” she noted.
Safety in numbers comes into play when you are travelling for the first time. Maria says that it is always better to travel in a group because you have each other to help and the possibilities of something happening to you when you are a group are rare.. You are more likely to feel far from home in a place where nobody speaks your language, except your friends. Now imagine if you are alone.
“People can always tell that you are not one of them and it makes it easier for them to pick on you because they know how vulnerable you are. You can’t speak their language, you need to exchange your money, you need to find certain places, you need to find a shop to buy something and you may not even be able to read the menus especially with most East and West African countries that write in their local languages.”
They also look at you weirdly when you speak English to them. It also gets scary when you are walking past people and they all start turning to look at you. You experience a range of emotions beyond the joy of being in another country.
The holidays are here and you should be reaching for your passport already. But before you take on the journey it is crucial that you fully prepare for a different world to ensure that you get the best of your trip.