The Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling Abroad


I’ve spent the last few months studying and traveling in Europe. It’s been a wonderful time. There are many experiences that you can have while abroad and learning how to approach different situations and how to react appropriately is important to know. I’ve drawn up a list of do’s and don’ts for the young traveler. They’re based on my experiences therefore catered to where I have gone. This list is by no means exhaustive; just keep it in mind during your travels this summer!

  1. Do: Have the time of your life!
  2. Don’t: act like a tourist. Yes, you’re traveling abroad and seeing new places. Places with different customs and cultures and people. It’s important that you experience and appreciate all of it. But, that doesn’t mean you have to act like a stereotypical American tourist while doing it. Talking loudly and getting excited by everything can draw a lot of unwanted attention. It’s perfectly understandable that you would be excited about being in a new place, believe me it’s an incredible feeling. However, be aware of where you are. If you don’t notice many other people talking loudly or excitedly it might be best if you didn’t either.
  3. Do: embrace the style and culture of the place you are. Each country, each city, each place is unique.
  4. Don’t: assume everyone speaks English. If you are in a different country where English isn’t the first language, don’t assume that everyone automatically still speaks English. It’s ignorant. Look up key words and phrases in that country’s language. Such as: where’s the bathroom, hello, goodbye, how are you, how much is this, how do I go to (insert place), etc.
  5. Do: try different foods. There are some delicious and unique dishes to try in each place. It doesn’t matter how strange they seem to you, they’re special to the region for a reason so give it a chance. If you stick to what you know, then you’ll never grow.
  6. Don’t: forget to be careful. For women especially, there’s a higher likelihood that you may be catcalled, stared at, whistled at, etc. This happens in the US as well but in my experience it’s more noticeable abroad. Women have a different experience than men do in foreign countries. It’s unfortunate but true. Although you may want to stand up for yourself and argue back, only do it when you have an exit strategy and when it’s the best option in a situation. Things can escalate fast, and your safety is more important. In terms of what you can do to better ensure your safety; travel with a friend, be aware of your surroundings, have emergency numbers on hand, know how to ask for help if you need to. Taking precautions about your own safety isn’t a bad thing, and it shouldn’t prevent you from traveling. There’s nothing to be afraid of if you travel smart.
  7. Do: go to the main attractions. They’re well-known for a reason and worth a visit.
  8. Don’t: spend all of your time at the main attractions. They don’t accurately represent the city. Go off the beaten path, and eat where the locals do. Getting out of the touristy areas will allow you to see the country more for what it really is.
  9. Do: take style tips from the locals around you. Clothing is the first thing you notice about someone, dress like a local to experience the city. You won’t stand out as much and you’ll have a grand time.
  10. Don’t: walk alone at night. There are some cities where this is completely safe, but just as a rule of thumb walk in pairs at night. It’s just smarter and safer. If you’re traveling by yourself then take precautions. You’ll be fine if you use your common sense.
  11. Do: talk to people. One of the most important things that I’ve learned while traveling is that people are inherently good. The majority of people you meet are kind and want to get to know you and help you. Reciprocate that; get to know them, their culture.
  12. Don’t: forget that you are the foreigner. The country and its institutions are not what you may be used to. For example: bathrooms are different, microwaves aren’t always common and neither are dryers, traffic rules are more of a suggestion, and not everything will go as planned. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different and you should learn to respect and appreciate it.
  13. Do: enjoy every moment of your time. You may never experience that place again. Don’t just take a picture with your phone, take a mental picture, make memories because time is fleeting and you should take advantage of the time you have.
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