Getting the information from your country’s officialsUsually, your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide the necessary information needed such as whether there’s a political situation (demonstrations) or a recommendation to respect your visiting country’s cultural norms. Depending on which country you come from, your MFA usually focuses on problems they consider important for their citizens such as local laws and customs, visa requirements, security information, health, entry requirements, natural disasters, etc.
For example, the UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website provides a foreign travel guide with a list of countries, sorted in alphabetical order, where you can find important information about all of them. For example, if you’re traveling to Egypt, you can find out which areas to avoid, which currency is used in Egypt, health information (should you need it), entry requirements and local laws and customs.
Being the most expensive country in the world, flying to Switzerland is costly as airfare fees rank one of the highest in the world. Accommodation on average is around 242 USD per night, and general product prices are 50% higher than the U.S. That said, Switzerland is one of the most prominent travel destinations due its diverse scenery, wildlife, culture and all sort of art forms.
USA’s Department of Security has a traveler’s checklist on their website, where citizens are reminded about steps to take if they’re traveling outside the USA. These steps include advice regarding insurance, passports, visas, health precautions and other documents.
If you have any additional information or concerns, you can contact your country’s embassy or consulate in a country you’re visiting.
Things to have in mind while staying at your desired destination
Documents, money and valuable possessionsWhether you're staying in a hotel or you prefer a more unconventional type of accommodation, you should keep your personal belongings safe.
If your hotel room has a safe, consider putting anything valuable in it. It is advised that you make a copy of your passport, ID and insurance policy that you can safely carry around should you need it. If your room is not equipped with a safe, ask your receptionist about leaving it at the hotel safe. Some hotels require that you leave your passport at the reception during your stay, which is another reason you should make copies of your documents. For an extra precautionary measure, you can email a copy of your passport to yourself and a family member or a friend.
Credit cards are great for expensive purchases such as airline tickets, renting a car, reserving a hotel room or a lunch, but you might want to have money with you instead. Consider putting your cards in a safe, and carrying just a needed amount of money with you. It’s advisable to have some foreign currency with you (if applicable), for basic expenses when you arrive at your destination.
If you need to take some extra cash from the ATM, always make sure there are no hidden cameras and gadgets, or someone behind you who can see you typing your security code. Remember that thieves today have very sophisticated methods of stealing your card's information, which is another reason you should consider carrying cash.
As for your valuable belongings, it is best you don't leave them visible in your room when you're not around. Tourists easily become targets for thieves, so some extra precaution is advisable.
Keeping expensive gadgets safeEveryone loves taking photos with their cameras, GoPros and smartphones while traveling, so they keep it on standby just in case an interesting site comes up, waiting to be photographed. However, no excitement should be an excuse to wear an expensive piece of equipment that can easily be snatched off of you. If you’re carrying an expensive camera, you should put it in a bag instead of wearing it around your neck, since it would be harder to steal. Just like your valuable belongings, the same advice applies for you expensive gadgets, so make sure you do NOT leave them in a visible place.
InsuranceInsurance should not be an option, but an obligatory precautionary step you take before planning your trip. Insurance keeps you safe no matter what happens - whether your flight gets cancelled, your camera gets stolen, you lose your bag, or you need medical care. Since there are numerous options to choose your travel insurance plans from, there are a few basic things you need to know.
Medical insuranceMedical coverage of expenses is one of the most important aspects of choosing your insurance plan. Depending on where you’re traveling to, medical expenses can be really high. For example, professional medical treatments in the USA are really expensive, and should you need one, your insurance policy should be able to cover it. If you happen to break your leg, have in mind that the cheapest plan might not be enough to cover the basic expenses, and you might reach the limit even before your treatment is over.
Your travel insurance plan should cover most of the countries in the world, with 24-hour available help and emergency services. It should cover a sudden illness, injury and death, but have in mind that if you engage in extreme sport activities (skiing included) you’ll probably have to pay additional fees.
There are also insurance plan options that cover flight cancellations, stolen possessions, damaged electronics, etc. A good insurance plan should also have a financial cover in case a company you are using goes bankrupt, so you don’t get stuck in another country. Do a little research on your local insurance companies and the different plans they offer to pick what works best for you.
Take advice from other travelersHave a friend who’s already been to your next travel destination? Or have a friend who’s a local there? Talk to them and see if they have some extra tips for your stay. For example, there are some local customs you won’t be able to find online, or some areas of the cities you shouldn’t visit for good reason. Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t pet stray animals, no matter how cute they are. We’re not trying to kill your adventure spirit, we just want your adventure to be as safe and amazing as it can be.
Health check upIf you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor about prescribing you pills to take with you, or ask about equivalent medicine available in the country you’re traveling to. Check your vaccination card, as some countries require some extra shots as a part of their entry requirements. Also, keep your eyes and ears open for information about eventual disease outbreaks if you’re traveling to a country known to have had these events in the past.
Even if you don’t suffer from any medical condition or illness in particular, it’s advisable that you visit your doctor before going on a trip to get additional information on recommended vaccines you should take before traveling.
If you’re a citizen of the European Union temporarily staying in another European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you can apply for the European Health Insurance Card which gives you access to state-provided healthcare institution.
Online safety while travelingIf you visit a local internet cafe, be careful when typing in personal details, such as passport number, your social security number, etc. Malware, trojans and scam software are quite common these days, so you might want to rethink your decision of typing in your credit card number. It is advisable in general that you avoid using public computers when logging into your accounts.
As far as securing your own devices goes, make sure you configure them for maximum security. Update your OS and security software on both your laptop and smartphone. Also, protect your smartphone with a strong password, so a potential thief can't access your data, and pay attention to the file-sharing settings on your laptop, since your files can be easily accessed while using a public Wi-Fi.
Cultural Faux PasCultural Faux Pas are considered a violation of local customs or cultural norms of another country. One of the most common cultural norms is the one suggesting you cover up when entering a religious site. In some countries, you’ll be provided with an extra piece of material to cover up (especially if you’re female). It’s best if you ask your travel guide (if you have one) about this or do some research on your own.
For example, although Turkey is a secular state, and Islam is not the official state religion, its religious influences are still very strong. Therefore, you shouldn’t hug or shake hands with a person of the opposite sex if you’re not sure whether they are religious or not.
Public displays of affection are also considered rude/frowned upon in some countries, such as the UAE so if you’re traveling with your partner or spouse, you might want to keep your lovebird moments behind closed doors.
In some cases, violating some cultural norms is considered so rude, it has become illegal. Such is the case with chewing gum in Singapore, where you can find yourself in court because of it. Eating in public during Ramadan is also illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Eating manners also vary from country to country and continent to continent, so you might want to know that it’s not allowed to put your chopsticks in a V shape on your table, or stick them in your bowl. You probably won’t think it’s a big deal if you order a cappuccino at noon in Italy, but you should know that after 10 am, it’s common to order an espresso (or anything milk-free), since they consider the cappuccino a part of breakfast.
Cultural norms and customs are very interesting and diverse, so take your time to research them well. You’ll be happy to brag about your newly acquired knowledge when chatting with fellow travelers.