Get to know the city you are going to visit before you leave home. Many resources are available on the Internet nowadays to help navigate the different sights and cultures abroad and help you to more easily find your way around. Remember, the conference organizers are visitors to this beautiful city too, and although we do our best to assist our conference delegates, we may not be best qualified to offer directional or tourism information. For this, we encourage delegates to engage the many helpful resources of a hotel’s concierge desk, or reference trusted travel sites and guidebooks such as www.Frommers.com, www.Fodors.com or www.TripAdvisor.com.
Know where you’re going and how to get there. Differences in languages can sometimes make getting around a foreign city more challenging even for the savviest of travelers. It’s helpful to have the addresses for both your hotel and the conference venue handy. Showing a taxi driver or ticket operator a written address is a helpful way to get you to your destination within the city when you arrive. If during your trip you will be on a schedule and will need to arrive at places by a certain time (ie. conference check-in, presentation times, tours, dinner reservations, etc…), it’s recommended that you explore and “test drive” the route you’ll be taking ahead of time so that you’re aware of the time it will take to get there. Taking this step also helps you know exactly where you’ll be heading without the worry of getting lost on the way. Maps, along with utilization of your hotel’s concierge desk, and a little research of the local transportation systems ahead of time will also make your trip more enjoyable and will help it run more smoothly.
Familiarize yourself with the transportation options available in your destination city. Knowing the best way to get around any city is key. For instance, in many larger European cities, public transportation is the preferred and often times the most economical and quickest means of transportation. These robust public transportation systems means there are often metros, subways, busses, trollies, and trains available to get you from one point to another seamlessly throughout a city, many times more economically and more quickly than with taxi or car hires.
Use only certified and registered public transportation when abroad. If using taxis, avoid hiring taxis that are unmarked and have no identifying company emblems. It’s always a good idea to call and order a taxi from a central dispatch office to ensure safe, professional service and pricing. If you need to hail a taxi on the street, be sure to look for a familiar taxi emblem from one of the major taxi companies in town, and negotiate the fare before getting into the taxi to ensure a fair and agreed upon price.
Make hotel reservations before you arrive at your destination. To ensure the availability of accommodations, make sure to confirm a reservation at the conference hotel or hotel of your choosing before leaving home. Often times, and also depending on the time of year and what events are going on in your destination city, hotels fill up well ahead of the conference date, and accommodations can be very difficult to secure upon arrival. Reserving accommodations well ahead of your arrival (2-4 months prior to trip is recommended) can avoid much stress and often times can result in more economical rates versus last-minute accommodations.
Exchange money before you leave home. Whether you plan on exchanging the majority of your currency when you arrive at your destination or anticipate paying mostly with credit cards, it’s always a good idea to exchange a small amount of money before you leave home to have on-hand in case you can’t find an exchange desk/shop right away upon arrival. Be sure to carry at least enough currency for transportation to your hotel as well as a meal or two. When exchanging money abroad, be aware of service charges noted in small print, and shop around for the best exchange rates.
Be aware of the currency differences and familiarize yourself with the currency for the country you will be traveling to. Having a working knowledge of the various denominations ahead of time will help you avoid common tourist pitfalls such as short-changing and over-charging.
Place a travel advisory on your credit and debit card accounts. Because of all the security measures banks and credit card companies have in place today, many companies will freeze a credit or debit card account if they see unfamiliar or foreign charges come through. To avoid this inconvenience, call your bank or credit card company before you leave home and ask to place a “travel advisory” on the card(s). Provide your institution with the dates of travel and countries you will be visiting to avoid having your card service interrupted while abroad.
Travel with a back-up credit card or travelers cheques for emergencies. When traveling abroad, it’s always smart to have more than one form of payment available in case your main form of payment is accidentally lost or not immediately available to you.
Bring country/region appropriate power adapters and voltage converters for personal electronic devices and appliances. Standard electrical outlets and voltage amounts vary from country to country. Prior to leaving home, confirm the correct adapter type and voltage for the region and country you’ll be visiting so that you’ll be able to easily connect and use laptops, e-readers, cell phone chargers, electric shavers and hair dryers during your trip. Foreign adapters and converters can be purchased at most electronic stores and airport newsstands. Note that more powerful appliances, such as hair dryers, also require voltage converters to function properly overseas. Be sure to research and confirm what each of your devices will need in order to function safely and properly.
Consider purchasing travel insurance. The savvy traveler is always prepared for the unforeseen and occasional emergency situation. Travel insurance is a smart way to make sure you’re covered in case a medical emergency arises. Contact your insurance provider to see if they have travel policies that cover you overseas. Some credit card companies also offer travel insurance that cover travelers in case they experience medical or dental emergencies while abroad.
Bring any personal items and medications you will need during your time abroad. Although pharmacies and grocery stores are easily found in many major cities, be sure to bring personal items and necessary medications with you, especially if you require a specific brand or prescription that can’t be easily found or filled abroad.
Familiarize yourself with your cell phone carrier’s roaming and international rates/charges prior to leaving home. Often times, using personal cell phones abroad can be very costly depending on your carriers roaming and international rates. Some companies have temporary international plans that can be purchased during your time abroad. Contact your cell phone carrier prior to your trip to inquire about the options available to you.
Passports and required travel documents. Don’t forget your passport and required travel documents before you leave for the airport! Also double check visa and entry requirements a few months before your trip to make sure you’re not caught off-guard overseas. If flights involve multiple stops and layovers in other countries before arriving at your final destination, keep in mind that certain countries do require you to apply for a visa even if you only have a brief flight layover on their soil. Contact or visit the embassy websites for all countries that you’ll be landing in to view their specific requirements.