11 Tips for New Travelers

Want to get out there and see the world but don't know where to start?

One of my cousins emailed me the other day anxious to get out and see the world. The only problem is that she's not sure where to start. Below are a handful of her questions about being a first-time traveler. Hopefully the answers will be helpful for you too!

How can I get started traveling? Where should I go?

  • There's no wrong way to start. Half the battle is just deciding to go and making it happen.
  • Dream Big! Think about all of the beautiful places you've always wanted to visit. Or check this out.
  • Consider working abroad instead of just visiting. Teaching English abroad is one of the easiest ways to do it. I participated in this teaching abroad program and highly recommend it.

Plan your trip!

Should I go on a group tour or travel solo?

Pros of Group Tours 

  • They're helpful when you're new to traveling.
  • The learning curve of traveling is nearly negated when you're with a group tour.
  • You immediately meet new people and have people to hang out with.

Cons of Group Tours 

  • You have to abide by the tour's schedule and timing (which is a real shame if you love the city you're in but have to move on).
  • You are stuck with the others in the group.


  •  Consider traveling autonomously but doing a handful of group day trips.
  • Pick your tour group wisely. Age, activity level, comfort vary widely. Pick one that matches you best. Here are some worth checking out: Contiki, Intrepid, Gecko.

How can I be safe when traveling?

  • Travel to countries that welcome tourists and have a good tourism infrastructure.
  • Stay in safe, well-lit neighborhoods.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Always know how to get back to where you're staying and have enough cash on you to get there. Grab a business card from the front desk of the hotel (or hostel) and carry it on you so you always have the address to get back.
  • Don't get drunk. (My younger self would have read that and scoffed but please, think about it before you scoff. A drunk foreigner is, unfortunately, an easy target.)
  • Remember: It is OK to leave any situation for any reason.
  • Let someone know where you'll be and when to expect to hear from you again.
  • Wear a cross body bag that sits on your front hip.
  • Consider taking a handheld noisemaker. I like this one.

 Should I travel with friends or will I meet people along the way?

You will meet people along the way! If your friends are available to travel that's great but if they're not just go alone. One of the best parts about traveling solo is that it forces you to meet new people.

Where should I stay?

If you're traveling to meet new people, stay in hostels. They vary greatly - from dorm beds with twenty beds to single rooms. Hostelworld is a great place to start your search. Read the reviews and make sure it's a good fit for you.

Remember: You can always leave. Say you book a place and it doesn't work out? Just check out. Always leave any situation where you do not feel safe.

Do I need travel insurance?

Yes. Get travel insurance for major medical, medical evacuation, and repatriation. It's cheap and invaluable. This site compares your options.

Do I take cash or credit cards or ...?

Credit Cards

I always take a credit and debit card. My preference is the Capital One Visa Signature card because there's no annual fee, you accrue points for travel, and they don't charge foreign transaction fees.


Take cash out at a local ATM in local currency. Many banks charge a steep foreign ATM fee (my Wells Fargo charges $5/ withdrawal + the local bank's fee). Charles Schwab accounts reimburse those ATM fees.

Remember: You have to put a travel notification on your credit and debit card before you leave the country or they may cut it off thinking it's fraud. Just call or get online and let them know which countries and when.

How can I possibly save up to travel?

  • Prioritize it. Stop buying anything but the essentials.
  • Travel to cheaper places. Thailand dorm rooms can run as cheap as $2/night.
  • Consider doing a volunteer/work exchange where you provide a couple hours of labor each day in exchange for free lodging. Helpx.net and Workaway.info

How much money do I need?

This varies widely based on where you're going. To start a budget do a quick search to pull together these numbers:

  • Round trip plane ticket
  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Travel (car rental, train/bus/air tickets, etc)
  • Activities (day trips, bike rentals, surf lessons, etc)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Incidentals

Adding those up will give you a ballpark figure to work with. Always save up more than you need and have enough to get home.

I'm kind of afraid of ...

  • It's normal to feel fear. Just don't let it keep you from your dreams.
  • Write a list of all of your fears and ask yourself - Is this real? to each one.
  • You are capable of so much more than you know.

Any other tips?

  • Taking a screenshot on your phone is surprisingly helpful when you don't have wi-fi.
  • Don't be afraid to ask if you're lost and need directions. Most people want to help.
  • In the off chance you need another reason to buy that plane ticket, travel can also be great for your health!

Hope this helps! If you have any other questions leave a comment. I'm happy to answer!

In no time, this can be you!



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