7 Essential Tips: What to Do First in a Foreign Country
Updated: Mar 12
You’ve made it through the flight, are on foreign soil, and the adventure begins, but what to do first?
Some of us are in shock. We’ve actually made it and it’s happening — the planning, sleepless nights, excitement that has built up, and now find ourselves living in the moment. It might be too much all at once — our brains could lapse in terror and we find ourselves needing some prompts that will set the tone for a positive experience in the new country.
Do not leave the airport... yet. Tempting, I know, but there are some things to organize before you get going.
What do you do first when you arrive in a foreign country?
1. Draw cash at the ATM in the airport
I can't remember the last time I used cash in America but in foreign countries there are parking meters, bus/train tickets and a myriad of other things that need cash. You don’t want to get stuck. If you’re worried about charges to your card, enquire in advance how much it costs you to swipe your card and draw cash each time from an ATM.
You might be meeting friends on a trip and rearing to go, but don't rush for the transport until you've organized money and phone connectivity.
2. Buy a SIM card
Living off hotel/Airbnb Wi-Fi is archaic. We are a fast-paced, technological age. Either, turn on data settings on your phone when abroad or buy a local sim.
Quick tip here: put the sim in your phone in front of the person at the store you bought it from. Twice — already too many for one lifetime — mine hasn’t worked and that’s a quick 25 euro down the drain for what I thought were unlimited called and data.
Sims are necessary because Airbnb hosts like to know what time you’re arriving — you’ll be able to update them with accurate times on the day, make calls to book reservations or tickets or maybe you’ve been locked out of an apartment or are lost… so, the sim!
3. Use public transport
Use a bus if possible- they’re the cheapest. Trains/airport shuttles are also viable options but leave taxis to last. If possible, look up the route in advance. Lots of public transport systems have Wi-Fi so you can look up your route and track your journey, too.
4. Visit the Tourism Office in town/the city
Go to a local tourism office and get a free map or recommendations in the city - things change regularly and that exciting blog post you read might be outdated. Festivals, events and shows pop-up through the year that might be worth changing plans for.
5. Try a local dish or restaurant
Check Google or Yelp regarding restaurants/cafes in the area, look for top stars and reviews, and give it a try — you need something other than airplane food in your stomach. A grocery store is also an interesting visit for snacks and to compare new products to those you’re used to back home.
6. Take advantage of walking tours
Take a walking tour or bus around the city. I took a free walking tour around Naples in Italy, made some friends, and noted places I wanted to revisit. I got the info. from the hostel I stayed in, but Tourism Office’s advertise, too.
When in Ireland, I tried a ‘hop on hop off’ bus in Dublin. It enlightened me about the history of the area and facts about current landmarks in a witty, relatable way. If your driver is a bore, hop off the bus at a stop and hop on another and continue your journey — make the live commentary work for you.
7. Be open minded
Plans change and catastrophes happen (sometimes). Ask locals for help, breathe and clear your head, have a drink, take a walk, go shopping – anything that calms you down.
You’re in a new place, it’s foreign and panicking will only ruin your mood. Someone will help you or you’ll find a way out of the mess when your blood pressure eventually lowers. You’ve got this!
Bonus planning tips
Have initial accommodation booked with clear instructions
If you are staying with a host, at a hostel or a hotel, get the address and contact numbers in advance. Screenshot the info. so that it is saved to your phone.
Set up a place to store luggage
In advance, contact your place of accommodation. Ask if you can store your bag at the accommodation if you land before check in. Most places let you and it saves you dragging your luggage across the countryside while you patiently wait for the doors to open.
See more planning tips here.
What do you guys do first? Let me know in the comments!
Much love, Kate x