Travel Tips for Students Abroad – by Marlon Matthew
1) Travel light. You never know when you will want to do some extra, unplanned traveling. Taking more than one item of luggage can be burdensome when you need to stay in hostels and move around from place to place. Here is what I recommend exactly: one carry-on piece of luggage, any kind of backpack, and a laptop bag. Anything more is overkill and inconvenient, and anything less is not sufficient enough. You don’t want to wash the same clothes all the time because you traveled too light.
2) Have two separate bank accounts. If you don’t like to carry a bunch of cash on you while you’re traveling, and if you don’t like to use credit cards, I very highly recommend splitting all of your travel funds into two separate checking accounts with different banks. First of all, you’re going to want to have one checking account, most likely with Bank of America, because they are part of the Global ATM Alliance. This means you won’t have to deal with expensive international fees when you withdraw your money from ATM machines. This will be your primary card. You will also need a secondary card, ideally with another bank. If there is fraud occurring on one of your accounts, the bank may cancel your card. This happened to me while I was studying abroad in Chile. Someone in California was using a large group of debit card numbers to attempt to make purchases. My bank cancelled my card and it was impossible for me to get it reactivated. It was also impossible to have another card sent to my location in a timely matter unless I paid a lot of money. Thankfully, I had a card with Bank of America on hand as well. However, fraud is not the only problem. Sometimes your bank will suspend your card because they constantly want to be verified that it is you making the purchases abroad. Even if you inform them ahead of time that you will be traveling abroad, they may still suspend your card once a month or more. Bank of America did this to me regularly which became quite annoying, so have a backup. Also, not every ATM is going to work with your card, so have options, and find the ATM machines that work best for you.
3) Adapters: Get an international AC adapter power outlet plug converter before you leave home. When you arrive to your destination and you find out that you cannot plug any of your electronics into the outlets, you won’t be very happy. Then, you will have to find an electronics store. It is better to take care of this ahead of time to save yourself the hassle. Check to see which kind of plug is used in the country you are going to.
4) WiFi Calling: Make sure you have WiFi calling wherever you are so you don’t rack up a big phone bill. You can use WiFi calling to place calls to the U.S. without getting charged. This feature became available for iPhone earlier this year, but I am not sure if it is also available for other phones. You can also use apps like Whatsapp or Viber to communicate with people locally, which makes it less necessary to buy a local phone plan.
I hope this helps some of those who are not as experienced in traveling abroad. This advice may be obvious to some, but for me, I had to learn some things the hard way. Cheers, and enjoy your travels!