Tips for a First Time International Traveler?

Hi all of you beautiful and intelligent people.

I am an American who is flying to Iceland at the end of this month and I would love to hear everybody’s tips and tricks for smooth international travel.

This will be my first trip outside of the North American continent and while I’ve prepared by reading travel blogs, watching videos related to Iceland, and listening to Clark’s podcast, I’m still totally open to hearing advice from the folks that have been there, done that, and got the T-shirt.

So, any broad or specific words of wisdom from this wonderful and insightful community on the topics of flying out of the country, handling a different nation’s currency, etc. would be appreciated. Thank you!


Ask a local what they pay out of pocket for healthcare or university.

One reply, and the thread is already derailed into politics. Is this a new record?


I didn’t mention any politician, party, or policy by name. Are we not allowed to question? And who made you the enforcer? When foreigners come here, those topics are the most “surprising” to them about the States.

I’d pay attention to three areas when traveling internationally.

1.) Getting there:
Pack light, take only what you need and get all of your essentials in an international carry-on bag. Your old standby domestic carry-on may not meet the size & weight requirements of your international carrier. Many limit you to one 7-Kg carry-on which does not exceed a total of 46 inches L+W+H. I recommend buying a carry-on that meets the size requirements and weighs under five pounds max. Most carriers allow a personal bag… I recommend a small bag with a strap, maybe zip-on daypack you get with a pack like this.I found the best light bags at Eagle Creek.

2.) Getting through customs… look for express processing, ask your cabin crew for the best and fastest way way thru. Get a Global Pass for US entry points. Carefully read the port of entry requirements and follow instructions carefully. See if your air carrier has a VIP entry program for your destination country.

3.) Being there:…Most places will bend over backwards to accommodate US visitors, be respectful of locals, be nice and try to accommodate local norms and customs. You’ll see the same in return.


As a retired airline employee [remember TWA?] I’ve traveled all over the world. Best tip that worked for me: “Pack Light!”

In my early days of traveling the Greek Isles and Africa [my two faves] I NEVER used a lot of what I though I would need.

Took a few trips before I learned to pack light. Best advice I’ve read was on this site: Sorry I can’t give credit–forgot which thread.

Lay out everything on a bed you ‘think’ you’ll need.

Now remove HALF of it!

Good luck and have a good time, but don’t waste time and energy hauling stuff around that you will never need or use.

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Sadly…thats how it goes nowadays.

I have two normally rational, calm relatives. But these days they both morph into political tirades within five minutes.

I stopped calling them. Life’s too short…

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Iceland is beautiful! Visited in 2018 and it’s been on my return list ever since.

Have you looked at Iceland Travel Books.
I like Rick Steves… available on amazon.

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Make sure you have their famous hot dogs :hotdog:!

We went to Iceland in 2019 with two stops on our cruise.

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Look at weather forecasts for the dates and places you’ll be, and listen to them, even if the forecast sounds unseasonal based on what you’ve read to expect…

Make sure you have the correct power adaptors and converters.

Make a copy of your passport and other required documents.

Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes.

Take double the amount of presciption and over the counter meds that you might use, and pack most in your carryon.

If you are travelling with a companion, each of y’all pack half your clothes in each other’s bags…that way, if one bag gets lost, you’ll both have clothes.

Make sure you have an international phone plan.

Sign up on the State Department’s website with contact information for all locations you plan to visit.

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Really good advice! I kept many copies. You never know.

Solo female traveler…

Money - obtain local currency before you travel for snacks and transportation upon arrival. Use hotel ATM.

Respect - observe and respect the culture

Language - learn popular phrases before you arrive

Phone/Data - do not rely on Wi-Fi only. Have the ability to use your phone 24/7. Share your location.

Explorations- use daylight to your advantage. Limit night travel to known locations you’ve visited before.

I really doubt they use cash in Iceland anymore I’ve made cashless trips to Norway. Scandinavia is very cashless. Don’t agree on hotel ATM… airport ATM is better.

My experience is that airport ATMs have much higher surcharges. ATMs used by locals are generally going to have the least added costs.

I can see that but no way would a hotel ATM be good. Everyone wants to soak the tourists.

Don’t think I was anywhere I couldn’t use a credit card. Did change a few dollars just in case but most of them came home with me. Icelandic is an interesting language but even attempting a few words is not for the faint of heart. English is mandatory in the schools. Check out some of the heated pools that are in about every town if you are a swimmer. If you need a Costco, there’s one in Reykjavik. :grinning:


My tips for FIRST time international travel, not just Iceland.

Money - Have money BEFORE you enter the country, you can order it from your bank. Do not rely on the airport. It’s a suggestion.

Once you’re in country and need additional funds… use a safe location (ATM) to get funds. I suggest the hotel so that I can secure it and limit exposure. Safety.

I travel with various forms of credit cards and currency. With the prevalence of fraud, I never know when my credit card might not work/need additional verification because of security back home.

Small shops, taxis, fruit stands, etc. may not take credit cards.

Language - locals appreciate when you try and speak their language and not assume English will be spoken. Just try.

Make sure the issuer of any credit or debit cards you plan to take know when and where you’ll be travelling.