Anyone who has felt any degree of apprehension about taking their first trip outside of the country needs to read Brad’s post about taking your first international trip. Alongside his post it would be good for you to know what would be a good way to ease into your first trip.
Most of these locations have the “All-inclusive” resorts, but if you’re looking for a real cultural experience I recommend that you steer clear of them. Try to get off the beaten path and experience the foods, culture, and people of the place that you’re traveling. The first time might be nerve-racking, but it’s not so bad.
Costa Rica– This place is paradise. I’ve been there twice, and I’d still go back in a heartbeat. They use the same alphabet that we use, and with Spanish many words are cognates (means they sound similar). The food is incredible and the prices are very affordable. They also drive on the same side of the road as us, so renting a car won’t be too stressful either. The wildlife is incredible and the scenery varies throughout the country. You can find yourself in the mountains, in the dryer areas, at the beach, in the city, or in a volcano if you’d like all in one little country.
England- Although Expensive, it is easy because the language won’t be a barrier. You might be confused when they call the trunk of the car the boot, but it won’t make a huge difference. The countryside is incredible, and the pubs will be an experience that you’ll never forget. If you plan on renting a car in England be sure that you are comfortable driving on the left hand side of the road. I’ve never done it with a car, but it is even difficult on a scooter, which I have done. When you travel to expensive places like England one important tip is to buy some of your meals at the grocery store. You’ll have to prepare your own food, but it will save you big $$ on the overall vacation.
- Thailand– You might be confused by this because you probably think that Thailand would be tough to navigate. The fortunate thing about Thailand is that everything is written in Thai and English. Every restaurant has their menu in English and the servers all speak English too. The food is absolutely incredible. I found it interesting that their breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus are all pretty similar. Wouldn’t you just assume that everyone has “breakfast foods” or “dinner foods?” If you’ve been planning on having a custom suit made, this is a great place to have it done. Your other suits will never be quite the same. Make sure you order some mangoes and sticky rice for me!
Panama– The US’ influence with the Panama Canal has left a lasting effect on their country. One thing that makes Panama easy to navigate is that their currency is the US Dollar. No confusion of currency exchanges or people trying to rip you off. Make sure you bring a GPS to help navigate the confusing roadways. Also be sure to take a trip to the San Blas Islands to visit the Kuna Yala Indians. That is a cultural experience that will blow you away. You can see the straw huts in the picture. It is one of the best cultural experiences that I’ve had in my life. The food here is very similar to the food in Costa Rica, but it is all good if you ask me. By the end of the week you might be sick of rice and beans, but that’s better than trans fat, right? If Panama interest you, read our post about Eight Great Things to do in Panama.
Italy– This whole country is a tourist trap. The people are helpful and are always willing to give directions. We made instant friendships with restaurant owners on our most recent trip. Everyone was so friendly with our little boy calling him a “Bambino.” You’ll always recognize the menus because as Americans we have an affinity for their food. The gelato is a must, even if you’re on a diet. I recommend the canela, (Cinnamon) flavor which is to die for. Very few places on Earth will give you quite a history lesson like Italy. Make sure you read up before your vacation and do lots of research, which will make your vacation a much more rich cultural and historical experience.
Mexico– Somehow the news has spoiled Mexico’s reputation. The common perception of Mexico today is that 100% of all tourists will be brutally murdered. What a ridiculous thought. As long as you stay away from the drug dealer’s girlfriend and don’t try ripping off the drug dealer your odds decrease by 1,000,000%. Your odds of being brutally murdered drop to virtually nothing. Mexico has a few dangerous areas, but if you steer clear of those areas and the drug trade you should be fine. Mexico’s beaches are incredible. Imagine yourself drinking an ice cold Coke in Puerto Morelos on the beach and all your fears should subside.
- Canada– Ok, this is cheating. Canada is very similar to the US. You won’t see too many differences other than you need to be sure that you’re driving in kilometers instead of miles. The Mounties will catch you and most likely won’t let you off the hook. The Banff National Park is INCREDIBLE. This place has Idaho and Colorado beat if you ask me. The currency is pretty easy to manage because the exchange rate is close to 1:1. The only other problem is things are still 25% more expensive up there. Ouch.
Germany– I’m no beer drinker, but this place is the mecca of beer drinking. Bavaria (Southern Germany) is known for its pretzels and beer. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit a Beer-garden, but it is something that I want to do before I die. Germany is loaded with castles, rivers, and people. They are a very industrial people, and they are very precise too. Their engineering is top notch, so you can spend your time touring the BMW factory, driving one on the autobahn. My trip through Germany was WAY too short this April. Their food is top notch, and the bratwursts are definitely worth the trip alone. Make sure you order a bowl of kraut when you’re there. Wow that stuff is good!
Hopefully this post has further inspired you to take the trip of a lifetime. Your first will definitely not be your last either. This is just the beginning. Keep wanderlusting with us. Start today by getting 40,000 Ultimate Rewards from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card!