Entering a new country can be scary. You don’t speak the language, and you’re so focused on finding the baggage claim, customs, and the exit that you don’t really take advantage of anything the airport offers. Every time I enter a new country, I go through an “airport checklist,” that way, when I leave the airport, the only thing I have to do is find my hotel. It makes life so easy that I’m not really sure how people do it any other way. So what’s on my checklist you might ask?
Go to an ATM
There is almost always a row of ATMs in the arrival area of airports. Finding an ATM in a foreign country can be daunting. Sometimes you’ll find one, and your card doesn’t work. Another time you might go to two or three, and they are all out of money. Worst of all, it might be in a sketchy area where you don’t want to take out money by yourself. The airport is a safe place to grab some cash before you head out into the unknown.
Some might say to do this in the city for a better rate, but I like the convenience of the airport. Easily change out money from the last country you were in before you even head out the door.
Buy a SIM Card
SIM cards are a life saver in a foreign country. I love that I never have to worry about getting lost. I can wander up and down any street I want, and at the end of the day google maps will help me find my way back. Add on the fact that wifi can be spotty at best in some countries and it’s a nice way to ensure that you keep in touch back home. It’s also a lot cheaper (most of the time) than roaming on your current phone plan.
Find a Map
Although hotels may provide a map, usually it’s best to grab one at the airport. I like to have a hard copy where I can circle all of the places I want to go. That way I can see which ones are near each other and then map out the best itinerary for each day.
Grab a Meal
Ok, this one sounds weird, but I swear by it. Airplane food isn’t always the best, and trying to find your hotel in a confusing city with an empty stomach is the worst. Plus, figuring out what type of food to order the second you land in a country can be hard. At the airport, the food is generally kept at a proper temperature, and it’s sanitary. I like to head out into the unknown with a full stomach and ease myself into the madness.
Just Say “NO”
Depending on the country, you may be met with a herd of taxi drivers, tour companies, etc. all fighting over the right to take you somewhere. Some will even grab your bag to help you bring it to their car before any agreement is made. Just tell everyone “NO” until you’ve settled down and figured out your game plan. Don’t feel pressured to take an overpriced cab and don’t be afraid to ask a few different people what they charge. And feel free to haggle. Being swarmed by cabbies is overwhelming, so just take a step back and breathe first.
People seem to leave airports as fast as they possibly can. I actually find them comforting. The sight of a Starbucks after not seeing anything familiar for four weeks is enough to bring a tear to my eye. You have plenty of time to experience wherever it is you’re going, so take an hour and relax. Trust me, you’ll appreciate the next few hours so much more. Do you love or hate airports? Tell me why in the comments!
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.