FaceBook Icon
Follow TravelSmartest on Twitter
International Travel for 2017
What You Need To Know When Traveling Abroad
Copyright 2011 Smart-Travelers.com.. All rights reserved.
Website Designed by QuickBizWebsites.com
There is nothing more fascinating than traveling to another country and experiencing a different culture, language, food and scenery. My family had the opportunity to live in England for almost four years, giving us easy access to most of Europe and Africa. International travel can be a great experience, but there are things you should know before planning a trip. Here are some of the more important things you need to consider:
International Travel Made Smarter for 2017
Below, my family has ranked our top 10 international destinations. We have included a similar topic within the the Vacation Ideas section for US destinations. For additonal international information see the World Travel Guide. Where we can, we have provided you some excellent links.

1. Rome, Italy (Roma)
Rome is all around our most favorite city in the world. It's steeped in history and culture that is fasinating to see. Italians are wonderfully friendly people that accept and love tourists. Oh, and let's not forget the food - OMG! The food in Italy is incredible! From the spaghetti and pizza to the Italian ice cream called gelato, everything is absolutely to die for in Rome. There is so much to see in Rome, you will need a week at minimum. Everything from the Colosseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Spagna to all the sites of Vatican City. Here are a couple of the best links for planning a vacation to Rome. View on Cities - Rome gives some great information on attractions. And also see the Vatican City website for information on museums and times. Plan ahead as there are lines at times.

2. London, England
Having lived in England, we are a bit biased when it comes to London. London is another one of our favorites, even though we've been dozens of times. There is absolutely something for everyone in London. With sites like Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and St. Paul's Cathedral, you could spend two weeks here and still not see everything. London has an excellent public transporation system with the subway, known as "The Tube", and taxis everywhere. You can also walk safely almost anywhere in the city. If you plan a trip during August or September be sure to check the Buckingham Place website to see if the Queen has opened it for tours. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here is a link to Visit London website. Would you like to Save Money While Visiting London? Check out the London Pass.

3. Cape Town, South Africa
Most of you probably think that traveling to South Africa means you will see lions and elephants just walking up and down the streets. I know that was our first thought before visiting. There are some excellent game reserves in South Africa, but cities like Cape Town are more like Miami Beach. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful seaside cities in the world. From atop their famed Table Mountain you can see the southernmost point of South Africa where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Cape Town is also a multicultural city with influences from Europe and Africa. Any trip to South Africa wouldn't be complete unless you experienced a real African Safari. The largest reserve is Kruger National Park , located in the northeastern corner of South Africa. Our family visited Shamwari Game Reserve which is just outside Elizabethtown, a quick flight from Cape Town. Shamwari is a big five, malaria-free reserve. If you have kids under twelve this is by far the best option for seeing African wildlife.

4. Paris, France
Ahh, Paris. Known as "The City of Love," Paris is an extremely romantic city. No matter what you may have heard, Parisians are very friendly and enjoy having tourists in their beautiful city. There is so much to see in Paris that you will need several days. If you like museums, the Louvre is for you. It is the most visited museum in the world and was the focus of the recent book and movie, The Da Vinci Code. And of course don't forget The Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees. On our last visit we watched a young man propose to his girlfriend right in front of The Eiffel Tower as the lights came on at sunset. It took my wife's breath away for a minute, and made our engagement look lame. Here is a link to ParisMustSee.com website that covers most everything you need to know.

5. Sydney, Australia
Sydney reminds me of San Francisco but with a whole different cultural experience. The Sydney Harbor has been voted one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. With sites like the Sydney Opera House and Habor Bridge, the skyline is gorgeous. Sydney also hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics. The flight to Sydney is quite long, but they do offer several non-stop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Here is an excellent travel link to Sydney, Australia.

6. St. Petersburg, Russia
Fomerly known as Leningrad, St. Petersburg is actually the home city of Vladimir Putin. The city is labeled as one of the most westernized in Russia. We traveled there via a cruise ship, but there are flights. We do recommend that you book with either a cruise or tour company as it's easier to obtain your entry visa and see the sites. I never felt unsafe in St. Petersburg, but I'm not sure I would venture out on my own without a tour guide. The city has so much history and is home to the famous Hermitage Museum. A trip to St. Petersburg wouldn't be complete unless you spend some time with the people. There are tours that enable you to visit the subway system called "Monument to the People," and be a guest in the home of some locals. Here is a link to the Russian National Tourist Office.

7. Santorini - Greek Island, Greece
Santorini is one of the most stunning islands, and is often used in pictures advertising Greece. You've probably seen photos of beautiful white buildings with blue domes perched atop a hill above the Aegean Sea. As a small archipelago volcanic island, located approximately 120 miles southwest of mainland Greece, it's best reached by boat. My family traveled to Santorini by cruise ship. During the summer there are frequent ferries that run from Piraeus, just south of Athens. If you are planning a trip to Greece, don't miss Santorini. Here is a link to Santorini Greece travel website.

8. Atlantis Paradise Island - Nassau, Bahamas
Although the Atlantis Paradise Island is not necessarily a cultural experience, it is probably one of the most luxurious resorts in the world. It's basically a huge waterpark with attractions like you have never seen before. They boast having the largest open air marine habitat called "The Dig". The lagoons are home to sharks, stingrays, manta rays and other beautiful ocean life. Atlantis is a bit pricey, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our son was beside himself and still talks about it. Here is a link to the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort.

9. Brussels & Bruges, Belgium
As our son would say, home to the Belgium Waffle. Funny, but this was one of the exciting experiences of Brussels. There are waffle stands everywhere serving the incredibly sweet and famous Liege waffle. Besides waffles, Brussels is a wonderful city with a very interesting history. A short train ride away is Bruges, Belgium. Along with other canal cities in Europe, it is sometimes refered to as "Venice of the North". You can take a beautiful canal boat ride and spend time in the city center. Any trip to Belgium should include a stop in Bruges. Here is a link to the Visit Belgium site run by the tourist office.

10. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is not only a beautiful city but also the most culturally different from any other we've visited. Half of the city is in Europe and the other half is in Asia, with the Bosphorus waterway running through the middle. Some of the major sites include the Blue Mosque, Ayasofya, Egyptian Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar. Street vendors can be a little pushy and if you decide to visit the Grand Bazaar make sure you're ready to face hundreds of vendors coming at you. We learned quickly how to say no, but we did enjoy shopping for Turkish rugs. If you are a shopper, this city is for you. Here is a link to Istanbul-Travel.com which is the best of the sites I've used for this city.
Top 10 International Destinations for 2017
Personal Safety
Although my family has never had an issue during our travels, there a few basic rules you should follow when you are out of the country. Americans, and tourists in general, are normally very well received in most countries, but remember, there are still instances of terrorism in some parts of the world. Before traveling overseas, be sure to first check the US State Department Travel Warnings website for any travel alerts or warnings. It's best to heed any warnings they may have posted as this list is updated on a regular basis. Even if you are traveling to a country not on the list, you should always stay alert and it's best if you stay in groups. Be respectful to folks and their culture as it may be very different from what you're use to.

Travel Documents and Passports
Passports are absolutely required for overseas travel. If you are planning a trip, be aware that it can take as much as 6 weeks to receive a new passport. Here is a link to the US Passport Office. Along with your passport, you may need to obtain a travel visa, depending on the country you are visiting. Here is a link to an excellent visa service company called VisaCenter.Com.

Driving In Foreign Countries
The laws in many countries for driving are very different from the USA. I find driving to be one of the more difficult things to do when we travel. Several countries drive on the left side, which can be quite daunting and scary if you're not use to it. We also found, in much of Europe, the town roads where much smaller and less forgiving than in the USA. They also don't offer automatic transmissions in much of the rest of the world. Unless you are comfortable with these differences I suggest you consider other modes of transportation. You will find the public rail system in many countries far superior to that of the USA. Check the US State Departement Road Safety page for more information.
Travel Insurance
You will find that the medical care provided in other countries can be quite different from what you are use to in the USA. This is especially so when you travel to less westernized countries with very poor medical services. If you find yourself in an emergency medical situation, you will most likely want to be air-evacuated back to a hospital in the USA. As you can imagine, the cost for this service can run into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on where you are in the world. It is advised that you buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation or delay, lost luggage and esepecially medical expenses and emergency evacuation. My family never travels overseas without a policy.

Money Matters
There are many different currencies used throughout the world and the exchange rates change about every minute or two. In the past, I would have recommended you use your credit card or debit card when traveling as they normally offered the best exchange rates and were easy and safe to use. ATM's in foreign countries generally accept your debit card and will dispense cash in their currency. Your bank applies the exchange rate once it hits your account. These days banks are charging more fees for these services, making them less appealing than before. If you decide not to use your cards, I recommend taking travelers checks and exchanging them at your hotel or local exchange centers once in country. It's also a good idea to exchange at least some money at the airport prior to boarding your overseas flight. These companies charge higher fees but it's helpful to have some money when you get there for taxis. Yahoo has an excellent Currency Converter.