Ohio University

Tips for Travelers

On this page you will find tips and advice for international travel collected from our staff, Peer Advisors, and returned students. If you have questions about any of the information listed here, contact our office or visit us during open advising hours. 

Packing 

Packing is the essential first step of travel. Figuring out what to bring and how to bring it can be challenging, so keep these things in mind! 

When picking luggage: 

  • Only take what you can carry 

    • You are 100% responsible for everything you bring with you, so make sure you’re able to handle carrying all of your luggage at once. This may include carrying your luggage up and/or down stairs, on/off public transportation, and even into a bathroom stall at the airport. 

  • Be aware of airline luggage restrictions 

    • Airlines will have a set number of bags that you can carry on the plane with you,  as well as a weight limit for checked luggage (usually 50 lbs). Going over these limits will cost you money and time, so research these in advance. 

    • If your ticket does not include a checked bag, check with the airline before you arrive to the airport! Often times this can save you money, rather than adding on the bag at the airport.

    • Carry-on bags have a size limit, but typically do not have an enforced weight limit. If you are pushing the weight limit for your checked bags, it can be useful to pack heavy items (pending they are cabin permitted!) in your carry-on instead. 

Once you know what bags you’ll be using: 

  • Start with a list! Consider:

    • How long you’ll be gone

    • The culture and its dress code

    • The climate – and if you’re going abroad for more than a month or two, consider the change of seasons as well 

  • When packing clothes: 

    • Pick clothing items that are versatile and can be easily combined with other pieces. 

    • Take clothes you wouldn’t mind letting go of - You may need to leave things behind to make room for the souvenirs or new clothes you bought while abroad. Purchase local goods, if you can! And if you leave behind any items, try to find a reputable donation station.

    • Lost luggage is a reality—bring clothes that you would be okay with never seeing again. 

    • Be prepared for formal occasions, such as nice dinners and cultural events, or temple and cathedral visits—these locations often have a conservative dress code.  

    • Understand that in many places outside the US, things like leggings, sweatpants, and shorts are not acceptable to wear in public unless you’re going to the gym, so do your best to avoid these items of clothing. 

    • T-shirts or sweatshirts with college logos or the American flag will immediately out you as an American. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you want to blend in with the locals and not be labeled as a tourist, leave these things at home. 

  • When packing shoes: 

    • Make sure you have footwear that’s comfortable and appropriate for the activities on your itinerary. 

    • Flip-flops are also not as common abroad as they are here. Only take them if you need them for the beach or as shower shoes. 

  • When packing other essentials: 

    • Ensure you have pre-filled any prescription medications for the duration of your program. This includes contact lenses.  

    • Especially if you’ll be abroad for an extended period of time, remember most toiletries can be purchased abroad. Save room and weight by taking a few travel-sized toiletries for your first few days and buying the full-size product once you reach your destination. 

      • An amendment: sometimes it can be hard to find the same kinds of menstrual products, condoms or other forms of protection, or particular beauty products that we have in the US. If it’s important that you have access to a certain brand or type, bring them with you.  

    • Seal all toiletries in plastic bags in case they leak or break. If you are bringing toiletries in your carry-on, make sure they are packaged according to TSA rules. 

    • Make copies of important documents, and pack the copies in a different place than the originals. “Important documents” include your passport, driver’s license, insurance cards, and program and flight itineraries.  

  • When packing valuables: 

    • Keep cash and electronics in your carry-on or on your person. Let them remain out of sight as much as possible. 

    • Always have your passport on you in the airport 

    • Think carefully about what you really need to take with you. Consider leaving your laptop behind for shorter trips.   

Other packing tips: 

  • Lost and stolen luggage is a reality.  

  • Keep a close eye on all of your belongings at all times. Do not entrust it to anyone else. 

  • In the event that your checked luggage gets lost, all you’ll have with you is your carry-on. Keep important items like prescriptions, electronics, and itineraries in your carry-on, as well a change of clothes and your toothbrush in case you’re without your luggage for a few days.  

  • Use luggage tags in or on every piece of luggage you take with you so that you can positively identify them as yours   

Money 

Whether it’s treating yourself to some local cuisine or buying souvenirs to commemorate your trip, you’re going to be spending money. There are several ways to handle spending while abroad, and the method you choose will depend on where you’re going, how long you’ll be there, your expected incidental budget, and the policies of your bank and/or credit card company. These tips will give you a starting point for things to research to figure out what is best for you.  

If you are going to use your credit card or bank card: 

  • Inform your bank before you travel. Let them know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there. This way they know not to be suspicious of international activity on your account.  

  • Know the limitations of using card abroad. 

    • Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards. You may run into more difficulty using American Express or Discover, as they are not as widely accepted.  

    • In some countries, it’s uncommon to pay by card at all, unless you are making large purchases. If this is the case where you are going, it’s good to have a credit card for emergencies, but plan on using cash for your day-to-day purchases. 

  • Carry some cash anyway. Have a few bills to use in case of emergency.  

If you are going to use cash: 

  • Be familiar with exchange rates so you can stick to your budget. 

  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash if possible, but if you decide to do so: 

    • Diversify the locations of your cash - don’t keep it all in one place. 

    • Consider using a money pouch or belt, which allow you to carry money out of sight under your clothes. 

    • Never let anyone see how much cash you are carrying. 

  • If you use ATMs abroad, remember that you may be charged ATM fees and conversion fees every time you take money out. 

  • Consider converting a chunk of money before you leave. This could allow you to: 

    • Take advantage of favorable exchange rates before you leave. Exchange rates change over time, so they could be less favorable when you’re actually abroad. 

    • Save money in ATM fees.  

    • Keep to your budget by restricting your spending to the cash you took out. 

  • Avoid converting money at airports if possible. Much like everything else at an airport, money conversion is much more expensive than at a non-airport location.   

Transportation 

If you’re going to go abroad, you have to know how to get from here to there. Transportation to and from your host country may be included in your program, but if it’s not, you’re responsible for securing your own. Start searching right away so you can plan for dates and prices, but remember not to purchase any flights or transportation until you've been confirmed as a participant on the program. 

When searching ticket prices online, use your browser in incognito mode. Airline websites will use cookies to track what flights you’re looking at and start showing increased prices for those flights.  

Before you go:

  • Useful apps for flight purchase include: 

    • Hopper 

    • Skyscanner 

  • Search engines for cheap fares: 

    • Kayak 

    • Cheaptickets.com 

    • Edreams.com 

    • STAtravel.com * geared towards students!

    • Studentuniverse.com * geared towards students!

While you're away:

Depending on your program length, you may have the opportunity to do your own travel while abroad. With just a little research you can find cheap and easy travel options. 

Inter-city busses are often very budget-friendly options. Train travel is also much more common in other countries than in the US. It can be much more enjoyable and environmentally friendly than air travel as well. Some websites for train travel:

  • goeuro.com 

  • rome2rio.com 

If you do want to travel by air while you are away, you might find discount airlines helpful:

  • Europe: RyanAir, EasyJet 

  • South America: Mexicana, LAN Airlines 

  • Asia: Asia.com 

Accommodations 

Your program accommodations and your lodging choices while traveling are integral to a good program experience. Though they differ from program to program and from student to student, there are a few good things for everyone to keep in mind. 

The majority of programs will have you living with another person to some degree. Though most of us already have experience living with roommates or siblings, here are some refresher tips for cohabitation: 

  • Be considerate. Whether you’re sharing a hotel room for a week or living with a host family for a semester, think about how your use of shared space affects the people you live with. 

  • Communicate!  

  • If something is bothering you or you have a question, speak up. A problem will never get solved if it’s never talked about.  

  • If you are particular about certain things (e.g., you like to go to bed early, you get cold easily and like to keep your room warm, you have a bad snooze-button habit), tell your roommate about them as soon as possible so that you can head off a conflict before it happens.  

  • NOTE: If you’re having a problem you feel you can’t resolve on your own, speak to your onsite support. It’s important that you have a living space where you feel safe and comfortable.  

If you are doing your own travel while abroad:

  • You’ll have the opportunity to arrange your own housing. Think about location, convenience, and safety as you plan.

  • Hostels are your best lodging resource away - they’re often cheap and numerous. 

  • Hostels will most often have large all-gender rooms with bunk beds. You can usually find smaller or single-gender rooms at an additional cost.  

  • Do your research! The best way to avoid a hostel horror story is to secure all housing before you travel. It’s easy to find highly-rated, budget-friendly hostels with just a few minutes of research. Make sure to read the reviews. 

  • Make sure the location of your lodging is safe! It also helps to know where you want to go within the city you’re visiting so you find a place to stay that’s close.   

Keeping in Touch 

Remember that it’s required for all Ohio University study abroad students to have access to a cell phone while abroad. Getting cell service while abroad can sometimes be tricky, so make sure you do your research and have a plan in place before you leave. Ask your program coordinator on onsite staff about which phone options or service providers are best for your chosen destination.

Some programs that run in locations with limited cell service will provide a satellite phone for the duration of the trip. You will be notified if this is the case. *RARE*

There are a couple of options for phones and service abroad. 

(1) Use your current US phone.

  • Check with your US service provider.

  • Check with them to see what their international offerings are. Some providers like T-Mobile include international service in their regular plans. 

  • Other providers offer international plans as add-ons or as a day-by-day service. These can be really expensive, so make sure you know costs ahead of time so you don’t break your budget. 

  • Or, use a service provider in your host country.

  • This is done by replacing the SIM card in your phone with a SIM card from the service provider. You can only switch out a SIM card if your phone is “unlocked.” You can check with your cell service provider to see if your phone is unlocked or not.  

  • Once you have a new SIM card, you can buy month-to-month data plans or top-up minutes. 

(2) Buy a phone in-country.

  • Sometimes you won’t be able to use your own US phone or it’s just more practical to use a local phone. 

  • Burner phones are inexpensive and an easy way to make sure you always have the ability to make a call. 

  • Some students will use a burner phone so that they can make calls, but still keep their own US smartphone to use with WiFi.  

If you choose to buy a phone abroad for cell service and bring your own phone to use on WiFi, there are some things to keep in mind. 

  • Put your phone on airplane mode so you don’t accidentally use international data.  

  • Some apps like Google Maps and Google Translate will let you download content to use offline. This can be very helpful if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language. 

  • WhatsApp is a great texting app that uses WiFi and is also super popular in a lot of places outside the US. Facebook and iPhone-to-iPhone iMessage are also good options for WiFi-based texting