Aliya from Kazakhstan shares some of the best travel tips for those who are looking to travel around the world.
Last summer, I volunteered as an English instructor in Izmir, Turkey. I loved the experience so much that I decided to spend this summer volunteering at a kindergarten in Baku, Azerbaijan. Discovering new countries all by yourself can be truly life-changing. You quickly learn to rely on yourself, think on the go, and adapt to new places, people, and climate. However, there are also plenty of mistakes one can make while traveling alone. Luckily for you, I made a list of tips that can help you avoid rookie traveling mistakes.
- Registration for migration. There are plenty of stories online where travelers talk about their visa problems. But for some reason, the part about migration often gets dismissed. In my case, as a Kazakh citizen, I didn’t need to get visa to Azerbaijan. However, because I was volunteering in Baku for over a month, I had to register for migration within 10 days of my stay there. While planning my trip, I overlooked that important part and almost paid a fine.
- Medication. Bring your own medication. I would even recommend bringing medication for common cold, flu, allergies and more. You never know what’s going to happen to you. In the course of one month in Baku, I’ve gotten sick 3 times. The climate of the city was not for me. Luckily, healthcare and medication in Azerbaijan is pretty affordable in comparison to the US; and because I speak Russian, it wasn’t hard for me to seek medical help.
- Avoid exchanging money at the airport. You’re better off exchanging in your home country, or in the city centers. That said, avoid doing it in jewelry stores, and banks.
- Learn the language. I don’t mean become a fluent speaker. Learning key words like: “How much does it cost,” or “Where is the bus station,” will be very helpful in your adventure. A lot of the times, local salespeople sell overpriced items to foreigners. Which brings us to the next point:
- Bargain. Many locals bargain in bazaars, and local stores on the daily basis. For foreigners, bargaining will help bring the price of a t-shirt down to its original value. However, if you are someone who looks like he or she belongs to every country in the world, then you are in luck!
- Use public transportation. If there’s a subway, go on it. If there’s a bus, why not. A ferry, even better. In Baku, I primarily used subway, which is cheap, fast, and convenient. One time I went to work by taxi, and it cost me roughly a month works of public transportation. However, while riding that taxi, it felt like I saw the city for the first time. I almost forgot that there was this big, beautiful city above the subway tunnels.
- Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone. Cliche, I know. You are already brave enough to go to a different country and explore new cultures. But if you stay in your hotel room all day, look for people from your own country, and eat at places you’re already familiar with (ex. McDonalds, Starbucks, etc.) how much are you really gaining from your foreign experience?
- Collect memories, not things. But, if you want that hand-made ethnic carpet, then buy it. There were so many times when I held off getting something, that I literally left Azerbaijan without any gifts. Well, that’s not true, I bought an impressive amount of tea. If you’re lucky, you’ll come back to that country again. But if you don’t, it will be so nice to have a memory of that place in your apartment or dorm room.
- To all the ladies: invest in small, lightweight things. Like unique earrings or colorful scarves. And lastly:
- Send yourself a postcard. Write about your experience as it happens. A few weeks later, when you read that postcard, you’ll vividly remember all the things you wrote about.
Aliya Uteuova is an international student from Kazakhstan studying political science and mass communications at the University of Maine. Aliya is a journalism intern with ISV Magazine, writing about her own experiences as an international student in the U.S. as well as writing feature articles on topics important to all international students.