It’s a big world, and just thinking about traveling overseas for the first time can be intimidating for anyone. But it doesn’t have to be. If trip planning, language barriers, long flights, or exchange rates are holding you back, we’ve got tips for traveling internationally for the first time. Plus, our experts know the best place to travel outside the U.S., and we'll be with you every step of the way on our guided international tours. It’s time to leave your worries behind and get ready for the best international vacation of your life!
If the language barrier makes you nervous:
Ireland, Scotland, or England
Though the Irish brogue, Scottish grammar, and British pronunciation may give you pause from time to time, language won’t be a barrier here. In Ireland’s cozy pubs you can strike up a conversation with friendly locals. In Scotland, you can comfortably head off the beaten path in the Highlands. And in London, you’ll have no problem asking how to get to Westminster Cathedral or Piccadilly Circus. Instead of burying your head in a phrase book, you’ll experience all the amazing things these countries have to offer. Before you go, check out 7 advantages of guided tours for first-time travelers.
“What a fantastic tour this was,” said traveler Diana of her Highlights of England, Scotland & Ireland tour. “And a beautiful time of year to visit the UK and Ireland—the fall colors were gorgeous. Our Tour Director, Steel W., kept us entertained, informed, and happy. We saw sites in Liverpool where the Beatles lived as well as taking a ghost tour in Edinburgh.”
If you prefer shorter flights:
Iceland or Costa Rica
Did you know that a nonstop flight from Boston to Reykjavik, Iceland, (5 hours) is an hour shorter than from Boston to Los Angeles (6 hours)? It’s also an hour less from New York to Costa Rica than it is from New York to Portland, Oregon. If you don’t want to add long flights to your first international trip, consider our group tours of Iceland or Costa Rica. Both are easy to reach from North America. Best of all, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled to another planet. Not because of the flight, but because Costa Rica’s lush jungles and wildlife are exotic. Likewise, the glaciers, northern lights, and geothermal springs of Iceland are otherworldly. All it takes is a relatively quick trip and you’re on to the adventure of a lifetime.
“An amazing adventure!” said traveler Diamond of our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife tour. “I've always wanted to visit Costa Rica and I'm so glad I did. There were so many beautiful sights to see. We encountered so many animals and the sweetest people! Oh and the food... AMAZING!”
If figuring out foreign currency makes your brain hurt:
Daydreaming about snorkeling around barrier reefs, relaxing on white-sand beaches, and exploring ancient Mayan ruins—not converting euros, yen, and baht to U.S. dollars? We get it. That’s why one of our tips for traveling internationally for the first time includes Belize, as one of the best places to travel outside the U.S. This tiny nation nestled along the Caribbean Sea accepts both Belizean and U.S. dollars, so there’s no need to exchange money. And by law, the Belizean dollar is tied to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate of two to one. One U.S. dollar equals two Belizean dollars. That’s math we can all do and makes traveling internationally much simpler!
“My first trip with EF Go Ahead Tours and I had the best time!” said traveler Judy. “The hotels were 5 star, the food was fantastic, and the Tour Director (Keith) was the best! Belize is a beautiful country and Go Ahead Tours covers all of it. I highly recommend and I will definitely travel with them again.”
If you want to see it all in one trip:
Grand Tour of Europe
Whether you’ve been waiting a lifetime to take one international trip or you want to jumpstart a lifetime of travel, our Grand Tour of Europe: London to Rome is your ticket to adventure. On this sweeping 16-day journey, world-famous sights like Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Colosseum are just the beginning of what you’ll experience. In a sprawling smorgasbord of a trip, you’ll sample the continent’s most culture-packed, historically rich regions. From bon appetit to mangiamo, you’ll get a taste of multiple languages, cuisines, and cultures as you journey from Great Britain to France to the Netherlands, travel across Germany, and continue through Switzerland and Italy. It’s the perfect introduction to international travel and a part of the world you’ll want to explore in more detail in the years to come.
“The Grand Tour of Europe was everything we hoped for and more,” said traveler Brian. “Go Ahead made it easy and enjoyable. The hotels, trains, tour guide, local tour guides, transportation and excursions were top shelf. We could not have asked for anything better. The cities, the landscapes, and the experiences were more than we had dreamed of.”
If you want to stay connected with family back home:
You might just want to describe all the amazing sights and experiences. But that can be tough when the time difference overseas can range from six to 12 hours. If you need to stay connected, Peru’s the place to visit. While its seasons are the opposite of what we experience here in North America, Peruvian time is quite similar to our Central and Eastern time zones. Because Peru does not observe daylight savings time, Peruvian time is the same as U.S. Central Time during our summer. During our winter, it matches our Eastern Time. Can’t keep that straight while you’re mesmerized by Machu Picchu? Just remember, in Peru, you’ll never be more than an hour’s difference from the time back home.
“Fantastic tour with unbelievable sites and awe-inspiring scenery,” said traveler Kristen. “My husband and I had this trip on our bucket list and it met all of our expectations!! Wonderful tour guide, great accommodations, and just breathtaking trip. Super great tour of Machu Picchu!!”
If you want someone with you every step of the way:
Kenya on safari
What could be more exciting your first time traveling overseas than jetting off to Kenya for a safari? Imagine the heart-pounding thrill of sighting the Big Five: leopards, rhinoceroses, Cape buffalos, lions, and elephants. The beauty of such an exotic trip is that our experts, from your Tour Director to your experienced local guides, will be with you to take care of every detail. All you have to do is soak in the beauty of Kenya’s lush landscapes, culture, and magnificent wildlife. You’ll travel from towering Mount Kenya to the wild expanses of the Maasai Mara to witness the drama of the bush unfolding around you. And every step of the way, we’ll take the mystery—and worry—out of enjoying everything on one of the best international vacations.
“We had a wonderful time in Kenya and Tanzania,” said traveler David. “Very well planned out. Great wildlife guides/drivers. Great places to stay and wonderful food. The wildlife safaris were amazing and there was so much wildlife to see at most of the places we stayed. If you want to see a maximum amount of wildlife safely with great guides, then this is the trip for you.”
If you want to go all out on an epic trip:
Australia or Antarctica
Australia and Antarctica make the list of the best international trips for first-timers who want to start with an exhilarating adventure. Each is an island and a continent, but it’s a polar opposite experience (pun intended). Australia has koalas and kangaroos; Antarctica is home to penguins and elephant seals. You’ll get sunshine, koalas, and a tan in Australia, and icebergs, penguins, and winter hat hair in Antarctica. Whichever adventure you choose for your first trip overseas, you’ll enjoy the safety net of travel experts, local guides, and fellow wanderers on our guided tours. If you’re up for epic, the Land Down Under and the Frozen Continent are the best places to visit outside the U.S.
“Truly our dream trip in Australia," said traveler Sherry. "This was our first tour and we are so glad we found Go Ahead Tours. We cannot imagine a more enjoyable vacation.” Traveler Anthony was just as enthusiastic about his tour of Antarctica. “Best adventure ever!!!” said Anthony. “Everything was fantastic; from the expedition's itinerary to the lessons on wildlife and flora in Antarctica, this experience will be memorable forever.”