How to decide your first foreign destination?

Let’s face it- for the majority of Indians, travel to a foreign country doesn’t happen by default from childhood. In fact, if you decide to go on a holiday to a foreign destination, chances are you would have absolutely no clue of where to go that’s feasible and practical. It might actually feel like a daunting task to plan things out. Depending on your travel style you might want to pick a complete packaged tour or plan the whole thing on your own.

Here are 7 easy steps to follow to decide your first foreign destination. These steps work well for non-first time travelers as well, but it is likely that you aren't looking for tips like these if you have already been to a foreign country before.
Standing on the bridge on top of the Paro Chu river outside the Paro Dzong, Bhutan. November 2016

1. List down countries you really want to go to and check the cost

This is the most important step. You wouldn’t randomly book a ticket to any random country right? We usually tend to have big dreams for the foreign destinations that we want to see- places we have heard about for a particular thing from people, places we have seen on TV and want to experience for real, and so on. Perhaps you want to go to Disneyland (Hong Kong?), or perhaps to see the Eiffel Tower (Paris/Europe), or to see the Northern Lights (Scandinavia), or to experience some culture and amazing beaches (South East Asia)? The reasons can vary hugely. List down the places you want to visit.

Once this is done, open any travel package site like Thomas cook, Makemytrip or Yatra and check how much a typical package to the country costs. These prices are almost always inflated and if you plan a trip on your own it should cost less than these prices. But this at least gives you an idea of how much your budget should be for a typical trip to the country.

2. Check the visa requirements:

Once done, check the visa policies of the countries. The Indian passport doesn’t allow for a lot of visa-free or visa-on-arrival entries, and it is usually not easy to get a first world country tourist visa if it is your first time traveling abroad. Bhutan and Nepal don’t require you to have a passport to enter and they can be great start points. Most of the South-East Asian countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia give Visa on arrival and are good places to start your international travel from. So check.

3. Decide the number of days and check flight cost:

If you have a regular job, you are most likely bound by a schedule. You have a fixed number of days that you need to put into the best use. On the other hand, if you are a freelancer or digital nomad, the number of days may not be a strict restriction. Still you roughly need to know how many days are good enough for a place or country.

Your biggest expenditure probably is going to be the flight cost. Put a few random dates into skyscanner for your destination and check average costs of flights. You will have a rough idea of the flight cost.

4. When to go?

If your holiday dates are fixed, it’s better to check if they are a good time to visit the specific country you have chosen. You wouldn’t want to go to the place if it is the monsoon season there. You also wouldn’t want to go to the place if it is a popular big festival time and tourist spots are going to be closed or excessively crowded. If you want to go to Spain to participate in the Tomatina festival or Bull Race, check the dates. If you want to go to Thailand to party on the beach, perhaps New Year would be a costly affair.

Going to any place in the peak season gives the best weather and inflated costs at the same time. So decide accordingly.

5. Decide destinations:

If you are going to explore a new country, you most probably do not want to simply go to one city and come back. You would want to explore as much of the country as possible.
Depending on the number of days you have, check out few itineraries- ‘Best things to do/places to see in X country in Y number of days’. This gives you an exact idea of all the places you can cover, which places mustn’t be missed, which activities must be done and things like that.

Additionally, check if there is another nearby country that you can club with this trip. If you have the time, it’s worth exploring this option. It can save a lot on your travel costs and you can do more than one country in a single trip. Hong Kong and Macau can be combined. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand can all be combined with easy road journeys across the borders. A Schengen visa can give you access to 26 different countries in Europe and you could combine 4-5 countries easily as distances are not very high in Europe.

6. Budget the trip:

This step can take the maximum time but is definitely the most important. Your flights are going to be your biggest expenditure. Apart from the flights you need to look up costs for:
  • Accommodation- Will you stay in a hotel or a hostel? What’s the per night cost? Or are you going to try couchsurfing?
  • Transfers from and to airport and city centre- Usually airports are located outside city centres and taxis can cost a huge amount. Is there alternate transportation available? May be airport metro or shuttle service?
  • Food- What’s the average cost of a meal in the city?
  • Local sightseeing and activities- Entry fees
  • Local transportation- How are you going to move around the city? Will you rent a bike? Will you hire a taxi? Will you take the local or tourist bus?

Figuring these things out even roughly, will give you an approximate idea of the amount you are required to spend there. Additionally this will help you in your future research in case you decide to go to the particular country.

7. Book the flight:

Once you have a rough idea of everything and majority of things suit your requirements, book your return flights. Try and take refundable options if you can and inform your boss. This is perhaps the biggest step as it involves the maximum money.

So there it is- your first foreign trip destination is decided. Now go ahead, plan it all out. Have fun! 

Next post on the blog: How to prepare yourself for the first foreign trip?

Is there something you would want to add to the list? Do mention in the comment below.

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  1. These are some great tips! Like I have always wanted to travel to South America but budget is holding me back!

    1. Thanks! Another post coming up next week for the preparation part.
      Flights for South America are costly, but there is so much to see there. Machu Pichu is on top of the list. :D

  2. Thanks for some interesting tips. Your travelogues are always interesting to read!


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