Category Archives: First Time Visitor Guides

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Antarctica- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

There was no trip that I anticipated more than our first trip to Antarctica. Almost two years in the making, I didn’t know what to expect from our journey to the White Continent, but was prepared for it to be a life changing adventure. And it certainly was! What to Expect on Your First Trip…

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What to Expect on Your First Trip to Paris- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

I’ll always remember my first trip to Paris. I was in the eleventh grade, on a school trip to experience the French culture I’d been learning about and romanticizing in my mind for so long. In many ways, my first trip to Paris was exactly what I expected. There were grand buildings, manicured gardens and…

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What to Expect on Your First Trip to Switzerland- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

My first trip to Switzerland was a long time coming- it was a place I’d dreamed about visiting for many years before I finally went. I’d spent hours admiring photos, building Switzerland up in my mind so much that I arrived expecting near perfection. Luckily, it was even better than I’d imagined and all the…

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  • Eric - Switzerland (Geneva) was my first non-Ireland/England trip to Europe. I was very naive and terrified that nobody would speak English, I would get lost, or ever worse robbed. Boy was I wrong and boy did I love the few days we spent exploring around the city. October 17, 2018 – 4:12 amReplyCancel

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Ireland- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

As I was leaving for my first trip to Ireland, I felt more relaxed than I usually do before visiting a new country. The excited anxiety that I normally experience was replaced by confident anticipation. Since I was going to be travelling solo for my first trip to Ireland, I made sure to do plenty…

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  • Alouise - I’ve been living in Ireland for a year and a half now, and I agree it’s a great place for solo travel. I was surprised when I got here that there weren’t any paid toilets like you see elsewhere in Europe. I think I saw one at a beach outside Dublin, but that was it. Usually if you’re by a pub (and in Ireland you probably are) you can pop in to use the toilet if you need it.January 8, 2018 – 2:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Joel - ireland is always my most favourite one destination to visit as travelling point of view. I really like to see its most fabulous adventuress places which attracts the visitors towards it each year. I had a great time there but I will love to make a tour there for again and againMay 10, 2018 – 3:42 amReplyCancel

  • Eric - I say this as somebody who’s been traveling to Ireland for 20 yrs. Ireland is the best “starter” country for people looking to visit Europe. For many of the same points you make Ireland let’s the first time traveler, especially Americans, experience the European way of doing things without having to understand a different language. August 12, 2018 – 4:59 amReplyCancel

  • Tracey Jones - Thanks for sharing this informative blog. I am planning to visit Dublin and whole of Ireland next month. This blog would helpMay 22, 2019 – 7:37 amReplyCancel

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Bolivia- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

Of the three countries we visited during our 3 week trip to South America, I was most nervous about visiting Bolivia. People either seemed to love it or hate it, so we had no idea what to expect on our first trip to Bolivia. We spent 5 days in Bolivia visiting La Paz, Sucre and…

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  • stephanie - Great article! I hope I am lucky enough to visit Bolivia someday. Sounds like a fine country.
    xJanuary 13, 2017 – 8:19 amReplyCancel

  • Scott - What a practical and enticing guide not only have you wet my appetite to go explore Bolivia but put it on the radar. Thanks.February 12, 2020 – 12:12 amReplyCancel

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Japan- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

It’s hard not to love Japan. Beautiful and evocative, Japan awakens your imagination and captures your heart. Japan is a nation that’s not afraid of innovation and progress, yet is passionately protective and proud of its culture. Temples, shrines, peaceful gardens and traditional customs, co-exist with towering skyscrapers, futuristic architecture, speeding bullet trains and a…

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  • Alouise - These are some great tips. Japan looks like a fantastic and interesting country to visit, and right now there’s a great flight deal on from Edmonton to Osaka so it’s pretty tempting to book a trip.May 12, 2015 – 12:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Laura - This is such a comprehensive guide! I’ve only traveled to Japan on business, which adds a whole new layer of cultural issues to get used to, but it’s such a rewarding place to visit. Next time I’d really like to go to an onsen!May 12, 2015 – 3:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Tracey - Life Changing Year - What great information about Japan. I can’t wait to visit next year. I think being prepared is the key to enjoying a place like this. Thanks so much for such in depth info.May 15, 2015 – 7:37 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Glad you found this post helpful. I agree that being prepared is key, since there are a lot of things about Japan that can be a bit confusing. Where in Japan are you planning on visiting? I’m sure you’ll love it!May 15, 2015 – 9:40 amReplyCancel

  • Tracey - Kyoto and Tokyo are on our list. My son’s list has the following items he can’t leave without experiencing:
    The Bullet Trains
    Real Sushi
    Cherry Blossoms
    Japanese Vending Machines
    Buy Cute Souvenirs
    I guess that about covers a 13 year old’s wishes!May 16, 2015 – 11:24 pmReplyCancel

  • Jackie - What a comprehensive first-timers guide! So much helpful information that just cannot be found in your basic guidebook. Japan looks fantastic and I definitely will be bookmarking this post to come back to when I start planning my trip! Thanks for sharing!May 18, 2015 – 9:05 amReplyCancel

  • Frank - Well research and lots of handy info! Glad about the tip on the Japanese squat toilet. We’re in Croatia right now and I had to go bad yesterday while doing a hike – found myself face to face with a Turkish style squatter and have to thank my Thai experiences for getting the job done. Maybe too much detail :)
    Anyway, Spanky has always had a fascination for Japan we will eventually get there.
    Great post.
    Frank (bbqboy)May 18, 2015 – 11:59 amReplyCancel

  • Ada Wilkinson - Love this post and your photos WOW! And yes, only 7-11 can accept International Bank cards. If ever you find yourself stuck in a place without 7-11, the next option would be Japan Post Office. ;-)May 22, 2015 – 4:37 amReplyCancel

  • All Graduates - This is a great blog to help first time travelers know what to expect during their first travel in Japan. You really need to take the time to learn their language as most of the locals in Japan don’t know how to speak English. You may get some help in tourists centers, but that’s about the most common place you could go to to have a comfortable conversation in English. Subway survival is also essential as it the main public transportation in Japan that a traveler on a budget should learn to love. Wonderful tips, thanks for sharing.May 24, 2015 – 8:25 pmReplyCancel

  • Wayne Seto - Thanks for this! Great information. I hope to perhaps visit Japan at some point this year, so this post will be a good reference. Thanks for the post. Cheers!May 26, 2015 – 9:05 amReplyCancel

  • Lera - What a comprehensive article! Just a quick note: the five yen coin does have the value written on it; it’s just in kanji instead of numbers. I lived in Japan a couple of years ago and this would have been so helpful before I left.July 6, 2015 – 10:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Haylee Hodgkinson Gunnerson - Great post! We are planning a trip to Japan and I really appreciate your tips! Thanks!February 21, 2016 – 5:22 pmReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Vallon - Thank you. I’ve been feeling nervous about our upcoming trip, and now I think my preparation will possibly be enough. Your pictures are fabulous.March 22, 2016 – 8:05 pmReplyCancel

  • Marta Leal - great article guys! thanks for sharingMay 21, 2016 – 2:50 amReplyCancel

  • Kim Eng - I’m glad I found your site. I’m going to Japan next week and my nerves are starting to get the better of me. Thanks for the tips!May 22, 2016 – 9:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Vanessa Newton - Thank you, great information.June 1, 2016 – 1:14 amReplyCancel

  • Kailin Hu - Thank you for this amazingly thorough post! Loved all your tips and it is doing wonders to keep my nerves calm about my upcoming trip to Japan. Arigato!July 17, 2016 – 10:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Umme - Loved this! Very well researched and exactly what I was lookin for. Now I just hope I actually get to go to Japan soon.July 29, 2016 – 3:16 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - I hope you get to Japan soon too! I just got back from my second visit and am still madly in love with the country!August 20, 2016 – 7:23 pmReplyCancel

  • Aminta Walker - This is extremely helpful. I have been wanting to go to Japan for a while now and wanted to see if there was any info out there from someone that has been there on a trip. Reading this really put my mind at ease. Thank you so much for sharing.August 2, 2016 – 3:53 amReplyCancel

  • L - I’ve done extensive research and regularly check Japan travel forums and still got a bunch of useful tips I’d never seen before. I would’ve totally snacked on the go so I’m glad I saw this lol ありがとうございます!September 29, 2016 – 3:42 pmReplyCancel

  • Eunice - Hi!

    Thank you for this guide. Can you share your experience in immigration and customs?

    Thank you.December 19, 2016 – 1:24 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Eunice. Going through customs was easy. They just checked my passport, asked how long I was staying for and put the tourist visa stamp in my passport.December 24, 2016 – 10:05 amReplyCancel

  • Ana Da Silva - Wow, thank you for this great insight. I’m heading to Niseko for my first trip to Japan in March. I suffer terrible anxiety and I do fear travelling (this is my first overseas trip in 5 years!) though after reading this post, I feel a lot more at ease about going to Japan. Especially hearing that Japanese locals are friendly and helpful. I’m looking forward to my trip now. Thank you!January 4, 2018 – 7:13 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - I’m so glad this post helped ease some of your worries about travelling to Japan for the first time. It’s a great country and I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic trip!January 9, 2018 – 4:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Anna - okay interesting that you brought the sunglasses up for this seems still to be a controversy…I have red lots about this already, in earlier days (like 60s-90s) Japanese wouldn’t wear them because only Yakuza mafia members did, but in newer comments from couple of years ago to present people say it has changed and especially fashion-conscious youth does wear them nowadays…lol I’m glad we’re gaijins so we can wear them hehe April 25, 2018 – 5:58 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - That’s really interesting. Thanks for sharing. I’ve wondered what the reason was!April 30, 2018 – 9:10 amReplyCancel

  • KIM - This was a really nice read! thanks for writing it up!June 14, 2018 – 9:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Harold - I am really curious to go to Japan. It would be a very exciting first abroad trip for me. what can you recommend, especially for newbie like me. I would not like to stay for too long, so how would like to spend a 5-day trip if you were to be on my shoes?December 3, 2018 – 11:59 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - There’s so many wonderful places that it’s hard to choose where to go on your first trip to Japan. With only 5 days, it would be easy to see Tokyo and Kyoto. They are the most popular destinations to visit in Japan and would allow you to experience both the modern and traditional sides of the country. I would spent 3 days in Kyoto and 2 in Tokyo.January 7, 2019 – 2:53 pmReplyCancel

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Cuba- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

Cuba is a fascinating and unique country, with enough diversity to please all types of travellers. History buffs will feel as though time has stood still in Cuba’s charming colonial towns, rich with colour and culture. Nature lovers and adventure seekers will enjoy hiking among the jungle covered mountains and lush valleys. Those looking for…

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  • Jenn - Great tips, guys! There doesn’t seem to be a ton of travel info out there yet about Cuba so I’m sure a lot of people will really appreciate this. Interesting about the health insurance requirements and of course the scam info is always good.July 2, 2014 – 10:39 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thank you! Yes, the health insurance is an important one to be aware of. We had to make some calls to make sure our insurance wasn’t provided by an American company, but luckily it wasn’t. The reason we know about those scams is because they all happened to us! At least now we can give other people a heads up!July 2, 2014 – 4:45 pmReplyCancel

  • Carmen - What a wonderful post about Cuba. As a Cuban-American it’s so unfortunate that Americans are not allowed to visit Cuba, unless they are traveling with an organization/group from the U.S. Americans can use their credit cards in Cuba either, which can be challenging. You have to carry cash everywhere you go. In my recent visit we ran out of toilet paper and had to travel to three towns until we finally found some. It’s very sad how some of the people live, and how the little things we leave behind go a long way.July 2, 2014 – 12:17 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Travelling to Cuba was definitely humbling for us. It was very sad to see people going without certain freedoms and things we consider basic necessities. They were very much appreciative of the small items we left for them.July 2, 2014 – 4:38 pmReplyCancel

  • shabrina - wow! this is very interesting. thanks for the awesome info! guess its time to save up to go to CubaJuly 2, 2014 – 9:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Tam Gamble - We loved Cuba – It was our honeymoon destination! Whilst we were there they tried the ‘Milk Scam’ on us as well but they were not threatening when we declined to join in.

    We also filled our cases with things like pencils etc for the children and soap. These were small items but were so well received by locals.

    As with every holiday we go on I tend to leave behind cheap t-shirts that we have picked up for a couple of pound before travelling. on this particular trip, the housekeepers asked if we would be offended if they took the articles which of course we weren’t but we have to let the hotel know – if it had appeared that they had just taken them they would have lost their jobs.

    I recommend Cuba to everyone I speak to.November 14, 2014 – 9:30 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - We also love Cuba and recommend it to others. More specifically, I tell people to venture away from Varadero- Cuba is so much more than just beautiful beaches!

      That’s a good idea to bring some t-shirts. We did have a lady working in a museum ask us for some clothes, but all we brought with us were small hygiene items, like toothpaste. Constantly being asked for things in Havana, and the milk scam, got tiresome after a while, but not once did we ever feel unsafe in Cuba.November 14, 2014 – 5:14 pmReplyCancel

  • Uptourist - I am loving all your first time guides. I think this is a must for all of us travelers who need guidance when we visit a new place. Cuba is definitely on my list for its colorful surroundings.March 25, 2015 – 11:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Robin - We are visiting Cuba in January for 6 nights. I’m wondering where we should stay? What’s the best place if we want some beach and some culture?August 23, 2015 – 10:54 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - If you stay in Varadero you’ll have great beaches and the resorts will offer day trips to Havana. We also did an overnight trip to Trinidad and Guanayara National Park (offered by the resort) which was excellent! With the side trips we got to experience the best of both worlds- beaches and culture!August 25, 2015 – 9:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Laurie F. - Thank you for all the tips for First Timers! We’ve barely been out of Canada, and are looking forward to our first trip abroad in Sep. 2016. We had thought about Europe, but with the Canadian dollar declining so much, we thought perhaps a trip to a Central American country might be wiser. More bang for our buck!! Can’t wait to learn more about CUBA. Si!!August 24, 2015 – 8:39 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Glad you found this post helpful. Cuba is a very interesting country and definitely cheaper than Europe. But no matter what you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a great time!August 25, 2015 – 9:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Frank - Very accurate and informative – we’ve been to Cuba quite a fe times and had encounters with almost everything mentioned: scams (often of the foreign currency variety), bad internet (yikes), food (you’re right, not that bad, just in resorts), and giving people clothes and toiletries. But so many great things about Cuba as well that I’m not even going to start listing.
    Frank (bbqboy)November 10, 2015 – 1:19 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Yes, even though there are all these challenges to visiting Cuba, we still very much enjoyed our visit and would return again!November 14, 2015 – 10:28 amReplyCancel

  • Brygida Gołębiewska - Good guide guys :) But there are 2 things that I wouldn’t agree with.
    There is not much trouble in receiving change in CUP. When you have it, you can buy things cheaper, therefore save money :) you could also spent it in a shop where in dual curency price.
    Exit tax doesn’t exist anymore. Tax is included in you flight ticket now.April 10, 2016 – 8:25 pmReplyCancel

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

Ever since my first trip to Europe as a teenager in 1998, it’s been one of my favourite places to travel to. There are a lot of reasons why I love Europe- the history, the architecture, the way of life- but mostly, I love it because I find travelling there quite easy. Europe is a…

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  • Veronika - Nice one! I’m sure this post is very useful to many Americans that come to Europe for the first time. As a European myself, I had to smile while reading some points (e.g. no face towel:)) as it all seems natural :) Anyway, good job!June 13, 2014 – 3:48 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thank you! I hope people find it helpful. I really did struggle with the lack of face cloths though! I thought I should give people a heads up, since it’s one of those things I think people would just assume is the same as in North America.June 13, 2014 – 5:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Alouise - Great tips Rhonda. I do remember finding the paid washrooms in Europe a bit strange, but like you said if it keeps things clean then I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I just had to remember not to get rid of all of my change in case I needed to use the washroom.June 14, 2014 – 4:29 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thanks Alouise. I guess the washrooms are a good way to get rid of your extra change. Still, I hope this system is never adopted in Canada!June 16, 2014 – 2:10 pmReplyCancel

  • Anna Lamma - All these are very good points. Especially the electricity – it’s a very sly one to forget about. As a European, I’ve never thought of face towels as being a “thing”. I suppose we just call them flannels and use them when having showers/baths! But it’s really useful to understand this need. Thumbs up.June 15, 2014 – 1:59 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Flannels? I’ve never heard that before in reference to a washcloth. When I hear “flannels”, I think of warm pyjamas. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. I always find it amusing how different countries use different words for the same thing!June 16, 2014 – 2:20 pmReplyCancel

  • Amy - Great tips! Despite all of the time I have spent in Europe, I still haven’t figured out the bed thing either. It’s always a surprise when I walk in the room!June 18, 2014 – 7:26 amReplyCancel

  • frankaboutcroatia - Excellent post, Rhonda, and very helpful Love the tip regarding a use of hotel’s or bar’s toilets – just pretend to belong there :). I do this all the time! Thanks for sharing!September 12, 2014 – 1:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Uptourist - Hotels are more laid back in Europe. Also, you can pretty much travel by train and then walk around. You get to places faster if you do that.March 25, 2015 – 11:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Nick - Some interesting points here – I’m going to try and reverse engineer them for my first trip to North America later this year! :)

    Ive found that the hotel bed situation that you mentions isn’t very common in 5/ 4 star hotels and I’ve found that it’s usually only the case when the hotels has “twin or double” as one room option.April 24, 2015 – 11:35 amReplyCancel

  • Anju - Can’t wait for my first Europe trip! Very useful tips . Great pictures and blog!June 28, 2015 – 2:21 pmReplyCancel

  • Laurie F. - We still haven’t decided whether it will be Europe, Cuba or Mexico for our first trip abroad. We’re not leaving until Sep. 2016, so we have a bit of time to decide. I’m the one doing the research, and I must admit that your FIRST TIMER tips are very useful. Have your been to Mexico? Need to see if you have some tips for that place too! Thanks so much for all your help! :-)August 24, 2015 – 8:53 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Yes, I’ve been to Mexico but only had the resort experience so I don’t have many tips! We did a day trip to Coba and Chichen Itza, which really was the only thing I really liked about our trip. If I ever go back I’d like to see more of the towns and archaeological sites and spend less time at a resort.August 25, 2015 – 9:57 pmReplyCancel

  • Nancy Amato - Very useful planning my first Europe trip ..January 10, 2016 – 11:45 amReplyCancel

  • Christina's Cucina - Just had a reader ask for tips for a first time traveler to Europe. Your post is perfect! Beautiful photos, too! Thank you!April 9, 2016 – 2:35 amReplyCancel

  • Marion Marema - Well i am european and i had my joy reading this really. Its interesting how detailed you talked about the toilent situation And why would you need a towel for your face???? Ah i love culture exchangeMay 5, 2016 – 8:16 amReplyCancel

  • Purushothaman Thirupathy - are the local people in paris helpful if tourist enquire directions?August 4, 2016 – 12:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Purushothaman Thirupathy - Im making a trip to tour europe- Paris, Amsterdam, Lucerne, venice and rome.This is going to be my first time there. Wonder the people are friend and helpful if I were enquire directions?August 4, 2016 – 12:30 pmReplyCancel

  • Sandee - Thanks for sharing . I am very excited about seeing Europe for the first time .November 21, 2017 – 10:14 pmReplyCancel

  • natalia -  I am planning a trip on March of the next year, your tips are excellent and well received.  Thank you :)May 8, 2018 – 2:14 pmReplyCancel


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