Aspiring author Melody Truong once said, “I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met”. Indeed, world travel is one of the great perks of being human. It ignites our imagination, erases fear, and enriches every person bold enough to break out of his comfort zone. That said, getting the most out of an overseas adventure does require a bit of preparation. Here are a few things you need to know before venturing into foreign lands:

Get your ducks in a row:

Make a checklist of critical items, and be sure it includes your passport, travel visas, boarding passes, credit cards, insurance cards, medications (with written prescriptions), and glasses or contact lenses; basically, anything that would strand you if you lost it. Don’t forget any electronic chargers, and make sure you don’t need a power adapter where you’re going. Make copies of important documents and leave one copy with someone at home.

Be aware of health risks:

Consult your doctor or the CDC about any vaccines or preventive measures you may need to take for your particular destination. Although most urban centers have safe water and pest control, it is generally safer to drink bottled water abroad. Malaria is a special concern worldwide in tropical areas, so be sure to check the malaria status of the country. If you have a significant health issue that would complicate emergency treatment, be sure to have a basic medical history written in both English and the local language and keep it with you. Also, check on the specifics of your health insurance policy. If it doesn’t cover foreign medical services, you will probably want to purchase ancillary coverage for the trip.

Learn about your destination:

Take some time to research your destination country. Make a list of museums, historical landmarks, parks, and restaurants that might appeal to you. Arming yourself with a bit of the country’s history will make the sites that you visit more meaningful. If possible, learn some of the basics of the local language, including greetings and important airport and road signs.

Adhere to the culture: 

The norms of dress and social behavior vary greatly from place to place. Be sure to familiarize yourself with local customs, and be very respectful of their views. Doing so will allow you to move comfortably amongst the people, and the show of respect will make them more receptive during your visit.

Turn on the charm:

When you are a guest in a foreign country, you’re at the mercy of your host. Be polite, patient, and understanding at every turn, especially when dealing with stressed security personnel. Cooperate with border agents, customs agents, the TSA, and local police or military. Be gracious when interacting with your tour hosts, as well as anyone you meet in shops and restaurants. Putting on your best-traveling face not only minimizes unpleasant experiences but represents your home country in a positive light.