Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The First Hour in a Foreign Country

Last year I published an article about spending the first minute in a foreign country and what it can tell you about the country you are visiting. Given that I am now in Rwanda I wanted to give a more thorough account of going to a foreign country and include some details that are less important but possibly still slightly traumatic.
  1. Customs. Your first hurdle is going through customs. It's not a huge hassle but it can be a little nerve racking as you are likely the minority. You may pass through alone or with your family. It is common to see parents with their children or an old couple at the counter at the same time. Although, you may get yelled at for trying to go through together. After you determine if you will go through the counter alone or with your family, the customs person will ask several questions. Are you here for business or pleasure? Where are you staying? How long will you be here? Are you bringing any guns into the country? You may also be asked other questions about the purpose of your traveling. For example I was detained for 45 minutes returning into the US from Canada in 2009 shortly after returning from Pakistan. It will probably happen again given the variety of countries that is accumulating on my passport. 
  2. Transportation from the Airport. Generally walking out of security there will be a crowd of other's families and taxi drivers waiting to take people to their destinations. It can be a little intimidating as two hundred people or more watch each person walk down out of customs. Again, feel prepared to be the minority. Do all the talking and hand shaking necessary in the airport desirably before leaving, because once you leave very shortly you will be likely in a dark parking lot putting your luggage into an old vehicle with a driver you don't really know. Make sure it's the right guy. 
  3. Traffic. Once your vehicle is loaded up with all of your luggage prepare to experience some at first scary driving. Vehicles travel much closer to each other in other countries than in the United States. The roads often have road blocks designed to slow traffic down. There may be many potholes. The driver may seem to be driving very fast given the road. Listen, international travel is not for the faint of heart. 
  4. Your Hotel. Once you arrive at your hotel, assuming you spend the first night in a hotel, chances are they will have someone who speaks decent english that can check you in. They will likely send a bus boy up to take care of your luggage too, and he will likely want a small tip. Generally speaking, I always feel pretty amped up and on edge first getting into a country so I usually have to flip through the channels, check out the minibar, and search for wifi before getting into bed. If you have made it this far, with all of your luggage consider travel a huge success. In fact you might want to make a phone call to your loved ones back home to let that know that you traveled a third of the way around the world safely. I mean, people do it every day, but not you, this is an adventure. 
That's about all there is to the first hour. This may even be the first two hours depending on how slow the customs line is and how far your hotel is from the airport. Hey, if you ever get to experience this kind of trauma, savor the experience. For having the wealth to visit a foreign land we are fortunate.

1 comment:

  1. ******"In fact you might want to make a phone call to your loved ones back home to let that know that you traveled a third of the way around the world safely."***********

    Thanks to my entire family for NOT calling me, I appreciate it.


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