Paul has been passionate about travelling for over 35 years. He has been on many flights, rail, and road journeys in the US and Europe.
While domestic destinations can supply a traveler with a reassuring degree of familiarity and predictability, journeying abroad can often mean encountering new and exciting places, cultures, foods, and climates. This can make visiting a different country life-enriching and rewarding, as well as fun.
However, this article is focused on the disadvantages of traveling abroad, examples being the potential for wearisome, long journeys, the language and cultural confusion that can arise, and the stress of dealing with passports, visas, and border customs that can be involved.
10 Disadvantages of Traveling Abroad
Here are ten negatives of foreign travel:
- Passport and Visa Hassles
- Language Problems
- Currency Exchange
- Cultural Misunderstandings
- Jet Lag
- Luggage and Possessions
- Health and Safety
- Maintaining Routines Is Difficult
I explore each downside in detail below.
1. Passport and Visa Hassles
The bureaucratic side of foreign travel can be frustrating. Making sure that you have a valid passport, appropriate visas and paperwork can be time consuming and costly.
On top of the more traditional challenges, the modern world can present other hoops to jump through, too. An example of this is all the vaccination proofs and tests associated with traveling during the COVID pandemic that many countries have demanded.
2. Language Problems
Visiting a country where you don't speak the local language can be intimidating. It can severely cramp your ability to communicate when all you have at your disposal are a few guide book phrases and hand gestures.
You can also find yourself in situations where you simply don't know what's going on around you, because you can't read the signs and instructions, or decipher what the public announcements in places like railway stations are saying.
Often, the situation's fine in the more touristy areas where you're more likely to encounter English speakers, but things can get difficult if and when you venture off the beaten track.
Accessing and spending money abroad has become easier in recent years, but it can still be awkward messing around with different currencies. Visiting more than one country, or going on a tour or cruise, can be particularly tiresome.
While you can often get away with using a credit card, or obtain local currency from ATM machines nowadays, the banks will often charge you expensive fees, or gouge money off you through poor exchange rates.
There can also be practical problems, too, when it comes to dealing with unfamiliar bills and coins. Plus, you can find yourself trying to convert every charge or expense into your home currency inside your head.
4. Cultural Misunderstandings
It's easy to get disorientated or tripped up by cultural differences when traveling abroad. Even simple everyday interactions can spark dilemmas. For instance, do you tip your server when you eat or drink, and if so, how much?
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You can accidentally offend, or sow confusion, even cause anger, if you're not careful with how you dress and what you say. Certain topics, such as religion and politics are usually best avoided.
Ironically, you can learn a lot about the cultural norms of your home country through comparison, behaviors that you'd probably always taken for granted.
Traveling abroad can often involve long trips and multiple legs to the journey, and this can cause mental and physical enervation.
Unless you're one of those fortunate people who can fall asleep anywhere, there's a tendency to suffer sleep deprivation when journeying. Delays in flights or other transport can add to the stress.
Just dealing with an unfamiliar place can be wearing, particularly if there are language problems. It's normal to feel a sense of relief when you finally arrive back home and can sleep in your own bed.
6. Jet Lag
The sleep problems often don't just end when you reach your destination. Depending on the journey and your personal biology, you may experience jet lag.
This can really mess you up for several days. Common problems might be that you're either too tired during the daytime when you want to be active, or you're unable to sleep at night because your brain is alert. Jet lag can also affect your appetite.
7. Luggage and Possessions
One general stress of traveling is that you have to lug your possessions around with you. This can be especially taxing when you're journeying abroad and can't easily just throw everything into the trunk of your car.
Long flights, passing through airport security, and collecting baggage at your destination are all tiresome. Journeying by public transport on subway systems, trains, buses and taxis are strenuous and stressful when everything's unfamiliar and you don't understand the local language or culture.
Living out of a bag can also be more challenging abroad. You typically have to carry more extras, such as power adapters for your electronic devices, and hold onto medications and products from home that may not easily be replaced in a foreign country.
8. Health and Safety
Traveling in a foreign country often means that you don't have health insurance, should you be unlucky enough to fall ill or become injured. My advice is to always take out travel insurance if you're not covered by your domestic policy abroad, otherwise you can get into all sorts of trouble.
Ensuring one's personal safety can also be an issue when journeying abroad. It can be very easy to stray into an unsafe area or situation, if you're unfamiliar with a place. It's therefor vital to do some research in advance and take common sense precautions while you're there.
9. Maintaining Routines Is Difficult
Travel is a great way to mix things up and break out of negative everyday habits, but what about those routines that you don't want to abandon? Keeping fit through following regular exercise routines, for example, can be difficult when traveling. Work, study, and other responsibilities can also be a struggle to maintain when traveling.
Another challenge, when traveling abroad, can be sticking to dietary restrictions. Understanding the ingredients list on a food packet when it's written in a foreign language, or explaining that you're a pescatarian or glucose intolerant to a server who doesn't speak great English can be an impossible task.
Journeying to other countries is rarely cheap. On top of the transportation and accommodation costs, you can find yourself paying out for all sorts of additional expenses that you wouldn't typically incur when traveling domestically.
Even after you've reached your destination, you can spend a small fortune on hire cars, taxis, and public transport. Food costs can be greater, both for eating in restaurants and buying groceries, especially if you are visiting a major tourist destination.
There are also plenty of extras, such as paying out for tour guides and entrance fees for museums, historical sites, or leisure facilities. Health and travel insurance is another expense.
As I mentioned in #3, there are often hidden costs associated with exchanging currency and using your credit card when paying in a different currency.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Paul Goodman