Living abroad can be scary.
Especially if you haven’t traveled much before.
Luckily for you, I have taken the plunge.
I left America last year so I could travel indefinitely.
Are you planning on doing the same, but not sure what to expect?
I’ve got you covered.
In part one of this series, we went over how to prepare for living abroad.
Today, we’ll cover what to do when you first land, and then how to adapt to your new life overseas.
These questions came from a reader named Timo, so this post is in interview-style:
Hitting The Ground
Timo: What do I do when I land in the new country?
Mario: Here’s what you’ll need to deal with right away (assuming you’re traveling by plane):
- Customs – You’ll need to go through customs & immigration when you land. Be ready for filling out forms and waiting in lines. Obviously, every country has different laws. So rules vary. Just stay cool and polite, follow their rules, and you’ll be fine.
- ATM Run – You’ll need foreign currency. So get cash at the airport right, after you land. Avoid money-changing services, they have bad exchange rates. Instead, use ATM machines, they have the best exchange rates. Airport ATM’s are also safe, no need to worry about robbery.
- SIM Card – Your phone SIM card probably won’t work in the new country. So you’ll need to get one that does. If you can, get your SIM at the airport after you land. If that isn’t an option (or you don’t feel like it after your long flight), it’s ok to get it later at a mall or phone store later.
- Airport > Room – Go straight to your new place from the airport. That way you set up your home base, secure your belongings, and re-center yourself. Shit, shower, shave, eat, relax, and sleep. For long flights, jet-lag will be an issue. Take it easy for the first few days, if you have to.
- Travel Time – Consider travel time going from the airport to your new place. Sometimes it’s best to stay at a hotel near the airport on your first, instead of going to your home-base right away. That’s because in some cities, the airport is far from the city center (like Tokyo and Medellin). You don’t want to endure a long, unexpected ride after a ten-hour flight!
So how do you actually get to your new place?
Timo: When I land, do I take suspicious-looking taxis that will drive me around the city, and then rob or kill me? LOL. And then, what about getting around the new city, with no car?
Mario: Here’s what you’ll need to consider:
- Airport > Room Travel – What’s the best way to get from the airport to my new home?
- Daily Travel – How should I get around the city, once I’m there?
Here are your options for both:
- Private Driver – A private driver is the best choice when you first land at the airport. It’s nice to have a local waiting for you, holding a sign with your name on it, when you arrive. And the peace and quiet of a private car will be like heaven after the plane ride. You can reserve private drivers online. But the best route is to hire them through the place you’re staying. Have your hotel or Airbnb host recommend you a driver they know and trust. Yes, private drivers are more expensive. But it’s worth it. And you only need them when riding to and from airports.
- Uber – I use Uber for my daily travel. It’s cheaper than cabs. Also, it’s safer. Their drivers are vetted. You can get help from the company if things go bad. Private local cars blend in better. And you’ll get receipts emailed to you. The downside? Some Uber drivers aren’t familiar with their own cities! So some get lost, even with GPS! Uber is also illegal in some places. So why not use Uber when you land? For the ride from the airport to your place? Sounds like a great option! Well, unless you have a working SIM card, you can’t hail them. But if you do get your SIM installed at the airport, then Uber is a solid choice.
- Taxis – I avoid taxis. The few times I’ve been ripped off abroad, it’s been cab drivers. Overcharging foreigners and taking the long route are common scams. Cabbies have more control over you when you’re riding with them. And it’ll be more difficult to get help, if things go wrong. Of course not all taxi drivers are bad. Many know their cities very well. Even so, I only use taxis if there’s no other choice.
- Trains, Shuttle, Buses – Public transportation is another option. It’s cheap, reliable, and a good way to meet locals. You’re unlikely to get door-to-door service using these methods, though. So avoid them for airport to room travel. But take advantage of them for daily transport.
- Rental – If you’re confident in your driving skills, rent a car. They definitely give you more freedom. But they only make sense if you wanna get out of the city. Driving in big foreign cities is stressful! I’ve driven in Lisbon, Mexico City, and Montreal. What a nightmare! Never again! In contrast, road-tripping through rural Spain & Portugal was very pleasant. Check international driver’s license requirements. And if you’re gonna drive abroad, a GPS is mandatory.
Protip: The best laid plans can fail. Especially in foreign countries. So always have a Plan B, and sometimes, even a Plan C.
Your New Place
Timo: Where and how can I get an apartment? Or do you just stay in a hotel for months?
Mario: In my experience, these are gonna be your best living options:
- Booking.com – A hotel directory. Great for short-term stays. Good prices, sometimes better than Airbnb. Money-back guarantees. Some places have free, no-penalty cancellation. Convenient, instant booking. Pay in your currency. It’s fun to stay in hotels. Amenities, maids, and free breakfast. More social, meet fellow travelers.
- Direct With Hotel – Book directly with a hotel. Most have online reservation systems, or you can just call them. With hotels you can negotiate lower prices. Direct reservations save you money but are more inconvenient. Direct is less secure, there are no guarantees, and no recourse.
- Airbnb.com – Live like a local in privately owned places. Usually cheaper than hotels for long stays. Not always cheapest for short-term. Instant booking for some places, other owners make you wait. Negotiable prices. Check booking schedule to gauge willingness to make deals (empty calendars versus fully booked?) Minimal contact with owners, deal with them through the site. Kitchens, washers & dryers. Good customer service, you have recourse. Downside? Pay extra for maids. No free food. Airbnb adds layer of fees. And if you don’t like the place once you get there? You can’t leave until your lease is up.
- Private Owners – Perfect for long-term travelers. Deal directly with local owners. Best deals, lowest prices. Find them by walking around neighborhoods, checking YouTube, or classifieds ads. Ask around or use an apartment locator. Downside? Takes more effort to find. Harder to pay. Harder to negotiate deal unless you speak same language. Riskier, more trust-based. If things go bad, it’s foreigner versus a local. Don’t lock yourself into a contract for more than one month at a time.
Friends & Loneliness
Timo: How do you deal with loneliness since you know no one there when you arrive? How can I meet friends or even like-minded people in whatever country I’m traveling to?
Mario: Yes, you’re gonna be lonelier in a foreign land than you would be at home. That’s not a bad thing though. It’s a good way to test yourself and evolve as a man. Beat loneliness by talking to plenty of people in public. Strike up random conversations. Get phone numbers if they seem cool. Do this with men and women. Even if you don’t end up seeing the person again, it’s still good practice and it’s healthy social contact.
I’ll be honest, I’m not really trying to make foreign friends. Colombian people here in Medellin are reserved, so it’s not easy to make friends with them. But that suits me fine. It give time to focus on projects. Not everyone is like me, though. So if you wanna meet local guys, go to places they like hang out. For example, gyms or outdoor exercise parks are good places to meet like-minded bros. If you do try making friends? Accept that you’re always gonna be an outsider. Not to say you shouldn’t make friends, but have realistic expectations if you do. Another option is becoming friendly with other expats in your area. And always stay in touch with friends and family back home – that really helps the loneliness.
Timo: Also how to hook up in another country (just use Tinder and go)? Should you get into a long-term relationship (LTR) with a woman in a different country? I think that this could benefit me greatly if I don’t know the language…
Mario: You have two main choices when you go abroad:
- Find local women
- Import girls from home
I’ve done well gaming in foreign countries.
I’ve also imported women.
Both methods have advantages.
But since most guys reading this are gonna travel solo, here’s my advice…
Use a two-pronged approach:
- Online Pipeline – Find girls online before your trip, using local dating sites like ColombianCupid and apps like Tinder. Then set up dates with them for when you arrive. Most will fall through, but some will become legitimate prospects.
- Day game – Then day game, once you’re there. Day game is fun, it’s an excuse to roam the city, and it’s a good way to practice the language. It’s less efficient, but usually yields best results.
Night game is another option for extroverted men and younger bros. But I rarely do it, so I’m not gonna write about it here.
And, yes. If you’re staying in one place for a while, and want a relationship, why not find a girlfriend? Or two or three? Relationships with local girls hone your foreign language skills. They help you develop deeper understanding of her culture. And a local girlfriend will give you love, sex, companionship, and home-cooked meals. Almost no downside.
Timo: How do I make sure I don’t get ripped off by the locals in terms of buying food, taking a taxi, etc. How can you avoid crime?
Mario: Most foreigners are trust-worthy. But yeah, some will scam you. It depends on the culture. Clearly, you gotta be more careful in poorer countries. Always trust your gut instinct. Stay out of known ‘bad’ areas. Pay attention to what’s around you. Combine heightened situational awareness with basic street-smarts, and you’re less likely to get fleeced.
[This post has affiliate links, which means I get a commission if you buy something using these links. This costs you nothing extra.]
Here’s a few tips for staying safe:
- Find Your Embassy – Locate your local embassy. You probably won’t ever need them, but it’s good to know where they’re at if you do. Embassies can’t protect you from petty crime, but they’re a good resource for dealing with major problems.
- Use A Money Belt – Get a silk money belt. They’re cheap and vital for beating pickpockets. Or have a tailor sew secret pockets on the inside of your pants. Consider carrying a dummy wallet with canceled credit cards and some cash. Give up the dummy if you get robbed, keeping your real stuff hidden.
- Backup All – I mentioned this in the last post. But it’s super-important, so I’m gonna say it again. Make photocopies of your passport and your home country ID. Also take photos of important docs and save them to the cloud. The iPhone Wallet app is good for storing financial and travel info.
- Lock Up Your Valuables – Always keep passports and valuables locked away. Only take them out when mandatory. Use the Two-Door rule; always have two locked doors between your stuff and the street. Use combination safes when available. And remember, locked doesn’t always mean secure (if staff has the same key).
- Dummy Phone & Camera – Have a valuable phone that could be targeted on the street? Then get a burner phone for daily use, along with a cheap digital camera. That way if they do get stolen, it won’t matter.
- No Dar Papaya – This Spanish phrase translates to “Don’t act like a victim.” And it’s great advice. Remember even if you’re not wealthy at home, foreigners may think you’re rich. Be mindful of flashing bling. And if you do get robbed, give up your valuables without fighting. It’s not worth losing your life over something insurance will replace.
Timo: How to work in a different country, I mean it’s going to be a huge change for me and others I assume. A whole new environment and you have to adapt, so how do you focus on your business, and not get overwhelmed by all the new challenges that will arise?
Mario: Despite the ‘digital nomad’ myth, it’s actually pretty hard to do quality work while traveling. Mostly, because it’s difficult to set up a solid routine when you’re always on the road. So the best thing to do, if work is a priority? Pick one foreign city. Then plant yourself there for a while. Use it as your home-base while you focus on getting things done. Staying in one place makes it easier to handle your business. And of course, you can always switch cities if you don’t like it.
Here are a few things to focus on, so you stay productive:
- Environment – Pick a place that sets you up for success. As ‘office-like’ as possible, with a strong internet connection. Quiet, clean, pleasant, and cool. This is where Airbnb comes in useful, you can use it to filter for apartments furnished with laptop friendly work-spaces.
- Your Mobile Office – For high-quality work, you need high-quality equipment. That’s a big topic though! So I’ll cover what to bring in another post – How To Create A High-Quality Mobile Office
- Routine – Routine enhances productivity. So make one that works for you! I use these tools to keep myself on schedule: A) Bi-Weekly Planning B) Calendar System C) Pomodoro Timer D) Don’t Break The Chain App
- Training – Working out hard must be part of every man’s life. Yes, we all know it’s great for you, physically. But it’s also vital for learning discipline and mental focus. If you can force yourself to train hard regularly, then you can make yourself do anything. So make training part of your weekly routine, it’s the anchor that’ll keep your life on track.
So there you go, guys.
Most everything I know about international living, condensed down into two posts.
Are you thinking of moving abroad?
But not sure what to expect?
Well, now you know where to start.
But that’s not all…
I’ve got more expat-life posts in the pipeline, so stay tuned.
Quintus Curtius – How Can I Best Adapt Myself To A Foreign Culture?
Have you lived in another country? Where? What was it like?