We have already established that beginning a relationship online is perfectly normal. You can only continue a relationship over the internet for a short time, though. Sooner or later you need to meet the person face to face. When your new boyfriend or girlfriend is from another country, that can be quite a feat. If you are the person doing the visiting it is a good idea to take some extra precautions to make sure the trip goes well for you.
Double check your flight times, luggage restrictions and visas
Before you leave, you should double, triple and even quadruple check your itinerary. Make sure you have enough time between connecting flights: at some airports, you can change planes in less than an hour. At other airports, you may end up waiting almost an hour just to check-in again. You should also be mindful of luggage restrictions. I always weigh my suitcase twice before I leave home just so I’m sure there won’t be a minor crisis at the airport over my luggage weight or size. Lastly, make sure you are clear on what type of visa you may need for the country you are visiting. If you are from a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) country and are visiting another VWP country, you can visit for 90 days without a visa. Other countries have different requirements and time limits. For example, Malaysia gives tourists a 90-days pass free on arrival, but Indonesia charges $25 for a 30-day pass on arrival. Make sure your return ticket falls within the window of time you’re allow in the country.
Make some friends other than your significant other
Try to find some connections in the country that you visiting other than the person you’re going there to see. There’s no guarantee that your Skype chemistry will carry over to the real world, so it’s smart to have a back-up plan. Ask everyone you know if they know anyone in the country you’re visiting. If that doesn’t work, you can try to make some connections on popular sites like CouchSurfing or InterPals.
Gather important phone numbers and paperwork
Make sure you bring copies of your itinerary, passport and credit cards just in case you lose the originals. Write down important phone numbers in advance. You should at least know your embassy’s phone number and the local emergency phone number. Check your embassy website, too. You may be able to register your trip with them.
Stay at a hotel and meet in a public place
I know it is so much cheaper to stay with your significant other immediately, but for safety’s sake it’s best to stay at a hotel (at least initially). If money is a problem, try a hostel. The local YMCA may have inexpensive rooms. I am not assuming your partner is a serial killer; it is simply smart to take precautions in a foreign country. If nothing else, staying at a hotel will keep your friends and family from worrying too much while you’re away.
Have a great trip!
Finally, have a fantastic trip and first meeting! If I know I have prepared everything correctly and taken all the right safety precautions, I can enjoy my trip to the fullest. I hope this holds true for you too. Have you already met your boyfriend or girlfriend and are now considering closing the distance? On Sunday, your favorite guest writer M. Dunham will answer all your questions about deciding to making the big move.