International business trips require a lot of preparation and are usually quite costly. They have a lot riding on them. So, how can you get the most out of your international business travel—the most benefit for your organization and the most effectiveness/least hassle for yourself?

Here are a dozen simple ideas I’ve accumulated from my own lifetime of international business travel.

  1. Arrange an international calling plan for your mobile device(s), and be aware of the details in terms of what it allows you to do. Most mobile carriers have several different plans for international travelers, and they can vary greatly in details and costs.
  2. Check ahead of time to be sure your passport expiration date is beyond six months. Otherwise, many countries will not allow you to enter. Don’t forget to check about visas. As countries change requirements from time to time, always double check.
  3. Have some foreign currency for the destinations you’ll be going to so you have the right cash on hand when you emerge from the plane.
  4. Check whether your credit card company charges international fees. If so, you can look into one of the many no-foreign-transaction-fee cards that are available.
  5. Learn as much as you can about the manners and etiquette of your destination country. That kind of cultural awareness can go a long way in helping smooth your journey.
  6. Spend some time reading about cultural expectations regarding meeting behavior, such as agendas, promptness and decision-making practices. Again, understanding how the destination culture differs from what you might expect helps make your international business trip so much better!
  7. Understand local cultural attitudes towards time and formality in your destination country. You’ll be in a better position to act appropriately and be most effective in your meetings.
  8. Be sure you understand local expectations around gifts. If they’re expected, check with your company’s policies to be sure you’re in compliance. Small gifts such as chocolates or something with your company logo is often a good choice.
  9. If you’re invited to meals or after-work activities, it’s quite important to attend. Depending on the culture, this is often a place where business will be conducted in a social milieu.
  10. In the airport, no matter what country, give yourself enough time to avoid having to rush. There are so many unexpected things that can happen, especially as you travel from country to country.
  11. While most people working in airports speak multiple languages, don’t assume everyone will speak yours. Download a translator app if you have any doubt.
  12. If your flight is cancelled or so delayed that it jeopardizes your meetings, call your airline at the same time you’re standing in line to change the flight. Quite often the phone service will be faster, and you’ll be scheduled on another flight before you even get to the front of the line.

Anticipating the challenges of international business travel and taking preemptive steps to deal with them can greatly reduce wasted time and hassle. And a few hours—or even a few minutes—spent raising your cultural awareness about your travel destinations can translate into a big business productivity boom!

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