After all the headache of packing and the frustration of flying, it can be daunting to think about anything else but just arriving to your final destination and sleeping. Sometimes this is me after a long flight and having not slept.
Or if it’s somewhere I won’t be for too long then of course my first instinct is to explore. There are a few things you should do as soon as you land to make sure you have everything you need for the rest of your journey.
If you’re not at this stage yet, you can read things to do before moving abroad.
1. Adjust to the New Time Zone
If you haven’t already reset your physical watch on the plane, then definitely do it when you arrive. You phone should reset once it connects to a local network when you land.
After I landed, I went home, and began working on my laptop. Then I realised it started getting dark. I checked the time on my laptop, and it was too early to be getting dark. Then I looked at my phone only to realise that my laptop wasn’t adjusted. I was very disappointed to realise that I’d just lost 2 hours! Definitely something to remember so you’re not in the same situation.
Also, it’s best to eat or sleep depending on what time of the day it is where you’ve landed. So, if it’s 9am where you are but in your mind it’s 3pm, eat breakfast. Or whatever it is you usually do at 9am.
2. Let Someone Know You’ve Arrived
I’m sure someone’s just waiting to hear that you’ve landed safely, please tell them. For me as soon as I land, I tell my parents. Although, they’re already checking the flight information online, so they already know but they just like to hear from me directly. Just in case, I fell off the plane or something.
Sometimes in the rush of getting through customs and immigration and getting our suitcases, we might forget to tell them. But it can be pretty worrying on the other side.
Related: Travelling During Covid-19
3. Download Apps
I advise that you download offline maps beforehand just in case you have no internet connection for any reason when you arrive. At least if you have your offline maps downloaded, you can follow on the map as you are driven to the hotel. It may be helpful to have this feature just so you know where you are and can see what’s around.
Each country has different apps that you’ll need to download as well. The basics being xe currency, a food delivery app (Uber Eats, Rappi), transport app (Uber, DiDi), and any specifics like music apps, TV app. Also, you can even have food ordered to the hotel (in case they don’t have a restaurant and you don’t want to go out).
4. Get a SIM Card
Who can survive without their phone nowadays! I honestly don’t know if it’s even possible for me to travel without my phone. At least your offline maps can work for you to get around when you arrive in another country. But you’d still need a local SIM to buy data for everything else to work.
Unless you already bought some international plan. But before this, you would have to ensure that your phone is unlocked. This means that your phone is not attached to a service provider and can only use SIM from that provider.
Or if you want to have both your SIMs active (without a dual SIM phone) you may have to look into buying another phone. Personally, when I bought my phone, I didn’t even realise that it was dual-SIM and now it worked out so perfectly to have the SIM from my home country active as well.
5. Get to Your Accommodation
Using previously booked transport, you can now get to your accommodation after finally getting out customs, immigration, and safely grabbed your suitcases.
If you haven’t booked transport beforehand you can find out from an authority at the airport what the best method of transport is. Some airports have trusted taxis that are safe to travel in.
I’ve never taken a taxi in Bogotá but when I did, it was from the authorised taxi stand at the airport. Many transport services require you to pay in cash unless it can be done through the app. And voila, you’re finally at your hotel!
6. Secure Your Valuables
Once you arrive at the hotel, be sure to secure all your valuables in a safe like your passport, travelling document, cash and anything else you consider valuable.
Some people might see this as an extreme measure but better to be safe than sorry. Remember a hotel is not like a house where only the people you decide have access to it.
7. Understand the Area
Well, you don’t have to do this one right away, maybe eat and sleep first depending on the time. But if you are up for some exploration then it’s a great time to get to know what’s around you. I usually check a map as to what’s close to give me an idea of what direction to go in.
I am really bad with directions so I may have to safely check my phone every now and then to make sure I’m on the right path. But if I can get around Bogotá safely, you can do it too!
I love seeing all the places that I didn’t even notice on the map in real life and hopefully being pleasantly surprised that it’s so close to the hotel.
8. Buy Everyday Needs
My first trip after I arrive is usually to take a walk to the closest supermarket. I always make sure to buy water, some snacks, quick meals, anything that would be good to have.
Most other things like toiletries, I would have packed because I’m such a planner. But maybe you didn’t even bring a toothbrush. Now would be a great time to buy all the things you need.
I usually carry a backpack so I can easily carry everything back to the hotel rather than struggling with bags. But of course, some people prefer hand-held bags. To each their own.
9. Emergency Numbers
Make sure to find all emergency numbers – ambulance, fire, and police. If you have any personal contacts for emergencies, make sure you have them put together.
Even on your phone, make sure you have an emergency contact set on your phone. The number to dial out may have changed on your previous contact so it’ll be best to update this if you are in a situation.
Let’s hope you wouldn’t need any of these, but again…better safe than sorry.
After the more immediate things you should do when you land are the things that you need to do if you are relocating and plan on living in this location.
10. Phone number – change on all accounts linked to it
Something we don’t think about when we change our number, is all the accounts that we have linked to it. This includes official accounts, email, apps, practically everything on your phone.
Too many times have I forgotten about this and ended up getting locked out of an account. When I tried to get back in, they send a code to the phone number that I don’t have access to anymore.
It’s so frustrating! And then obviously you end up going in loops just trying to figure out how to get back into your account.
11. Set Up Bank Account
As soon as you can, have an account set up. Hopefully you should have an old account open that you can use money from in the meantime.
Find the best bank (especially if you want to do international transfer), what you need to open an account, and get that set up. Of course, the most major thing you would need this for is to get paid quickly.
Related: How to Survive Feeling Homesick
12. Understand Methods of Transport
Knowing how they use transport in your new city will help you to know how you should as well. That way you’ll know if you need to use public transport, ride a motorcycle or bicycle, buy a brand-new car, buy a used car, or walk.
Even if you’re used to it being a certain way like I was accustomed to having a car. In Bogotá, the city was extremely walkable. Also, because of the amount of traffic, they have a rule called “pico y placa.” This regulates the cars on the road so that only car ending in odd or even numbers can drive on certain days at peak hours.
So, to us, it didn’t make sense to have a car when my husband couldn’t even drive to work every day. And I didn’t work because it was so hard to get a job (fortunately I figured it out eventually).
So, I would just walk to the supermarket or the malls. And if we had to travel any further, we would use public transport which was not always reliable. If on the chance, buses were not available we would use rideshare apps which are illegal in Colombia but still function.
The other option would have been to use a motorcycle or bicycle since there were so many of them, but it wasn’t feasible for us.
However, when we moved to Mexico, public transport was for “labourers” as they said. Therefore, we would have to buy a car. When we looked up second-hand cars, we saw lots of warnings about scams, so we did not dare venture down this road. Also, since there are many cars manufacturers in Mexico, cars were a lot more affordable than in my home country.
13. Organise Your Visa
The immigration process can be such a headache. Fortunately, my husband’s company outsources this so that firm tells us exactly what we need. They even come to immigration office with us to make sure everything goes well.
Unfortunately, since I got a job, I didn’t have any to help me with this. So, I tried to find out everything I could on my own, but it was just too much headache.
The next alternative was to hire someone to help me. Of course, be sure to do a thorough check beforehand as these people will have access to your passport which is extremely valuable. You can learn about getting a job as an expat here.
They may even keep it for months at a time. In Bogotá, this process was simple and quick. But in Mexico, my husband had to have his residency card approved before we could move.
14. Health Insurance
Health insurance is important to have set up especially in a foreign country. You don’t want to get sick in a new country and not know where to go or what to do.
When we first moved to Colombia, my husband injured his knee after a few months and had to have surgery. Fortunately, all medical was set up already with his company so he was able to have his knee repaired.
Related: Getting a Covid-19 Test Done
15. Register as a Resident
Staying somewhere long term means you’ll have to register as a resident whatever form of national identification that will take. For Bogotá, I had to get something called a cédula de extranjería. In Mexico, it was called a residency card (temporary or permanent).
This one is a bit further down the line as it pertains to when you have a place to live but I think it’s a relevant point to bring up just so you’re aware. You’ll probably have to set up internet in your new place and it can be easy or a pain staking process.
In Bogotá, it was a quick process. There was only one provider installed in the building, so I arranged an appointment for them to come and set it up. It was done in an hour and I was able to connect to the internet.
However, in Mexico, again there was only one provider set up on the compound. I had an appointment to set up the internet before I moved in, but the technician never showed up.
Then for the next appointment, the technician came but he said there was nothing he could do because he didn’t have enough cable. What does that even mean?
Anyway, I ended up having to postpone moving in because we didn’t have internet and obviously couldn’t rely on their word. Eventually I found out that they needed monetary incentive to do their job. If I had known that from the beginning, it would have saved me a lot of headache.
In addition to this, it’s also good to know how often and around what dates your bills come so you don’t miss them as not all are monthly. Also, I’ve had my gas cut because I didn’t even know there was a bill. If you need more help in this area, you can read up on choosing a house abroad.
17. Learn the Language
Language is so crucial to living comfortably as it makes life so much easier. It will be wise to start learning the language and being able to communicate before you move.
Every day things are already so much harder when you live in a new country. Knowing the language would at least make it a bit easier since it is something within your control.
I hope these tips can help you transition more smoothly in your new country. It takes a lot to move, from bravery to planning. Lots of times you can feel overwhelmed especially at the start when there is so much to do.
Soon you’ll be able to enjoy your new country. Join my Facebook group or comment to share which you think is the most important thing to do when you arrive.