For anyone with a natural wanderlust, it's good news that international travel is getting easier. More people in more countries have the economic means and logistical feasibility to travel to a wider range of destinations, and it's only going to get easier from here. So what is it that makes it easier to travel internationally these days, and how could this trajectory evolve in the future?
eTA and Simpler Logistics
First, countries are investing in programs and systems that make it easier for citizens to gain entry — especially for tourism and business purposes. For example, Canada offers an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system that provides authorization to incoming travelers from a wide variety of countries, electronically linked to a passport. It's relatively easy to set up, taking just 10 minutes to complete the initial application.
Traditional requirements for international travel, including passports and visas, are also becoming easier to obtain — thanks in part to relaxing international standards and in part due to electronic systems that make the approval process faster.
Lower Flight Prices
If you shop for airline tickets, you can likely find some attractive deals — even for exotic international destinations. Over the years, airfare has gotten cheaper, sometimes to the point of ludicrousness.
There are several reasons for this. For starters, prior to 1978, airlines in the United States were regulated by the federal government; the government completely controlled not just routes and scheduling, but also fares. Since then, competition has encouraged airlines to compete more ferociously to sell tickets — and as you might suspect, passengers almost always want less expensive options. Existing airlines are now selling less expensive tickets than ever before, and new budget-conscious airlines have emerged to offer great deals of their own.
In addition, airlines have gotten more efficient, operations-wise. Planes are more fuel efficient, and are fully sold on a more consistent basis, allowing for cheaper travel prices on a per-user basis. Plus, alternative and secondary revenue streams make it less necessary for airlines to rely on the primary income of ticket sales.
Even a couple of decades ago, the only real way to plan an international trip was to rely on a travel guide, or guidebook, with written information on a given area. Alternatively, you could work with a travel agency — but this would make things more expensive, and in most cases, more complicated.
Guidebooks would often be rife with outdated or mismanaged information; within a year, new hotels would spring up, old attractions would be closed down, and you'd be lost in the middle of an unfamiliar country with no understanding of why things look different.
Today, information is much more available, and much better updated. You can visit websites of entire countries, as well as all the hotels, attractions, and restaurants you want to visit. You can also browse through endless pages of reviews, recommendations, and guides from travelers who have come before you. And if something changes, you'll be able to track it in real time.
When you get to a new country, you'll also have a wider range of options available for in-country travel. Most countries have consistently invested in their public transportation systems, allowing you to get from place to place inexpensively with the help of a subway, train or bus. If these options aren't available, or if you're looking for a more flexible form of travel, you may be able to catch an Uber — the ridesharing giant is now in 903 cities in 85 countries around the world, covering nearly all of the most popular destinations for tourists.
Language and Accessibility
Language barriers keep many people from taking otherwise interesting trips; they're intimidated by the idea of talking to someone who doesn't speak their language, and they don't have time to learn a new language on their own. Fortunately, these situations have gotten much easier to manage.
Apps like Duolingo have made it easy for anyone to master the basics of a language in a few weeks, and if that's not enough, you can use Google Translate to get around in your destination country. Translation services aren't perfect, but they've made traveling in a new country much more accessible.
Toward the Future
International travel is likely only going to get easier in the near future. Airlines will continue pushing for lower prices, technology will make both travel and communication easier, information will become more readily available, and the world will become more connected.
If you've always been interested in international travel, but you've felt too intimidated or reluctant to take the first step, consider doing the research necessary to plan a trip; you might be surprised how easy it is to travel to a different country, even if it's your first time.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant.Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he's also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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