Getting Scuba Certified Abroad – What You Need To Know

Ever since high school, I’ve wanted to get scuba certified. I’ve done a little diving in the past and being the fish that I am, absolutely loved it. It’s something that seems like a huge commitment of both time and money, but if it’s something you’re passionate about in reality it is only a small investment.

I live in California and as beautiful as our coast is the water is freezing and our visibility isn’t very good. For this reason, I’ve always wanted to do my certification in warm tropical waters. I finally got certified on my recent trip to Bali and had an amazing experience with Bali Dive Academy.

If you’re thinking about getting scuba certified away from home there are a few things you should consider before you book your trip.

Where You Want to Dive

You can dive in most countries around the globe so you’ll have to start narrowing down where you want to do your certification. One nice thing is getting certified runs roughly the same in most places; meaning adding it on to an upcoming vacation or plan one around it isn’t much different from doing it at home.

I’d recommend pick somewhere with at least warmish water. It doesn’t need to be the tropics but when you’re thinking of a lot of things on your initial dives worrying about getting cold doesn’t need to be one of them.

On the 2-4 days you’ll be doing your certification you’ll still have a handful of free time but at the same time, you won’ t want to do anything too strenuous. You’ll want to pick a place that has simple distractions or is good to be lazy and relax.

Find your dream location. 

I picked Bali because it’s been a bucket list item for a long time, just like getting scuba certified. The specific area of the island I picked since I knew I’d have a lazy beach to lay on between dives, it was known for it’s diving, and was a bit off the beat path. I turned out being one of my favorite places I visited on my trip.

Which Certification You Want

There are two different routes to go down when you’re getting scuba certified: PADI and SSI. Both are internationally recognized, both are overseen by the same regulating agency, and both can be used at most dive shops. The actual instruction received, especially at the Open Water level is essentially the same.

Where you will find some differences is SSI is slightly cheaper since you don’t have to buy materials, mind you this means you won’t have them to go back to. On the other hand, PADI offers a wider range of certifications you can get as you continue to dive.

I decided on PADI and to be honest it was because I’ve found it to be more prominent as I’ve done more diving research and trip planning. On the other hand, SSI offers it’s e-learning for free which would have saved me about $130. The dive school I wanted to go with was also PADI so in ways that helped with my decision.

Go with the best school. 

Both are recognized around the world and both are held to high standards. With that said if you find a dive school you want to go to and it’s one or the other go with it.

Finding a Dive School

Whether it’s for your scuba certification or just a fun dive you’ll want to make sure you’re working with a quality dive shop. While they can be easily managed there are many risks that you take when you scuba dive and you want to be sure to have top-notch professionals with you along the way.

Once you’ve found a location and have an idea of which certification you want you can start your search. Trip Advisor is a great international source to get peer reviews of places. Also, don’t forget about using Pinterest to find where other bloggers have had good experiences.

Find peer reviews.

Also, depending on where you’re going consider staying at a resort with the dive school on property. One of the perks of Bali Dive Academy was being able to just grab a towel after my class and lay on the beach or head back to my room for a shower. Having everything in one place made the whole process more enjoyable. Thinking of getting scuba certified abroad? If so there are things to think about before you pick a dive school and start your diving certification.

Picking the Structure of Your Class

There are multiple ways to structure your scuba certification course. If you’re getting certified at home doing a standard structure of four days starting with course work, then pool dives, and finishing with open water can work just fine. But, if you’re abroad somewhere beautiful or even just fun the last thing you want to be doing is sitting in a classroom, studying and taking tests. Thankfully, both PADI and SSI give you two options to avoid this.

The first option is taking a referral course. This is when you work with a local dive school to do your course work and your pool dives. This can shorten the time your course abroad will take you. Make sure to work out the details with your local dive shop and you abroad shop before committing, not every shop operates with them. If you’re short on time this is a great option. These programs have you splitting your cost between the two dive shops.

The second is going through the course work with an e-learning program, this is the route I took. Here you have an online course work to get through that you can do withing the months or weeks leading up to your trip. One thing I really enjoyed doing your pool dives, when you’re learning and practicing skills, with the same instructor as your open water dives, giving you consistency and comfort. For PADI you’ll also get a smaller discount for this (I can’t vouch for SSI).

Do the coursework before your trip!

Doing the work before gave me about a day and a half of free time in Bali and even at a slightly increased cost it was well worth my time before the trip.

Scheduling Your Trip

When you plan your trip there are a couple things you need to consider around getting scuba certified to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable trip.

First, give yourself enough time in the location you’re training at. If you’re looking to do more than just your scuba certification in a location you’ll want an extra day or two in the area to get the non-diving activities in. Also, when you’re doing your training dives they may not be at the best sites in the area. That doesn’t mean they won’t be enjoyable but if there is a dive site you really want to visit you’ll want to stay an extra day to fit in a fun dive or two.

Give yourself time for a fun dive and exploring the area. 

The second thing to consider is elevation or flight times. After consecutive dives, you need 24 hours before you go up in significant elevation. This can be a flight or just driving through a mountain pass. Make sure to have an alternative way to your next stop or stay and extra day. Do not push it since risking decompression sickness isn’t worth the risk!

Have a Safe and Amazing Trip

Overall, getting certified abroad is a great way to get into scuba diving. You can explore a beautiful place above and under the water. At the same time, you are setting yourself up to explore a whole new portion of the world. Over 70% of the earth’s surface is cover in water and one of the best ways to explore this large piece of the world is through diving. Thinking of getting scuba certified abroad? If so there are things to think about before you pick a dive school and start your diving certification.

As you plan your trip to get scuba certified abroad, make sure to do your research to plan ahead for both your time and safe and you’ll have a great experience. If you’re looking for ideas of where to get certified take a look at this scuba diving bucket list for inspiration.

Did you get certified abroad? If so what tips would you pass along? If not what questions might you have. Leave a comment below. Thinking of getting scuba certified abroad? If so there are things to think about before you pick a dive school and start your diving certification.Thinking of getting scuba certified abroad? If so there are things to think about before you pick a dive school and start your diving certification.

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the non-profit world in California. She focuses on exploring the world from her own backyard to across the globe. You'll find her sharing about explorations through food, books, travel, and more.