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Getting a PADI scuba diving certification while traveling abroad!

A scuba diving certification with PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is your one-way ticket to adventure in the underwater world….and in my opinion, the only thing better than getting a PADI scuba diving certification, is doing it abroad!

If you love to travel, why not combine the two and get a PADI scuba diving certification in a dive destination?

That’s exactly what I did. 

scuba diving certification

scuba diving certification

I completed my PADI open water diver certification on the gorgeous island of Zanzibar in Tanzania, and my PADI advanced open water diver certification in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

I am so happy that I invested in these scuba diving certifications, because I can now confidently dive anywhere in the world! I have since done around 50 scuba dives in Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Australia, Honduras, Mexico, Belize, Indonesia, and Canada.

This blog post shares helpful tips on how exactly to get started with a PADI scuba diving certification and my experiences getting certified! 

Getting a PADI scuba diving certification while traveling abroad:

Discover Scuba Diving:

Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) is an introductory scuba diving session offered by PADI-certified dive shops. While this is not exactly a certification, it’s a great opportunity for beginners to try scuba diving out to see if they like it before going ahead for the open water certification.

scuba diving certification

Learning to descend safely on the line with a PADI instructor

Back when I was just 20 years old, I did an exchange program to Australia and visited the Great Barrier Reef. I felt like it would be criminal to visit the Great Barrier Reef and not try scuba diving if I had the opportunity, so I did the Discover Scuba Diving program with PADI.

Baby Steph trying scuba diving for the first time in Australia!

After some time in a pool to learn the basics, I had the chance to do a shallow reef dive and absolutely loved the freedom I felt underwater. It was as if my mind slowed down and my thoughts stopped. I felt like I was present and in the moment, something I sometimes struggle with in my day-to-day life. I was also quite jealous that my friend (who already had her open water diver certification) got to go deeper than me, so it was then and there that I decided I would one day get certified.

Open Water Diver:

The Open Water Diver course is PADI’s foundational, entry-level scuba diving certification which provides the knowledge and skills for you to become a safe recreational diver to a maximum depth of 18 meters (60 feet). Once you have your certification, you will be able to safely plan and execute dives with a diving buddy that is also open water certified (although I personally prefer to dive with a dive master from a PADI dive shop when I travel). 

The open water scuba diving certification has an academic component, a confined water training component in a pool (where you’ll learn skills like mask clearing, buoyancy control, and emergency procedures) and four open water dives. 

Did it for the ‘gram – taking a moment to pose underwater for the camera!

More recently, PADI launched online modules as part of the academic component. If you want to complete the open water certification abroad, I highly recommend you do the online modules at home to save hours of sitting in a classroom on your trip! 

It’s also possible to complete the confined water training before your trip if you have a PADI dive shop with a pool close to home. That way, all that will remain while you are on vacation is your four open water dives. This is exactly what I did to complete my open water diver course in Tanzania! It worked out perfectly because I only had four days in Zanzibar, and was able to do the four open water dives in two consecutive days.

scuba diving certification

I absolutely loved diving with the PADI 5-star certified Buccaneer Divers in Paje beach (shout out to Arnold, my instructor). I mean, look at their stunning beachfront space and just imagine relaxing here after your dives. Paje beach has some of the most pristine turquoise blue waters I’ve ever seen, immaculate white sand, and excellent reef diving suitable for beginners. 

If you are traveling for a longer duration or don’t want to plan ahead, you can just complete your scuba diving certification abroad. Many dive shops or resorts have a pool and classroom to offer the entire course in person. I have heard of people doing this in Thailand during an extended South-East Asia backpacking trip as one example, but you can find a PADI Dive Center or Resort that offers the Open Water Diver course almost anywhere around the world.

Advanced Open Water Diver:

The Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD) course is for divers that already have their open water scuba diving certification and are looking to enhance their skills, gain more experience, and explore specific diving interests. 

This scuba diving certification includes five adventure dives: two will focus on deep diving skills and underwater navigation, while the other three can be of your choice according to your interests or areas you want to improve upon. Once you successfully obtain your AOWD certification, you can dive to a maximum depth of 30m (100 feet).

scuba diving certification

I decided to get my AOWD certification after unexpectedly finding myself with extended time in Egypt in 2021 after getting stuck there during the covid lockdowns. Well that’s a story for another day, but it ended up being a blessing for me. I absolutely LOVED Egypt, had the opportunity to live in Dahab on the red sea and do absolutely phenomenal, world-class scuba diving (some of the best diving I’ve ever done if I’m being honest).

I did my AOWD with a 5-star PADI shop called Circle divers in Sharm el Sheikh and was the only person taking the course so I had one-on-one instruction from the amazing Amer (pictured below), whom I can now call a friend!

scuba diving certification

Celebrating after officially finishing the PADI advanced open water diver course!

I’m considering doing PADI’s night diving specialty course in the future, but for now I am just enjoying fun dives wherever I travel! I recently spent a few weeks in Mexico, where I visited an underwater museum in Cancun with art installations acting as artificial reefs to restore marine life.

I’m halfway to reaching my 100-dive milestone, which supposedly the dive community celebrates by doing a skinny dip dive – while I don’t think naked scuba diving is in my future any time soon, I’m sure looking forward to diving my way around the world with PADI! 

If you love traveling or exploring the outdoors, I have a strong feeling you’re gonna love what’s waiting for you beneath the surface. 

The underwater world is calling – will you answer?

Explore PADI scuba diving certification options  

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thepinkbackpack.com said:
Thanks for reading Janis! :)
March 22, 2024 at 11:56 am
Janis Boyle said:
Amazing post, Steph! You've been able to dive in so many gorgeous countries. What adventures!
March 21, 2024 at 3:56 pm