Traveling abroad can be a deeply rewarding and enriching experience, but only if you do it right. Whether you are traveling alone or in a group, you need to keep your safety first at all times. This will of course require lots of common sense, as you will soon discover in the tips mentioned below. Even then, being able to make responsible decisions and generally being aware of what is going on around you will also be of great help. Safety however is always a number one concerned even when visiting countries that are widely considered to be safe. With that in mind, below are the top 10 do’s and don’ts when traveling abroad.
Do: be aware of your personal space. Even when in an unfamiliar city, you are still entitled to your personal space. This will go a long way in avoiding getting harassed, robbed or just general unpleasantness. The reach of your hand is perfectly acceptable personal space, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. People are known to take advantage of tourists, so do not be scared to reprimand (although kindly but firmly) people who invade your space.
Don’t: eat uncooked foods. This is especially when traveling to developing or underdeveloped countries. Hygiene is always a concern where food is involved; you don’t want a bout of diarrhea or dysentery ruining your stay. Some of the foods you will want to stay away from includes ice cream, fresh fruits and vegetables, ketchup, yogurt and ice. You can however eat these foods at trusted establishments such as accredited restaurants, but generally try to stay away from these.
Do: keep essential documents such as credit cards, ID, emergency cash, passport, insurance policy and airline tickets safe. Ideally, these should be kept away from the rest of your luggage. A money pouch or belt, or cargo pants/shorts with plenty of side pockets can be a great place to store these important documents. If not, have them kept safe by the hotel, just make sure that you are staying at a reputable hotel before choosing this option.
Don’t: hitchhike. There is no exception to this rule. You wouldn’t do it back home, so don’t do it while abroad. Even where the locals seem particularly friendly and eager to help, you never really know what you are getting yourself into. Plan your trip ahead of time and carry enough money (including emergency cash) to last you the duration of your trip. Hitchhiking anywhere in the world is extremely dangerous, so don’t be tempted to do it. If however you are tempted to hitchhike, then read these tips on hitchhiking before traveling.
Do: have an idea of the exchange rate. You can get more for your dollars abroad, but it is still important that you keep the exchange rate in mind to avoid getting ripped-off. This will also help you in countries where haggling is part of everyday life. You may sometimes find that you are haggling over the equivalent of a few cents, so it may be worth thinking about whether it is worth the effort, if at all the right thing to do.
Don’t: use motorcycles for transport. This includes riding on the back of one or hiring one to explore your destination. If you can help it, keep away from motorcycles in general especially in underdeveloped countries. A lot of serious injuries that happen to tourists abroad happen on account of motorcycle accidents so it is something worth seriously thinking about. These are generally unsafe, and saving a little money may not be worth the risk of injury, and sometimes even death.
Do: Take out a travel insurance policy. This is designed specifically for people traveling abroad. It is no secret that a good number of things can go wrong during your trip. Some can be minor inconveniences such as having to cancel a trip or a cruise, to major annoyances such as losing luggage. Risk of serious (or otherwise) injury is also a reality when traveling anywhere in the world. Any of these things can increase your travel costs exponentially, and may prove to be a real problem where your finances are concerned. With an insurance cover, these costs will be taken care of without you having to go back to your pocket, making your journey more comfortable if not cheaper.
Don’t: keep your money in your back pocket. Also, don’t keep all your money in your wallet or in one pocket. Pick pocketing even back home is a harsh reality, and the risk of getting pick pocketed increases tenfold when you are a tourist in a foreign country. Instead, keep your wallets or money in cargo pants/shorts pockets or in your front pockets where you can easily feel someone trying to take your money. Also related to this, don’t remove all your money in public to count it. Instead, try to familiarize yourself with the currency so you don’t have to remove all your money when trying to pay for items or services.
Do: Familiarize yourself with the local culture. This will not only make your stay more comfortable, but will also potentially save you a heap of trouble. In some countries for example, women are supposed to be covered up at all times. Haggling in some countries is perfectly acceptable behavior, but considered rude in others. In other cultures, using your left hand to greet or hand or take something is considered an insult. It is therefore important that you familiarize yourself with the local culture and customs of the country you are planning on traveling to.
Don’t: lose sight of your valuables. This also applies in those countries that are considered to be safe. Always be aware of your luggage and valuables especially in public places such as train/bus terminals, airports, bars/cafes, restaurants and other such places. Tourists are often targets of robbers, so you have to be aware of your luggage and your surroundings at all times. Try as much as possible to go to well established restaurants or bars, as well as being extra vigilant when in public.
These are mostly common sense tips and tips picked up by seasonal travelers. The idea is not to overthink these things, but rather to keep them at the back of your mind. These will guarantee you a great experience and avoid getting into unnecessary trouble.
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