The other day while sorting through some travel pictures on my laptop, I discovered a video that was taken in Machu Picchu. I didn’t realize the video’s existence because I wasn’t the one who took the video. It was taken by a man, a stranger, at the top of Machu Picchu overlooking the magnificent vistas. I asked this man to take a picture of me, and I remember him having some trouble pressing the correct button. Anyway, when I watched the video, I was laughing hysterically because it was SO damn hilarious! The man just could not press the button correctly, and I kept coming up to him repeatedly, obviously annoyed but trying to be polite (all caught on camera) while I was impatiently telling him again and again to just press the damn button quickly without holding it down for a long time. Apparently, he couldn’t do that, and as I walked away from him, thanking him with a fake polite smile, I remembered a similar incident a few months back when I asked an older man to take a picture of me by the Trevi Fountain in Rome. After I saw the picture he took of me on my iPhone, I was thinking, “WTF. Why the hell would anyone take a picture of a person (me) in front of an iconic fountain and NOT include or somehow highlight it in the background?” So this memory as well as the discovery of the funny video made me want to write a few travel tips based on my travel experiences like the above examples and general mishaps like lost luggage, etc. The following list of travel tips (in no particular order) is dedicated to international newbie travelers as well as to those who are less traveled:
1. When asking someone to take a picture while on your bucket list destination, don’t ask someone who is really old as he/she might not be tech savvy or he/she might not be able to see that well. Instead, ask a youthful person who is taking pictures and having fun doing so. Your chances of capturing a decent, if not a great photo, are magnified.
2. Always carry a few essentials in your carry-on luggage/purse in case your luggage is lost and/or delayed. This happened to me in Barcelona and I was not prepared. I spent way too much valuable time looking for a drug store, a place to buy underwear, etc. instead of sightseeing. You never think it will happen to you but if you travel enough, unfortunately, it is bound to happen.
3. Always pack light. This gives you room for souvenirs. If you don’t leave enough room in your luggage, you might find something great that you love, and instead of bringing it in your luggage, you might have to pay exorbitant fees to ship it to your home. Besides, if you didn’t pack enough, it’s fun buying something while traveling as you will bring back fond memories of the place.
4. Always bring a pain reliever, sunscreen, Pepto-Bismol, and whatever health essentials you prefer in case you are sick as it is a pain in the ass to look for a drugstore. Sometimes, it is difficult to read the labels in another language, and the drug store personnel might not speak your language at all.
5. Make a copy of your passport and I.D. cards in case they are stolen. You can even have a copy on your smart phone. You don’t want to be out of the country and have problems coming back so this would alleviate some of your troubles if you ever, god forbid, lose your important documents.
6. If possible, take the currency of the country you are traveling to. The fees that your bank/credit card charges could be exorbitant. Plus, it’s more fun paying in the local currency as it adds to the travel experience and memory.
7. Call your long distance phone carrier and set up a global plan. If you don’t, you could spend a shitload of money on phone calls as well as roaming charges. I have learned this the hard way as I spent almost $250.00 when I went to Istanbul for my first solo trip.
8. When arranging for your hotel overseas, always utilize their pick up service from the airport to take you to the hotel. It’s usually a flat rate and it will save you time, headache, and probably money as you might get ripped off if picked up by a local. When you arrange through your hotel, the minute you come out of the airport with your luggage there is someone waiting there with your name on a sign. It’s like a welcome, too, and you won’t feel so lost, especially if traveling solo.
9. When booking a hotel, try to stay in a place where they have free WiFi. Besides being connected for free, it kind of gives you an idea that the hotel is up to date on their amenities and that the hotel is not old and/or out of date with the decor.
10. Always remember to carry tissue/Kleenex. There are so many toilets in the world where they run out of toilet paper. This happens more often than you could imagine.
11. Learn a few words in the native tongue of where you are traveling. The locals always appreciate the attempt, and you might even get better service at restaurants just by trying to speak a few words. At least know how to say hello and thank you.
12. Make sure you carry adapters for your phone, camera, laptop, extra batteries, memory cards and whatever electronic devices and accessories you need with you. Trust me as it’s a pain in the ass to look for a place to buy this when you don’t speak the language and English is rarely spoken. This happened to me in Turkey where I accidently erased ALL my photos and I had to look for a new memory card! I was not happy. Again, more time is wasted instead of sight seeing or having fun.
13. Know the tipping standards for the country that you are visiting. Different cultures have different standards so it’s best to know ahead of time.
14. Make sure you know the proper dress code of the places you will visit. It would be a shame if you were not allowed in to a place because you are not dressed properly. Be mindful of different cultures.
15. Make sure you research the proper etiquette of your destination. Respecting the customs of the country that you are visiting will protect you from embarrassing faux pas, perhaps leaving a bad memory about your trip.
I hope the above tips help you, dear traveler, with planning your international travels. If you haven’t taken a trip abroad yet, I encourage you to put a new stamp on your passport! It will allow you to see just how beautiful and fascinating our world is. It will open up your mind to new cultures, new foods, new experiences, as well as a new way of seeing this amazing world. Happy Travels…