This is a list of how to be a smart traveler; not be naive or make stupid mistakes when travelling. This is not directed specifically at white females but more at the mistakes we make that are associated with the stereotype of our messed up society that white girls are ‘unintelligent.’ In saying that some of my bravest and most confident travelling friends are female solo travelers, so this is for EVERYONE, and it is to HELP, not to insult. If you’re travelling anywhere these are worth the read!
1. Don’t Shout Tourist – literally or figuratively
Growing up I was always told that as a Canadian, my country is so loved that scattering Canadian signs and symbols across my luggage and body would only make people treat me better when travelling, but that is not always the case. If you are simply travelling to explore the country and adventure in a new place my best advice is to blend. The more attention you bring to yourself the more people are attracted to you, and being a tourist they will assume you have money, and that it is on your person. Not only for safety though, if you dress to your own culture it may be very disrespectful in theirs and you will not be treated as well.
2. Research the area you are Travelling to
To some it may come to a surprise that laws and way of life can be insanely different from country to country. Before travelling you need to do some research. Start with the little things like which wall plugs they use so you can buy the appropriate adapters and checking the weather for the specific season you’re going so you can pack appropriately. If you’re going to be driving make sure to look up road rules and road signs and their meanings. Also take a bit to look up laws you should know, some countries may take J-walking a lot more seriously or little things that your country doesn’t seem to mind. Australia, for example, has HUGE fines for speeding and speed cameras all over. Wish I knew that earlier.
3. Check on your Health
Nobody wants a medical emergency while travelling. Medical insurance is a nightmare to deal with and often you are paying everything up front just to hope that you get some of it back later. Moreover, many countries have bacteria and virus’ that other countries may not have therefore visitors may need vaccinations to protect themselves from such. Hepatitis A is a big one for travelling Canadians, however it is good to note once you have it, you’re good for most other travels to less developed countries. If you’re going to India, Africa, South America etc you will have many more and be sure to give yourself a good amount of time as some need booster shots in upcoming weeks before you go.
4. Research Currency and Prices
Almost every country has a different currency and will NOT accept your home country cash. Look into the currency of the country you’re travelling to and look up the best way to get cash in that currency. Currency exchanges in your current country will carry most currencies but may need to order it in so make sure to check on this. Compare fees from the bank and currency exchange or look if its better to get in when you arrive in the country as the airport will always have a currency exchange. Once you get your cash, differentiate the coins and bills as this can be important to make sure you’re getting the correct change when paying for things. Know the exchange rate. As you walk around you will start to get an idea on how much things cost in the country you are travelling in however you should know what that is in your own currency as well. If there is a standard fee on fruit or bread you may simply assume its reasonable however that is not always the case. When traveling to Czech Republic we found that most of the fruit and vegetables were outrageously priced, however we could have a steak dinner for cheap. We could then eat accordingly to our budget. Looking up the average prices of meals, activities, transport etc this will help you to plan your budget and not get ripped off.
5. Connect with other Travelers
If you are staying in hostels then this will be very easy as expats both run and stay there and will be filled with information, and generally pretty happy to share where they’ve been. Someone with experience in the area as a traveler will know the exact ways people have tried, or succeeded to scam them, and how you can avoid it. They will also have visited some of the tourist destinations and hopefully will have input on the ones worth checking out or perhaps suggest one’s you have not thought of yet. For people not staying in hostels, you can try to connect with people by simply listening for your language. If you’re in a country that does not primarily speak English, generally when you hear English you can assume they are a traveler – even if they’re not they are someone you can speak with to get tips or help.
6. Know where you are
While this may seem like a given, it is easy to get lost in a place you’re unfamiliar with and lacks English. This expands to when you go on tours or excursions, ensuring you know whether you’ve gone north or south, how far out of the city you’ve gone and which direction you take to get back. Buying a paper map is a good idea, and there is a phenomenal app called maps.me where you can download a country/area and it will guide you with it even when you don’t have service or internet. Phones die though, so paper map on top of that is your safest way. Most phones do have a built in map and if you put in your desired location and click GO while in wifi the little man (‘your location’ dot) will follow you and guide you to your destination. Do note this isn’t the most reliable thing as the lag between where you are and where you were can sometimes have you walking in circles – as I’ve learned the hard way. Take turns being the navigator so the pressure isn’t always on one person, and laugh about missed turns, don’t make it more stressful for your group.
7. Haggle – Try not to overpay
Most tourist areas will raise their prices to get the most from you. Try to stick to buying things from stores that have posted prices on things as you know you’re not being overcharged in them. In saying that sometimes the best stuff, for the cheapest prices are in the street shops and markets and don’t be afraid to check them out as lots of things are hand crafted and absolutely beautiful. You can be pretty sure, however, that these are the people that will attempt to overcharge you, but being quite desperate for your business they will almost always lower the price. Try to have a reasonable price in your head on what you want to pay for what and try to get it as close to that as you can. Be confident in what you want and what you’re willing to pay for it. If its the first price they throw at you and you’re happy with it then take it, other times you may have to walk away to get the best price. Even then some entrepreneurs know their product is worth more and therefore there has been many times that I’ve walked away, realized that was the lowest they would go, then returned because I really wanted the item – no harm in that either.
8. Be SMART with your money
Don’t keep all your cash in one giant wad that you flaunt every time you go to pay for something. Separate your cash into two or three piles, and keep them in safe places. When going out try to have one spot that you keep your “spend today” money and that is all that anyone else should see. I wear a money belt when travelling but that is not what I’ll take my daily money out of. Bringing a purse is perfectly fine, it looks more normal to carry one anyways, but watch for pickpockets in crowded tourist areas. Purses can be cut right off you without you noticing a thing. I am happy to say with all my travelling I have never had anything of value stolen or been put in any scary situation where someone is trying to take my money. I like to think that I’ve been more than just lucky and that due to my style of travelling I have not made myself an easy target.
9. Don’t Trust ANYONE
It’s not personal, it’s business. Often times when people scam you or steal from you they aren’t meaning to put you out but rather they believe they need it more than you. We’ve probably all been there. Whether it’s stealing change from your parents dresser or a pencil from a friend because you forgot yours, you don’t want to put them out you simply want to have it for your own advantage. Don’t make yourself an easy target. Hostels specifically can feel so friendly and welcoming that you may feel as though you don’t need to lock up your bags or your things but this is not the case. Travelers are sometimes the most desperate of all people and if you leave things lying around that they need, even the kindest of people will take advantage of the opportunity to help themselves. Help each other out and adventure far and wide, but don’t leave money lying around, don’t leave bags or purses unattended and don’t trust people to pay you back later or return things you lend them when travelling. You don’t know these people, you don’t know where they live or how to follow up if they don’t return. People do things when travelling that they would never have the guts to do at home. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the saying What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas that people are consistently changing around to suit their current trip. While this has many – not so appealing – implications, people aren’t necessarily the same people when they’re travelling, and desperate people especially will think of themselves before you, can you really blame them?
10. Know what you want from the Trip
Travel with purpose. You are doing it, whether you’ve examined it or not, no one books a trip for no reason, throws money to the world for the fun of it. Take a look at why you’ve made your decision to travel to this specific place. For many it is simply to relieve their stress – get away from the 9-5 lifestyle for a minute. Others are on a self journey to find themselves, or forget someone else. Maybe you simply thrive from the adrenaline and excitement of seeing things that others haven’t. Take a minute to know why you’re travelling and keep that with you during the trip so that you achieve it! Things will go wrong in trips, no trip goes exactly as planned – but if you’ve achieved your goal of the trip, then you’ll forget everything that went wrong and it will be worth every penny you spent.
Why do you Travel?
Share with me the reasons you want to travel, and/or where you want to go! I would love to hear from you all!