Misc Travel Tips

These pages (see other travel articles by Lance Chambers) have covered quite a lot of travel tips but no structured system of chapters can cover everything. So we have had to resort to a Misc. section to cover those items that are not amenable to separation into sections.Tipping is expected in some countries and not in others. Find out what is expected. In the USA for example the tip is often included in the bill, in others you are expected to offer a tip in cash or add it to the bill yourself and in still others people may be slightly offended (this does not often happen though). Often, where tipping is expected, you will discover that 15% is normal but that not always easy to calculate. We believe that 10% will always be acceptable and is far easier to work out – all you have to do is shift the decimal point one space to the left (eg $11.55 becomes $1.15). However, sometimes it’s not easy to pay those little bits and pieces like $0.15 so round the amount up to the next set of currency you have so $1.15 may become $1.50 if you have the right change. Be aware that in the poorer countries wages can be so low that it is the tips that allow someone to feed their family so please don’t be tight! You can afford it and the really need it.Electronic bits and pieces can be a real problem in some countries. Plugs can differ, voltages are all over the place (the EU was supposed to standardize on 220v but the reality is that it can range from a high of 240 in the UK to a low of 125 in some older buildings in Europe – do NOT plug a 220v appliance into 125v it can be dangerous. A 220v appliance is okay in 240v) and camera batteries can be hard to find.Plugs can be different around the world and therefore you may need to buy an adaptor before you leave home. Do not expect to be able to buy the correct adapter once you have left as each country only stocks plug that plug their electronic gear into sockets of other countries not other countries into their sockets. You may also need to make sure you have a transformer or, more likely today, equipement that can handle all the different voltage ranges.Buying DVD’s can be a problem overseas because different countries use different codexes – in other words the USA uses NTSC as a coding mechanism for video but others use PAL or SECAM and you may need the rightly coded DVD before it will play back home. Check your player before you go so you know what it will or won’t play just to be safe. There is also the ‘zones’ problem. DVD’s can be ‘coded’ to play on machines that have been set up with a particular regional zone and they will not play on players that have been set up with a different zone. So you may need to check which zone your machine has been set to. This is not so much of a problem these days as many players are now sold with ‘all zones’ as a default.Digital cameras are really the way to go when traveling unless you’re professional photographer and then you know exactly what you need to do and need no advice from us. Firstly make sure you use lithium batteries as the alkaline ones won’t last very long. Take a spare set of batteries with you and a recharger. Buy the largest memory module you can afford and have a spare (use the one that came with the camera, which is usually rather small, as your backup). To be safe burn your pics onto CD at every opportunity or take a hard-drive backup system with you.Keep in touch It is important to your loved ones and probably to you as well that you keep in touch. Your friends and relatives want to know you’re okay and what’s happening and we’re sure you want to tell everyone how everything is going. The easiest way to do that is to:
set up a free e-mail account with Hotmail, Yahoo ww.yahoo.com or Lycos. If you have never done this before it’s very easy. These sites will all need a few details and that’s it – nothing personal. We suggest you try it out for a few weeks before you head off overseas just so you know how to make it all work. Once you are on your trip you will need access to a computer to use your e-mail account and you will find available machines everywhere (even in the remotest parts of the 3rd world).
If you already have an e-mail account you can often access it from overseas. Ask your ISP if they have a web-based e-mail service. If they do then you can send and receive e-mails from anywhere in the world via your regular e-mail account.
Bargaining can be an art form but it can also be cruel and un-necessary. If buying a diamond ring in Milan then bargain for all you are worth but when in countries like India and Egypt it can be forcing someones child to do without an evening meal. Do not use your wealth and position to destroy us it to help. A few pennies is nothing to you but can mean a lot to some.Litter can be a real problem in some places. When you’re in towns and cities it’s easy to get rid of your garbage – it goes in the bin. But in some other places such as in the middle of a bush walk or climbing to Mount Everest base-camp you need to take your garbage with you and get rid of it in a proper manner.Stay on marked tracks if in wild or remote areas. Getting lost can be dangerous! In other areas such as national parks the tracks are often laid down because people walking all over the place can destroy what those people have come to see. Hardian’s Wall in the north of England is being destroyed by hikers walking on the wall itself – a monument to Rome that has survived for over 1400 years is being destroyed by those who love it – don’t join their ranks – please.Plant or animal items should not be taken out of countries unless you are sure it’s legal. They are often protected by law and may not be allowed into your own country either because of quarantine laws. You could end up in a foreign prison for a long time – drugs are not the only contrabands around.If you need to go to the toilet and there are no public conveniences make sure you dig a hole at least 15 cms (6 inches) deep and then cover it over once you have finished. Do NOT defecate or urinate into a lake or river, or even near one, as often this is a source of drinking or bathing water and the spread of disease this way can be fatal.Eat well (lots of greens and carbs). It is safe to eat what the locals eat in ‘unhygenic’ countries as long as it is HOT (temperature hot – if it’s steaming then it’s safe). Beware of food that is washed or wet as sometimes the water supply can be contaminated. If you’re worried wash the food yourself with bottled water which is safe and can be found anywhere in the world today.A hospital stay can really ruin your holiday. Not only could it mean that all your flight and tour connections are useless but your hotel bookings are probably all gone as well and the festivals have finished and you’ll have to try and get to them next year if you have the time and money. But that’s not the worst of it. You could, in some countries without a public health system, be up for significant costs and if you have to be repatriated home then there is the cost of that as well and it’s NOT cheap. There is also the problem that in some countries even if there is a public health system a requirement that your family bring in your food and see to your comfort – how you do that when your nearest family member is 5,000 miles away? The best you can do is either beg your room partners (in many hospitals you will not find private rooms but rather large wards filled with patients) family to look after you as well or pay a local to feed you and clean your clothes. Also sometimes the food you’re offered in foreign hospitals can look strange to say the least – ‘Green slime on dog droppings’ has been one description we’ve heard.Rest can be critical when traveling. Make sure you can get a good nights sleep and maybe take opportunities to relax during the day – sit down and have a break. Take a good book with you. Many a long train or bus trip needs a book to pass the time and there are always those dreary wet rainy days when you just can’t get out. Take a book that you KNOW you will want to read.In non-native speaking countries it can be very frustrating trying to communicate. But if you speak one of the worlds major languages it should not to be to difficult to find someone to help. But always be aware that finding someone who speaks your language is a privilege and not a right! Do NOT get angry, wave your arms around, speak loudly, be arrogant or rude if people cannot communicate in your language – after all you obviously can’t speak theirs otherwise they wouldn’t be a problem.Depressing days will come. There will be times you just want to Go Home! Don’t panic it happens to us all at times. Try to work out what’s going on. Maybe this is your first birthday away from home, it’s New Years Day and you’re stuck in the middle of a monsoon with rain running down your back inside your clothes. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed because you haven’t heard a word in your own language for three weeks – read something, anything, in your own language. That will help a lot in these situations – or what about that book we suggested you take along?Myths
eggs are safe because they are protected by their shell – false – eggs can carry disease
skinned fruit like bananas and oranges are safe to eat – true – once you skin them
Because I’m a Westerner/Rich/Intelligent/Educated I will be respected – false – how would you like a foreigner coming into your country and telling you you’re wrong
I have money and so can do what I want – false – money does not mean you are invulnerable
I know better than the people I’m visiting – false – you are simply different not better
I don’t need a visa to go to ### – false – you may so check
I have to be careful because I am a Westerner/Rich/Educated – false – just take as much care overseas as you would back home; unless you live in a crime free area where everyone is wonderful
I’ll be safe – false – there are many unsafe situations even if we forget about crime such as illness or injury. Take out travel insurance. The cost of getting flown home from China or Tanzania because you have a crushed leg could cost you 10′s of thousands.
Traveling with friends will be better than traveling alone – false – it can become a nightmare. Habits you find cute back home can become insurmountably irritating after a couple of weeks. If you find yourself in this situation make sure you get some time to yourself.

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