So based on the chain of unfortunate events I seem to attract in my travels (literally all over my blog), I decided to share 10 of my precious tips. Some you probably already know, but I’d like to do my small part in fighting crime (common tourist mistakes that is). This mainly pertains to solo travelers, couple travelling and family travelling works differently, stay tuned for those lists (once I figure those out).
Obviously there will be variations depending on where you travel, and there are many blogs that tell you the standard what to pack, vaccinations, etc. This is more about the off-beat things usually people don’t think about – some of them are controversial, but I’ll leave that up to your comments:
- Take on a persona (if you have to): Know the country you’re going to, the audience there and what nationalities they like or hate. If you fall under the latter choose to act as if you are from the ones they like (usually Canada, Australia, or Scandinavia). Have a persona ready (what city you’re from, what you do, what it’s like to be there) so that you’re not caught in the lie and you’ll end up being more welcome.
- Assume no Wi-Fi: print hard copies of directions, bookings, Wikipedia or Wikitravel info, etc. Depending on where you go and the accommodation you invest in, worth assuming the worst case scenario of no Wi-Fi.
- Don’t look like a tourist: As very tempting as it is, try to avoid bringing a DSLR camera (I know you invested so much money exactly for the purpose of travel, but it’s a dead giveaway – reserve it for nature visits rather than city photos which are better taken by phone cameras), your fanny pack should stay home (this applies to life and fashion sense in general), and wearing your freshly pressed Polo shirts should be second guessed. Look at pictures of how people dress there and try to dress the same. If facial hair is popular, consider having a 5 o’clock shadow to blend in. Sunglasses and caps are also a dead giveaway – see if it is common or not. Flip flops in Asia but not Europe.
- Split your cash all over: your socks, your luggage, your hand bag, pant pocket, etc. The more you split the money the more secure it is and less likely you are to loose it.
- Have a fake wallet: a cheap one with some random cards and a few coins – when the time comes you’ll thank me. It’ll convincingly get rid of any muggers and if you have a few bucks you can pull it out to show people how low on money you are if they bug you for “donations”.
- Be cynical, but act naïve: be on your guard but act innocent, mentally prepare for the worse but don’t be aggressive with the locals and act as friendly as you can (without walking to empty dark alleyways).
- Stick to local crowds: not tourists, locals! Strength in numbers and you’ll blend better away from the tourist herd.
- Orient yourself at restaurants: Ask for direction and orientation from restaurants and cafes (preferably owners, waiters are cool too); never from gas station guys, food stalls, or random strangers. Makes you stand out less and unlikely to be targeted by others.
- “No Money” never works: if you have people (and kids) hounding you to buy or give money, best thing to do as not to even answer, look at them blankly but don’t talk. As soon as you talk they will hound you more. If they speak in a language you know, make up your own language and talk back to them, talk gibberish if you have to while you walk away (with a smile). Never say “I have no money”; that will just prolong the agony.
- Always carry a pen on the plane and in your pocket: you’ll need it to fill out endless visa forms at the airport and sometime on the plane. Fighting for pens at the passport/customs area is horrible, they never have enough and sometimes they don’t work, you’ll be wasting your time begging others for it.