Even the most world renowned travelers can have a slip up when it comes to etiquette or safety. The slightest hiccup could have detrimental consequences and ruin your entire trip, even if you’re really careful. But how do you prevent being offensive or disrespectful, even when you don’t want to? Remember that what may seem natural or “the norm” in your country may be frowned upon or even illegal in another! To be on the safe side, though, I created a list of things every smart traveler should keep handy when traveling abroad. It will not only keep you safe, it may also help you enjoy your trip 100%.
Be Mindful Of The Region
There’s crime everywhere, so wherever you go, whatever you do, keep an eye out for danger. Even though you went to Buenos Aires, or Rio de Janeiro to relax, you can’t forget that crime exists everywhere around the world. There are a lot of locals who will target travelers specifically and try to scam them or rob them at gun or knife point. So never assume that you’re safe from crime just because you’re in another country and you’re on vacations.
A Photo Is Worth A Thousand Words
Take pictures of the license plate of your cab and send it to a friend. Take photos and post them on Instagram when you’re out and about. If someone kidnaps you, your friends and family will know where to tell authorities to search, starting from the last place you were seen alive. If you don’t want to expose your adventures online, contact a friend via private message. Now you can enjoy that piña colada!
Be Respectful Of Others
Be very careful about getting into a discussion on politics or ethnic relations with the locals. For example, in Argentina, the Falkland War is still a touchy subject, and since they still consider the islands to be theirs, you’re better off calling it that, or better yet, avoiding the subject altogether. Same thing happens in India, or China, where you might accidentally offend someone unless you’ve lived there for a pretty long time.
Let Loved Ones Know Where You’re Going
Think of it as recording a flight plan before you pilot a small plane. If you go hiking somewhere where there’s no signal, you’ll have no way of getting help to your location, should you mess up or go the wrong way. You probably saw hundreds of hikers get lost, with their family members and local police searching every inch of the mountains or woods, just because they ventured off and didn’t bother to tell anyone. So let loved ones know where you’re going so they can organize a search party to find you quicker if something happens to you.
Don’t Get Ripped Off
Some countries, like Peru, don’t have taxis with meters, so they agree on a fare before they start driving. Make sure to ask one of the locals what the best rate is and then try to haggle with the driver so you don’t end up getting ripped off. To save yourself some headaches, consider using a trusted registered taxis provider instead. In other countries, however, the norm is to settle for a price, and then the cabbie backs off at the very end, charging you double. Use the meter whenever it’s available.
Be Careful About PDA
In countries like Thailand, PDA is a sign of disrespect. You can’t even touch anyone’s head or pass anything from above the head because it is considered a sacred body part. You would need to understand the laws and religion before showing any PDA otherwise you might end up in jail. And that’s no way to end a vacation, right?
Just Go With The Flow
In foreign countries, like Mexico, and Argentina, visitors will be subject of mocking, ridicule, insult, and being put down on a regular basis. But as hurtful as it might seem, they’re just doing it for fun or to get a rise out of you. It’s their sense of humor! So just go with it and laugh it off like it’s nothing, and be careful about returning the courtesy or you might wind up offending the locals. Take your time to hang out a bit first and then, let them have it! (in a fun and innocent way, of course!)
Make Sure You Dress The Part
Blending in with the locals is as easy as dressing like them. For example, in Rio, wear flip flops and a t-shirt. Thieves can smell a foreigner a mile away if they’re dressed too flashy. In more conservative/religious countries, certain clothing etiquettes can make you stick out or offend, especially if you’re a woman. So check before you dress.
Careful With The Gestures
In countries like Turkey, and other countries, the “okay” gesture doesn’t translate to everything being alright. It’s actually considered something very crude, sexual and offensive, which could lead to issues with the locals. In Turkey, some of the consequences could be more serious, given that it suggests you’re calling someone a homosexual.
Careful Where You Scratch
If you’re visiting Italy, and you’ve got an itch underneath your chin, avoid scratching it in public, or if you do, avoid looking at someone while you’re doing it. Otherwise, you’re basically telling a perfect stranger to go scr*w themselves.