You have had the well-deserved trip all planned out, and after much waiting and anticipation, that long awaited trip is finally here. While holidaying, the last thing you want is being caught in a nasty unexpected situation that will ruin that happy memories. Here, we have piece together the top 10 travel tips that we practice to minimise such unpleasantness, and have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
1. If a deal is too good to be true, it isn’t true!
Let’s face it. There is no free meal in this world. If you are approached by an exceptionally friendly local offering fantastic tour packages, once-in-a-lifetime tour experiences, cheap or high-demand entrance tickets, cheap transports, even free drinks/meals etc, it is time to be on full alert! Many tourists have fallen victim to such scams. Why be the next victim? Your best reply is to gently reject the offer and walk away quickly.
2. Your helpfulness can be costly
One of the common method used to target tourist is to pound on our human kindness. When we see someone injured or who looks seemingly in trouble, our first instinct is to render our help. The moment you offer the “victim” your assistance, that’s when you become the real victim! In some countries, children were used by syndicates to lure innocent tourist into the trap.
Common helps like requesting for a tissue, holding a bag for him/her or asking for a direction etc provides the conman’s partner a window to pickpocket. In some worst cases, tourist might be lured into a nasty trap or knife-point robbery. Some tourist unknowingly turned themselves into criminals when they let a stranger tag-on their overweight luggage. That’s when they get themselves a free prison stay!
3. Be alert of your surrounding
While you happily immerse yourself in the new environment, it is important to remain alert of your surrounding.
Firstly, you do not want to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite knowing this, we do have our fair share of mistakes. Once, hubby accidentally strolled into a “no-go” zone in downtown San Francisco. Realising the change in atmosphere, he knew something was amiss and quickly retraced back to the main street.
On another occasion, in our eagerness to see the Arena in Pula, Croatia despite the night fall; we took a short cut. We reached the Arena faster than expected. However, there was no jubilation. The extremely dark surrounding and a rowdy group is a warning sign for danger. It was the fastest speed I had ever walked in my life. With 3 guys tailing behind us, we would have ran if not trying to look not-so-obvious of their presence.
Secondly, you do not want to be an easy target for pickpockets. During our trip to Italy, our friend was pickpocket at the square in front of the Milan Cathedral. She was too excited at the sight of this majestic cathedral and was busy snapping away with her camera.
4. Don’t act like a tourist
Well, this tip is easier said than done. No matter how much homework we have done, we can never be as familiar as the locals. It will be impossible if our skin colours differs from the locals. Nevertheless, we can always avoid acting like an ignorant tourist. Do your homework and be a smart and well-informed tourist. This way, you can avoid being a target.
5. Safeguard your belongings
One lesson we learnt during our numerous travels is to always carry an anti-theft bag and sling it across our shoulder. Okay, there isn’t a thing called an anti-theft bag. It is really a bag made of durable material that is more difficult to cut. Slinging our bags helps deter snatch thieves. However, to be really safe, it is best to sling your bag on your side that is away from the road. After all, you don’t want to risk being dragged along if the perpetrator is on motorbike.
If you think your bags are safe from theft in cafes, think again. In some countries that we had visited, even dining in cafes aren’t safe for our bags to be left on the seat next to us. It can be gone within seconds.
What about pickpockets? Slinging our bag doesn’t deter that. Well, we had a close shave in Lisboa and Rome. When someone stays really close to you, or when a group (including kids) crowd around you for no reason, it’s time to grab your bag close to your chest. Something is definitely not right.
6. Backup your digital photos
This tip may sound silly. Photos taken on our smart phones are instantly sync to our Cloud the moment our phones are connected. But, what about those photos we took on our camera? The most primitive way is to buy multiple SD cards to spread your risk. If this is too much of a hassle, you can pop by a photo shop and have them store your photos onto a CD. Alternatively, you can upload your photos to your Cloud at a cybercafe. Thanks to the advancement of technology, some cameras now come with the added feature of being able to transfer their content to a smart phone via Wifi.
7. Respect different cultures and customs
The countries that we visit may have very different cultures and customs compared to our home country. Some customs may seems unreasonable, ridiculous or superstitious. For example, no photo-taking is allowed in an Orthodox Church. And to visit a Buddhist temple, visitors are required to wear sleeved shirts and long pants. Prior to entering the temple hall, shoes must be removed.
Holidaying in a foreign country means appreciating its beauty, its food and its cultures of course. Thus, knowing these rules and being prepared for it prior to visiting will save you from unpleasant surprises or disappointment.
8. Change small notes from established shops
Often, we may not get small denomination notes from the money changer. Big denomination notes can be a chore while we are overseas. Imagine buying a $1 bus ticket with a $100 note!
We advice changing that big note into smaller ones at large supermarkets, if possible. Else, smaller well-known convenient store like 7-11 will work. We didn’t find a large supermarket or a 7-11 store on our first day in Macau and was conned. Check out how we got conned in Macau so that you may avoid it.
9. Know what you can bring home
During your holiday, you may come across exotic items or stuffs that you have never seen back home and would like to get them as souvenirs. Before parting your money for that prized souvenir, check that whatever that you intend to bring home is allowed to be brought into your home country. You don’t want those fond memories that you brought home to be spoilt by an ignorant choice of bringing an illegal souvenir back and get into trouble with the laws.
Here, I am going to mention two types of donation. One, the real thing; and the other with a pun. When holidaying in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, India or any countries in similar economic situation as these, a dollar there may mean pennies to a tourist back home. We have no qualms in giving when we were asked, especially and usually by a kid, for spare changes. You may think that you are just giving to a child, not a big deal. But the moment you gave out that dollar, you will be swarmed by the whole village asking for spare changes. Until you fulfill everyone, you will have a hard time leaving.
The second type of donation is really a bribery. During a trip to country I, we were asked for “passport stamping fee” by the custom officer. A friend refused to obliged and ended up having his luggage checked by custom officers for an hour. In country M, it is a known fact that negotiating for a “settlement fee” with the police to get off the hook is a common practice. We abhor such practices but as the saying goes “when in Rome, do as the Romans does”.