You’ve booked your next trip, and you can’t wait to get on the road (or in the air) and experience a whole new place… but before you leave, there are a few things that you should be aware of. The best travelers know how to explore the world without offending any locals, getting into trouble, or finding themselves out of pocket or super-stressed when things go wrong. Those are the ones that you will never see red-faced and freaking out over the budget, discovering that they don’t have everything they need, or getting upset when they learn that not every iconic landmark looks exactly the way it does on Instagram.
Whether it’s a practical consideration like making sure that you have the right visas and vaccines, or knowing the kinds of behaviors that are going to get you into all kinds of trouble, these twenty things are definite issues when visiting somewhere new. Thankfully, most of them are straightforward, and just take a little bit of planning and research - which is something that most travelers are excited about doing before they head out to see the world. Even if you have been traveling for years and have plenty of miles under your belt, some of these might surprise you.
20 Try To Put On The Local Accent
Everybody loves to hear new and unfamiliar accents, and it can be tempting to try and emulate the local people yourself, but stick to your normal speaking voice (at least in public). Although you might find it charming and funny, the local people are going to be gritting their teeth as they listen. They’ve probably heard it a thousand times before, especially in very touristy places, and in the worst case scenario you may find yourself facing down someone who finds it actually offensive, not just annoying.
19 Expect To Get Perfect, Tourist-Free IG Photos
Everyone has seen amazing photos on Instagram that show some of the most iconic monuments in the world without a single tourist in sight, or gorgeous unspoilt views that make it seem as though the person taking the photo was there all alone… but if you expect to be able to take these photos yourself, you may be disappointed. Most major tourist sites are swarming with people, and the chances of getting a shot of yourself alone in front of the Taj Mahal are slim to none. You can try to go at quiet times, of course, but the chances are that you’ll be photoshopping other people out to get that Insta-worthy image.
18 Plan Every Second Of Your Trip
With so much to see and do everywhere you want to go, it’s tempting to get carried away with travel guides and start to plan out every second of your trip from the moment you land to the moment that you leave again. However, doing this means robbing yourself of the chance to stray from the beaten path, take friendly locals up on their recommendations, and generally go with the flow - which is usually a much better way to get a great travel experience. Pick one or two things that are absolute must-sees, and then figure out the rest day by day.
17 Forget To Learn Any Of The Local Language
Although it’s increasingly common to meet people all over the world who speak English - at least well enough to communicate your basic needs while traveling - it’s still a good idea to look up a few key phrases and words in the local language before you land in a new country. Learning how to say a few things will not only help you out when you meet someone who doesn’t know any English, it will also endear the locals to you - it shows consideration and genuine interest in the local culture, and that will be appreciated the world over.
16 Expect To Use A Credit Card For Every Purchase
Like finding locals who speak English, it’s increasingly easy to find places all over the world that will be happy to accept your credit card - but don’t use this as an excuse to rely on plastic for your entire trip. While bars, restaurants, hotels and major tourist attractions will usually take a card, most smaller vendors are still cash-only. That means buying street food and souvenirs, shopping at independent retailers, taxis, and a whole lot more is going to be impossible unless you have some local currency. Having cash is also useful in case there is an issue with a credit card machine, or with your own card!
15 Pack Too Much
Packing light is a serious skill, but it’s one that is definitely worth developing. Not only does this save you some money and time at the airport (especially when more and more airlines are charging for checked bags) but it means not having to lug a lot of heavy bags around as you move from place to place. Pack what you need for each day of travel - and be realistic about how much you are actually going to wear and use. Chances are you aren’t going to be dressing up for dinner every night, or wearing multiple different outfits each day, unless you happen to be traveling to fashion week!
14 Assume That Hotels Are The Best Choice
When picking a place to stay, expand your search beyond the big hotel chains, and you may find somewhere truly unique to rest your head. Airbnbs can be a great option, whether you are taking a room in someone’s home (and getting their recommendations on the best places to go), or choose to have a whole place to yourself (and saving money on eating out by using their kitchen). Hostels aren’t just for backpackers, either - there are some phenomenal hostels for all ages, and plenty of them are as luxurious as cheaper hotels.
13 Avoid Public Transit
It can be tempting to take taxis everywhere you go when you are in an unfamiliar place, but don’t write off public transit entirely. Not only is taking the local means of transportation going to save you money (and sometimes a lot of money, because taxis are usually overpriced, especially when the fare is clearly a tourist), but it is also going to give you a much better sense of the place you are visiting. Wrapping your head around bus routes and subway systems means that you’ll leave feeling like you know the city, and you didn’t just go from hotel to landmark and back again.
12 Get Caught Out By Roaming Fees
Make sure to check out your phone plan before you leave home, and see if the roaming charges are going to be worth it. Some phone plans offer a per-day roaming charge for specific countries that can be worth it, but others may end up sticking you with a huge bill at the end of the trip. Turn your phone to airplane mode while away, and rely on wifi instead of data - something that is, thankfully, widely available in big cities and accommodation all over the world. If you do decide to swallow the roaming charges, at least you’ll know ahead of time what the cost will be.
11 Skip Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a must-buy when traveling, even if everyone hopes that they aren’t going to have to use it. Very little ruins a vacation more than an injury, but they do happen - especially to more adventurous travelers who like to try activities like hiking, mountain biking, watersports or even things like bungee jumping or skydiving. Dealing with a foreign hospital is stressful enough - don’t add to that by skipping travel insurance and dealing with a massive bill on top of a trip to the emergency department. Fork out for the extra cost, or check if your credit card provider offers it as a perk for free.
10 Exchange Currency At The Airport
The airport is probably the worst place that you can try to pick up some foreign currency - with the exchanges here charging huge margins on every transaction. Remember to pick up some cash at your bank before setting out on your next trip, or if you forget, wait until you get into the city. Every major city will have currency exchanges, and ninety-nine percent of the time, their rates are going to be better than the ones you’ll find in the terminal. This is definitely a situation where the convenience is not worth the extra cost.
9 Indulge In Animal Tourism
We’ve all seen those photos on social media, of a smiling traveler sitting astride an elephant in the jungle or stroking a relaxed-looking tiger. However, animal tourism often has a dark side. If you want to see exotic animals in the wild, look into reputable safari companies, nature preserves, and areas where tourist revenue is used to help support the ecosystem and the animals that live in it. It probably means you won’t get to pet a lion, but it’s also guilt-free.
8 Drink The Tap Water
Although you may be used to filling up your water glass from the tap at home, don’t assume that the tap water is potable everywhere else in the world. Before you leave, look at whether the local water will be safe to drink - or whether drinking it means risking a few days in a hotel room with an upset stomach. If it’s not safe to drink, be careful of the ice in drinks, as well - often, this will be made with the local tap water, and come with all the same dangers as just drinking the stuff.
7 Try And Take The Landmarks Home
This may seem obvious, but every year major landmarks are defaced by tourists who want to take a little piece home with them. Chipping pieces of rock from iconic attractions, taking home shells or other pieces from the beach… it may seem like the perfect souvenir, but if everyone did it, there would soon be nothing left! Similarly, don’t be one of those visitors who feels the need to carve their name into the walls at famous spots, or otherwise deface iconic spaces. Take a photo of yourself in front of wherever you are and leave it at that.
6 Forget About Visas And Vaccines
It’s easy to get so excited about your next trip, but don’t forget to deal with the practicalities. Leave yourself enough time to get the appropriate visa, and make sure that you check how long you are allowed to visit a new country as a tourist, especially if you are planning a particularly long trip. It’s usually possible to get a tourist visa on arrival at the airport, but you may need cash to do so, or even need to apply for a visa in advance. Many countries also recommend specific vaccines, so give yourself enough time to go to the doctor and keep yourself safe.
5 Dress Inappropriately
Cultural norms when it comes to clothing vary from country to country, and even when it’s hot, it may not be appropriate to wear shorts and a tank top. Avoid offending people by making sure that you have clothing that is appropriate for the local culture as well as the weather at your destination. If you want to visit religious sites in particular, be prepared to cover up (especially for female travelers), as many sites will not allow visitors to enter if they are showing too much skin. Save the skimpy clothing for the beach!
4 Try To See Everything
Over-scheduling, like planning every minute of your trip, is a sure-fire way to get stressed out on your travels. Although you may want to see absolutely every major attraction on your next vacation, be realistic about the time that you have, and how long it will take to see everything - and to travel between attractions. It’s far more enjoyable to have a relaxed and in-depth stroll around an iconic destination than to race from spot to spot, taking the bare minimum amount of time to glance at a space, rather than really experience it.
3 Stay Glued To Your Phone
Carrying a smartphone with you might mean that you have the opportunity to snap photos, check the map, and do a little research on where you are going next, but don’t get so absorbed in your screen that you forget to really look around at the place you are visiting! Put your phone away once you have taken that perfect picture and just soak in the experience, or even consider leaving it at the place where you are staying. And it should go without saying, but don’t even think about checking e-mails or working when you are on vacation - it’s supposed to be a chance to relax!
Like not defacing monuments, this one should go without saying. The best approach to take when traveling is to leave the places you visit as clean (or even cleaner) as they were when you arrived - clear up after picnics, don’t toss your trash, and show some respect for wherever you are. Even if you notice others just dropping their garbage on the ground, that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for you to do so - and most tourist sites are well-prepared with plenty of garbage cans, so there’s no excuse.
1 Expect Everything To Go As Planned
Finally, one of the cardinal rules of travel is to expect the unexpected! Things will undoubtedly go awry at some point; a tourist attraction may be closed, your flights may be delayed, or something totally unexpected might happen. True travelers know to go with the flow, and shrug off any mishaps with a smile. Getting frustrated doesn’t help anyone - and it’s certainly not going to make things easier! Planning ahead may be a great way to make the most of your travels, but don’t get so attached to the plan that you can’t just enjoy the ride.