When traveling abroad to a foreign city, there's a lot we might not know about its traditions. We know it can be quite daunting. We buy those heavy travel books but never get around to reading them. And we fail to do some research online to get a sense of the culture of the places and landmarks we plan on visiting. Which is why we don't know that we need to take our shoes off while visiting a temple in Asia. If we had done just an inkling of research, like familiarizing ourselves with the native language that allows us to carry a conversation with the locals, we wouldn't be so tongue tied or afraid when we attempt to ask them for directions. We're not saying you need to learn a whole new language; we're just saying you should know a few phrases or words to ask basic questions.
But above all, when we travel abroad, we do things that we don't want to admit because of our budget, because we're too lazy, or because it takes us out of our comfort zone. We dress like a tourist because we don't know better. We don't eat authentic food and instead go to famous fast food joints because they're familiar to us and they remind us of home.
What things have you done abroad that you don't want to admit? Travelling is always a learning curve. For every issue we do right, there's an issue that we do wrong. If you want to know how to not look like a tourist, or if you want to read about what essential things you should've brought with you while abroad, this list of 25 things travelers do will be right up your alley.
25 Looking Like a Tourist
One thing we do abroad that we don't want to admit is looking like a tourist. When you are in a foreign country, you need to blend in. Instead, a lot of us break out their silly tourist hats, a sweatshirt showing off our favorite US team and loud T-shirts. We wear our cameras around our neck and our fanny packs over our belts to carry our money. You should never dress like this, according to Mobal. For example, in Fiji, men wear dresses. You should copy them. Natives are going to be more receptive to those that are like them, "so mimicking the local fashion isn’t a bad idea," according to Houstonia. And besides, you're just a mark for petty thieves who target tourists to steal their money.
24 Not Learning The Language
Here's a thing we do that we don't want to admit: we don't learn the local language. Mostly, it's because we're too busy or just lazy. But we're not talking about being fluent. We're talking about knowing a few words and phrases that will help you, according to the New York Times. You should know how to say things, "Thank you," "Please," "Goodbye," etc. According to The Wandering Linguist, you'll get to know the natives better when speaking their own language. They'll be more receptive and talk to you more even if it's just asking for directions.
23 Staying At A Cheap Hotel
Here's a thing we do abroad that we don't want anyone to know. It's staying at a budget or cheap hotel. There are many reasons why you should stay at a slightly more expensive hotel. One reason, according to Moma Africa, is for your safety. Most cheap hotels have no or low security to protect you from unseen harms and dangers. Also, your hotel may be off the central city and strip and be in the middle of nowhere. If you book a central hotel, your life just became easier, as Travel + Leisure said. You don't have to spend money on cabs or public transportation because everything important will be near you.
22 Not Bringing A Surge Protector
We do this a lot: we forget to bring power strip surge protectors. And mostly we get away with it. Like, while waiting for your plane, you opt out of charging all your devices. But you should always bring a power strip while traveling. Often, it's hard to find a free outlet at the airport. And at your hotel, if you use your power strip, all your devices will be together so that you don't miss a charge plug by accident when leaving, according to Cheapism. By the way, Travel + Leisure recommends the Zolt.
21 Not Checking If Your Hotel Has A Concierge
We don't check beforehand if our hotel has a concierge. According to Oyster, you should always check because the people at the concierge desk might be the only people who can speak English fluently without you having to make a blunder by talking in the native tongue with broken diction and laughable accents. A concierge can help you find that off-the-beaten path restaurant that's not a tourist trap. They can help you plan your itinerary, and tell you the times when the tour buses appear outside the hotel.
20 Not Respecting The Local Culture
When visiting a foreign country, tourists often don't pay attention to customs and won't want to admit it because it will eventually make them look like, well, a tourist. According to Houstonia, always spend some time on the plane or in your hotel brushing up on a foreign city's culture, as well as their traditions and customs. This will help you immensely and can make or break a first impression. For example, in South Asia, it's rude not to remove your shoes when you enter a home or temple. In Russia, according to The Atlantic Monthly, the locals do not grin and look dour but that's only because it's just "not a skill Russians possess or feel compelled to cultivate."
19 Smiling Too Much
Why are you always smiling? This is why natives in foreign countries disdain Americans, and think of them as being crude because they're too friendly and outgoing. We don't want to admit it, but we do this a lot. But you need to know that, in some foreign countries, smiling is considered aggressive and rude. According to Budget Travel, most of us who go to Paris think the locals are rude because they look unfriendly. If you had brushed up on traveling in the City of Lights, you'd know they're just more physically reserved than we are. Parisians, especially when addressing a stranger, will rarely smile, and "this is often misinterpreted by Americans as that legendary. . . French rudeness."
18 Opting Out Of Traveler Health Insurance
The last time we went to Bangladesh, we all came home without encountering sicknesses or broken bones. So that's why we never buy travel health insurance when going abroad. But THI pays for expenses like emergency medical expenses, emergency room visits and so much more, according to IMG Global. You may think you're saving money by not buying medical coverage, but you could end up spending a lot more if you have an emergency while abroad. And you don't want that because medical assistance is very expensive in foreign countries, as Travel Insurance Review pointed out. Why risk it? THC is affordable. Some insurance plans can cost less than $3 per day.
17 Not Bringing Reading Material
Here's a thing we do that we don't want to admit. We don't bring a book. But a book is a necessity. When there are flight delays and you need something to keep you busy or entertained during those long waits, a book is your best bet. Maybe you don't have anything to do using your laptop. Or you downloaded movies and now you don't feel like watching them. When you finally get on a plane, you can't rely on the in-flight movie because it might be down or you already saw it. According to Self, "eReaders are great too, but you never have to worry about a book's battery dying." Tip: bring a few books in case you don't like one.
16 A Tote Bag Is An Essential, Not An Option
When we travel to a foreign place, we often go to outdoor markets or tiny cute shops to buy souvenirs. And where do you keep those souvenirs when you're out all day, walking a lot to get to various landmarks? You can't keep them all in the bag that the locals give you because it might rip. That's why you should bring a tote bag or a lightweight duffle bag, as Conde Nast Traveler suggested. If you have a sturdy canvas tote that's around 18 inches high, you'll be fine. L.L. Bean and Land's End sell canvas totes. They're relatively cheap, strong and you can get them monogrammed!
15 Failing To Use Public Transportation
We often take cabs when we leave our hotel to get to our destination. We don't want to admit that it's costing a lot and that it would be cheaper to take public transportation. The reason we don't is because we're scared we'll get lost. But according to The Invisible Tourist, the best way to travel is by bus, subway or train because they're all affordable. If you can, sit at the front, as you'll be in a better spot to ask the driver any questions you may have, as the WeHostel blog noted. And while you're at it, bring with you a city train or bus map that shows all the different routes, according to Travel Guard Worldwide.
14 Forgetting To Pack Essentials and Valuables In Carry-Ons
We don't want to admit that we don't pack correctly. Your carry-on, whether it's a large tote or a small luggage, should contain all the essentials and valuables you need. That includes all your your medicines, expensive jewelry, and items you need to pass the time on a long flight. According to Smarter Travel, these must-haves include headphones, laptops and a neck pillow, as well as many more. If you had put your valuables or electronic items in your checked bags, well, someone might steal your luggage. Airlines are known for low-level workers who rifle through your bags to score.
13 If Your Luggage Is Lost, Your Airline Will Spring For A New Toothbrush
So your luggage was lost when you arrive at your foreign destination. If that happens, don't fret. The airline will splurge and give you a toothbrush. Just kidding! They'll give you enough cash to buy essentials. But according to Bravo TV, that's not all: "When a passenger’s luggage is lost, most airlines will authorize them to purchase essential items and any necessary clothing. Passengers should always keep those receipts, because once the luggage is found, most airlines will reimburse the passenger for those purchases."
12 You Don't Know How To Rent A Car Properly
We all do it but won't admit it because it makes us look forgetful. Well, we are. We book a rental car but we just drive off without checking to see if there are any damages. That's very bad. When you return the car, the rental company may lie and say you made scratch marks on your rear end when you didn't. You may have to pay for any defects. That's why the most important thing you have to do is take pictures of the entire car to show as proof, as Cheapism suggests. You'll need a camera with a time and date stamp, and this safety measure will help you not lose your money.
11 You Visit Too Many Tourist Destinations
We all do this too. When we travel to Europe, we cram our vacation by hitting many cities to sightsee because airfare between European countries is relatively cheap. But we're making a huge mistake. You'll be rushed the whole time and you won't be able to enjoy the experience of each city. This will make you stressed out and exhausted. Instead, edit the "must visit" locations so you have enough time in each city to properly tour it. In other words, give yourself some time because this is not a race. Days in a City will help you learn how long you may want to spend in each destination.
10 Assuming Your Passport Is Valid Until It Expires
We believe that we can use our passport if it precedes the date of our flight home. But as Fodor's pointed out, if you're traveling to China, Russia and other countries, they require that your passport must be valid for six months past the date of your flight home. Also, 26 European nations require that your passport must be valid for three months past. Don't screw yourself. For passport help and rules, check out The Points Guy and read their "A Complete Guide to the Six-Month Passport-Validity Rule."
9 Not Calling Your Credit Cards To Tell Them Where You Are
This is what we do but won't admit because we didn't think of it. But you should make this a priority before you leave for some city abroad. It's calling our bank, debit cards and credit cards to let them know where we'll be. If you don't call, your cards will be denied. Your credit card will notice foreign activity and transactions and if they don't know of your whereabouts, they will protect you and freeze your cards, according to Forbes. You'll be on the phone on hold for a long time if only you had followed the rules.
8 You Don't Buy Travel Insurance
We don't want to admit that we don't buy travel insurance before we go abroad because it makes us look cheap. But that's precisely why we don't get it, because of the price. But according to Travel + Leisure, if you have travel insurance, most policies allow you to cancel or interrupt your trip for a covered reason. This includes "an injury or illness, a missed connection, or an unpredictable event that is an act of God." If just one of these things happens, you’ll be entitled to a reimbursement for costs that are usually not refundable like plane tickets.
7 Eating Near A Tourist Site
If you're looking for a restaurant, you should get recommendations from the locals or from the concierge in your hotel. That's because we tend to eat near major attractions, something we do because we don't know better and would never want to admit. A restaurant with close proximity to a major attraction is going to be double the price, according to Nomadic Matt. Your best bet is to eat in a local restaurant at least many blocks away from a tourist trap. The further away you are, "the more local, cheaper, and tastier the food will be."
6 Eating At Restaurants That You Can Find At Home
There's a reason why there's a McDonald's on the Champs-Élysées. Travelers tend to eat at places they are familiar with. Most times, it's a fast food restaurant like McDonald's. They eat there because that's where they eat back home because these chains make them feel comfortable, not a fish out of water, as it's often the case. But you'll be doing a disservice to your vacation. You want local fare and flair. As Conde Nast Traveler suggested, go to a restaurant where the food is foreign to you, and authentically made by locals. Then you'll have an experience to remember.
5 Booking Your Trip Too Early
We all think this is the right way until we realize it's not and that we got scammed. It's buying airline tickets. We believe buying tickets earlier than we need will get us a discount. But CheapAir found that tickets are about $50 more expensive when they first go on sale, compared to their eventual low point. And the Huffington Post suggests you do the three-month rule, which is booking 3 months before the trip because that time period is when airlines start to lower prices based on demand.
4 Thinking A Hotel Is A Waste Of Money
Travelers on a budget think a hotel is a waste of money.They do Airbnb or other kinds of house-sharing arrangements. But house swapping is risky because pictures don't reveal everything. And if you're using Airbnb, what if the heat is insufficient when it's cold outside? And are you willing to give up your privacy? A hotel acts as your home base. You use it to make plans, to lounge around after a long day of sightseeing, and to sleep in a comfortable bed. Not convinced? At Asher & Lyric, check out their article on 1,021 Airbnb horror stories.
3 Not Checking Beforehand If A Destination Is Closed
We do this but hate to admit it. We travel across the country, and we've allocated a single day to see a national park until we get there and find that it's closed. We don't think of checking first if it's open on the day we go. Your best bet, according to Cheapism, is to plan ahead by going online and finding the hours and days the attraction is open. Or just ask your concierge. It's not uncommon for major museums to shut down at least one day a week, for example.
2 You Don't Know When To Tip
In the US, it's customary to tip your waiter somewhere between 15 and 20 percent. But in some countries, it's not expected. We don't know this because we haven't brushed up on the culture. And so we waste money by tipping when it's not expected. You need to know tipping etiquette because in Asia, for example, leaving a tip can be seen as rude, according to Cheapism, So where don't you tip? According to Business Insider, you'll be able to save a few bucks by NOT tipping in the following countries. In China and French Polynesia you don't have to tip at all. In Japan, Hong Kong and Korea, tipping is uncalled for and may be seen as insulting. Besides, in these places the gratuity will be built into your bill. That's also true for Australia, Belgium, Brazil and Denmark.
1 You Fail To Bring An Extension Cord
You don't bring an extension cord while on an international trip because, like the umbrella and hand sanitizer, it's something so obvious that we often forget to pack it. But you'll be a happy camper if you bring the cord. Why? According to Self, depending on what type of hotel you're staying, it may be hard to find enough outlets. If you do find one, it's behind the nightstand or bed, some place that's out-of-reach. If you bring an extension cord, it will be easier to keep all your devices charged. Bonus points if you bring the aforementioned power strip surge protector. That way, everything is grounded and in one place.
Sources: The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Oyster.com, Cheapism, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Travel + Leisure, Forbes, The Points Guy, Smarter Travel,The Invisible Tourist, WeHostel, Travel Guard Worldwide