Having been to and worked in over 20 different countries I’ve found a few tricks and rules to make travelling much easier. Here are my top 5 in no particular order.
Always have a US $20 bill on you. Over any other fiat currency the US dollar (no matter how you feel about it) will get you out of trouble in any situation. I’ll give you two examples. Example #1, (this one is a double rule story*) I took a business trip to Taiwan for the Taipei Cycle Show. The company I was working with at the time failed to provide the correct information for my colleague and I resulting in our plane tickets not being issued.
Our flight was after 9pm and everything was closed. I had to purchase both, my colleague and my airline tickets using my card. (My colleague was ready to throw in the towel and go home, I couldn’t as I’d scheduled meetings for the next day)
After succesful payment and processing we made the flight being the last two people boarded on the plane. Upon arrival I had hoped we would be able to exchange our currency (Dirhams). Taiwan was like, “UHM, What’s a dirham?” So, that was a bust. We went to the taxi stand where upon I had to find any taxi that would accept only cards to get us to our hotel. (don’t rely upon airport WiFi or data) We found one and made our way.
Hungry and our hotel not being near anything, (Thank you company itinerary manager) I asked if we could exchange money at the hotel. Again, they were like, “Dirhams, what is this funny paper you hand me?” I then asked where the nearest bank machine was and they showed me a 7/11 looking ATM outside the lobby. Of course it didn’t accept my card as it wasn’t one on their system. It was then that I looked inside my Passport wallet and found a US $20 bill.
I looked at my colleague and exclaimed, “Aha, we can eat” went back to the lobby of our hotel and exchanged money for local currency.
Example #2; I was recently in Beirut, Lebanon. Its sunday, I’m staying at an Airbnb, (I prefer over hotels in most cases now) and I’m starving. I’d spent all my lebanese pounds on a taxi ride the previous night and figured i’d go to one of the many awesome cafe’s Beirut has to offer.
I was correct, great little place, quaint, filled with local artisans work, glass facade and light menu. After enjoying my meal and proceeding to pay. Their card machine did not work. Attempt after attempt it just wouldn’t take. Sincerely apologetic they offered me to come back, problem being I was leaving that afternoon and hunting down an atm to obtain a currency I don’t need and be hit with exchange fees wasn’t any interest. Out comes the US $’s.
Now I didn’t have to feel guilty, stip them nor leave any bad juju.
Download this app: Maps.me https://maps.me/ Often, even if you pre-pay for data or roaming it doesn’t always work. This is a walking application. Cheap only $3 a year of free with ads. People don’t always speak the same language even if you or they think they do. Maps.me isn’t the best map app I’ve ever used but it’s great to get you around on foot, when other, cough, cough, apps aren’t working or only work on data connections.
SMILE, don’t be an asshole. It amazes me how far I get with just an honest smile. It’s not hard for me when I arrive or visit a new place. I get excited like a little kid and that energy transfers. I’ve been interogated by border control officers, customs, military police before they look at me and I just show how excited I am to be there. I don’t know where I’m going, this stupid map showed me the way, etc. added with an ear to ear smile and WHAM. Doors open.
Eat local. Always. Please I beg of you, stay away from the chains, domestic or international. Firstly, you’ll always have a better meal, you’ll learn something about the culture you’re in and you’ll make new friends. I cannot say enough how from eating locally, i’ve learned where to go, what to do, the best route, etc. You’ll save money more often than not as well and help support a family. Not just a corporation cutting costs whilst promoting their sanitary agenda.
This rule is more for Men. Bring a collared shirt and a razor. I don’t care where you go or how you do it, having those two items will ensure you are ready for anything. Being open you never know what you might be invited or stumble into. Thus if it’s clubs you’re after, many have a dress code. If its governmental, a clean shaved face goes very far.
There are many other rules and suggestions I can say that i’ve learned from first hand experience but these would be the top 5.
*Photocopy and Electronic copy of passport (not just on a cloud/off storage device), Photocopy of bank cards, Wet napkin or napkin packets. (Different cultures have different lavatory customs ;)
Feel free to comment with your favorite tips or ask me what others I have.