When travelling to countries outside of your own, there are few simple things that can make your trip more enjoyable and the locals more likely to treat you with respect. There are plenty of tips for travelling, but these are focused on things that can apply to any country that you visit. These are the things that we’ve learned over the years and we keep them in mind whenever we travel outside of the country.
- Learn at least a few phrases of the language. Whether the only thing you can say is good morning, good day, how are you, or thank you, by speaking (or attempting to) in the local language, the people you meet will appreciate your attempts. Many people from English speaking countries will assume that English is spoken everywhere and just expect everyone to speak in English. The people of every country are proud of their heritage, traditions, and language, so we believe it is a matter of respect to at least try and learn a little of their native language.
- Eat where the locals eat. Depending upon where you are travelling, there are often many restaurants that cater to tourists, but we’ve always found that by asking our hotel manager, local bartender, even the policeman on the street, that you can find more authentic meals by eating where the locals eat. They might not be as fancy and often won’t speak any English at all, but if you’re adventurous, you can end up eating something that you would have never expected just by pointing to something on the menu and taking a chance.
- Act like you’re a local, not a tourist. This is more about a state of mind than anything else. If you walk confidently as if you belong in your environment, it is less likely for bad things to happen to you, such as being the target of a pick pocket. Figure out directions to where you’re going before you go so that you’re not walking around with a map in your face. This has the added benefit of allowing you to keep your eyes on your surroundings instead of reading pamphlets or maps. The more you’ve prepared in advance and know what to expect, the easyier it will be for you to relax, enjoy the people instead of fearing them, and see more of what the city or town that you’re in has to offer.
- Stay at or go to as many different cities and towns as possible. Sometimes when we’re in a country, we’ll have a base camp where we do our exploring from, but we usually still add a couple of nights in different cities as well as day trips to nearby towns and attractions. Other times, we’ll spend two days in one location and then we’re off to the next. Some of the most fascinating things we’ve seen or done have happened when we’ve left the larger cities and spent time in the smaller towns.
- Respect the local customs, traditions, and religions. The greatest thing about travelling is learning about all the different people that inhabit this world. Not all of our belief systems are the same and in our opinion, the world is a better place for that diversity. So, learn about the culture of the place where you are travelling. Learn simple things such as whether certain hand gestures are offensive, what body parts should be covered, and what types of public displays of affection are allowed. We always do our homework and read up on the do’s and don’ts when visiting a country, which was something that we learned from a friend of ours who is a cultural anthropologist. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make sure that what you do while you’re in a foreign country doesn’t offend or upset anyone’s belief system.
Going to foreign countries is truly a magnificent experience, but one that is made even better if you do a few simple things that will make it that much more enjoyable. Perhaps it really is as simple as following the golden rule to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but sometimes, when we get out of own environment, we tend to forget that it is the simple things that make everyone’s lives a little better. Hopefully, the next time you travel abroad, these simple tips will help make your trip a little better.