I travel a fair bit both domestically and internationally and I have learnt a few things over the years. So here are my Top Ten International Travel Tips.
1) Always carry $100 American dollars in your wallet in $20s. The Greenback is the universal currency and if you find yourself in a bind where no ATMs work or just no ATMs and you have run out of the county’s currency, whipping out some US dollars speaks everyone’s language. Recently I had this experience in Jerusalem. The shop I was in wouldn’t take any cards, I had no shekels and no ATMs anywhere. Handed over my $20USD and all was right in the world. I don’t often use the dollars but when I do it’s been very helpful.
2) Instead of buying multiple power adapters to charge your multiple devices, buy one and take a power board from home.
3) When booking flights etc, I always make sure I organize the transfer from the entry point airport to the motel. Generally if you are flying internationally its at least a seven or eight hour flight. I like to get off the plane, get through customs and know I don’t have to figure out public transport. I am happy to do that once I am in the country but up front after a long flight, I want to just make it easy for my jet lagged brain and bent out of shape body.
4) I love going for a walk and just soaking up the different culture often taking photos as I walk. I learnt very early on to ask the motel staff or local people I know if it’s safe to do so. One time I was running a group travel trip to the U.S. and we arrived around 9pm into a bit of a dodgy motel in LA. Anyway I thought we would walk to Denny’s about a kilometre away. Which we all did. When we got back the concierge was horrified that we had walked outside at night without taking an armed guard. Anyway we survived. Most times I ask I am told it’s safe, but the few that have said no, well I am glad I asked.
5) Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell your car driver to slow down. I am a little bit of a control freak and so hate being a passenger. Add to that some Asian country where the road rules are at the very best mild suggestions, a driver who thinks he is running very late and a crowded road and you have me freaking out. Ok it’s not quite that bad and I normally just see it as an adventure. But there have been a few times where I think I am in significant danger the way the guy is driving, so rather than be killed in some horrific Kathmandu pile up, I will speak up and ask the driver to slow down a little.
6) There have been a couple of times when we were traveling as a family that we couldn’t all fit into one cab. Beijing was one good example. So Melanie and Laura jump into one cab and Lakeisha and I into the other. Problem was the movie Taken had recently been released and unfortunately I don’t have the required set of skills to infiltrate an Albanian people smuggling gang and get my girls back. So with my iPhone, I took a picture of the guys cab ID. I took a picture of the cabbie and I took a picture of the license plate. I was thinking worse case I can ring Mr Neeson and contract him.
7) Never carry all your cards etc with you. I have several eftpos cards and I always leave one hidden in my luggage or in the room safe. My thinking behind this is that if I am mugged or lose my license at least I can still access money. Now I have never had to use this but seems like good common sense.
8) When negotiating prices always specify what currency you are talking in. Quick story. I arrived in Dubai and was going to do a Hop on Hop off bus Tour as I had an 8 hour layover. Caught a cab to the pickup place and on the way the cab driver said he would be my personal tour guide for the next six hours for ‘two hundred dollars’:- to quote him. Dubai has dollars as its currency and the exchange rate made it about $55 Aussie dollars so we agreed on the price. Six hours later I whipped out $200 Dubai dollars and he was shocked. He had been thinking US dollars ($700 Dubai dollars). I said to him. I am an Aussie in Dubai why would I talk in American currency. (I am a little more experienced and wiser these days). Anyway I gave him a bit more and got out of there fast as he was not happy.
9) Always board the plane last. If it’s not a full flight then you can sit in an empty row of four or five. If you sit in your assigned seat and then ask to move they will say not until we have taken off and the seat belt sign is off:- and then you may miss out. Hint:- if you do this and then someone gets on after you and you are in their seat, that can be a bit awkward but you just act surprised:- isn’t this 46D? Oh 21A is so close.
10) On arrival at the motel I always grab a motel card which has the motel name and address on it. Sometimes this is the door key but most times its a business card. I throw that in my wallet so if I ever get lost I can just show that to a cabbie and all is right with the world. It’s amazing when you are lost in a city suddenly all the streets look the same and can you remember your motel name? No. And your itinerary is back at the room. This little habit of mine has saved my bacon a few times. Particularly in China where there is a significant language barrier.
Anyway hope you got something out of those tips.