I have traveled to several countries like: Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, France, Malaysia and I constantly crave for more and more each day. For me traveling is like thirst. You have to keep drinking in order to survive.
From all of my travels, I have learnt many (and still learning):
1. Spontaneity is key
I am not against going out in the morning and having an itinerary of the things you should do and the places you should see. But why not stray a little further than usual? Most of the time, the places that are hidden are actually the true treasures of the country. So go and explore!
2. Know how to read the map
It won’t be difficult for you to find your way home, just in case you get lost, if you know how to read a map. Learning how to read one could also make the tour more interesting and can save you a lot of time as you can easily hop on a bus and get off somewhere. If you don’t want to look very “tourist”, you can easily download the country’s map on your phone.
Apps that I find very useful are CityMaps2Go & Triposo. Maps are viewable even without internet access. All you have to do it download it and voila! Plus, it is for free!
3. Learn the language
Basic’s cool as long as you can communicate a few survival words or phrases to the locals in the country that you are visiting.
When I went to France, people rarely spoke in English. Having a background in French helped me get the attention of some locals when I needed help with the directions or every time I will be ordering food. It also makes them feel special when they hear a foreigner communicating to them in their own language.
Whenever I see tourists coming here in the Philippines and they approach me, speaking in Filipino, I feel the genuineness of their desire to visit Philippines and get to know of its people and culture.
4. Research about the country
It is easier to make friends with locals when you know just the right thing to say. Knowing facts about the country and using that as a tool to start up a conversation with someone is impressive. So why not start researching? You never know when it may come in handy.
5. Respect their culture
If it says, “do not wear skirt” or “do not take pictures”, follow it. Do not come to a country disrespecting their culture and rules. Whether there is a local looking or none, always keep in mind that if it was you, you would want people to respect the rules that you lay to them. Abiding by the conducts does not hurt. So do it.
6. Be open but cautious
Immerse in the country’s lifestyle. Eat the type of food only that country offers, visit places that they hold sacred, ride their means of transportation, and speak to the locals. The last one, however, you must learn to never trust a stranger completely. Be friendly, yes, but not to a certain extent that you give away too much personal information. When you agree to meet up with someone from that country, always bring a friend with you and only agree to meet somewhere that is full of people.
7. Do not panic buy
Know where the cheap souvenirs are and go there. Don’t go buying souvenirs whenever you see them because you might end up buying more than you should and spending more than your budget. Keep a list of names that you want to buy presents for and stick to that. When buying souvenirs, think of those that cannot be bought in their local country. Invest on something that is not too expensive, has a good quality and is something different from the usual. But then, it is the thought that counts. Just make sure you don’t get an excess baggage for buying too much!
Like what I always say, each country has its own beauty to boast. You can never expect the same level of adventure, romance and serenity every time you travel. The next will always teach you something more than you have learnt from the previous ones. So always remember to keep an open mind, open heart and enjoy every bit of your stay in that country. Happy travels!