Monday, June 20, 2011

Some various travel tips that you won't find elsewhere.

- Speak the language. Prices will drop, access goes up, and enjoyment goes up the more of the language you know. Find a language immersion program or teacher. You might never leave the city you're learning in, but your teacher will take you to all of the out-of-the-way local places you'd never see if you just trudged through the museums like the rest of the cattle. 
- Don't hang around other tourists. A common way to do this is to have a Lonely Planet tourguide - if a place is highly rated in LP, don't go there as you'll be around others just like you, all thinking you're having a unique experience. If you don't want to lug around an LP, simply follow the rule: "if you see white people/backpackers/tourists, time to go somewhere else." 
- Don't wear camouflage, brown, black, or red in places with significant rebel/narco presence. Blue is good. 
- Stay in one place for a couple weeks, don't try to do the this-is-Thursday-so-this-must-be-Hungary whirlwind. I like to rent an apartment and a bicycle. 
- Don't carry on luggage ever, or allow anyone to put your bag anywhere where you can't see it. 
- When in doubt, eat vegetarian. 
- Don't use or buy illegal drugs. 
- Take a shortwave radio. The BBC or VOA can be comforting after six weeks of hearing only Swahili, and will be invaluable if a disaster strikes. 
- When going to a marginally stable country for an extended time, register with the US embassy so they know where to get you if the place goes to hell. 
- Horrible smells are the norm while traveling - sewage, rotten food, vomit. Carry a small bottle of peppermint extract and dab a bit under your nose. 
- A full steel water bottle with a loop of rope tied through the lid will break an attacker's arm easily yet will go through any security screening. 
- The machete/bolo/parong/panga/golok is ubiquitous in third world countries. Get a cheap one for utility/defense if you're going out into the countryside, then throw it in the trash at the airport when you leave. Saved my bacon at least twice. 
- While guns might be common in a lot of countries, the ammunition is often old, degraded, and useless, so remember this if you happen to need a firearm overseas. 

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