1. EATING OUTSIDE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS – I couldn’t have picked a better time to learn this tip. When I visited Rome for New Years, The owner of the small hotel I was staying in gave me this invaluable piece of advice. Cafés and restaurants right outside tourist attractions may look traditional but these are only aimed at tourists.
You will never find any locals stopping for lunch here and that is because the food is overpriced and not authentic to the area. If you want authentic cuisine (especially if you are in Rome) you need to head for the side streets off the main streets.
2. EXCHANGE MONEY – For every transaction you make you will lose some of your hard-earned cash. Most shops or restaurants accept cards and if they don’t you will be able to find somewhere else close by that does. If you are exchanging money though make sure to look for currency exchanges that have 0% commission charges. Next, you need to find out the up to date currency exchange, this is where currency exchanges are clever. They may say 0% commission charge but they might offer a terrible exchange rate. Finally, ask them to write down the final figure of what you will get in return, this is because some places will try to cheat you by speaking very quickly making it sound like you will be getting a good return. But whatever you do, don’t exchange money from people on the streets.
3. ACT LIKE A TOURIST – Once again I am being a bit hypocritical considering I am one when visiting a new city. But what I really mean is don’t stick out as being a tourist. If you are looking a bit puzzled at a city map and acting like you don’t know what you are doing you will be targeted by pickpockets and tourist scams.
I have also seen for myself tourists who have been overcharged for drinks and staff pretend they cannot understand English, which brings me onto my next point. Please do not expect every person in every city to speak English. Be sure to ask if they can speak English before you start speaking and try to learn a few phrases for wherever you may be, especially please, thank you, and excuse me.
4. TALK ABOUT POLITICS & RELIGION – This is one of the best things I learned while I was back in school. Unfortunately, no matter what country in the world you visit there will be some extremists. You might think it’s a good idea to talk about how great Putin is while you are in Russia or talk about how much of a Catholic you are while in Rome, but you may just be hanging around an anti – Putin group or a Jewish district. Politics & Religion can be a very sensitive subject for some people so no matter what part of the world you are in you should keep on the down-low when it comes to these topics while traveling.
5. DISRESPECT THE COUNTRY YOU VISIT – For example, if you are in a Muslim country such as Morocco or Qatar, it is best if you do not get hammered drunk and stumble out onto the streets in the early hours of the morning. Although there are more extreme rules for places you may visit please be aware of them and respect them as you would expect people to respect the rules when in your home country.
Another thing you shouldn’t do anywhere, nevermind a foreign country is leaving your litter behind you in a park or vandalize historical buildings by scratching your names into them. I saw for myself tourists scrawl their names into concentration camp rooms and I hope there will be stricter punishments for people who are caught in the future.
6. DISMISSING NEW WAYS OF LIVING – I really do believe travel broadens the mind and I think it’s down to seeing new ways of living and experiencing the local cultures. After growing up in Cork, Ireland, I was amazed when I saw you could buy alcohol from nearly every shop, café, or restaurant in Continental Europe. What I loved most was seeing people drinking responsibly in parks or other outdoor areas. Back in Ireland, WW3 would break out if anyone tried to have a drink in the park.
Subconsciously you will pick up on some things, for example, I traveled to London quite a lot for football games since I was young and we always took the tube. After using it frequently, I can now look at any metro map in the world and instantly get from A to B. This doesn’t sound very life-changing but when you see people or are even with people who are panicking trying to get to the airport but not knowing how to, it’s nice to know you can help them and will never have trouble yourself.