Going on a trip with an annoying traveler is bad. Being the annoying traveler is even worse. This blog post is going to help you (hopefully, maybe) not be that person. Ever. Because no one likes that person. No one.
Let’s start very basic. As basic as it comes. When you travel you should definitely:
#1 KNOW HOW TO COUNT THE CHANGE. Yeah, this is a tip that I didn’t follow and it was downright humiliating. To be honest, it wasn’t even something I thought about before I left to study abroad. I guess in my mind I was just glad that I was going to an English-speaking country, so I figured if I had questions I would just ask and everything would be dandy. Come to find out, there are certain things you don’t want to ask a stranger. How to count the change is one of those things. Why?Because it’s extremely embarrassing, that’s why. The first meal I had in England the man at the cafe asked if I had exact change to which I had to respond “I don’t know” and ended up handing him a bunch of coins just so he could select which ones he needed and hand the rest back. Trust me, you DO NOT want to be this person. I’m not saying you need to know the money forwards, backwards, and sideways, but familiarize yourself with how much each paper/coin is worth. For example, in America coins for anything above 25 cents are rare. We do not have coins for the $2 amount. England has coins for both 1 pound and 2 pounds. Knowing the difference between them (and the rest of the coins) will be very beneficial!
Most people nowadays use credit cards for transactions. Even so, this is definitely something you are going to want to familiarize yourself with. Also, on the subject of credit cards, be aware that it is almost 100% necessary to have a credit card with a chip in it when you’re travelling in the UK and Europe. I found it very difficult to get around without one (I was able to make purchases but most people over there use chips so it was harder for me). If your card does not have an automatic pin set up with your chip then you are going to have to sign your receipt; make sure to let the cashier know this before you hand them your card.
#2 KEEP CALM AND KEEP QUIET. This sounds like a strange one but I think it’s a pretty important tip. England as a whole is a quiet country. By this, I mean that in public the people are typically much quieter than over here in the US. No, seriously. The loudest part of the underground is the train itself. Often in the US there are so many people talking that voices are bouncing off the walls and echoing throughout the subway. This isn’t to say that people don’t talk in England, that would be ridiculous, but they are definitely more considerate of keeping the decibel level low. This may or may not be the case in whatever country you are traveling to, so my advice would be to keep calm and keep quiet until you can judge this for yourself. You never want to be the overly-loud person who gets stared at. That’s bad for a lot of reasons. For starters, people won’t like you very much. Well, at the very least they will be annoyed with you. More critically, however, is that it can make you a target. A pickpocket will have a much easier time picking you out as a foreigner if you are being loud or not complying to the cultural norms around you.
This line, of course, gets fuzzy because there are certain places you will go where you will stand out no matter what (I’m extremely pale and 5’9 — there are certain places I just don’t fit. Literally, I can’t fit. Like climbing up the old stairs of clock towers throughout England. I was pretty sure I was going to have a hunchback by the end of it.) All I’m saying is: be conscious of your surroundings. Sticking out can be a good thing for getting a job and making friends, but it’s not so good when traveling. It is a well-known fact that tourists are easier to steal from than locals/people who are well-accustomed to their surroundings. This is a worldwide truth. Just something to keep in mind.
#3 DON’T DO ANYTHING YOU WOULDN’T DO AT HOME. AND MAYBE DON’T EVEN DO THAT. Mind your manners. It’s as simple as that. I posted about people I witnessed on public transportation abroad not following this guideline here. I think the tip itself is pretty self-explanatory. As a traveler abroad you are not only representing yourself but your country. This is something the organizers of my program drilled into us over and over. While you may not think so, to people of other countries you are a representative of your hometown, your university, your state/province, your country, your society. It seems strange to think about but it’s true. In fact, I think you could argue it’s one of the purveyors of discrimination throughout the world today. People look at a small group from a given culture and think it represents the society as a whole when this is not necessarily true. This is the reason for a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to the interaction of cultures. I’ve never studied it and I don’t claim to be an expert or anything of the sort, but this just goes to show how important it is that you keep in mind how others will perceive you while you are abroad. Take measures to make sure you are polite and respectful to everyone!
#4 WHEN TRAVELING WITH A GROUP PLAN ALL ACTIVITIES IN ADVANCE. This is something else I ran into trouble with when traveling in Paris. This is extremely important when traveling with groups so that you don’t start any fights. Fights while traveling are the absolute worst! When visiting cities it is a given that you are going to want to see as much as possible. Plan out (in advance–and definitely before you arrive at the city) what places/things you want to see and the most conducive way to see them. If you can find a map of the city, map it out! I had never been to Paris before so there were certain things that were on my must-see list. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe were two that I, as a first-time visitor to France, definitely wanted to check out. However, (and this is a big however) one of the girls I was travelling with had already been in Paris for several days and decided that she didn’t want to do these things. She still wanted to tour Paris with us (I was with Rupee at the time) but she didn’t want to do or see any of the things that were on our list. This made it very difficult to get around and, in general, made the whole thing quite stressful. By solidifying a plan in advance you can hopefully avoid this, get to see everything on your list, and do it in a timely manner. If you are traveling alone: kudos to you, how much easier will that be?! JUST BE SAFE!
#5 DON’T BE A DICK. I’d say this is self-explanatory — easy enough to follow, right? You would think. It’s bizarre how many people don’t adhere to this basic life skill, especially when travelling. Don’t be this person. Never ever be this person. This person is universally hated.
Ta-da! My five annoying traveler do’s but mostly don’ts. I hope you found them humorous and helpful. Once again, I am willing to answer any questions you might have about studying abroad or traveling abroad in general. Don’t forget to check out my Stories from Abroad page where all of my tips and tricks have been compiled into one convenient list.