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When you first head off to places in the world that are a lot different from where you

live, a number of things
change. You have to learn to adapt.
I still make a lot of mistakes everywhere I go, but I try to learn from each of them. Here’s a short list of things I
wish I’d known before I started my routine of extensive overseas travel, especially in countries in Africa, South
Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America that are not part of the tourist circuit.

Health Care

You can legally buy safe medicine, including prescription drugs, for very little money overseas. When
in Africa or Asia, I stock up on anti-malarials that cost $5 a day in Seattle. On location, it’s more like $1
for a 10-day supply.


The best health care is not in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. The best healthcare is in places like
Thailand and Costa Rica; that’s why the practice of medical tourism will continue to surge as both travel
and overseas healthcare become more accessible.


Take a lot of cash with you, and make sure the bills are new and have no writing on them. If you go to a
place that accepts credit cards, then you can just redeposit the cash when you get home. It is far worse
to end up short of cash with no credit card option.


If you do use your credit card, check the online statement at least once a week while traveling to make
sure there are no fraudulent charges. Keep all your receipts, especially for large purchases such as hotel
stays, and compare the amounts charged when you get back.


When you exchange money, hang on to the receipt you get until you’ve left the country. Once in a
great while, someone at the airport will want to see proof of all your foreign exchanges.


The U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s currency.Travel with a stock of Euros to complement your
dollars. The exceptions to this rule include some countries in Africa and Latin America that still use the
dollar as their primary currency, and any country that has had a recent war


Hire a taxi outside the airport, not from the guys who approach you inside as you’re walking out. Even
better, walk further outside the airport to where the taxis pull in, and you’ll get a better deal because the
driver won’t have to pay the entrance fee.


Never assume that your taxi driver knows where your destination is. Double-check and get him to ask
someone before you go if there’s any doubt.

for both driver and passenger. Check out the options before you go to make the best decision for each place. Round-the-World tickets are the best bargains for extensive international travel. and Buses 14. You have a few options for making this happen: a) Hang up and call back to try with someone else. Therefore. First Class is nice too. special tickets. is that once both sides agree on a fare before setting off. A high percentage of them on most flights are using awards tickets. Trains. When you feel pressured beyond your comfort level by someone who tries to follow you. 16. they may turn out to be your friends… but in other cases. and any fees for changing can be waived with the right airline agent. The police are not always your friends. All plane tickets are changeable no matter what is written on them. they may actually be the least trustworthy people in the country. b) Call the Premium Traveler line or ask at an airline lounge. If you have a dispute with a taxi driver and you think you are being taken advantage of. Don’t be afraid. 12. they will quickly back down. or have upgraded from Economy. the services of the police are sold to the highest bidder. if you can pay them. 10. and move on. Flying in premium cabins can help you in more ways than just being comfortable on long flights. trains are better than buses. Planes. You’ll also get to hang out inairline lounges and get priority treatment. SkyTeam also has a Round-the-World product.9. I use and recommend both the Star Alliance and the OneWorld products. tell them to stop. If they are being dishonest and you mention the police. On the other hand. just be aware. and sometimes they will work in your favor and sometimes they will work against you. You should not try to get a better deal nor should you accept any increase in the fare from the driver after the journey has started. Don’t string anyone along out of guilt—tell them you don’t want their help. be polite but increasingly firm. 17. Sad but true—in a lot of places in the world. . The rules are flexible in most places. Most people flying Business Class are not paying full-fare. your experience will vary from place to place. but the difference between First and Business is rarely as great as the difference between Business and Economy. The universal rule of taxi haggling. If they keep following you. 15. but it’s not nearly as good as the other two. and often for good reason (see below). or c) Offer a “tip” at the airline counter (do this at your own risk). Safety 11. they may be right and you’ll need to pay more. if they continue to press their claims. 13. When it comes to visas (and all immigration issues). In some places. which may become very useful when you need to get in or out of somewhere fast. Many taxi drivers are scared of the police. neither side can reopen negotiations once you’re en route. buses are better than trains for overland travel… in other places. Each have their advantages. offer to call the police and have them settle it. because the tickets can almost always be changed or refunded without penalty.

” Don’t assume that your culture is superior. Never make promises you don’t intend to keep. don’t say you’ll write to someone later if you won’t really do it. Politics 26. Be careful about calling people “locals. because many cultures are not comfortable with strangers taking photos of them all the time. Don’t tell vendors you’ll buy from them tomorrow. 19. from Zimbabwe to Iran to North Korea. Don’t say you’re from Canada unless you really are. Always point out that a government’s actions and the beliefs of an individual (e.. No matter whom you are talking to.g. 22. Like it or not. 23. and so on. don’t offer to help anyone visit your country. Never touch members of the opposite sex. never take photos of people without asking. never say anything negative about the government of the country you are in. but it’s usually a good reminder to put forward. Most people understand this and some will even say the same thing without prompting. including the “thumbs-up” sign and the “a-OK” sign. 24. this is disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate. Don’t point your feet at people or touch anyone on the head. In Guinea I was followed by the Secret Service everywhere I went. although you’ll also usually be given the best seat. 21. People are not stupid just because they don’t speak English or think like you do. If they do say yes.Culture 18. Be prepared to represent your country. Unless you can be very discreet. Both of these are highly provocative in some places. 28. In several cultures. 27. whether you care about politics or not. This includes sitting next to them on buses and trains— you’ll often be shuffled around to ensure that you only sit next to people of the same sex. (I’m not making this up. For better or worse. Most important: don’t be a colonialist. yourself) are not always the same. 20. 25.) . There are lots of places in the world that haven’t picked up on the Western anti-smoking crusade. Don’t be surprised if they say no. you may find yourselves indebted to them for a gift or other favor. A friend of mine went to North Korea and found an extensive tape recording system in his hotel room. The concept of personal space means very different things in different countries. you’ll likely be frustrated. Many rogue states. You kind of have to get used to that. employ English-speaking spies who will deliberately try to incite foreign visitors into saying something incriminating. many people will expect you to know a lot about politics in your home country and how governmental decisions in one country affect the lives of people thousands of miles away. you have to be somewhat tolerant of smoking. Be careful with all hand gestures. If this is hard for you to accept.