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Whether you are planning on attending a huge family reunion in Italy, venturing for a sun-filled trip to Jamaica, or are adventuring to Egypt for your honeymoon, international travel can be a bit scary. Immersing yourself in another culture with people you don’t know can be intimidating, and can kick your anxiety into high gear. There are definitely “do’s” and “don’ts” to avoid in each place. A lot of it is unspoken and unknown to the locals, but you can tell as an outsider. Some things are just common sense, and others take a bit of research to be prepared for.
As we are planning a trip to France this summer, I am taken back to our Adventures in Egypt. That trip was very different since I was surprised with our final destination at the airport. While I didn’t have the time myself to prepare ahead of time, we learned a lot on the go. Considering recent events, there was a stigma attached to Egyptian culture. However, we found the people welcoming and friendly, while keeping our wits about us in crowded cities. This time around, we are doing more research into how to dress, act, interact, travel, and speak. The best way to handle new situations are to stay calm and aware, be flexible, and do your research.
1. Know the location
While only so much can be done before arriving at a destination, knowing some key locations help to ease tension (as well as carrying city and national maps). Knowing what areas are not considered safe for tourists, as well as ones that are, a few restaurants and sights, hotels, transportation (trains, taxis, etc), police stations and the embassy are just a few examples. Some are for recreation, but the important ones are the safe zones.
2. Know who to talk to
In Egypt, we were very wary of almost everyone. Pickpockets, thieves, and maybe worse occupy every major city in the world. It’s even worse when you don’t know one word of the language. We always stayed close to each other and held hands, never more than a few feet apart, even at resorts. We found some of the best, most trustworthy people to talk to were security guards/police and the concierge at our hotels. There was usually someone who spoke English, and they were local so they could make recommendations or call a taxi.
This one has a few components to it. The first is trying to have a dictionary with of that language for key words and phrases. If you can, try to learn some of that language before the trip to make conversing easier. The second part to this is having a language between you. If you speak common languages such as English, German, Spanish, French, Chinese, or Arabic, depending on where you go the people there may also speak that language. In some ways it is great, but the means conversations aren’t private, especially in the audience of a shopkeeper. We are learning Morse Code so that we are able to communicate by tapping each other’s hands in busy areas. It may seem small, but the ability to communicate independently is extremely helpful.
Our research has told us that identifying yourself as an American can lead people to believe some negative things about you, or that you are rich and by kidnapping you they can get a large ransom. Best practice is to say you are Canadian, British, or some other English-speaking country. Also keep your passport and ID available and ready in case you need it.
5. Understand and respect the culture
When you travel to another country, best practice is to not tick off your hosts, including shop owners, hotel employees or random people on the street. This involves researching polite and impolite practices in that place. For example, the French don’t appreciate when Americans assume someone speaks English and begins a conversation that way (even asking if they speak English). In order to not get rude responses, starting with “Bonjour!” can make all the difference before inquiring. This also applies to know what clothing is considered offensive, or makes you stick out like a sore-sun burnt tourist thumb.
6. Wander off the beaten path
This does not mean to go into the most dangerous section in town, but there are hidden treasures if you are willing to look past the hotels and classic attractions. Staying in a hostel can bring the most wonderful people to you, and asking locals about suggested sights can be far more incredible (and cheap) than the traditional sights. Just try to double check with a reputable online source before trusting the first thing you hear.
Egypt is certainly a unique place full of culture, history, and amazing views. With all that unique beauty come some unique tips about how to navigate this part of the world.
Got any travel tips of your own? Add it to the comments and you might be added to the blog! Photo courtesy or traveltheworldfans.com.
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