The ultimate guide to not being an idiot when travelling. Learn from my mistakes –
1. Do not put your passport in your mouth:
Ok so I wasn’t salivating all over my passport. I promise. I wrapped my lips (not even moist) around the folded edge of my passport in an attempt to juggle two pieces of luggage and my phone. For a split second I put it in my mouth. It was either that or it would have fallen on the floor. As I approached the (not so) lovely Croatian border control I was immediately shouted at. “DON’T PUT PASSPORT IN MOUTH.” He continued … “ITS NOT NORMAL”. I will not be doing that again. In front of him.
2. Don’t joke around with Houston passport control:
“Hi” I said to a (not so) lovely border force man. “GET IN LINE” he replied… I was already in line. This was pretty much the tone of every Houston staff member I encountered there whilst in the way to Nicaragua… both times.
3. Don’t get off the bus to Bosnia during a rest stop … EVER:
Two hours into the bus journey across the border from Croatia and into Bosnia. “Ten minute break” explains the driver. So off I jump to go to the toilet (which is a 5 second walk away). I leave my passport on the bus with my bags, assured that they are in safe hands with trusted company and assured that I don’t need my possessions to pee. I walked into the available cubicle and attempted to pee whilst trying to hold the door closed with my foot and grab the toilet roll with my hand. I exit the toilet 2 minutes later. The bus has disappeared. Long story short. After a lot of swearing (and unanticipated sprinting) I make it to the bus. If it weren’t for the screaming of “STOP THE BUS” I’d probably still be Bosnia selling my clothes to get enough cash to bribe border control to let me across.
4. Don’t queue for the bus in Croatia:
As a British person I just LOVE to queue. It’s basically part of my DNA. A word of wisdom. Unless you enjoy being shut in a moving vehicles door, don’t queue. Push the pensioners and the children out of the way. Don’t feel rude because they sure as hell don’t. You have places to be.
5. Never ask the person selling the ping pong show what a ping pong show is:
In my defence, this one wasn’t my mistake. I knew exactly what a ping pong show was. My boyfriend however did not. After aimlessly walking the streets of Phuket in Thailand he turned to me and asked (in the cutest most naïve fashion) “why is everyone so obsessed with table tennis here”. HA! Bless him. I, being the supportive loving girlfriend that I am, told him to ask the next lady that offered us a show. The results. Hours of laughter on my part and on his part… embarrassment.
6. Don’t tell a City person that you hate cities – unless you’re ready for a debate;
Working in London sparks the question “so …( because everyone starts the question with the presumptuous word SO) when are you moving to the city”. If you don’t have a well prepared answer for this question that declines the offer whilst also showing your love for the city then don’t bother responding.
7. When the guy renting you a bike tells you it’s too far, believe him, and don’t Rent a bike without having ridden a bike in years for a long journey:
Yea this happened. We just wanted to go to the beach for cheaps. A mile and a half in, during what felt like the hottest summer South East Asia has ever experienced, we were regretting the bike decision. We just ended up spending what could have been a short taxi drive’s money on bottles and bottles of water.
8. Don’t say yes to a tour your not interested in / not going to understand:
Whilst in Poland my mum and I decided that the Salt Mines were a must see attraction. Eager to get on a tour we stupidly agreed to joining a Germany group rather than shopping around. Whilst the tour was interesting we spent the entire time being referred to as “THE ENGLISH” as we fell behind trying to work out what the heck was going on. If tours are not available in your language then maybe just book in advance or go back another time. Otherwise, be prepared to hear “THE ENGLISH ARE TOO SLOW” for most of your tour.
9. Never assume that the perfectly perched Vietnamese man is going to let you get away with taking his picture and wandering off:
Ok ok I admit, this was terribly rude tourism on my part. In my defence, despite the language barrier I did point to my camera and charade style ask him if it was ok. He was sitting in a rice field on top of a giant water buffalo. He nodded and I proceeded to hop off of the bike and snap away. As we tried (emphasis on tried) to walk away he grabbed my boyfriends arm. “Now ride”. Excuse me? He wanted us to ride that thing. Did I mention he was sat on a GIANT buffalo? Before we had a chance to decline we were lifted up into its back and paraded down the field before being promptly thrown off and asked for money. What a rookie mistake.
10. Never assume that people want to learn your mother tongue or that your language is more universal than it is:
I am proud to say that I do not fall into this category. I have however witnessed one too many fellow backpackers that assume or expect others to speak their language. This is not true. Whilst in Tanzania this couldn’t have been more true. Of the many people I met, not many actually found the idea of learning English appealing. And why should they? Unless it’s going to benefit them then what is the point?
11. Don’t jump off the surfboard in shallow water:
Cling onto that board for dear life or suffer the consequences of a broken toe like I did. If the water looks rocky, then it probably is. Don’t assume a broken big toe is manageable whilst backpacking either… It isn’t.
Travel wisely and stay safe.
Use your brain.
Don’t be stupid