That statement probably sounds weird coming from a travel blogger. I live a privileged life. My circumstances are such that I have been able to build a life where I can travel to different exotic locations.
Recently I was reading the comments section of another blog. Some douche bag called the contributor an ‘entitled white women’ because of her solo adventure to South Africa. South Africa lays claim to alarmingly high rape statistics. Fortunately, her trip was without incident. Thanks a good part to her forethought and planning. The man in the comments section thought she was being an ‘entitled white women’ because she wanted to travel the world without fear of assault or rape.
I had to pause and really think about his comment, ‘Entitled white women’. Shouldn’t all humans be entitled to their own bodies? When men go out are they afraid of being assaulted? How often do men worry about their safety? How many times a day do they double-check their surroundings? So why should women have to worry?
As a solo traveler I constantly think about safety. It involves a lot of planning on my part. I avoid traveling at night. I search for safe neighborhoods when I book lodging. I try to venture out and about when others are on the street. The big question is ‘Why should women be afraid? Why is being safe considered an entitlement and not a god given right?
So many articles write about women taking safety precautions, but I have to ask ‘what is wrong with you men?’ Not all men obviously. I am not a radical feminist. I have no issues with open-minded, respectful men. My issue is with entitled men. What makes you think you can take or touch what doesn’t belong to you? What makes you think you have the right to harass us? A few minutes of pleasure for you leaves us with a lifetime of scars.
There are many places I want to visit in the world. Morocco, India, and Thailand to name a few. Countries known for the mistreatment and exploitation of women. I am sure I will get to them one day. Many of my male friends visit without a second thought. Isn’t that entitlement? Unless I want harassment a lot of searching goes into finding travel mates to go with. Is that entitled?
I am aware that as a white American I have certain privileges handed to me that people from other nationalities or races have to work very hard to get. All I am asking is for men to acknowledge the privilege extended to them as well. More emphasis needs placement on how men treat women and not how women should protect themselves. Men need to acquire an awareness of how their actions affects us. Ask yourself; Does it really so disrupt your life to let us live our lives unscathed?
I’ve been traveling and dreaming of traveling for as long as I can remember. Its a big part of my life. My priorities reflect my transient soul. My brain can’t comprehend the stereotypical American dream and how the average American spends their money and lives their life.
In this consumer driven society I’m incredibly cheap. I don’t eat out. I don’t go out for drinks. I don’t pay for a lot of activities. Mostly I spend my time engaging in free things like hiking, camping, & water sports.
For years eveything I owned could fit into 2 duffle bags. I owned a few nice things, but streamlined my wardrobe &
seasonal activities so things wouldn’t interfere with living my life.
So many of my friends pay for storage units because they can’t part with their purchases. A simple life has allowed me to save money, so I can travel and experience new things instead of wasting money protecting items I don’t use.
I keep my life mobile, but that doesn’t mean I’m in a permanent state of movement. I’m a huge advocate of slow travel. I like to live in an area for 3 or 4 years then move on. It’s an amazing experience to be completely immersed in a new culture. Its nice to try and learn something new. Be someone new. Meet new people. Learn a new language. Try new foods. I can work and have some satiability in my life while still taking shorter trips.
When I tell people I like to travel, most people don’t realize how much of my life revolves around that passion. I’m frequently told ‘everyone would love to travel if they had the money”. Traveling it’s not about the amount money you have though. It’s about your priorities in life, and how you use the money you have available to you. Here are three simple ways to cut corners if you really want to travel more.
Eat out for lunch, not dinner
Dinner menus normally run a lot higher than lunch menus. If I’m going to eat out I try and get a big lunch and take the leftovers home with me. Some people think the extra five dollars or so added to the dinner price tag doesn’t make much of a difference. However, when you consider the bus ticket between Malaga and Granada Spain that I just bought cost $5, eating out for lunch just saved me enough for one more day of travel.
Don’t buy drinks out
This doesn’t mean I don’t drink alcohol, but I try and avoid drinking out. The tab adds up too fast. Most of the time I order water at restaurants. Yes, waitresses hate me. If I go out to have drinks with friends, I will order one drink. Its so much cheaper to have friends over for a pitcher of margaritas than to buy one out.
Make your own coffee
I make my coffee at home. I have a Nespresso maker, a French press, and an espresso maker, among other things. I love coffee and have the ingredients to make it any way I want it, from home. My first job was as a barista. Buying coffee out is a huge waste of money. An Americano, the cheapest espresso drink costs between $2-4 easy. Sugar loaded, flavored frappes can cost as much as $8. If you buy coffee out 3 times a week and spend $3 dollars each time that’s almost $500 you have spent by the end of the year. That’s a nice weekend getaway you could have saved up for right there.
How do you save money for travel? Think my ideas are too stingy? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like for people or different nationalities and cultures to travel?
In spite of its land mass Belize is the most sparsely populated country in Central America with less then 350,000 people. The government works hard to promote ecotourism and preserve its nations culture. As a result the Belize lacks a single chain store and its commercialism consists mainly of mom and pop stores. Its a melting pot of cultures and languages.
I interviewed a close friend of mine from Belize City. She speaks four languages, works for Innovative Welding Company, and has family living all over the world.
What is it like for you to travel both domestic and internationally?
Travelling international I would say is pretty nice and easy. Most people are professional and accommodating even if u ask a lot of questions. So I think traveling abroad is different in that people aim to make a good impression of their company so they treat you well individually.
In Belize people tend to be helpful but less accommodating. Like if you travel and you’re lost or confused people tend to look at you as a local and think you’re supposed to know where you’re going and what you’re doing at all times. And if they help you out they generally want some kind of compensation. Not that you’re treated bad locally but people expect you to know things about travel in your own country so while you may get help, you might not be treated as nice.
For example, last year we were travelling to Alaska and my sister who is very friendly, started talking to the flight attendants. The time for passing out snacks was gone and I had slept through it. So naturally a few hours later, I wake up starving. I asked her to please go and see if she can could get me a bag of chips or a drink. So she got out of her seat and went to ask. She spent a long time back there and then finally returned with 4 bags of chips and a drink . I asked her why she took so long, and she said she was just having a chat with the flight attendants, and that they gave her all this stuff. So definitely if nothing else, people are more friendly toward their customers when travelling abroad.
What’s one of the highlights of being in Belize?
If you are traveling to Belize I think that it’s important that you take advantage of how many fresh tropical fruits that we have available at the market. Even if you have them where you come from, I’ve been told by quite a few people that having it grown in a tropical climate, it tastes so much better. Also at the market you should be able to find a variety of tasty local food that is inexpensive.
Do you have any recommendations for visitors to Belize City?
Recently we discovered this place close to Quality Poultry on North Front Street, that doesn’t have a lot of choices and the menu is all chicken, but is very tasty. The portion sizes are pretty big. There you can get grilled chicken with corn tortillas and a sauce, or chicken kebabs, or my personal favorite chicken fingers. They always seem to have a crowd for lunch and I’m always up to going there as I really enjoyed their food.
If you want ice cream, I would say that the little ice cream shop has the best ice cream in Belize with local flavors as well as other flavors that you might find familiar such as cheesecake, Oreo, blueberry etc. They also have a few choices of sorbet if you don’t enjoy creamy things or can’t have it. Overall it’s a nice little set up and yes you can sample which is not a common practice for businesses in Belize.
How does your family feel about you travels?
My family is generally supportive of my travels, they like to see the places that I’ve been even if it’s through pictures. I love visiting Mexico, I like the culture, the food , I have many friends there. Also it’s a little more Americanized now in many places so if I go there it almost feels like I’m in the states but everyone speaks Spanish.
If you could pick one place to visit, where would it be?
I actually would love to go to Paris. I’d never dreamed of going there until a few years ago. I visited England which was super different from any place I’d ever been before. I really liked it. When I realized how close I actually was to visiting Paris, it made me really want to go back and see those places.
Trying to plan a trip to Belize? Below is a list of my top ten favorite things to do in this Caribbean nation. I numbered them in order from 1 to 10, but grouped them according to geographic region for ease of travel. I’m hoping that those with limited vacation time will find this guide helpful when deciding which areas they want to visit the most. I prefer being active as opposed to lying on the beach. So if you’re not into the occasional rush of adrenaline this is probably not the list for you. Also for you budget travelers Southern Belize tends to be more expensive than Northern because of it’s remoteness.
$ Under 50.00
$$ around 100.00
$$$ at least 200.00
Cayo (Santa Elena/San Ignacio)
I lived in “Cayo” for two years. While Cayo is the name of the district, the sister towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio are referred to collectively as “Cayo”. So technically I lived on the Santa Elena side for 2 years. San Ignacio is a quaint little town built up the side of a hill. Sunsets are a nice time to get pictures of the surrounding landscape, but if drunk people make you nervous I recommend avoiding the city center after dark. As far as restaurants go, if you want to try a local favorite, Yolli’s pizza has excellent beans and rice with stew chicken at midday. The French bakery near the market has great pastries and bread to start your day off right.
1. The ATM Cave $$
Actun Tunichil Muknal or ATM, is a cave in Belize, near San Ignacio, in the Cayo District. It is a notable Maya archaeological site that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. There are several areas of skeletal remains in the main chamber. The best-known is “The Crystal Maiden”, the skeleton of a teenage girl, possibly a sacrifice victim, whose bones have been calcified to a sparkling, crystallized appearance. It also contains pottery used for ceremonial purposes, and has small cave dwelling animals.
If you love caves this is a fantastic wet and wild exploration. Claustrophobics beware though, this cave has a lot of tight spaces, and you are squeezing thru them while in water. Good physical condition is a must. This was by far the most exciting thing I have ever done in Belize.
3. Tikal $$
Tikal may be in Guatemala but it is most accessible from Belize. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of pre-Colombian Mayan civilization. It has been a UNESECO World Heritage Site since 1979. This is at least a full day activity and if you want to catch the sun rise at the ruins its best to spend the night before in nearby Flores.
The Island of Flores is worth the stopover if you are already going to see Tikal. Built in the 1500’s it has cute cobble stone streets. Nice views of Lake Peten Itza. Cheap hotels and good food. It resembles a miniature Antigua in style. Its a great place to spend a relaxing evening, but the island as a whole can be explored in a mater of hours.
5. Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve $$
Visiting Mountain Pine Ridge is usually a full day activity. Excursions typically include a variety of stopping points or options, but these are my favorite sites.
Caracol is a large ancient Maya archaeological site. It was one of the most important regional political centers of the Maya Lowlands during the Classic Period. Covering approximately 200 square kilometers, it is much larger than present-day Belize City and supported more than twice the modern city’s population.
Rio Frio Cave has the largest entrance of any cave in Belize. The sheer size of it is amazing.
Rio On Pools has hundreds of tiny waterfalls. The rocks here are incredibly smooth and many of the falls act as miniature slip and slides that you can ride down.
Big Rock Falls is breath taking. The river Rio Frio has one of its largest drops here, and if that isn’t good enough you can actually jump of this waterfall into the deep pool below.
9. Xunatunich $
You can easily spend a day exploring this site. Pack a lunch to eat from the top of the ruins. No guide is necessary. If you go on non-cruise ship days you can have the place almost to yourself. The first time I went the armed guards roaming about really freaked me out but they are just there to make sure no one tries to pick pocket you so be glad they are there.
Belize City can be dangerous and for this reason most people just pass thru on their way to other places. I have never personally had a bad experience while in the city, but there is just not really anything worth seeing here.
4. Jaguar Paw $$
Cave tubing in Belize is an amazing, relaxing, and unique experience for the whole family. Its a much safer activity if everyone in the party can swim, but the guides do provide life jackets. Tours are available from Belize city. The excursion starts with a short hike through beautiful jungle and dry caves. Knowledgeable guides explain interesting facts about the local ecosystem. Then the real adventure begins. Every one enters a gorgeous, aquifer, feed river either by jumping off a small ledge or climbing down it. Then you float on an inner tube in and out of gigantic caves. There is even a small section of rapids. Its a relaxing and enjoyable day. You can swim, jump off cliffs, swing off rope swings into the river, and eat BBQ chicken.
6. Caye Caulker $$
Caye Caulker is the local favorite. Its much closer than and cheaper to visit than San Pedro. Its also less built up than San Pedro and has more of a Caribbean feel. There are no motorized vehicles, only golf carts. A little strip of beach runs around most of the island making it a great place to take a stroll. Shark Ray alley is a great place to snorkel or dive. Here you can feed nurse sharks and rays. Most of the reef is only 30 ft. deep making the waters warm and the visibility excellent. If your on a tight budget its easy to arrange a day trip.
10. Belize Zoo $
If you’re an animal lover the zoo is a must see. No lions or tigers. All of the animals are native species. Most of them were rescued from poachers and are used to human contact. This a great family activity. Wear long sleeves and long pants the Mosquitos can be really bad. On on the bright side it’s mostly shaded so you’re not walking around in the hot sun. Go on cruise ship days. There are more people, but it’s also more interactive. You can take bananas and nuts to feed the animals (I would stick to the herbivores though). They love treats, but please don’t feed them anything unhealthy like bread or crackers. Even one of the Jaguars is friendly and can be pet. The staff is very knowledgeable and kind.
Ambergris (San Pedro)
Ambergris a great small resort town. You can stay in an all-inclusive or a hotel right on the beach. It’s pretty built up, and fairly expensive, but I hear it’s the perfect place to relax, which isn’t really my thing. I’ve only been here once, and prefer Playa Del Carmen as Playa has a lot more amenities, cheaper prices, and better service. For this reason San Pedro didn’t make my top 10 list, but its far too popular of a destination not to mention.
Toledo/Stann Creek (Down South)
2. Whale sharks $$$
Diving with the whale sharks is one of my most memorable activities I have from living in Belize. It even beat out Tikal for the number 2 spot. I will usually pick nature over anything man made. That said I will warn you that this dive isn’t for everyone. It classifies as an adventure dive. Check the weather before going and if its windy you might want to rethink it. The whales sharks are gathered at the edge of a trench that’s around 1,600 ft. deep just on the other side of the reef. The day I went the 2 hour boat ride from Placencia to the edge of the reef was like glass, but once we crossed over and were on the other side of the reef the seas were quite turbulent. A number of people were throwing up. We had to immediately drop to a depth of 80ft and that day none of the snorkeler’s saw anything as the whale sharks were hanging out below the turbulence. That being said I saw a 35 ft. whale shark from a little over a meter away. It’s is hard to put into words how amazing that is. To be fair I’ve also seen a lot of videos of people snorkeling with whale sharks when the water is like glass.
Placencia is a cute little beach town. It’s the best place to stay if your going to dive with the whale sharks. Its one of my favorite places in Belize to eat good local food.
Wendy’s restaurant is close to the Hokey Pokey water taxi and it serves fantastic meals. I love to stop there for breakfast, and order their fried jacks. the portion sizes are huge.
Tutti Fruity has the best Italian gelato. Its a must stop for an afternoon treat, and with so many flavors to choose from you might find yourself stopping more than once.
The Tipsy Tuna is my favorite dinner stop. Local beer and burgers are served with Garfina music and dance lessons. They also have beach chairs so you can sit next to the sea and listen to the waves crashing on the shore.
* Beware of ordering drinks in some restaurants and resorts where there is no price on the menu! Many places advertise 5 dollar hamburgers, but don’t tell you the piña coladas cost 18.00. This is a huge tourist trap used in Belizean resort towns and resorts.
8. Tobacco Caye $$
It’s a tiny island, and the conditions are a little rustic, but you are literally staying right on the Belize barrier reef. Meals are included with lodging. There’s great diving and its great deal for the price. Relax in a hammock when not snorkeling or laying on the dock. There are also rays swimming in the shallow waters surrounding the island. You can schedule a daily water taxi from Dangriga, but its important to book your lodging ahead of time as rooms are limited.
Dangriga is a cool little Garfina town with a great second-hand clothes market where you can find good prices and boutique items.
7. Blue Creek Cave
The great thing about down south is the freedom. In most places tourism is so restricted. The Toledo district is still one of those places where you can explore relatively on your own. Blue Creek is lovely. The picture above isn’t filtered. That’s the rivers actual color. Blue creek cave, which is to the back of Blue Creek can be explored on your own with headlamp, and if your a good swimmer has a small waterfall in the back. I spent hours exploring this cave and the surrounding areas with some of my local friends. The draw back is isolation. I would still recommend hiring a local guide as it can be easy to get lost and this is the jungle which includes poisonous snakes and other creepy crawlies.
Rio Blanco Falls is fantastic after a heavy rain, but beautiful any time of year. I wouldn’t recommend jumping off the falls durning the rainy season if you aren’t a strong swimmer, but that being said I’ve done it multiple times.
San Antonio Falls is considerably smaller, but a cute stopover on the way to Rio Blanco. Plus you can run down the falls. The rock formation under the one side is super rough and its easy to keep traction on.
The Maya Experience. You can stay the night with a local family. Try traditional food. Its a major cultural eye opener.
Unfortunately I’ve never spent much time is this lovely rum making, sugar cane filled region. Hopefully some day I’ll make it to Lamanai. It’s the only ruin in Belize to be reached by river.
Belmopan is the capital and good place to get stuff done. Embassy’s and government buildings are centered here. Belmopan is another city most people pass thru on their way to somewhere else.
It didn’t make the cut but if your on a budget or looking for something else to do while in Belize the Little Blue Hole and St. Herman’s Cave just outside of Belmopan are a great way to spend an afternoon or even a whole day. You can pay for a self guided exploration of the St. Herman’s cave. A river runs thru the cave and you can pay to go on a cave tubing excursion for considerably less than Jaguar Paw. The Little Blue Hole is fed by an underground aquifer. This natural swimming pool is filled with beautiful azure water and at about 25 feet deep in the one corner, it feels refreshingly cool on a hot day. There are also several hiking trails with good views in the park.
My Belize Bucket List
Three things I’ve always wanted to do and haven’t had an opportunity to do yet.
Blue Hole $$$
Huge underwater sink hole in the middle of the ocean. Need I saw more? It has fantastic formations along the edge. Some day when I’m a more accomplished diver I really want to go here.
Glover’s Reef Atoll $$$
Is a partially submerged atoll located off the southern coast, approximately 45 kilometres from the mainland. You can camp in rustic conditions, dive, snorkel, kayak, and feast on fresh sea food.
White Water Rafting $$$
Belize doesn’t have local white water rafting tours, but I heard there are guided tours from the UK that I would like to try that include flying into the country with your European guide.
I was at a friend’s house this week exchanging travel stories. The one that made me laugh the hardest was the tale of a single mom with three young daughters from a small Minnesota town. While on vacation in Orlando she decided to take a last-minute detour to Key West on Halloween. As any local knows Halloween in Key West is a night of naked, middle-aged debauchery. Doing a little research prior to this adventure would have saved her girls an early sexual education class.
How to Travel Smarter
• Credit & Debit Cards
• When to Eat
• Start Early
Travel Smartz is as easy as an internet search. You can find out a little about any topic in a matter of minutes. Last year I made a big travel blunder, my friends in Sydney kept telling me to visit during their summer (our winter) for the best weather, but I’m a big outdoor enthusiast. If I had done more research I would have known winter is better for visiting Uluru and the Kimberly. When it’s not 40 C and the rainy season. I was so busy researching places to visit I forgot to check when the best time to see them was.
Easy Search Topics:
• Best time to visit…
• Top places to see in…
• Is there public transportation…
• Cultural differences
Credit & Debit Cards
Some cards charge international transaction fees, which are a percentage of your purchase. So be careful which card you are using when on a trip. Especially for large purchases like resorts, rental cars, or excursion packages. The increase of identity theft has credit card companies on the vigil for possible fraudulent charges. Make sure you call your credit card company and let them know your travel plan and dates before you leave or they may block you or deny charges. Out of the ordinary charges are always flagged. For some reason the way rental car company’s process their orders I often get alerts about fraudulent charges after I’ve picked up a car. For this reason It’s a good idea to travel with two charge cards. If one card gets put on hold by your credit card company you want to have a backup so you’re not stranded far from home without funds.
When traveling it’s also a good idea to clean out your wallet. Take out all personal information (I know some people carry passwords on them). Just carry the minimum number of credit, debit, and identification needed. Just think if your wallet gets stolen what don’t you want people to have access to?
In this technology driven world it’s easy to pack a lot of expensive gadgets for a trip, but it’s also easy to get those things stolen. We live in an era where a lot of technology is redundant. Do you really need to pack a laptop, or tablet? Are you a professional photographer? Many cameras on smartphones are fantastic and they come GPS and wi-fi enabled.
In this age of social media many people are more concerned with others seeing their exploits than actually enjoying the moments themselves. I post travel photos on Instagram, but I travel for myself not for others. I started the site because I was getting so many request from people who wanted to see my work. From personal experience I discovered when you tote around a lot of expensive gear you spend the trip worrying something will happen to it or killing your back carrying it around. Simple, minimalist traveling is so much less stress. And if you forget to pack something it’s a good excuse to buy a souvenir.
All travelers can and will fall victim to scams. It happens even to the most experienced of travelers. Anytime your someplace new and out of your element it’s easy to be taken advantage of. Most of the time we are blissfully unawares.
If it seems like an amazing deal, then, yes it’s a scam! Nothing is ever free. Everyone out there is trying to make a living however they can.
• Porters will offer to carry a bag for you then ask for a tip or charge a fee.
• Condo companies that offer incentives for viewing a time share can be quite persuasive and time-consuming.
• If it’s not yours don’t use. Resort beach chairs and other amenities are for guests. If you use them and aren’t staying there you could incur a huge fee.
• Alcohol. Free drinks, cheap drinks, no prices on the drinks. Some places offer free drinks that turn out to be mostly ice served with super expensive food. Other places offer cheap food but don’t put prices on their twenty dollar cocktails. Always ask for prices before you order. better yet, if you can ask patrons coming out of establishments and ask them about their experience.
If your worried do things thru your hotel or ask a respectable local for advice. Travel agencies are a big help, but will pressure you to into buying things right away. Resist the urge and shop around before deciding.
Where to Stay
I have nothing against staying in hostels, but as a single, often solitary traveler my family sleeps better at night knowing I’m safe. Being raised by conservative Midwest parents I’m not a frequent party goer. Drunken crowd makes me nervous. So traveling safely on a budget can be hard. Fortunately, sites like Trip Advisor have tons of cheap, clean, and safe local hotels and B&B for a reasonable price. For example, if you do trip advisor search for Maui you will see hotels listed for 400 a night, but you can rent a condo or B&B that have nice rooms and private bathrooms for 100 a night, which is a huge savings.
When to Eat
Food tips to help you cut corners and avoid dysentery.
Some cultures eat their big meal at midday. I’m certainly a huge fan of the café culture. Dinner menus can be incredibly expensive. I try to eat a big lunch, then pick up something small for dinner. Many fine dinning establishments have affordable lunch menus.
Eat local, try new foods, but use common sense. Not all street vendors were created equal. Look for well established, clean, vendors who are frequented by locals. It doesn’t hurt to be cautious. I try to avoid salads when in doubt and instead opt for stir fry or vegetable soups when I feel like being healthy.
Get An Early Start
Frequently vacation is associated with an opportunity to relax and catch up on much needed rest. If I can, I like to take advantage of time changes. Being up early is the key to successful rural travel. Buses often start before the sun rises. An early start will also help you beat crowds and long lines, which is a life saver for those with social anxiety.
Gallivanting by definition is to go around from one place to another for the pursuit of pleasure or entertainment. As a person who has spent most of their adult life living outside the U.S. Traveling should be more than running around snapping as many photos as possible and shopping at all the same stores you buy from at home.
This is about going local, experiencing new cultures, and most importantly about traveling responsibly.
I remember the first time I had local roommates. My friend who was 21 had shared her small room with her brother, sister, and Granny her whole life. Even though we had separate rooms I would fall asleep every night to her sitting next to my bed talking to me thru a mosquito net because she wasn’t use to being alone.
That was how I started to understand the bond Central American family’s have. The infuriating closeness many Westerners find themselves wishing they had.
How to stop traveling like a tourist
• Don’t be a Jerk
• Learn a dozen phrases
• Keep your documents
Don’t Be A Jerk
I’m often amazed, astounded at how rude people are when traveling. It’s comes as no surprise then how badly they get treated in return.
On a recent trip to the Rivera Maya I saw firsthand why so many people have negative impressions of Americans. One instance was a very intimidating man towering over a tiny Mexican shopkeeper yelling at her in English that he didn’t want a bag for his easily breakable trinket. He was in Mexico. It’s not her fault he didn’t speak Spanish. What would it have hurt for him to just be nice and taken the bag? He could have throw it out later.
The point is you may be on your hard-earned vacation, but they live there. Don’t make the locals hate you. We already drive up local prices and clog the streets with inappropriately dressed and often drunk people.
It really works. Just smile and be nice to everyone even if you don’t speak the language. Even if you don’t feel like. You will be treated grand. Especially when traveling alone it’s important to be courteous. I can’t tell you how many people helped me with my bags and everything else I needed just for being kind.
Every trip abroad involves some form of customs encounter. Yes it’s a pain but keep in mind they are there to protect you. Always follow the rules to the best of your ability, but keep in mind security various country to country. Airport to airport. Depending on current threat levels security could be heightened at a moments notice. So be patient and flexible. Every traveler from time to time runs into a customs snag. I recently had a cast iron comal taken by customs. I knew I was taking a risk but that thing had traveled to at least 6 countries with me before encountering a problem.
On that same trip from Cancun I watched a grown women throw a tantrum in the customs line as the officer looked on in disbelief. What was the cause? Her 5 dollar bargain sunblock was over the 3 oz limit and she didn’t want to waste it. Save you dignity please. Gracious behavior helps promote peaceful relations between countries.
They are just doing their job. They can’t do anything about your mistake. We imperfect humans all make mistakes. So just let it go.
Here are some security tips
• Pack EXTRA one quart bags (they tear easy)
• No liquids over 3 oz that don’t fit in CLOSED ziplock bag
•Elaborate hairdos with clips will be searched and ruined
•Wear comfortable shoes
•Wear socks if security germs wig you out
•You will need to take off jackets and bulky sweaters so wear layers
•I try and avoid belts and jewelry
•Have computers easily accessible
•Try to be organized
Sure theirs always that overly stern customs agent but they tend to be the minority. Just remember to relax, be polite, and smile no matter what. I can’t tell you how often people have gone the extra mile to help me out just for being nice.
Most people have travel anxiety. Remember the whole trip is an experience so just take it in. Everyone has to wait in lines. Everyone gets searched. Everyone has to go thru customs.
I often see impatient people panicking and fussing because they are worried they will miss their flight. As every frequent traveler knows. You will miss your plane at some point. Especially reentering the country during holiday periods. No one cares but you. Everyone in line is going somewhere. Don’t sweat it. You will just get rebooked on a different flight. So get a coffee and enjoy that book you packed. It’s always good to plan trips with the possibility of flight delays. Giving yourself and extra day to get home will greatly reduce stress, and if you do make it back early the extra time is good for jet lag and unpacking.
Learn a dozen phrases
If a dozen seems daunting go for the half dozen. One of the biggest complaints I heard in Europe is that Americans don’t even try to speak their language. They just start speaking in English, which many locals found offensive. On that note many people in Latin America are truly complimented when foreigners attempt speaking their language.
Here is an example of key words or phases. I like to jot them down on a sticky note for quick reference.
• Excuse me
• Thank you
• I’m sorry I don’t speak (insert language)
• Do you speak English?
• Where is (location)
• How much is this?
I then include regional foods or names of places I want to see
It is also a good idea to jot down random words like Bus, Taxi, Restaurant, Entrance, Exit, Restroom, Women, and Man for obvious toilet, transport, and food needs.
Keep Your Documents
I guess this point falls under customs but I wanted to make sure the point stood out as it’s an important one. Keep all your travel documents. Don’t throw them out till after your back home. They accumulate to what? A dozen pieces of paper at the most. You never know when you might need them. Particularly entrance documents. Often there is a small square departure form or visa they tear off the bottom of the immigration form for you to hold till you leave.
For example when traveling to Mexico visitors may have to pay 306 pesos if they lose their entrance visa which is proof they already paid to enter the country. (Usually a complication when land and air travel between countries is combined)