Yesterday we went over some of the DO’s of traveling, so today we’re going over some of the DON’Ts of traveling.
1. Don’t pay in your currency when given the option by a merchant.
In a rather horrible turn of events, many foreign merchants will now give you the option of paying in your home currency. Sounds great, right? NOT SO FAST.
Not only will merchants give you a crappy exchange rate so they can make a little more off your purchase, but it’s also possible that your credit card company will charge you as well. Even if you have a card with no foreign transaction fee.
2. Don’t get suckered in by tuk tuk and tour scams.
Bangkok is notorious for the tuk tuk scam. Beijing is notorious for the tour scam. Both work similarly – you work out a cheap rate ahead of time, but are then driven to other stops before you reach your destination.
In the case of the Bangkok tuk tuks this is usually a jewelry store where the tuk tuk driver receives free gas in exchange. In the case of the Chinese tour bus it’s not uncommon to be brought to an Eastern Medicine building where doctors will diagnose you with all sorts of illnesses. Fortunately for you they can be cured with herbs and medicines that they keep on premises, of course.
3. Don’t give money to Asian monks.
A common(er) scam in South East Asia. The scammer is dressed as a monk asking for money for some cause or another. The thing is… monks don’t ask for money. Politely decline and move on.
4. Don’t buy souvenirs in the airport or outside major sites.
Looking for a miniature Angkor Wat to prove you were there? Don’t purchase it at the stores on the temple’s grounds and definitely don’t buy it at the airport. The cheapest places are usually within the same city as the attraction, but in the lower rent district. The exception, of course, is to buy it from the guy selling it on a rug in front of the temple.
5. Don’t support animal cruelty.
Riding elephants in South East Asia seems like an awesome idea right? Unfortunately, not every place does it humanely. If the elephant has a wooden chair strapped to its back – that is HURTING THE ELEPHANT, and the people running the service are likely mistreating it.
Instead, there are several organizations where you can feed and wash the elephant before riding it bare back. Yes, it is terrifying, but it’s also quite cool.
6. Don’t ask the concierge for food advice.
At least not for price efficient food. In my experience the concierge will almost always direct you to the most expensive restaurant – probably because that’s where you’re least likely to get sick.
7. Don’t change money. ATMS are everywhere.
Unless you’re looking to bleed money, you are probably better off just using an ATM instead of exchanging currencies. Every airport I’ve ever been to has at least 2 ATMs, and there are quite a few banks that waive withdrawal fees – even in other countries! I like Charles Schwab, but I understand Capital One has a similar product.
8. Don’t rely on only one source of information.
Relying on one website when planning a trip is asking for trouble, especially when using all-in-one sites like trip advisor. While most sites span several areas of interest, here’s what I like to use them for:
1) Trip Advisor – hotel recommendations and sight seeing. Just keep in mind that the TA crowd tends to be a bunch of cheap skates who love yoga as you’ll see a disproportionately high amount of free activities and yoga studios toward the top of the activities chart.
2) Wiki Travel – a good all around site for information on a city or landmark. Often gives good advice on how to get to a city from the airport.
3) CNN Go – chock full of information on Asian countries.
4) Chowhound – great for finding amazing restaurants. Chow-hounders are extremely hardcore and run the gamut in taste from cheap eats to haute cuisine.
5) Yelp – pretty useful in the States and Europe, but not as useful at determining good Asian or “exotic” restaurants.
9. Don’t buy things at full price.
There are almost always tons of bargains to be had online. Mrs. Selfish managed to find buy-one-get-one coupons for both the London Eye and the Tower of London, a savings of $55! For Kangaroo Island I managed to find a buy-one-get-one coupon for the ferry online, which ended up saving us $80.
The Internet is your friend. Use it.
10. Don’t travel during a region’s major holidays.
Mrs. Selfish and I managed to screw up our trip to Siem Reap by traveling during Chinese New Year. Throngs of Chinese tourists poured into Angkor Wat, making for a loud, crowded experience.
Conversely, traveling during your country’s major holiday can be an excellent idea. Every year for Thanksgiving Mrs. Selfish and I take our annual abroad trip. Not only are flights surprisingly easy to get, but we also manage to avoid Black Friday, the deadliest shopping holiday of them all!