My list of 50 places I’ve never been that I plan to visit the year I turn 50 is starting to take shape.
Some of those trips will keep me in the U.S like Seattle and Maine.
But many of the trips will take me abroad to Italy, Spain and beyond.
Traveling in a foreign country adds an extra layer to the experience. There are more barriers to break through to fully enjoy the stay and see things beyond just the typical tourist attractions.
I went back to 3 of my favorite frequent travelers to find out how they deal with the language, monetary, and cultural differences in a foreign country.
Self-proclaimed road warrior Rich says never assume English is enough. “Even in big countries like Japan many people won’t speak English. I always have my hotel name, and any place I’m planning to go for the day saved in the local language.”
Emery said in his experience, locals will often say they don’t speak English even if they do, “because if they say “yes”,” he says, “American’s will start rattling off English way, way to quickly and they get embarrassed.” And Emery has plenty of experience. He’s been to more than 70 countries! He says a translation app can be helpful.
I’m also hoping that speaking slowly, using simple words and hand gestures and maybe a little prayer will help me too.
When it comes to food, these travelers, who love to experience adventures all over the world, play it rather conservative. Emery says he only eats in good restaurants. His trick, “Do NOT eat from street venders or hotels that aren’t at least 1/2 full. See if locals are eating there.”
Rich who spends more than 100 nights in a hotel room each year says, “I have eaten more than 1500 club sandwiches because while I love travel I hate hotel food and a club sandwich is always safe. You know what you’re going to get.”
Don’t let traveling alone stop you from a good meal. Traveling working mom Rachel says, “get comfortable dining alone.” She uses yelp and open table as her guide.
I hadn’t given much thought about what I would need in terms of money for my trip, two of my experts brought it up so I’m thinking about it now!
Emery and Rich both use credit cards when they can and pay in local currency. Emery suggests letting the credit card company convert it back for you. Rich sticks mostly to an ATM since there’s virtually ‘no chance you’ll be cheated,’ though you may have additional fees. Whatever you do, DON’T exchange money at the airport. Rich says it’s the worst place. Here’s something I learned from Rich, “Now the absolute best rate if you are going somewhere popular is to search on a neighborhood blog, or even a work blog. Then you’ll often find people who have leftover and you can change it for no fees at the current rate. I did that recently with pesos.”
All my travel experts agree cash is good for tips.
One final note from Rich. “When you check out of a hotel in a foreign country often they will ask you if you want your bill in dollars or whatever the local currency is. Always always ask for the local currency. Guess why? It doesn’t change the price but they simply do the calculation for you and then charge you a fee sometimes as much as 3% of your total bill for making the conversion,” he said.
This group also know a thing or two about saving money and time when you travel. Check out what they have to say about that before you plan your next trip.
I’m taking notes on every conversation I have with every one who has traveled more than I. Without a doubt I’ll remember these words from Emery.
“Do NOT compare everything to how it’s done in the US,” he says “Just because it’s different in that country, does not mean it’s wrong or isn’t successful. Be humble and fully appreciate the national pride each country has.”