When you’re traveling the world, regardless of where you are you are inevitably going to come across a problem or two (or more!) that you need to overcome. Issues that arise on the road can vary in severity and complexity, but by employing a flexible attitude, an open mind and perhaps a well-stocked medi-kit, you should get over them with ease. Below is a short rundown of a couple of the most common issues you may face and the best ways of dealing with them, in order to overcome them successfully.
Probably the most common problem on the road, regardless of the country you’re in. Some countries, such as France or Spain use the Latin alphabet and even for those people who struggle to learn new languages, they will find it easy to learn even a few words in these languages. Additionally, many countries have signs in both the local language as well as in English – especially if they are frequented often by tourists.
Other countries, however, you will find use their own alphabets such as Cyrillic, Thai, Laotian, Burmese or Arabic (to name but a few). This can make reading signs, labels and the like extremely difficult, if not impossible. Never underestimate the use of charades in situations where the language barrier is a pain, as well as learning a few standard phrases such as “hello”, “goodbye” and the ever important “thank you”. You will find that most locals in countries will speak a little bit of English and if not, charades is incredibly useful! If you want to try your hand at more than just a couple of phrases, consider investing in a good quality language book for the country of choice. Many of them will often have Latin ascribed pronunciations alongside their local counterparts, meaning that even if you don’t know a lick of Arabic or Cyrillic, you’ll still be able to ask for bread with your meal in the local language and what have you.
A final note on the language barrier – even just trying can really endear you to the locals who will be more than happy to try for you in return, which more often than not results in both of you getting across what you’re trying to say through their broken English and your broken local language.
Concept of Scheduling and Time
Anytime from now. That is literally a phrase I heard more times than I wanted to while I was in Tanzania, especially when it came to power and water outages. In scorching heat you want to know when the power is expected back and “anytime from now” is literally that. Anytime from now. So in an hour. In ten minutes. Or even…. in days.
The concept of time in foreign countries doesn’t particularly exist. There is no strict adherence to scheduling, time tables or opening times. All times posted are more like a rough guideline. Taking a bus somewhere? Expect to depart late, but don’t expect it so that you think you can rock up an hour late. Ensure you’re on time, but expect to depart late. It’s part of the experience and helps you go with the flow.
The Dreaded Delhi-belly
Okay, Delhi-belly might be something you associate with Delhi, but the fact is traveller’s diarrhoea is common and something that happens to literally everyone. It has to do with a combination of jet lag, new foods, maybe a tummy bug you got from eating a sketchy chicken skewer, but it’s nothing to worry about unless you’re running a fever for days and can’t even keep water down. Make sure you stock up on rehydration salts and pain medication for your medicine kit and you should be fine. Stick with bland foods and rice for a day or two and get some rest and you’ll be back to exploring the area before you know it.
One side note to point out as well is the common sense rule – if a restaurant is quiet, suspiciously so (like the restaurants around it are bustling and busy), chances are that it might not be great. Also, check out where the locals eat. Eat where they do if you’re looking for a street side place.
What? Yes. Scamming. It happens a lot in places like South East Asia and corruption is rife.Can you avoid it? Well… yes and no, it depends what the scam is and where it’s happening. Scams can include the very common “come see my gem shop”, or being asked to pay for someone pointing out where an attraction/hotel is. With situations like the “pay me for showing you x”, unfortunately the only way to spot this is through practice and experience. The “come see my gem shop” scam is innocent enough, but once you go to the person’s gem shop, they will use high pressure sales tactics as well as intimidation (and sometimes threats) to get you to buy. Don’t be put off travelling for this matter – being very, VERY stern about your disinterest in seeing a gem shop usually does the trick. Firm, but polite is usually the trick.
Other scams are not so easy to get out of. Borders in Cambodia are notorious for scam havens. One of the scams usually employed is where the “bus company” will have someone at the border to organise your visa for you, and so will collect your passport and do everything for you for what works out to be three or four dollars more than you doing it yourself. Considering the amount of hassle I have heard of people experiencing if they do it themselves (such as being then ditched by the bus company on the other side of the border and made to find their own way into town), it’s easier to just pony up the dough.
There are sometimes online forum that describe some of the scams that happen in the country you’re going to so it can be a good idea to read up on them before heading to the region so you know what to watch out for so you don’t fall prey to some of the more serious ones.
Always remember as well that sometimes scams are attributed to poverty and the low wages of the people in the country. You might feel cheated and angry, but the money they make from the scams could literally be the difference between the person eating or not, so try to be open minded, firm, polite and if all else fails, understanding.
Price Gouging/Two Tiered Pricing
This is the final problem we’ll look at that you will find in some places with regard to local versus foreigner pricing. This happens a lot in Asia, and when they see a “falang” (foreigner) it’s like dollar signs walking down the street. The two-tiered pricing system is essentially what it says on the tin – one price for locals, one price for foreigners. Don’t take it personally – it’s not you, it’s the way it goes. Unfortunately aside from skipping the attraction there is almost nothing you can do to get out of paying the higher price, and quite literally it might again be only a couple dollars more, so pick your battles with regard to pricing. You might be able to negotiate a lower price, but don’t count on it, but it can’t hurt to try.
In all, the problems you can face on the road are small compared to the amazing experiences you will have, so they are easy to overlook and work around. Always remember to keep your cool, remain firm and polite in scamming situations and remember to enjoy yourself, whatever happens!