It’s easy to make silly mistakes when travelling, especially when your going from country to country quickly and it’s your first time away.
Most of these mistakes have been made by us during our journey. But then we all know it’s hard being the perfect backpacker…
Assuming Someone’s Nationality
You may think you know where the fellow traveller you’ve just met comes from. But on the safe side, ask. Too many times to mention I’ve made this mistake.
I struggle between an American and Canadian accent. Canadians must get fed up of hearing “Where in the US are you from?”. Austrians may be upset if you confuse them as German.
Welsh will definitely get upset if you call them English. Just ask!
Offending the Locals
You’re travelling. You want as much fun as possible, there’s nothing wrong with that. Depending on your destination, flashing your body, getting mad drunk and acting the fool is likely to cause more embarrassment to the locals than you. As well as drawing possible unwanted attention to yourself. Which leads to…
Making Cultural Faux Pas
Hard to avoid sometimes. Showing the soles of your feet in some countries is hugely offensive. The same goes for touching a locals head.
Not taking your shoes off when going in a temple or someone’s house might cause offence. Not accepting food when it is offered to you could offend someone. Its hard to get it right all the time, but try.
This author was invited to a ‘Half sheep BBQ’ in Mongolia with a nomadic herder family. All was going well. We were sat around drinking vodka, everyone tearing meat off with their teeth, spitting out bones onto the floor. I even heard a fart in the room somewhere. The mistake came when I finished my meat pile, sat back and let out a slightly louder than discreet burp. All eyes suddenly turned on me. The family shaking their heads, some disgusted, some angry! Even our guide was embarrassed…
Travelling Too Fast
One traveller asked me “Can I do Cambodia in 2 days?”. I kept a straight face. Of course not.
Obviously you want to try and see as many places as possible on your travels. But not at the expense of not seeing what’s right in front of you.
Staying for longer period in less destinations is a far better way of experiencing a country. Darting around the country on night buses, arriving tired, then trudging around half-hearted is the wrong way to travel.
Not Learning Any Local Phrases
It takes 5 minutes to memorise ‘Hello’, ‘Thank you’, ‘How much?’ and ‘Goodbye’. No excuses really. Don’t be afraid to try and bust out a few lines of local lingo.
You might not say it right the first time, but the locals will be impressed that you’ve tried and will help you out. Regardless of the country you’re in, saying “I’m full!” after a meal will always get a smile.
Abusing the Guidebooks
Guidebooks like the Lonely Planet are very helpful, and almost fall into our 8 Essential Items You Need To Take Travelling list.
But going solely by what they preach is foolish and you’ll only see a glimpse of what a place is really like.
I met a guy in Cambodia who sold his guest house for a tidy profit once he found out his place was listed ‘Our Pick’ in the L.P. Knowing that the guest house is likely to be swamped now it’s received such high praise, he sold it to a local who had no clue about the hospitality business. The place consequentially went bust. Treat ‘Our Picks’ with caution.
The same goes for heading only to the listed places in a country. Everyone else heads there, and you’ll probably see the same faces from your previous destination.
There are some truly amazing places the L.P can’t squeeze into their pages. Get out there and explore!
Not eating where the locals do, staying in expensive hotels, not learning any phrases, sticking to the same old traveller trail. All these things will limit your travelling experience. Which leads to…
Not Being Brave Enough
I don’t mean skydives or bungee jumps. I mean using ‘The Bum Gun’ and eating with your hands. Trying some questionable cuisine or volunteering at an orphanage.
Travelling is all about seeing new places and doing different things.
It’s important to give these new opportunities a chance. If you hate the experience, at least you’ve given it a pop.
Blowing the Budget
Whether its whiskey buckets in Koh Phangan or pampering in Hoi An, every backpacker needs a blow out now and then.
Just try to keep an eye on what your spending. I’ve met countless people in S.E Asia who have blown their travel funds on a few too many liver busting nights out on the tiles.
Keeping a daily budget tally helps us. Others may find this obsessive, but we can look at weekly and monthly averages to see where to save more. This leads to…
Sweating the Small Money
Try not to get worked up over small amounts. If you’re walking a few miles to town to save 50 baht, or not going out with your new travel mates for a beer because you had a coke for lunch, then your worried too much about the small stuff.
Saving such small money and missing out on what travelling is all about would be a travesty. I’d rather go home early. Just try and be clever about your spending.
Yep guys these are all good tips!! I have been guilty of not learning the language, spending too much money and assuming someone’s nationality!! The last one can be especially important. I’m in Iraq right now and locals in this region (most of them) prefer to be known as Kurds from Kurdistan rather than Iraqis. Safe travels and Happy New Year. Jonny
Jonny Blair recently posted…How To Get an Iraqi Kurdistan Visa on Arrival at Erbil International Airport