Before You Travel: Acquaint Yourself with Your Destination
Before you begin your journey, do a bit of research to familiarize yourself with the country to which you are traveling and the main aspects of its culture. Reference books, national or government tourism sites, newspapers, travel sites and more are all great sources to use for information on a country's history, current events, and traditional customs.
When traveling during a global situation like the COVID 19 pandemic, it is incredibly important to check the policies and vaccine and mask mandates not just of the place you land in, but other towns, cities and even countries that you might want to travel to once you get to your main (or first) destination. As well as to keep checking on these policies once you're traveling.
Discover The Basics
When you're traveling outside your own region or country knowing some basics of the culture you'll be visiting can make travel much easier, more respectful and more engaging. Here are some areas to focus on before you even pack your suitcase:
- Currency and exchange rate
- Basic words and phrases: Hello, Goodbye, Thank you, You're welcome, Excuse me/Pardon me, I'm sorry, How much, How long, How far, Food, Drink, Right, Left, Straight, Help, Hotel/Hostel/Resort, Hospital, and of course numbers can all take you quite far (that, and of course, "Where is the restroom?")
- Attire - while you may still end up wearing your own garb, it's very important to know the standard attire of the place you're visiting - there could be restrictions to consider (requirements around certain body parts being covered - often shoulders, head or legs) or common practices to observe (like removing your shoes before going indoors)
- Gestures of greetings and goodbyes and to whom what type of gesture is offered, or even if it's offered
- Tipping - tipping practices vary greatly around the world and you could save yourself an awkward situation (and in some cases some cash,) if you find out the local customs first.
- Dining customs
- Personal space standards
It's not a bad idea to acquaint yourself with some of the following facts about the place you're traveling to too.
- Names of large cities and popular attractions, especially natural ones like forests, dunes, parks, beaches and the like, as well as famous monuments
- Name(s) of key political figures
- National holidays and days of rest
- Form of government and what that means for the country: for example, a republic could mean a dictatorship
- National religion and alternatives
- National sports
- The correct and full name of the country
When traveling to a new country many people are smart to look into the follow issues. While it might not be first of mind when you're dreaming about your trip, the following can be incredibly important to remaining respectful (and safe) as you travel:
- Policies on alcohol and drug use
- Gender issues
- Racial/Colorism issues
- Controversial topics
- Inappropriate material
- Public displays of affection
Learning about a country and its customs before you visit is a mark of a conscientious traveler. It is a sign of respect toward your hosts (the country you are visiting) and their culture, who will generally appreciate your efforts to adapt to their traditions while you visit.
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