Local Customs and More on a Blog

Experienced travellers claim that you should travel light on luggage and heavy on knowledge. Genuine globetrotters point out that everywhere you go, the hotels, restaurants, and shops will have everything you need. Moreover, if you keep your suitcase empty on your outbound trip, you have lots of room for all the great one-of-a-kind items you will pick-up on your travels. You cannot and should not, however, keep your mind more than half empty, leaving yourself vulnerable to hijackers, pirates, and international incidents. Reading a good blog, you can develop an experienced traveler’s wisdom and insight without ever leaving home.

Rules, regulations, and requirements

A blog will detail the rules, regulations, requirements, and laws governing travel to any destination on earth. Learn whether you need special documents or identification; should you carry your passport and birth certificate wherever you go? Learn whether you need proof of vaccination to enter the country; should you protect yourself against malaria, smallpox, and other contagious diseases relatively uncommon in Europe and North America? What will you do if you are injured during your travels abroad; will your insurance protect you, or should you purchase extra “trip insurance”? Can you drive a car through the country; what are the rules of the road? A blog breaks-down all the information into its main ideas and details, placing emphasis where it belongs and adding information only the locals would know.

Currency and exchange rates

Although the vendors and merchants will help you with all your transactions, you should know enough about the currency and values that you can tell the difference between a genuine bargain and an over-priced touristy curio. A blog will advise you to carry a pocket calculator or get an app for that, so that you can go comfortably from dollars to Euros to rupees or pesos. When you have mastered the math, move on to mastering the etiquette of tipping: to whom do you offer a gratuity, and how much is enough? Perhaps most importantly, a blog will advise you about shopping-what about tariffs, duties, customs fees, and other costs. That little trinket that seemed like the most awesome bargain in the universe may become your most expensive mistake if you do not prepare in advance.

Customs and courtesies

Learn a little bit about common courtesies in the countries on your itinerary. A blog will advise you about the consequences of asking for a fork in Japan or China, the complications of violating a local’s “personal space” in New York, and the ramifications of belching or becoming belligerent in an Australian pub. What about handshakes, bows, and hugs? Who does what, when and why? People in California and Colorado believe in hug-at-first-sight; other places not so much. Women may discreetly inquire about proper headwear: what does one wear as she visits the Vatican, takes tea with the Queen, or travels anywhere in Iran?

4 for Couples Traveling Abroad – Part 2

A romantic getaway is an exciting way to fan the flame of romance in any relationship. Before you can stroll hand-in-hand in the moonlight, you need to properly prepare for your trip. In this article, I’ll share four to get your vacation started on the right track to ensure your romantic getaway is smooth sailing.

Tip #1: Be sure to make copies of your important documents. If you’re using traveler’s checks make sure you keep the copies with the serial numbers separate from the originals. It also wouldn’t hurt to email the serial numbers, credit card numbers and your passport number to yourself. That way you can access the documents easily via the internet should your luggage or purse be lost or stolen. You can access the internet in almost every country. You can also leave a copy in your safety deposit box or with a trusted relative.

Tip #2: Check for travel alerts for your destination country. These are usually posted and updated by your country’s foreign travel department. It’s important to be aware of travel alerts to see if there are any health-related medical outbreaks or local political uprisings you need to be aware of. Sometimes these alerts can delay your vacation. I had to visit the airport health department office before I boarded my plane to leave Jamaica. At the time, they had a cautionary health alert.

Tip #3: Read up on the customs in the country of your destination. It also is good to know how to say good morning, please and thank you in the language of the country you are visiting. Learn how to properly greet someone. We tend to informal in the United States. In other countries, it is downright rude to address a stranger informally. If you respect the people in the country you’re visiting by learning a few of their customs, you’ll find that their response to you will be warm, friendly and helpful.

Tip #4: Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone you trust at home. Be sure to let them know of any changes. In case of an emergency on their end or your end, you want someone to be able to contact the authorities. They should know where you are or at least where you are supposed to be.

Keep your romantic getaway safe and fun by using these when booking your vacation. Don’t wait until the last-minute. Procrastination cost time, money and unnecessary stress. Advance preparation makes for a smooth trip and a fun vacation for you both.

Ethiopia Adventure

In November 2010 my husband and I travelled around Ethiopia for three weeks by public bus with a private guide. Travel (especially bus travel) is a real adventure and not for the faint hearted as there is long travel days (even longer if the bus breaks down) on poorly maintained roads. But it is an excellent way to get up close and personal and experience the life and culture of the locals.

Addis Ababa
We arrived at the airport at 3.30am. We had not booked any accommodation due to our early arrival so we stayed at the airport till about 7am. A taxi agreed to take us into the city for USD$10. We went to the Ras Hotel where we had to wait till 9am to see if they had a room.
Travel Tip: We stayed at the Ras Hotel 3 times due to its central location. The price includes breakfast which is awful but lunch and dinner are good.

Bahir Dar
We stayed at the Ghion Hotel on Lake Tana and did a boat cruise to the islands to see the painted churches. The Blue Nile Falls area is pretty but not worth the long bumpy ride to get there. Since damming the river, the waterfalls are certainly nothing like the posters show.
Travel Tip: Check if a guide is included with your Lake Tana boat cruise. There was 9 of us on our boat. No guide accompanied us on the boat except for our private guide Samson. The first island we visited Samson acted as intrepreter otherwise we would have not understood what we were looking at. The second island we visited the church guide spoke English.

Gonder
The abandoned castles are very interesting and it is worth hiring the guides inside the gate.
Travel Tip: We stayed at the Belgez Pension which was cheap, clean and quiet but the rooms were very small and cramped. They do your washing for a very small fee – give to the cleaners in the morning.

Simien Mountains
We did a one day 4WD day trip with another traveller and our guide Samson.
Travel Tip: We would have liked to have stayed overnight even though we are not trekkers, as the scenery is stunning.

Lalibela
We spent 2 nights in Lalibela exploring the amazing rock churches.
Travel Tip: Keep your entrance ticket handy as they will be checked at each church entrance.

Arba Minch
Arba Minch is a overnight bus stop between Addis Ababa and Jinka.
Travel Tip: Spend an extra night on one of the stopovers and do the lake tour.

Jinka
We hired a 4WD locally to tour the main 3 tribes in the area (Mersi, Hamer and Karo tribes). We shared this cost with 3 other travellers who were on the bus and stayed at the same accommodation as us.
Travel Tip: Buy your bus ticket to Addis Ababa early (at least 1 day in advance) so you can obtain a better seat number otherwise you will find yourself stuck at the back of the bus on the 2 day journey. Buy good ear plugs so that you can block out the noise of the loud music videos playing.

Transport
We used a variety of transport that included: public bus, minivan, 4WD and boat.
Travel Tip: If you find that quite a few of you are heading in the same direction, it will be more economical and comfortable to rent a minivan and driver like we did from Bahar Dar to Gondar (7 people).

Tour Guide
We used the services of a private guide. This was the first time we have hired a guide for the entire trip through a new country. The guide proved invaluable in keeping the touts away (worth the money alone), dealing with local tour operators and obtaining hotels.
Travel Tip: Use a private guide’s extensive knowledge and experience to enjoy Ethiopia through the eyes of a local.

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