A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: beerman

Useful French Phrases for Travelers

Un peu is better than poo

Beerman Hiding in Front of the Arc d' Triomphe by Beerman

Beerman Hiding in Front of the Arc d' Triomphe by Beerman

You're going to take the plunge and visit a French speaking country....you've wanted to for years. The wine, the food, the romance, all have an allure that need to be seen and appreciated. Unfortunately, you don't know the difference between "un peu" (a little), and "a poo" (kind of self explanatory). Well fellow explorer, you've come to the right place, because it is here that you will learn how to get around, order a meal, quaff beer (though I've noticed most people don't really need help quaffing beer), and generally be able to make your travels through French speaking countries considerably more enjoyable. Having a little knowledge of local customs will help you as well, but at least with this blog you will be able to understand where and what certain things mean, and that can make all the difference between being helplessly confused and having the confidence to order poutine (fried potatoes with gravy and cheese, more or less) in that little cafe' along the waterfront in Marseille without the waiter thinking you want a hearty dish of jellied ox testicles.

I have only had the pleasure of traveling to three French speaking countries, France, where I hear it is the native language, Switzerland, where it is one of 37 native languages (well, one of three really), and Montreal, though not a country, it could be if the Quebecoise get their way and secede from Greater Canada. When I was at University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that bastion of French culture, I took an intensive course in French language and culture. It was a one semester course that packed five semesters into one (generally, two semesters made up one year of study). We had five final exams in five months. What did I get myself into???? But, as I had always been interested in French culture, due mainly to watching all the Peter Sellers "Pink Panther" movies, I took the plunge. Plus I needed a language to get my Liberal Arts degree. Spanish was an option.....after all, I was in New Mexico, but French called to me. It helped that there were more pretty girls in the class than in my Biology classes, but still. Peter Sellers taught me the all-important accents that I needed to succeed. In fact, I had the best accent in my class from the beginning, and I could I could always get the class to laugh with the old "Does your dog bite" joke. Our professor was a classically trained French master from Louisiana, who spoke with a rather peculiar southern accent, reminiscent of a Cajun who had waaaaaay too much wine to drink. Still, five months flew by, and at the end, I was ready to take on even the most veteran French speakers. Unfortunately, it would be another four years before I actually traveled to France, and by that time I could barely order a beer without sounding like a complete idiot. Practice is key here - you must practice a language to be proficient. I had not, but I still had my accent, so I was undeterred from my goals. I was ready to be mocked by that pretentious waiter in Marseille (I think I may have ordered a plate of wallpaper paste with a side of tree bark, which could have led to the mocking......I don't remember that clearly - though my accent was impeccable).

Marseille Fish Market by Sydney324

Marseille Fish Market by Sydney324

So below you will find a list of phrases that may come in handy if you find yourself in France, Switzerland, Montreal (or Quebec in general), Martinique, Tahiti, several countries in South-East Asia, and even more countries in Africa. Not all the phrases are accented (bad keyboard), but you'll get the gist....this is for pronunciation, not spelling.

What did I get myself into????


Where is... – Où est – (oo ay)
How much is it – Combien ça coûte – (cohm-bee-en sa coot)
What is your name? - Quel est votre nom – (kell ay vote-reh no)
Where are my shoes (France)? – Où sont mes chaussures – (ooh sohnt may show-soor)
Where are my shoes (Quebec)? – Où sont mes souliers – (ooh sohnt may soo-leeyay)
Who's the blonde stranger (female)? - Qui est l'inconnue blonde – (key ay lay-cuh-nu blohnd)
Who's the blonde stranger (male)? - Qui est l'inconnu blond - (key ay lay-cuh-nu blohn)

Hey, you never know.....


Here – ici – (ee-see)
There – là-bas – (lah-bah)
Everywhere – partout – (pahr-too)
On The Corner – sur le coin – (sur luh kwahn)
Straight – droite – (dro-wat)
Right- droit – (dro-wa)
Left – gauche – (goshe)
Ahead – en avant – (ahn av-ahn)
Behind – en arrière – (ahn ar-yehr)
In(inside) – à l'intérieur – (ah l'ahn-tare-ee-air)
Out(outside) – à l'extérieur – (ah l'ex-tare-ee-air)
Railroad - chemin de fer – (shem-ahn duh fair)
Train – train – (trehn)
Bus – l'autobus – (l'ow-toe-boos)
Car – auto, or voiture – (oh-toe, vwah-tour)
Taxi – taxi – pretty universal, this one
Plane – l'avion – (l'ah-vee-own)
Airport - l'aéroport – (l'uh-air-o-pohr)
Station – gare – (gahr)
Hotel – hôtel – (oh-tell)
Hostel – auberge – (oh-bear-jzh)
City – ville – (veel)
Country – pays – (pay-ee)
Store – magasin – (mah-gah-zahn)
Market – marché – (marsh-ay)
Restaurant – restaurant – (ray-stow-rahn)
Bus stop- l'arrêt d'autobus – (l'are-eh d'oh-toe-boos)

Beerman vs. the Coast Guard by Beerman

Beerman vs. the Coast Guard by Beerman


The Museum - le musée – (luh mooz-ay)
The Park - le parc – (luh pahrk)
The Church - l'église – (lay-gleez)
The Library - la bibliothèque – (lah beeb-lee-oh-tek)
A Monument - un monument – (uhn mohn-oo-mohnt)
The Aquarium - l'aquarium – (lah-kwahr-ee-um)

I was ready to be mocked by that pretentious waiter in Marseille


Beer – bière – (bee-air)
Wine – vin – (vahn)
Water - eau – (oh)
Juice - jus de... – (zhu deh)
Rum – rhum – (rhom)
Milk – lait – (lay)
Beef – boeuf – (boof)
Pork – porc – (pohrk)
Chicken – poulet – (poo-lay)
Duck – canard – (cah-nahrd)
Veal – veau – (voh)
Guinea Pig – porcs Guinée – (pohrk gee-nay)
Ham – jambon – (zhahm-bow)
Bacon – bacon - (bay-cun)
Vegetables – legumes – (lay-goom)
Carrot – carotte – (care-oat)
Onion - oignon – (ahn-yoh)
Potato - pommes de terre – (pohm duh tare)
Beans – haricots – (are-ee-co)
Cabbage – chou – (shew)
Tomato – tomate – (toe-maht)
Fruit – fruits – (frew-ee)
Apple – pomme – (pohm)
Banana – banane – (bahn-ahn)
Grapes – raisins – (ray-zahn)
Lemon – citron – (see-trohn)
Lime – lime – (leem) (Or “citron vert” (see-trohn vair) in France)
Melon – melon – (may-loan)
Nut – noix – (nwa)
Ice Cream - crème glacée – (crame glah-say)
Chocolate – chocolat – (show-co-lah)
Candy – bonbons – (bohn-bohn) (Also, friandise (free-ahn-deez))


Hello – bonjour – (bohn-zhoor)
Please - s'il vous plaît – (seel voo play)
Thank you – merci – (mare-see)
You're Welcome (Quebec)- bienvenue – (bee-on-vehn-oo) )
You're Welcome (France) - de rien (du ree-en) or je vous en prie (zhu vooz on pree)
Excuse Me - excusez-moi – (ayk-skoo-zay mwa) (Also “pardon” (par-dohn) in France)
Of Course! - bien sûr – (bee-ehn soor)
Kiss – un baiser – (uhn bay-zay) (Have to put the “un” before or else it means to have sexy time!)
Hug – étreinte – (ay-traynt)
Yes - oui - (wee)
No - non - (nohn)


Police – police – (poh-lees)
Hospital - l'hôpital – (loh-pee-tahl)
Fire Department – les pompiers – (lay pohm-pee-air)
Embassy – ambassade – (em-bah-sahd)


Where is the hotel (name) - où est l'hôtel – (oo ay loh-tell)
My name is... - mon nom est... – (mohn nohm ay...)
This is a beautiful country – c'est un beau pays – (sayt ahn bo pay)
Where is the bathroom - où est la salle de bains – (ooh ay luh sahl deh bahn)
My dog has no nose - mon chien n'a pas de nez – (moan shee-en nah pah deh nay)
How does he smell – Comment est-ce qu'il sent? – (com-ohnt ess-se-kill-sahn)
Terrible – terrible – (tare-ee-bluh)

My dog has no nose - mon chien n'a pas de nez – (moan shee-en nah pah deh nay)
How does he smell – Comment est-ce qu'il sent? – (com-ohnt ess-se-kill-sahn)
Terrible – terrible – (tare-ee-bluh)

This is my stop - Ceci est mon arrêt – (seh-see ay moan are-ett)
Help Me! - aidez-moi – (aye-aid-ay mwa)
May I have a large plate of poutine with extra gravy - puis-je avoir une grosse assiete de poutine avec extra sauce – (pwee-zhu ah-vwahre ahn gross ass-eeyet duh poo-teen ah-vek ek-strah sose)

This list is by no means complete, but it will be helpful to you in your travels, if for no other reason than to avoid the mocking of a haughty waiter who has never dined on wallpaper paste with a side of tree bark. A hearty smile and a few choice phrases will go a long way toward making your adventure one to remember. Never be afraid to try, people will appreciate your efforts.

I would like to give a huge two cheek un baiser to fellow TP member Tway, without whose assistance I would have led you readers astray. Merci beaucoup, mon cher ami, vous êtes un ange. I hope I didn't just call you a turnip. Let the good times roll - Laissez les bontemps roulez - (layzay lay bohn-tomp roo-lay).

If you have other tips and tricks for your fellow travellers, then join us in educating travellers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by beerman 09:18 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (5)

Useful Spanish Phrases for Travelers

A little bit is better than nada

Chichicastenango market by SChandler

Chichicastenango market by SChandler

So you've decided to add some flair to your travels and visit a Latin country. The sights, the sounds, the food, the local color....these are the things you're looking for. Unfortunately, you don't speak Spanish. This can be a major handicap when you need to use the bathroom, for example. Though holding your crotch with a pained look on your face and hopping up and down often conveys this message, wouldn't it be better to be able to "ask" where the facilities are located? I have been in many situations while traveling in Mexico and Panama that required the use of a few key words and phrases to get my point across to one of the locals, and that is why this blog can be helpful to you. Knowing how to order a meal, or a cold beer, or getting directions to the bus stop, train station, museum, or the hospital if necessary can make your trip more rewarding and enjoyable than you can imagine. And I have always found that locals tend to appreciate my meager efforts at trying to speak their language - that I cared enough about their country and their language to make the effort to communicate not in English.

Granted, I have taken years of Spanish classes, I have lived in Mexico, but if you don't continually practice speaking Spanish, the nuances of the tongue can be evasive. Today, my Spanish is very poor, because I haven't used it for so long. I tend to speak only in the present tense, because I can't remember the past tense or the pluperfect tense (c'mon, who ever remembers the pluperfect tense?) Nonetheless, I am able to make myself understood sufficiently that I get what I need. And do not, under any set of circumstances, EVER be afraid to try. No one cares that you can't recite Cervantes in the original. Pronunciation is over-rated, people KNOW that you don't speak their language. The key is that you are TRYING, and that's what counts. Just remember to speak clearly and with sincerity, and in a normal tone of voice. No one likes some tourist shouting at them. And if you get something wrong, so what? Try again. I once took a class with my father and sister in Mexico taught by a Jesuit priest. My father was trying to conjugate the verb caer, to fall. He was extremely proud that he knew the answer, so much so that he shouted out "Yo cago". The priest began blushing and giggling, because rather than saying "I fall", my father managed to say "I shit". This was quite amusing, though hardly correct. Generally, when you mispronounce something, people will smile and be amused, so don't be nervous about getting everything right the first time. It's alright to order in a restaurant "dos jueves y jabon" (2 Thursdays and soap), rather than "dos huevos y jamon" (2 eggs and ham). People will usually get a giggle and be more apt to help you.

So below is a short list of words and phrases that might just come in handy if you find yourself in Spain,Mexico, Central America or South America (except Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken - and I still can't figure that one out!!), or the Philippines, even Italy, because Spanish and Italian are very close. I must leave out accents on words because I haven't learned how to do that on my keyboard.
The Family Nuñez by kermibensharbs

The Family Nuñez by kermibensharbs


Where is... - Donde esta (doan-day eh-stah)
How much is it - Cuanto cuesta (kwan-toe kway-stah)
What is your name? - Como se llama (coh-moh say yah-mah)
Where are my shoes? - Donde estan mis zapatos (dohn-day eh-stahn mees sah-pah-tose)
Who's the blonde stranger (female)? - Quien es la estranjera rubia (key-en es la ehs-trahn-hair-ah roo-bee-ah) -
Who's the blonde stranger (male)? - Quien es la estranjero rubio (key-en es la ehs-trahn-hair-oh roo-bee-oh)
Hey, you never know.....

Generally, when you mispronounce something, people will smile and be amused, so don't be nervous about getting everything right the first time.


Here - Aqui (ah-key)
There - Alli (ah-yee)
Everywhere - Por Dondequiera (pour dohn-day key-air-ah)
The Corner - Rincon (reen-cone)(corner of the room)
The Corner- Esquina (es-key-nah) (corner of the block)
Straight - Derecho (deh-ray-cho)
Right- Derecha (deh-ray-chah)
Left - Izquierda (ees-key-air-dah)
Ahead - Adelante (ah-day-lahn-tay)
Behind - Detras de (day-trahs day)
In(inside) - Adentro (ah-dent-row)
Out(outside) Afuera (ah-fwhere-ah)
Railroad - Ferrocarril (fair-oh-car-rill)
Train - Tren (Trehn)
Bus - Autobus (Ow-tow-boos)
Car - Coche (koh-chay)
Taxi - Taxi (this one is pretty universal)
Plane - Avion (ah-vee-own)
Airport - Aeropuerto (ay-air-oh-pwer-toe)
Station - Estacion (eh-stah-see-own)
Hotel - Hotel (oh-tell)
Hostel - Hostel (oh-stahl)
City - Cuidad (see-ooh-dahd)
Country - Pais (pahy-ees)
Store - Tienda (tee-en-dah)
Market - Mercado (mair-cah-doe)
Restaurant - Restaurante (res-tau-rahn-tay)
Bus stop- Parada (pah-rah-dah)


The Museum - El Museo (el-moo-say-oh)
The Park - El Parque (el par-kay)
The Church - La Iglesia (lah ee-glay-see-ah)
The Library - La Bibliotheca (lah beeb-lee-oh-tay-kah)
A Monument - El Momunento (el mon-ooh-meant-oh)
The Aquarium - El Acuario (el ah-kwar-ee-oh)

all dressed up in Peru by Mavr8k

all dressed up in Peru by Mavr8k


Beer - Cerveza (sair-vay-sah)
Wine - Vino (vee-no)
Water - Agua (ah-gwa)
Juice - Jugo (who-go)
Rum - Ron (rohn)
Milk - Leche (lay-chay)

Beef - Carne (sort of generalized for meat) - (car-nay)
Pork - Puerco (pwair-co)
Chicken - Pollo (poy-oh)
Duck - Pato (pah-toe)
Veal - Ternera (tair-nair-ah)
Guinea Pig - Conejillo de Indias (or Cuy in SA) (cone-ay-heel-yo day een-dee-ahs) (coo-ee)
Ham - Jamon (hah-moan)
Bacon - Tocino (toe-see-no)

Vegetables - Vegetales (veh-hay-tahl-ehs)
Carrot - Zanahoria (sahn-ah-ore-ee-ah)
Onion - Cebolla (say-boy-ah)
Potato - Patata (pah-tah-tah)
Beans (legumes) - Frijoles (free-hole-ehs)
Cabbage - Repollo (ray-poy-yo)
Tomato - Tomate (toe-mah-tay)

Fruit - Fruta (froo-tah)
Apple - Manzana (mahn-zah-nah)
Banana - Banana (you can get this one)
Large banana used for weapons or frying - Platano (plah-tah-no)
Grapes - Uva (ooh-vah)
Lemon - Limon (lee-moan)
Lime - Lima (lee-mah)
Melon - Melone (meh-loan-ay)
Nut - Nuez (noo-ezz)

Ice Cream - Helados (ay-lah-dose)
Chocolate - Chocolate (choak-oh-lah-tay)
Candy - Dulce (also means "sweet") ( Dool-say)

My dog has no nose - Mi perro no tiene nariz (mee pair-oh no tee-en-ay nahr-ees)
How does he smell? - Como huele? (koh-moh way-lay)
Terrible! - Terrible (tear-ee-blay)


Hello - Halo (ah-low)
Hello - Hola (Oh-lah)
Please - Por Favor (pour fah-vore)
Thank you - Gracias (grah-see-ahs)
You're Welcome - Por Nada (pour nah-dah)
Excuse Me - Disculpa Me (dis-cool-pah may)
Of Course! - Por Supuesto! (pore Soo-pweh-stow!)
Kiss - Beso (beh-so)
Hug - Abrazo (Ah-bratz-oh)

oaxaca signs by kreglicka

oaxaca signs by kreglicka


Police - Policia (poh-lis-see-ah)
Hospital - Hospital (ose-pee-tahl)
Fire Department - Servicio de Bomberos (sair-vee-see-oh day bom-bear-ohs)
Embassy - Embajada (ehm-bah-hah-dah)


Where is the hotel (name) - Donde esta el hotel (doan-day eh-stah el oh-tell...)
My name is... - Me llamo (may yah-mo)(Literally "I'm called...")
This is a beautiful country - Este es un pais hermoso (eh-sta es oonah pie-ees air-moh-sah)
Where is the bathroom - Donde esta el baño (doan-day eh-stah el bahn-yo)
My dog has no nose - Mi perro no tiene nariz (mee pair-oh no tee-en-ay nahr-ees)
How does he smell - Como heule (koh-moh way-lay)
Terrible - Terrible (tear-ee-blay)
This is my stop - Esto es mi parada (Es-toe es me pah-rah-dah)
Help Me! - Socorro! (So-core -oh!) Ayudame! (Ay ooda may!)

A hearty smile and an effort to speak to someone in their own language without feeling foolish can make memories to cherish for a lifetime

las hot spring chicas by ggithens

las hot spring chicas by ggithens

This list is by no means complete, but it should give you a fair idea of really the most basic words and phrases that can make your travels so much easier and friendlier. A hearty smile and an effort to speak to someone in their own language without feeling foolish can make memories to cherish for a lifetime....or, if nothing else, some pretty good stories for your friends about how you asked the old woman in Santiago about your oral hygiene when you wanted to know if she had bananas for sale.

If you have other tips and tricks for your fellow travellers, then join us in educating travellers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by beerman 09:52 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (8)

Let The Milk of Human Kindness Flow

Or, How to Win the Personality Lottery

To kick off the New Year (Hello 2010), I’d like to give a few pointers (no, not the dogs) to the travelers and soon-to-be travelers among us (though if you want a dog, don’t let me stop you – they’ll do anything for you, including drooling). You can make the absolute most of your experiences around the world by following just a few simple suggestions from this fellow traveler. Even better, you can enrich your life and the lives of those around you. And who doesn’t want to be enriched? C’mon, you can tell me….I won’t tell anyone….

The Gift of a Smile is Priceless

The Drummer and the King, by beerman

The Drummer and the King, by beerman

How many times have you been traveling in a strange and foreign country and felt a little unease because everyone around you seems to be in a really bad mood? Sure, this tends to happen to people in larger cities because, quite honestly, they live there and have things to do, like commuting to work and trying to figure out how to take their 15 minute lunch hour in 10 minutes. In those larger cities, people tend to scowl so as to simply avoid contact with others and get on their merry way. They especially tend to dislike foreigners asking them how to get to the museum, the park, or the waterfront, because that distracts them from their “task at hand”, namely daily life. Now this is a generalization, but I have found it to be true in many large cities I have visited. I have also found that when I am in Chicago, a city I know well, or Montego Bay, or Guadalajara, or London, that if I am in need of some information, be it from a police officer, a bus driver, or a pedestrian, a simple smile works wonders in breaking the icy veneer the city dweller generally presents. People instinctively trust (or run away from!) someone who smiles. Rarely do muggers and pickpockets smile at you. Along with your smile, be aware of your body language. Try not to crowd people’s “personal space” because they then tend to back away and regard you as a threat. Stand at arm’s length, look the person in the eye, and smile. Look humble and in need of their assistance, because it is difficult to help someone looking aggressively at you. Speak softly. If you can unfold your trusty map without flailing your arms, all the better. People generally dislike some wild-looking foreign person accosting them for directions to the local hostel or bar.

Let me tell you more..., by Isadora

Let me tell you more..., by Isadora

Speak the Language

OK, you don’t have to be fluent in the local language, but a few choice words or phrases will get you a long, long way.

OK, you don’t have to be fluent in the local language, but a few choice words or phrases will get you a long, long way. You can easily get translations for the most basic of phrases for wherever you go. Even doing a pantomime of what you want works when asking people for help or food, or my personal favorite, a beer. Allow me to give you an example from one of my adventures abroad. My wife and I ventured to Panama (just after joining Travellerspoint, by the way) for a two week driving holiday. We wanted to see as much of the country as possible and had the means to rent a vehicle, although we had made no reservations anywhere and were “playing it by ear”. Now I studied Spanish for many years in school, but I was horribly out of practice and was reduced to barely speaking in the present tense. My wife spoke no Spanish at all. A challenge you ask? No, because I still remembered how to ask for food and beer and petrol.

An Example - So To Speak...

Fear At The River, by Isadora

Fear At The River, by Isadora

We found ourselves in the tiny town of Santa Fe, high in the mountains in the middle of the country. We managed to find a small hotel, and made some friends over a meal and a few beers at the hotel restaurant (3 tables, no waiting). We happened to be there at the time of the local town fair, which was a real treat (especially for the hand squeezed sugar cane and orange juice for USD$0.25). There was a large river nearby which we wanted to see, though the directions to get there were quite ambiguous. Plus, we were quite low on petrol, couldn’t afford to drive around aimlessly, and the nearest gas station was 75 km away. We stopped at the town square and found a small farmer’s market and started asking people where, or if, we could get some petrol. My weak Spanish and hearty smiles barely got responses, but there was one ancient-looking woman who understood and she insisted that her 12 year old nephew ride with us to the only local who had a supply of petrol. After 15 minutes of driving through the “suburbs” (and I use that term quite loosely), with a mildly bemused child, we came to “the petrol woman”. The nephew leapt from the car and began to explain to the woman that these two gringos needed to power their car. The woman asked me how much we needed. I smiled and replied that 5 gallons should do the trick. The woman furrowed her brow, but then raised her arm and signaled to the 8 children on the porch to retrieve some petrol. They came out with 5 one gallon cooking oil jugs (Mazola if I remember), but hey, it was a hire car, so what the hell. The petrol woman began siphoning, by mouth, until all 5 gallons were stored away in our car. I was a bit stunned by her kindness, especially the siphoning by mouth part. I asked her how much she would like for the petrol, and as it was USD$2.50 per gallon at the time, she said USD$12.50. I reached into my pocket and handed her a USD$20 bill. As she started to motion, brow furrowed again, to her eldest child for change, I stopped her and said “Senora, no es necessario. Es para tu y su familia, y muchas gracias para su felicidad” (Madam, it is not necessary. It is for you and your family, and thank you for your kindness) – at least I thought that’s what I said. And I smiled. It took, quite literally, 20 more minutes before we could escape the blessings of this petrol woman. I had absolutely no idea what she was saying, but I got the gist after 12 hugs and many “muchas gracias senor” and references to various saints. The rest of our voyage in Panama went without incident (as we had been blessed) including being stopped by a police commandante (with machine gun) on a very rural road who only wanted a ride to the police station, then proceeded to try to sell us real estate. Crazy trip. BUT, the point is, a little rudimentary language and a smile will get you to the river. And it did for us. And we could have purchased a nice finca from the commandante, who barely noticed the half empty bottle of Panamanian seco (vodka) on the back seat of the car……

Be Kind

The most important thing you can ever take with you on your travels is your personality, although a valid passport is a close second. Even money pales in comparison to a good personality. People have traveled the world on nothing more than a smile, a handshake, and good conversation. People you meet in your travels will not respect you for how much money you have, but they will respect you if you are a kind person who treats them with the respect any human deserves.

When you are abroad, you must always remember that you are an ambassador of your country, even if they don’t give you the ambassador’s limousine. Locals will always remember “that nice guy from England”, or “that nice woman from Boise, Idaho”, or “that nice couple from Guatemala City”. Images of entire countries are developed from a single encounter. It’s happened to you, hasn’t it? Some obnoxious tourist who insists on food from their country, or one of their own beers, or pushes past people to take a snapshot? We have all seen them, and those people have made a poor impression on us. Is everyone from (insert country name here) like that? DO NOT BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!!!!!! It’s not difficult. A simple understanding that you are now in a different culture (or if in your own country, you’re not at home) will go a long way toward developing new relationships that can last a lifetime, or at least show people that not everyone from where you live is a complete ass. It has worked well for me, though it’s possible that some out there may still think I’m a complete ass. But I try. And that’s all you need to do……try.


If you have other tips and tricks for your fellow travellers, then join us in educating travellers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by beerman 13:13 Comments (2)

How to Travel With Confidence

...Or at least look like you know what you are doing

Greetings Fellow Travelers, and welcome to the latest edition of Travel Unravelled.

Do you find traveling a daunting experience? Does it all seem like too much to handle? Do you lack the confidence and know-how to just get out there and see what this great big world is all about? Well dear readers, this blog entry will attempt to alleviate those fears and help you prepare to become a traveler who knows no boundaries.

Roads from Marrakech, Morroco.  Photo by Utrecht

Roads from Marrakech, Morroco. Photo by Utrecht

What is it about travel that scares us the most? For most people, it is the fear of the unknown… but hey, isn’t that what all fear is based on, the unknown? But you can, if you just put in a little effort and forethought, gain the confidence to go wherever you want (barring war zones…I don’t recommend those) and find how rewarding it is to learn about different cultures and peoples. The world is an amazing place full of wonders you won’t see at home, and people are remarkably similar throughout every corner of the globe (yes, I know we live on an oblate spheroid, and technically there are no corners, but you get the point).


Knowing the country and its customs makes travel a much more rewarding experience.

So how does one gain the confidence to embark on a voyage to the unknown? This is a multi-step process that begins with research. The hardest part is deciding where you want to go. Once that hill has been climbed, the rest is simple. Got a computer and internet access? Of course you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Start here (sorry, shameless Travellerspoint plug). On TP, you can find virtually anything you want to know about the part of the world you’ve chosen to visit. In addition, almost every country in the world has its own website. Handy, no? Any search engine will take you there; simply type in your destination. Read all about what that country has to offer, from culture to scenery to general travel precautions. Knowledge, as they say, is power, and once you know a little about your intended locale, you are no longer in the realm of the “unknown”, and fear begins to wane. Read as much as you possibly can about where you’re going. Knowing the country and its customs makes travel a much more rewarding experience.


Now that you have empowered yourself (with some basic knowledge), it’s time to start planning. How will you get there? How long will you stay (no, you shouldn’t say “until my money runs out or they throw me out” – trust me). Where will I stay? What do I want to see? How many souvenirs should I bring back? Where can I exchange my money for local currency? Do I need vaccinations? How do I send Isadora and Beerman a postcard? Is there chocolate there? Do they have beer (personal favorite)? These are all questions you should be asking yourself during your preparations. Future blog entries will discuss these and many other issues so stay tuned!! Be prepared, just ask the Boy Scouts!!


Once you have all of these questions answered, it’s time to start thinking about personal safety. Good and evil co-exist in the world, regardless of where you travel. So, think safety!! There are numerous ways to protect your money from thieves and pickpockets. For starters, don’t carry all your credit cards and cash in your bag or backpack. Spread it around in different pockets so no one pocket is obviously bulging with cash. Loose or baggy pockets make it too easy for pickpockets. If you are in large crowds of people during festivals or parades, be aware of your personal space and always be mindful of people casually bumping into you. Try to avoid areas or neighborhoods that seem a bit dodgy – you’ll usually know them when you see them.

Most hotels or hostels have safes where you can keep valuables. Most bus and train stations and airports have pay lockers where you can keep some personal belongings – though it is better generally to not keep valuables in them – excess baggage only.

Of the utmost importance, walk and act like you belong wherever you happen to be. Hold your head up. If a street vendor approaches you with some trinkets, be polite, and if you’re not interested in the wares, simply holding your hand up and waving it while saying “no” and walking away usually works. If you decide to purchase from a street vendor, don’t pull out a large wad of cash. It’s alright to turn slightly away while reaching for you cash, pulling out the necessary amount and paying for the item. Always be polite, even with the pushiest of street vendors. Walking away will usually let them know you’re not interested. If they get overly aggressive, look them in the eyes and sternly say no and continue walking away. People are just people, we’re all the same basically. Most countries do not want their street vendors to be overly aggressive with tourists because bad experiences lead to fewer tourists – bad for the economy. If there happens to be a local Constable or police officer nearby, you can always get their attention and point out the offending vendor; generally, they will respond favorably and come to your rescue.

The staff at virtually every hotel or hostel in the world can be an excellent source of information on what areas to avoid. They live there after all so who would know better.

Fruit seller and Monk, India.  Photo by Ardy

Fruit seller and Monk, India. Photo by Ardy


Food in different countries can be quite daunting for many people. Street food in many countries is a challenge. Much is quite safe, while some will cause intestinal problems that will shorten your holiday. A good rule of thumb: if it looks wholly unsanitary for your tastes, don’t eat it.

I know many people will argue this point with me, and I have never had a bad experience with street food, even with some that looks like it had been plucked from the local sewer. But as a general rule, use your own sensibilities. It is entirely up to the individual.

Restaurants can pose an entirely different challenge. You’re not in your mother’s kitchen, so don’t expect everything to taste like it does at home. That’s why you’re there, to try new things and new experiences. Mind you, I’d think twice about ordering the jellied ox testicles, but that’s just me. Even if you don’t speak the language, the server can usually describe what the menu item is with hand gestures. This though is where it is handy if you’ve done your research ahead of time – knowing what the local foodstuffs are before you order them will save both yours and the severs time.

So, to summarize:

    • Pick a destination(s) and RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH.
    • Plan your travels – it keeps surprises to a minimum.
    • Be aware of your valuables at all times – don’t stress, just be aware.
    • Walk like you belong there.
    • It helps enormously if you know a little of the local language, even if it’s just “may I have a beer please” – locals almost always appreciate your efforts at speaking their language.
    • Don’t order the jellied ox testicles.

By following these tips, hopefully the experience will seem less daunting. Most of all, get out there and give it a try. Go on that trip and practice, and soon you will become a confident traveler in no time.

Do you have some tips and tricks for your fellow travelers. Then join us in educating travelers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, maybe some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and if you fit the bill they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by beerman 15:22 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (11)

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