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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????

BASIC QUESTIONS

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.....

GETTING AROUND

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 SIGHTS

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

EATING AND DRINKING

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))

BASIC NICETIES

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)

EMERGENCIES

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

PHRASES

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 (6)

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

BASIC QUESTIONS

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.

GETTING AROUND

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 SIGHTS

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

EATING AND DRINKING

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)

BASIC NICETIES

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

EMERGENCIES

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)

PHRASES

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)

In Search of the Muse

A Bedtime Story

Call Me, by broden

Call Me, by broden

Disclaimer: Not every person who goes out seeking an adventure decides to "blog" about it. Okay, maybe they do with the number of travel bloggers out there these days. Regardless, this blog is design to help (traveling) bloggers be better (traveling) bloggers. Can't promise it will work, but giving it a shot just the same. I've got the time. I'm not traveling.

Once Upon A Time

Recently, my husband (the illustrious beerman) and I spent two days at a conference dedicated to blogging about travel. (Make that 3 days if you include the before, during and after parties - but that's another story for another day. Did I mention it was in New York City? That was cool! but I digress) .... The main thrust was on "making money from your travel blog". Some of it even pertained to "monetarily supporting your travels from your travel blog". Grand ideas. And they do work well for quite a few, but that's not why I'm writing this piece (as stated above). Instead, and for good reason, I'll be sharing the information that falls under the "one size fits all" category. Those tidbits that can be used by everyone. Hey, my mother taught me how to share equally so no one felt left out. So you only got 1/10th of a stick of gum - nine other kids got a piece too. Everybody was happy - mostly.

Hanging on the Telephone

It's good to hear your voice, you know it's been so long.
If I don't get your call then everything goes wrong.
I want to tell you something you've known all along.
Don't leave me hanging on the telephone.
---Blondie

I relate blogs to telephone conversations. Doesn't matter the genre or topic or what's said in them. They are a written phone call - pure and simple. So, whether you agree or disagree with that analogy, take a minute to think about the content of your own blog or someone else's - who's still hanging on the telephone?

I now read blogs for a living. I read a lot of them and most are travel-related in some form or another. (I think I know the best places to get drunk in Colombia. Maybe it was Panama. But, that's beside the point.) Those who begin a blog usually do so to inform everyone they know about what they (the traveler) have been up to over a certain period of time. It's "I woke up, went to breakfast, caught a cab, went here or there, etc". Or, it's "I woke up, crawled out of my tent, met with all of my hiking mates and we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro". That's not a bad thing. It's the phone call back home. But...
Public phone?, by beerman

Public phone?, by beerman

Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

No matter what, use your blog to tell your story. One that has a true beginning, middle and end to it.

The only people who will keep reading a blog dedicated to the 'me' aspect are your parents, sisters, brothers, best friends- and even they will stop reading after a certain period of time. Sorry, but it's true. They will still love you. They just won't read your entries. They will quickly check your blog site to view the latest one if you have a real phone call pre-arranged. Why? Because they don't want to sound 'uninformed' about the bad sushi and 10 trips to the toilet.

You may think I'm kidding about the 'they'll stop reading' thing, but I'm not. I Iove my family and friends enormously, but even I tune out when I haven't gotten a...

Bedtime Story

A blog, like the call, needs to keep one interested. The phone conversation may have two authors but there is still story-telling happening. If there isn't, you ultimately hang up. (Unless you talk to my best friend. Then there are endless hours - well, seconds into minutes - of dead air space. I just set the phone down.) No matter what, use your blog to tell your story. One that has a true beginning, middle and end to it.--Keep them hanging on the telephone by:

Discovering the Muse

Taken from Greek mythology, the word "muse" refers to a guiding spirit or source of inspiration. It also means to ponder or reflect on a situation, thought, object - any number of other things. In this instance, the sources of inspiration will be you (as author), your travels (the subject matter) and the blog itself. You have become the muse. Your blog entries the instruments from which your discoveries will be conveyed to others.

So, now you think you have tapped into your own guiding spirit and are ready to starting writing. Great! However, before you just start clanking away at the keyboard or putting real pen to paper, there are a few additional inspirational items to consider. A well-written bedtime story is also well thought out before being told. Take a few minutes to ponder the suggestions I have included below:

  • You've decided to start a blog. Consider your audience first: A) Will it be just family and friends? Or, B) will you be trying to reach a larger audience - one that encompasses complete strangers too? (Trust me, it's an important decision.)

Build your entry as an author would build their short story, essay or novel. Use humor, intrigue, mystery, whatever to build the story line

  • Whether you choose option A (family/friends) or B (larger audience), the 'Bedtime Story' is an essential component. In every good read, character development is essential. You may be the only character in a given entry but you need to make yourself interesting. If others are involved in your adventure, describe them. Here is where "the more the merrier" works well. Don't just say, "Jorge from Madrid joined us". Who the hell is Jorge? Why the hell did he join you? What's his problem, anyway? Tell us more.
  • Build a Story!- Build your entry as an author would build their short story, essay or novel. Use humor, intrigue, mystery, whatever to build the story line. Lead the reader up to the plot of your tale. Though not everyone's taste, one of my favorite examples is The Scams of David Viner, Part 1 The Encounter on Gibbering Madness. (I happen to love mysteries.) But, it's still a great example of keeping a reader involved.
  • Bring the story to a close. If your blog entry will not be a continuing saga then finish it. Let the reader know what has happened at the end but not by saying, "End of Day One". Either allude to the next entry or finish it completely. Think about how your favorite book ends and do the same with your blog entries.
  • Oh, the use of video - what a wonderful thing! Or some may think... Video is great filler but please realize that your audience is not necessarily equipped to handle a blog saturated with steaming vids. I know because I'm not. I may have the latest MacBook Pro but it's still crud if my internet connection is lousy. Video is not always the best option for portraying your activities. Nothing turns a viewer away faster than staring at a screen for 5 minutes while a single page loads.
  • Photographs: Part 1 - another wonderful thing! I love photographs! And, they work well when internet connections are shit. (See above comment.) Photos speak a thousand words. Use 'em! Again, as an editor, I'd prefer reading something loaded with photographs rather than videos. (And, again, it depends on your chosen audience.)
  • Photographs: Part 2 - USE YOUR OWN! Your worst photo will speak more about your travels than the best photo you find anywhere else. One must keep in mind that photos taken from flickr, picasa or any other storage area are not there free for the taking. (Same holds true for photos posted on Travellerspoint.) IF you choose to use someone else's work - ask for permission. Also, give credit where credit is due. (See the photo credits in this blog.)

Working a story by fnurgen

Working a story by fnurgen

Happily Ever After

I could pontificate all day, but I won't. I've covered the bare necessities of a good blog and will leave it at that. The keys to blogging come done to the same things in life. Think, look, listen and learn... Think about what you like and who your audience is first. Look at what you enjoy reading yourself. Listen to what others have to say about what they prefer. Learn from those things and you're blog will be a success.

Thank you to Blondie for the use of the lyrics to "Hanging On The Telephone"

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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 Isadora 11:37 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (4)

The Art of Shared Sleeping

".......they're more like guidelines than rules......"

Accents on the park hostel in Nelson, by lulywong

Accents on the park hostel in Nelson, by lulywong

Imagine this: You’re in a nice, comfy hostel in a brand new city. You’ve snuggled up in your surprisingly comfortable bed in the dormitory, tired after a day of travelling, being alert and hauling your over-sized bag across an unknown city. Even the sheets smell fresh and you’re just drifting off to sleep.

Then an alarm goes off, at 2am, somewhere in the room.

You grunt, turn to your side, and are just about to nod off when...the alarm goes off again. And again. And again. After the fifth snooze, the bloke in the bunk bed below up gets up, yawns loudly, and starts shifting through his worldly possessions. He opens the door to go to the bathroom, letting in the hallway light, throws his backpack on the bed and swears because the ticket for his 5am flight’s missing.

And then he starts with the plastic bags. He’s obviously wrapped each of his clothes in a separate plastic bag, one crunchier than the next. You toss and turn, trying to block out the harsh halogen light of the room, since he’s now flicked on the lights to look for his missing shoe. When he finally leaves, he bangs the door, leaving the light still on.

Sound familiar? It does to me; it’s happened more times than I care to remember. If you’re thinking about staying in a dorm, remember that plastic bags make a lot more noise than you’d think.

If you’re thinking about staying in a dorm, remember that plastic bags make a lot more noise than you’d think.

Well, I’ve never travelled before; how are hotels and hostels different?

Hostels are shared accommodation, hotels private, to put it simply. Hostels being budget options, you pay a lot less, but share your living space, such as the kitchen (if the hostel indeed has a kitchen for the guests to use), the lounge area, bathrooms and sometimes the bedrooms. Hostels frequently have a bar and a restaurant, or at least offer the option of buying food and beer. Generally, hostels have dormitories, usually with bunk beds, and private rooms, with either a shared or private bathroom. The size of a dorm can vary from simple two beds to massive ones with over a hundred beds.

Right, I’m on a budget, so I think hostels are the way to go.

Just take a step back before you decide. Shared space means less privacy, security and space, and more time waiting for toilets and showers. Are you sure you can cope with that? I’ve had to skip showering on many a morning because the queues to get into one would’ve meant missing a half a day in a new town. Or buying a packet of pasta and then realising there’s not a single cooking pot in the communal kitchen. I’ve had people walk in on me while I was getting changed in a previously empty dormitory, and I’ve been flooded in a shower when the drain’s been stuffed with the hair of the dozens of backpackers before me. I’ve had someone take off with my favourite black t-shirt which I’d left drying on the headboard of the bed. If you don’t like the idea of smelling a stranger’s flatulence in the dorm, then think again.

No, I can cope with all that. And I guess hostels are great for meeting new people, right?

They certainly are, especially if you’re travelling alone. Not being cooped up in a hotel room with a TV means you actually have to get up and talk to people, possibly over a beer in the hostel bar whilst swapping life stories. I’ve met some of the most fantastic characters ever in hostel lounges.

So if I’m a girl, does that mean I might potentially end up sharing a room with a bunch of smelly boys?

Potentially, yes. But chances are that as a backpacker, you’re just as smelly as they are. Some hostels (also depending on the cultural setting of the country you’re in) have unisex rooms; some have segregated rooms. Some have unisex dorms, and one or two female-only dorms. Discrimination? Possibly. However, most men do not seem to have a huge problem sharing their space with three nineteen year-old Norwegian nursing students.

So if I would stay in a hostel, what is the proper etiquette for communal living?

Be considerate. If everyone leaves their tea cup unwashed, it’ll be a pain for the last person who comes in to find no more clean mugs. I’ve been that last person enough times to know it’s not the best start to a day.
Everyone staying in a hostel is in the same boat - far away from home, in a foreign culture, with minimal personal belongings and potentially no friends. Little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way, such as sharing your leftover pizza or swapping a paperback you’ve finished reading. And as long as you follow a few basic rules, you’ll be fine.

hostel, by muhuhaha

hostel, by muhuhaha

THE KITCHEN

Rule of the thumb- if it’s not yours, do not eat it. I don’t care if the Swedish couple in the private room have so much milk it would feed a baby for a year; it’s not yours to pinch. I once stayed in a hostel in Quito, and witnessed a few guys take about half a litre of milk belonging to an Icelandic girl, justifying it by claiming to buy more the next day, and that she’d never drink that much anyway. The girl came back, disappointed, because she’d planned on making pancakes for everyone in the hostel. Respect people’s food and drinks. Always write your name on yours, or keep it in a plastic bag with your name and room number so it won’t get chucked out in a weekly (or annual, in the case of some hostels) clean.

But I can’t start the day without any milk in my coffee!

Then ask for it nicely- I can’t remember a single time I’ve been told I can’t borrow a bit of something. It also opens a whole new conversation with a new person, and you can swap leftover peanut butters and bread rolls.

Why do I have to wash my own dishes - isn’t that the job of the staff?

Ever worked in a hostel? It’s a busy life. They already get to do all the fun stuff like unblocking toilets and changing soiled sheets, so washing your plate after using it is hardly too much to ask, right? Most hostel kitchens are fairly small considering the number of guests, and there simply aren’t enough pots and pans to go around. If you’ve finished with your cooking, and you know there’s someone waiting for that frying pan, then give it a quick wash before sitting down to eat. It won’t take long, and the person waiting will appreciate it. The few times I’ve not had a chance to wash something after using it, and I’ve had to hand it to the next person dirty, I’ve always told them to leave it for me to wash after they’ve used it.

Hostel, by Peacocks

Hostel, by Peacocks

THE LOUNGE

The living room/ lounge/ sitting room/whatever you want to call it, is a place for socialising and relaxing, reading books, watching TV or simply staring into the space with a cold beer after a day of sightseeing. If you’re not feeling even remotely chatty or sociable, then steer clear. This is the one place in the world where it’s socially acceptable to start a conversation with a stranger without an ulterior motive. Remember that if someone else was there first, then you must put up with their choice of music or TV channel. Alternatively, if you were there first, it’s good manners to offer the remote around, unless you are watching the most amazing, life-changing film ever.

I really want to make friends and meet people, but I don’t really know how to approach people in hostels.

Don’t worry, most of the time they’ll approach you, especially if you’re alone. Guidebooks are a great icebreaker, by the way. Ask to have a look at theirs, and before you know you’re off on that whole long “where did you come from and where are you going next” conversation. Smiling and saying hello whilst sitting down in the same table works just as well.

But what if everyone else is a couple or a group of friends - they might not appreciate me joining in?

Trust me, they will. As someone who’s travelled alone, with a friend and with a partner, I always welcome new people. Sometimes my boyfriend and I would spend weeks without talking to anybody but each other, and that can get a bit claustrophobic - and a lot of the time no-one would approach us, thinking we wanted to be by ourselves, when really we were ready to talk to a tree at that stage. And if you do encounter a particularly tight group of people, not willing to make new friends, then they’re probably not going to be that interesting anyway.

THE BATHROOM

Oh, the joys of a shared bathroom - if you can make it through the queues of people waiting then rest assured the hot water will run out just as you’re rinsing the shampoo off your hair.

Why does the hot water always run out when it’s your turn?

Why does the hot water always run out when it’s your turn?

Because there is always someone who takes over an hour to shower. I once timed how long it took an American girl called Ashley to shower in a hostel in Budapest - an hour and 40 minutes. The steam was coming out from underneath the door whilst the rest of us sat around in our grime, plotting to kill her. Keep it short. Do your makeup or comb your hair in the room afterwards, and keep the time in the bathroom to a minimum. Accept that if you leave your soap and shampoo in the shower, it will get used, and boys, please clean the sink after shaving. I never want to find another facial hair in my toothpaste again.

THE DORMITORIES

Dorms are for sleeping, and for solitary time. Although I’d always say a quick hello to the guy scribbling frantically in his journal with his headphones on, it’s pretty clear he wants to be alone - otherwise he’d be in the lounge. If you spend the night partying, then be considerate of the people sleeping when you stumble in at 4am. This is not the time to rummage through your toiletries bag for a toothbrush - leave it till the morning. Similarly, if you’re sleeping off a hangover or simply recovering from an overnight bus journey, you cannot get mad at people coming and going at midday - the dorm lives according to an average person’s day - if you have a problem with this, consider a private room.

'The Rock' Hostel, by jamesw

'The Rock' Hostel, by jamesw

Is it ok to make myself at home and spread my stuff around?

Sure. Just understand that if it’s left out in the open, it’s more likely to disappear. Fellow travellers can be pickpockets too - I’ve lost a few items of clothing and a fairly expensive facial cream. I’ve also seen other backpackers carelessly leave their phones, mp3’s and even cash lying around. Use the lockers in the dorms or leave valuables in the reception. If you do make yourself at home, make sure you don’t take up the whole space or block the door with your bag. Also, smelly towels or shoes don’t often get the warmest of welcomes.

What if I arrive really late or have to leave really early?

If I arrive late, expecting everyone else to be asleep, I usually pull out my pyjamas and toothbrush in the hallway and get changed in the bathroom, so when I actually get to the dorm, it’s a matter of putting my bag down and crawling to bed. Alternatively, if I’m leaving early, I pack my bag the night before, leaving out only the clothes and shoes I’m going to wear. There’s no excuse for not getting your stuff ready the night before if you know you have an early start. There’s nothing more inconsiderate than turning the lights on to pack your things in the middle of the night, rustling one plastic bag after another. I also tend to tell people I share a room with that I might have an alarm going off at five in the morning, and apologise beforehand. It doesn’t really keep anyone from waking up, but your fellow travellers will be a lot more sympathetic towards you.

But I really did lose my shoe and need to flick the lights on to find it!

Really, you should have a torch on you anyway - or use the light on your mobile. If you really, really need to turn the lights on, then do it quickly and don’t keep them on for any longer than you absolutely need to, and be prepared to receive a few murderous glances from the light sleepers.

What about the snorers?

Well, they’re people too. It might be worth carrying a pair of earplugs in case you do find yourself in a dorm with a snorer. However, if you know that you’re a loud snorer, please seriously consider a private room. I’m fairly used to snorers and sleep pretty soundly, and even I couldn’t sleep in a same room with an Italian guy in Namibia, who made the windows rattle. I ended up knocking on the door of a very nice Zimbabwean couple in the middle of the night, asking to sleep on their floor.

What if I find an attractive member of the opposite sex and want to take them to my dorm for an, um, nightcap?

No. No, no, no. Never. Similarly, couples in dorms should keep their hands off of each other. This is not your private space - everyone in the room has paid the same to have a decent sleep, and it’s unfair to make them uncomfortable or lose on sleep. I’ve been in too many such situations - once a couple actually used their towels and sarongs to create a little closed space on the bottom bunk - just a shame they forgot to soundproof it too. If you’re adult enough to have a passport, then you’re adult enough to wait till the next day to book a private room for you and your new-found love.

Ok, so I’ve booked my first hostel for two nights and I’m off! Any last words to prep me?

Yes. Be prepared to repeat yourself. The first thing people will ask you is where you’re from, followed by where are you heading next, and where did you just come from. How long have you been here? What have you done? How long are you travelling for? Occasionally, I feel like stapling a piece of paper to my forehead with my name, hometown, current length of my travels, total length of my travels, and next and previous destination, current bowel movements, expected bowel movements and past bowel movements. It’s amazing how much you find out about people before you even know their names.

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 Ofelia 05:35 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (5)

TAXXIII!!

The Art of Grabbing A Cab in The Big Wide World.

A few days ago, I got into a cab here in Santiago for a quick, nine block dash to the Metro station. The ride would ostensibly take three minutes....

Twenty six minutes later, the cabbie and I leapt out of our respective doors and stared over the cab roof at each other with angry looks on our faces. The trip definitely did NOT go as planned......

Outside a bar in Prague, by Piecar

Outside a bar in Prague, by Piecar

When I was a kid, the idea of taking a cab was tantamount to being a high roller. My Dad thought cabs were a huge waste of money and instilled that in me. I read an article about London cabbies and their extensive training and encyclopedic knowledge of their city. I just assumed that this was the case in EVERY city. Cabs were for the rich, or the intelligencia, or something...Something, whatever it was, that I was not.

When I was 13 I started collecting comics, and I started with Amazing Spiderman 192. In it, Peter Parker takes a cab into the city, and the driver is a slovenly sort, rumpled and wearing a beat up newsie cap. He tries to run up the fare on ol' Pete, and our hero calls him on it. The cabbie's response, I remember clearly, is "Hey! I ain't tryin' ta rook ya, kid!" But Pete handles it. Spiderman showed me that cabbies could be lowlife rip off artists.

I don't remember my first local cab ride...lost in the mist.... But I remember my first foreign cab ride. None other than London, England. I couldn't get wait to get into one of those black clunky vehicles. I had visions of a guy in a suit saying things like "Good day to you Governor!" and "Where will it be, then, young sir?" It wasn't quite like that, but the man was personable, got me to where I was going efficiently, using a side street or two, maneuvering like the pro that he was. It was great.

My second was not so great - Caracas, Venezuela. I considered myself well travelled then with five different countries under my belt. I stood just inside the sliding opaque doors that lead from the safe haven of the country called “Airport” to any country in the world. I steeled myself, and went through. On the other side, the first people I saw were cab drivers. Every one of them had a laminated card that said “Tourist Information” clipped neatly to their lapels. The trouble was, no two of the cards were the same. I was ready for these guys, and just blasted through them. There is a second level to the Caracas airport, and I went up there to sit for fifteen minutes while the hooplah of a new flight full of tourists died down.

While I was up there, a fellow without a tourist badge came up to me and told me in broken English that he knew where to get a trustworthy cab. I bought his line, and followed him out, past the other cabs and into the parking lot. That was mistake number one. (A real cab gets the privilege of pulling up front. The shady operators live in the parking lot... hey, I was new!) The fellow got into the front passenger seat, and the driver started the car. (Mistake number two, and three. Two, if there are two people in the cab, don't get in, unless it's a colectivo. Three, I was getting a shifty feeling and rather than listen to it, I ignored it.... Never do that.)

Oh, I got to my hotel okay. I dropped my stuff. I felt confident that things were going to work out. The two guys were friendly enough and invited me to hang out with them. I spent six hours getting drunk (mistake four...Don't get drunk when you don't know where you are, or how to get back) as the driver drove us to different spots around the city, and the other guy led me into place after place. I never paid a cent, and never found out the price of anything. I actually picked up a girl, but she was shooed away. I was their pigeon to pluck, no free riders.

After the six hours, I was drunk lost and defenseless... Then they stopped the cab and got me out. The driver waited in the car while the other guy introduced me to two tough looking friends. He told me I owed him 400 hundred dollars, or I was going to get tuned up. I only had 200, and had just enough latent toughness not to let them force me to use the ATM they had stopped in front of.... A two hundred dollar lesson I told myself as I staggered down Avenida Sabana Grande at three in the morning towards what I hoped was my hotel.

Havana taxi, by DinaRosado

Havana taxi, by DinaRosado

Since then I've had my ups and downs with drivers. Some are great. Some are horrible. Some are honest, some are lowlife sleaze-buckets who deserve a solid kick in the 'nads with a steel-toed workboot. A guy once stopped and drove me out of a neighbourhood he didn't like for free...and then left me with a medialuna his wife had baked.... Another guy tried to charge me double because I had a backpack. Guys have led me to a good hotel that was cheap when I asked for an overpriced one I'd found in a stray guidebook.... Guys have taken me to broken down hovels when I asked for a decent low-priced option because they got a kickback from the owner.

So, I've developed rules for taxis..

Before you leave my fave country - the Airport - ask someone inside what the regular price of a cab is. Tourist info is fine, but try to ask a cleaner or security guard too. They'll have the lowdown, and now you have some ammo before you go through those magic doors.

The less a cab driver cares if I get into his cab, the more I want to get in.

Bring a compass. I am amazed that people don't do this. At least know the four cardinal points. Not just for cabs but for everything. You save yourself a ton of time on a winding street that started pointing North but now is heading East if you have one of these things.

The less a cab driver cares if I get into his cab, the more I want to get in. If a guy is reading a newspaper on the hood and only begrudgingly gets into the driver's seat....that is my favourite guy. He's not trying to put the moves on me.

Keep a Weather Eye. You're in a new place. Look around for landmarks. If only to see whether you see it twice in the same cab ride.

Seem confident, (even if you ain't) Sit forward, Be squinty and look dubious. Cock an eyebrow every now and again. Make 'em think you won't buy their act, if, indeed they have one.

Check for a meter, make sure they use it. If a cabbie has a meter, the only reason he's going to negotiate a fare is so he comes out ahead. And how are you going to adequately negotiate with no information or local knowledge?

Do your best to know where you're going. If you've reserved a hotel ahead of time, ask the hotel dude(tte) for a local TALL landmark so you have something to shoot for...and you can tell the cabbie that the place is near this landmark, implying you have local knowledge, making you seem informed, and giving the cabbie something to shoot for, because.....

Cabbies don't always know where they're going! It is a myth that cabbies are knowledgeable about the place they patrol. Don't expect a cabbie to know about that cool little hole in the wall down some side street that you heard about online. Half of them are lucky if they know where City Hall is.

Taxi bug in Mexico City, by malmn

Taxi bug in Mexico City, by malmn


If you're in a cab, and the cabbie stops to pick up "my friend" get out. The guy may the cabbie's friend. It may all be on the up and up and they may think you're a goof for getting out. You can live with their low opinion of you....if you get to live.

Don't be afraid to say NO. The guy is working for you. If he's doing something you don't like, tell him to stop, or get out.

If it feels wrong, it is. Don't second guess that feeling. It may be way off, but better safe than sorry.

Friendly and grinning and funny doesn't mean Safe. In fact, I prefer bemused quiet and altogether ambivalent in my cab driver.

AND on a comfort note....If you are in a hot climate, and you are sweating buckets, and need respite...Wave at the cab with the closed windows...A sure sign of air con, kids.

Right.....

...So there we were staring over the roof at each other. I wasn't mad, in fact I was amused. The cab driver had given me the "run-around" Drove me all over the place, at one point taking me around a roundabout four times. Had driven North, East, South, West, and then back North before back tracking East to the Metro. I'd seen it all, and even though I was late, I was having fun. I took out some big bills as the ride got more expensive on the meter, and let the driver see them. He thought I was buying his trick. I was hoping he'd turn and say, in broken English "I ain't tryin' ta rook ya kid!"

The driver wasn't really mad. I'd paid him what the trip would have cost if he'd played it straight. But you have to play the act.

We looked at each other for about ten seconds. Then the driver shrugged and got back into his cab. I waved and headed to the Metro. We had just wasted each other´s time. I screwed the driver out of about two fifty worth of gas. Just 197.50 left to go before I get even for Caracas.

Posted by Piecar 06:35 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (4)

A Few Ways to Avoid Getting Robbed in Central America

I bet you're wondering, "How does she know how NOT to get robbed?" Well, I'll be honest with you. I've gotten robbed plenty of times, enough to know exactly what I did wrong and how I could have avoided being robbed from the get-go!

Good example; my sister-in-law and I went to the coastal areas of Guatemala. I had my little purse on me and pants with many pockets. My sister-in-law, said, "Marina, I really recommend you put your credit cards and money in your pants pockets." I listened to her very carefully and didn't do a thing about it.

It took us three hours to arrive. Five minutes after we got off the bus and started headed in the direction of the hotels, two teenage boys on a bike came booking at me and -guess what - ripped my purse right off my shoulders. Thirty minutes after hunting them done and being left with nothing, we were right back on the same bus going back to the house. Let's just say it wasn't a very successful trip!

So, after all the wonderful lessons I've been given, I hope I am qualified to share with you what I have learned, so that you can learn vicariously through me and NOT do what I did!

Funky bus in Latin America by Piecar

Funky bus in Latin America by Piecar

Passport Copies

Do you know how hot an American, Canadian, European or Australian passport is in Central American countries? So hot that the black markets can't get enough of them! With the economy in the pits, more and more people are becoming unemployed and thinking that these nations have the answers to the good life and buy stolen passports with their life savings to leave.

To protect your passport it is completely acceptable to have a copy with you instead of an ID. Even most banks are OK with a copy these days. To secure the legitimacy of your copy you can get a notary public to stamp it before you leave for your trip.

Note: You still need the real deal when entering the country and leaving. Just leave it in the hotel for safety.

Take What You Need

I used to carry a full backpack with me on day trips or a purse when going out. After having sneaky professionals slyly reach in and clean out my backpack without me feeling a thing, or having my purse snatched off my shoulders, I decided it was time for a change.

I have always had the habit of carrying my backpack on my back. You know, the normal place for it. On multiple occasions I have had someone very quietly reach in and take my wallet, money and camera. So it took me a few times around to learn that one, but after those episodes, I had a long hard think and realized that I didn't need 90% of the stuff in my bags. For one, these days cameras are so small they can fit into your pockets. Money should always be kept close to your body and there's no need for bulky wallets. A jacket or a long sleeve shirt could be hung around your waist giving you extra security for your money and camera. If you have a guide book, it may be a good idea to simply rip out the pages for that particular day trip rather than lugging around the whole book.(Editor's note: I agree with this wholeheartedly, unless you are thinking to trade for a book from another area somewhere down the road.) You can buy a comfortable water holder which also has a safe pocket for a cell phone.

If you do need to carry a backpack, wear it facing front. Even in the safest of cities, you just never know.

Touts waiting to put the con on tourists, Costa Rica/Nicaragua border by Shmips

Touts waiting to put the con on tourists, Costa Rica/Nicaragua border by Shmips

Jewels

Chances are you are not walking down the red carpet showing off your most precious possessions. There really isn't any reason at all to wear anything of value while traveling to these countries. It's one thing to buy some locally made jewelry but completely another when your engagement ring is worth more than some local person will make in five years.

At one point I was guilty of this, or maybe just plain stupid. Granted, it was one of my first trips out and I wanted to be 'stylish'. Before my trip, I bought a very pretty jewelry holder bag and stuffed all my most precious wares inside. Within two days of my trip, while sitting on a bus dozing off, I awoke to my bag wide open and my jewelry holder gone. That was enough to teach me that it's such a bad idea to do that.

So, leave them at home and you'll appreciate them that much more when you return.

Luggage

Some of the most common robberies happen on public buses. Since thieving is practically a profession in most towns, they have it down to a science. There are now many affordable options to public transport systems. You can either take a private shuttle like Grayline or Interbus from one location to the next. Most hotels have shuttle services to and from the airport. If you can splurge, there are tons of private drivers that work for reputable companies and taxis.

If you do take the public bus, it's best if you can take your bag with you in the cabin and keep it by your side. The pros lurk around buses watching where you stick your bag and where you end up sitting. Since most public buses fill up fast and have plenty of stops along the way, they make sure to hear where you are getting off and slyly help themselves to your bags. Keep the bags close, and if you must put them below, sit in the seat that overlooks the compartment. And always look out for shady characters.

I had actually started in the right direction when this happened to me. I took my backpack into the compartment with me. It was a small bag, and since I was a newbie traveler and very naive, I placed the bag above my head. Not once did I think that the bus would fill up till you couldn't see in front of you, nor did I think that the nice people piling on the bus would want MY BAG. At one point I remember my friend yelling to me from the other side, "Marina, where's your bag?" To answer, I got up to look for it and, miraculously, someone just happened to hear the conversation and hand it back to me, right as they were getting off the bus. So what do you think I found? An empty bag!

Money

As I mentioned earlier, keep your money as close to your skin as possible. I have seen plenty of amazing pickpocketing moves that are so well orchestrated that you don't have any idea what is happening until you are left with nothing. Spread your riches around. Don't congregate all your money in one place. Put it in your pockets, in your bras, in your socks, in your underpants and always try to have a money belt secured around your waist.

My final example actually didn't happen to me, but to a friend of mine. We went to a local fair that was packed with people. As my friend started turning the corner he kind of got jammed between people. After watching the scene unfold in slow motion, I realized that it was three guys who had him cornered and were reaching into his pockets while the others were pushing as though he was stuck in the crowd. By the time I realized what was happening and started yelling, "They're robbing you!" They were long gone in three directions with his wallet and Ipod.

These five simple rules have made my life so much easier. I walk with more confidence knowing that there is nothing to steal. And, even though I'm a blonde amidst the masses, I don't have anything that is screaming come and rob me.

Bio
Marina has been living in Central America for over 7 years and her site Travel Experta is all about traveling in Central America. Marina loves to help people plan the perfect vacation to this amazing part of the world! You can sign up for her RSS feed and join the fun on her facebook fan page and follow her on Twitter at @MarinaVillatoro.

Posted by mvillatoro 17:04 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

7 Ways to Improve Your Travel Blog

Eye of the Zebra. Photo by snowgirl

Eye of the Zebra. Photo by snowgirl

When you've spent three hours - or more - crafting a brilliant blog post, filled with unique insight and valuable information, you want people to pay attention. Am I right?

People have a very short attention span.

But when it comes to publishing content on the internet, you have to remember one thing: People have a very short attention span.

On the internet, most people don't read. They skim. They might read your first line, scroll down a little, see if anything catches their eye - and if nothing does, they'll be on their way again. There are millions of things to read out there. Why should they waste a second reading what you've written?

In this article, I'll give you a series of tips to help you improve your blog posts and catch visitors' attention. If you want your visitors to engage more with your content, implementing some of these tips can help you achieve this.

1. Write wonderful posts

First things first. You need to be writing posts that are worth reading. To help you do this, ask yourself what purpose your blog post serves: Is it informative? Is it entertaining? Is it thought-provoking? Is it challenging? Figure out why people should read your posts before expecting them to do so.

2. Include photos

Big, beautiful photos go a long way to setting a blog post apart. Remember, people have short attention spans. Give them something beautiful to look at and you increase the chance they'll hang around and delve deeper.

How to include a photo in your Travellerspoint blog:

Adding photos is simple on Travellerspoint with the Img button in your blog editing panel. Just click Img, find the photo you want to add and click the size you want to use (you might have Thumb, Regular and Large to choose from).

3. Use headings, bold text and lists to draw attention to important ideas

You know that people skim articles. By extension, they are also drawn to bits of text that are set apart visually. Headings, bold text, lists, photo captions - learn to use these to guide your visitors and draw them into your post.

How to add a heading in your Travellerspoint blog entries:

If you have spent any time contributing to our wiki travel guide, you'll be glad to know that adding headings in blogs works just the same as it does in the guide. Simply add == before and after your heading to make it a heading. For sub-headings, use === before and after the heading.

4. Use headings to split up long posts

If your blog post is long, consider using subheadings to split it up. Besides drawing attention to the post's most important ideas, this also helps condense each section into a bite-sized chunk. I use subheadings on most posts I publish that are over 500 words long, because it improves their readability.

5. Grab their attention with a catchy title

There is a fine art to coming up with an attention-grabbing title. I wrote a whole article about it on the Travellerspoint blog. For the sake of this article, let me point out a few of the most popular articles on TravelBlogs, a website I am the editor for.

6. Start with a strong introduction

Again, this is a topic I have covered more extensively elsewhere (How to Blog Your Way to the Top), but writing a strong introduction is still one of the most important ingredients in creating a great blog post. Starting with a bang helps you hook readers, and I find that it also helps you develop a good flow as you write the rest of your post.

7. Use your blog description to give your blog context

On Travellerspoint, you can provide a description of your blog, which will show up directly below the blog title. The best blog descriptions aren't just descriptive - they're also enticing. They spark the reader's interest. Here are a few examples of great blog descriptions (with links to the blogs in question):

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, 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. Each entry published on Travel Unravelled will earn a $5 donation to the Travellerspoint Foundation.

Posted by dr.pepper 03:51 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (4)

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).

STEP ONE

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.

STEP TWO

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!!

STEP THREE

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

STEP FOOD

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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