Steve’s General Travel Tips

Here are a few more tips.  Again probably nothing original but hopefully if you go overseas you will find it helpful.

General Travel Tips:

  1. When it comes to packing less is more. All clothing can be worn at least twice before washing.  In England you can find a laundry mat but in some other countries it can be tough.
  2. Pack old underwear/socks and throw them away when it is time to put on a new pair. This will free up space and lighten your load. I’d suggest doing the same with shirts and pants if you have some old ones around you are thinking of getting rid of.
  3. When you pack split up your clothing and shoes evenly among your bags so that when the Airline loses one bag you can still get by on the other.  I usually always put at least one change of clothing in any carry-on I may have. 
  4. If you stay at hotels and B&Bs you do not need to pack soap or shampoo.  You can buy toothbrushes, toothpaste and razors almost anywhere.
  5. It is a good idea to get a collapsible duffel bag, I have one that zips up into about a 10″ x 10′ x 1″ square and takes up very little room in my luggage but when I buy a bunch of stuff to bring home I stuff the duffel full of dirty laundry or extra clothing  and put the purchases in my main luggage.  You will be glad you have the extra bag.
  6. Investing in a small “netbook” or iPad type of computer is a good idea. There has been internet available everywhere I have been though it isn’t always free, and a netbook or tablet will let you do what you need to without weighing you down like a full size laptop will. You really need some type of computer for finding hotels, directions, planning last-minute things, and don’t forget to help with translation, etc.
  7. In many of the places that I have been the dollar isn’t the preferred currency anymore.  Often businesses flat will not accept it.  Americans think everyone loves the Dollar.  They don’t, not anymore.  When you get to a foreign country the first thing you should do is check and see if the dollar is welcome then go to a bank and get enough of the local currency for your needs.  The point here is don’t assume the dollar will get you by.
  8. On the subject of money, in lots of places in Europe and especially in Kosovo they do not like to make change and especially hate to break large bills.  When you are at the bank trading dollars for Euros try to get as many small denominations as possible.  People will openly bitch at you or at least give you dirty looks if you buy a couple of Euros worth of stuff and try to break a twenty or, heaven forbid, a fifty, often even a ten sets them off.
  9. One good way to get the money you need in the local currency is at an ATM.  But be careful some credit cards charge fairly large “Foreign Currency Exchange” fees.  Debit cards didn’t used to do that but now they seem to (at least mine does).  Capital One doesn’t charge an exchange fee yet so you might think of getting a Capitol One card before you go overseas.  The non-Capital One cards I have even charge the exchange fee for purchases not just ATM usage.
  10. When you are in a country that English isn’t the native tongue if you don’t speak the local language and you want or need to talk to a local person, try to at least learn an appropriate greeting in their language, then ask them if they speak English. They will almost always at least try to help you if you are polite. But I have seen, on more than one occasion, an American basically demand help in English, the locals then claim they don’t understand English until he goes away.  They then very politely helped me in English.  Just imagine how you’d feel if someone came up to you in Springfield and demanded you give them directions in a foreign language.
  11. If you can speak any other language and the person you are trying to talk to doesn’t speak English ask them if they speak the third language.  Most Europeans speak two or three languages.  In Kosovo most people who don’t speak English do speak German.
  12. You are NOT in America, if you want to be able to drink the tap water, eat only American food, only hear English, and do everything the way you do it in the US, you probably should just stay home, and NO, they don’t want screens on their windows. 
  13. The golden rule seems to work pretty much everywhere.  Treat people with respect and as your equal and they will generally return that in kind, if you act like they are there to serve you, well your trip may end up having lots of little complications.
  14. MOST IMPORTANTLY:  If you are in a “trouble spot,” the guy with the gun is always right.  DO NOT argue with him.

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