After making over 200 overseas trips to 22 countries and protectorates since 1997, I have learnt to observe a few routines to make my trips enjoyable and stress-free. Leave the sense of smell behind and bring along a sense of humour. Be adventurous. Being over-cautious will spoil your trip. Go for the well-beaten path and also the road less traveled. Explore the city and country.
1. Personal property.
Prevention is better than cure. Do not hang your phone on the belt. Do not use a waist pouch if possible. Keep your camera out of sight when walking near the roads. I felt safe in all the 17 countries I went, some repeatedly over a 15 years period. However beware of snatch thieves and pickpockets in Vietnam and tricksters in exchange booth in Bali.
The key word is respect. Treat the vendors as equals. Do not bargain too hard during shopping or negotiating fares. Do not compare prices unless you are sure that the quality and quantity is the same. It is totally unfair. This may lead to arguments and harsh words. These can spoil your trip. Contribute to the local economy. What is USD0.50? You are on holiday after all. Lap it up and enjoy the bantering.
Be generous with tips for services and transportation. Have some loose notes ready. If the service is good give more. Many depend on tips to survive.
Over 99% of the time I have no problems. Mostly they respect the customers by using the meter. In some places you have to negotiate the price. Go easy is my advice.
If you are staying in budget hotels observe some precautions.
a. Be careful of the room air-conditioning. The indoor unit may be laced with germs and fungi. Being new to a country there is an added risk of getting hit. Only with more visits or stays one get use to it. If you have a bad throat and running nose soon after using the room, you may have caught some of the germs. I experienced 2 such incidences in Vietnam.
b. Carpets in some 3 stars hotel are so dirty that it is matted. Don’t sit on it. Too near to the mites and bugs. Being bitten before.
c. Beware of dirty linen and towels. If you have no confidence, bring your own. This is esp. so for budget hotels. I once contracted conjunctivitis because of a towel. I was quite foolish to use the dirty looking rag after the shower.
April is the hottest in many countries in the tropics. And December and January the coldest in the temperate countries.
a. Drink fluid regularly. I once traveled 400km on a motorcycle in Vietnam. I started at 5am and arrived at 5pm. My pulse was at 125 beats/min for many hours. My normal rate was 70 beats/min.
b. For those living in the tropics and are not used to temperature of around 20 degree Celsius always keep a sweater or jacket ready. Do not wait until you feel cold. It is too late by then. One may fall sick within a few days with a temperature, running nose and aches. Common cold victim.
c. If temperature dips to between 15 to 5 degrees, and you have to be outdoors for long periods always use a light gloves, scarf and cotton long johns to protect yourself.
d. Once the temperature dips below 0 till (-15) degrees there is a need for woolen long johns.
e. Below (-15) there may be a need for fur-lined headgear, clothes, gloves and shoes.
8. Personal hygiene.
The locals that you go with and interact amongst may pass germs or the viruses. However, do not be suspicious. It also happens in own country but we are use to those.
a. Avoid being near one who has running nose, coughing and sneezing.
b. Wash the hands regularly. It is terrible to catch the flu virus.
c. Go for a flu jab around Oct/Nov. There are the Northern and Southern hemisphere shots. Your choice of one or both depends on your destination. Look into having a Hepatitis A jabs.
Generally the food in the cities and towns are clean esp. when it is in a packaged tour. If going out of the way then observe some precautions.
a. Eat food immediately after it is cooked.
b. If it is set on the table, see whether it is covered or if on the shelves whether the doors or curtains are drawn. This is to avoid housefly diving into it.
c. Best choice: Any food cooked to order. Fried rice and noodles. Soup noodles are also good if it is cook in a hot pot. However, watch out for dirty plates and bowls.
d. Eat fruits that you can peel. Do not buy cut/peeled fruits. It may be washed in dirty water. Fancy eating prepared fruits washed in river water. It happened in Bangladesh when I was travelling in a ferry. Bananas, oranges and mandarins are the best. If you need to peel and cut fruits like apples and watermelons washed the skin with bottle water first before using your Swiss knife. Another caution: eat watermelon immediately when it is cut. Do not leave it covered or in the refrigerator and eat it later. It upsets the stomach.
e. If you have food and fruits that do not look and taste what it should be throw it away and discreetly remove those from your mouth. Why fight it.
f. Beef keeps best follow by chicken and pork. So the choice is yours. Beef may have the lowest risk if all being the same.
g. The best food. Hot stew or soup just off the pot!
h. Do not take ice esp. in the country side. The ice in the city and towns are generally ok. Otherwise get your canned/tetrapak drinks off the refrigerator. If there is not refrigerator you can do this. Pack the ice in a plastic bag and pack the coke into another plastic bag. Put the coke in the plastic bag into the other plastic bag of ice.
10. Toilet facilities.
If you need to be out early in the morning without the chance to clear the bowels and expect bad toilet facilities, eat a very light breakfast.
a. If there is a need to use the toilet, I prefer the squatty potty than the western style sit down toilet. There is no contact. There is also incentive to finish it as soon as possible to avoid needles and pins on the feet.
b. However I am not choosy. If I can wipe it down with Dettol Wipes first or line the seat with tissue it is fine. If it is unsightly do not attempt to squat on the throne. This is dangerous.
c. Try to do the 'horse stance' i.e. sitting without touching the bowl. You have to be able to last 2-3 minutes. Anyway if it is a bad stomach. This is enough time.
d. Otherwise it is not urgent and you can look for a better one elsewhere.
e. If stomach is bloated or have wind take 2 tablets of charcoal 3X a day.
f. If possible take a sachet/tube of Probiotics a day.