Travel tips you probably won’t find in too many places

There are all sorts of travel tips online. Almost every single travel blogger has done at least one general post sharing their tips. Yesterday Brandy of It’s One World, Travel! and I were chatting, and I decided to do a different kind of travel tips post. Hope they’re helpful to you.

travel tips, malaysia

Absolute #1, most important tip of all time!

Are you ready? Maybe I should save this one for last so you’ll read the whole post and not muck with my bounce rate. Oh, what the hell: Don’t. Be. A. Dick.

Seriously! Yes, they exist all over the world and in all walks of life, but they’re even more irritating when they travel. There are a few nationalities that make hoteliers and others in the travel industry cringe. One of them is my country of origin. When I hear people complaining about travelers they have met, I can usually predict the offender’s nationality before they’ve said too much. So, please stop it.

Yes, I wanted to yell and scream at the taxi drivers in Bangkok just like many other visitors. I got sick of drivers refusing to obey the law and turn the damn meter on instead of trying to charge me $8-10 USD MORE than the metered fare. C’mon dudes! There’s a difference between overcharging the “wealthy white foreigner” and flat out thievery. These guys blur that line something horrid.

But did I yell at them, swear, and tell them I’ll make sure to let everyone know to never come to Bangkok? Nope. Instead, I shut the door and hailed another taxi (or 10), remained calm, and did what every technology-loving person does—I saved my rant for my blog and Facebook and Twitter.

“Look at the map”

When I was working in Ecuador as a very unseasoned traveler way back when, I would occasionally get perplexed or frustrated with what I felt was silly inefficiency or ridiculous bureaucracy. The common response from office mates was “Look at the map.”

In other words, you aren’t in your home country anymore. Yeah, it’s different. That’s part of the fun! Maybe you think you know a better way. So what! Learn to be amused by it, and you’ll have a much better experience.

And when you’re scratching your head as to why it takes 4 different people to sell you that note pad you just bought, consider those are at least 3 people who wouldn’t have a job otherwise. It isn’t always about efficiency.

travel tips, bangkok


Not talking about phones here.

I cringe every time I hear a touron (thank Matt of LandLopers for that term) yelling at a local when there is a communication problem.

If I want you to understand a language you don’t understand, do you think it will help if I turn the volume up another five levels? Of course not! So yelling louder to the poor person struggling to understand your language only makes you seem like a big A-hole. And, frankly, it’s a well-earned judgment.

Try enunciating more carefully. Try a bit of circumlocution. Act it out. Find something you can point to. There are plenty of ways to work around language barriers respectfully, and some of them make for great stories later on, like my friend who had to pantomime her need for hemorrhoid cream.

Now that’s one I want to see on video!


Oh, those lovely buggers. They’re irritating enough on a short holiday, but try dealing with them day after day after sodded day during long-term travel. Some are great and will leave you alone if you politely smile and say no thanks. Others will grab onto you, follow you, and yell horrible things about your mother as you walk away. It’s part of the travel experience, unfortunately. Especially if you’re in prominent tourist areas or places that have a lot of poverty.

Yelling at them, as I saw a man do while in Peru, makes you a dick. Sometimes so are the touts, but that whole two wrongs thing applies.


Please don’t give them money! I know it’s hard, especially when a doe-eyed youngster with a huge smile comes up and calls you Auntie or Uncle and tells you how hungry they are. Don’t buy their trinkets, either. You are truly doing them a disadvantage. If you simply have to do SOMETHING, try buying them some food or paying them to do a small errand for you instead.

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Trip Advisor has become a big thing. I know some people who rely on it like it’s the Bible for travel. While the reviews can be helpful, you often have to pick through a lot of them to find the useful information. For instance, I’ve seen people reduce a score because a place “needs updating” or “could use a paint job.” Are you kidding me?

“Staff didn’t speak a lot of English.” Sure, it’s uber helpful when they do, but I’m not going to give a place poor marks because of that.

What really matters? If you had bed bugs, by all means put that in the review. There was no hot water as advertised, you mentioned it to staff, and they didn’t give a crap? Ok, that’s fair. Ditto if they advertise services and won’t deliver on them.

But be realistic, too. If you’re securing a room at a 1-star hotel, don’t expect 5-star resort amenities, surroundings, or services. Always attempt to resolve the situation. Ask for a manager, etc. If that doesn’t work, or they make you jump through a bunch of hoops, blast away!

I gotta say, though, my favorite latest review included this comment: “Bring your own toothbrush. They won’t give you one.”


This is de rigueur for some cultures.They aren’t trying to screw you when they begin with a crazy price. You’re expected to haggle.

And, sure, some ARE trying to screw you (see earlier comment regarding Bangkok taxi drivers). Can’t blame a guy for trying, though. When someone asks me “Well, how much do you want to pay?” my answer is “Nothing.” What’s fair is fair, right? Cut their number in at least half and start from there.

But don’t be a jerk and haggle over 25 cents. Honestly!

Last but not least

Respect the local culture.

Let’s say you’re a female in Morocco, and you notice all the women are covered head to toe except for maybe their face. Do you really think you’re navel-baring spaghetti-strap tank and Daisy Dukes ensemble is the best choice?

And fellas, I love a hot torso. I appreciate you wish to share your big pecs and chiseled abs with the world. I’m more than happy to openly admire your Adonis physique. If mine weren’t covered by a layer of . . . extra insulation, I’d have the same temptation.

But if you don’t see the locals walking around shirtless, and you aren’t on a beach, cover that hunkiness up. If you really need someone gawking, you know who to message.

A good rule of thumb for anyone: If the locals aren’t doing it, you probably shouldn’t either.

What travel tips do you wish more people would follow?

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  1. I watched a man yell at hotel staff in Thailand because they didn’t print some documents for him quickly enough. The louder he yelled, the slower they got and the more attentive staff became to me. It was quite humorous, but the poor guy was practically purple-faced by the time be got his documents. I guess I would add a tip in this light that if something isn’t working, try something else. Great post! Sharing.

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    • What an absolute touron. Agree with your tip as well. I’ve had many occasions where after saying something 2-3 times (enunciating more carefully, removing extra words, etc.), I’ve completely changed how I said it, pantomimed or something, and it has worked. One time in Morocco nothing was working, so I finally asked sheepishly “Espanol?” A guy behind me heard that. He knew someone nearby who spoke Spanish, so he ran and brought him back so he could interpret. Thankfully, everyone else in the line behind us was cool about the delay.

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  2. Beautiful work Talon, I agree totally although one of my favourite moments in Vietnam was going for breakfast and there were some Taiwanese ladies who spoke no English or Vietnamese… the Guest House owner asked them if they wanted breakfast and they didn’t understand so she got louder and louder. I realised then that this may have happened to her many times so did some great sign language and the ladies realised what she was saying and enjoyed their breakfast.
    I love the term Touron and it may become part of my language from now too many of them out in the world 🙂

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  3. LOVE these, Talon! Can we just pass out “Don’t be a dick” cards to tourists? A great collection of tips when common sense it not that common.

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  4. You’re right on the mark. It’s a sad state when what I consider to be common sense needs to read as travel tips. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully, these tips get to people who could benefit from them.

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  5. So true!

    I am amazed when I travel and see people completely disrespecting the local culture… half the time they do it without even realizing that they are doing it. Wearing the right clothes, raising their voice in frustration because the locals can’t understand what they want, or doing highly inappropriate things to sculptures of religious figures.

    I think it’s very important before we visit a place to read a little about customs and try not to offend the local hosts. Yes, some of them are common sense (which is still often missed, as the examples above), but some subtle things like eating can be highly offensive when done wrong.

    As for reviews in hotels, I can;t help but shake my head and roll my eyes at half of the reviews I read. “Staff don’t speak English” definitely is the one I love to hate the most… I want to reach out to these people and scream at them to never leave their homes…. ever.

    I don’t like to preach because I am sure I once in a while I’ll do something highly inappropriate by accident (and sometimes on purpose, but I make sure locals aren’t around), but I try my best to be a good traveler.

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  6. Great tips that are second nature to seasoned vagabonds, but not so obvious to the occasional traveler.

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  7. Excellent tips, Talon! I especially like the rule of thumb that if locals aren’t doing it, you probably shouldn’t either.

    On the issue of TripAdvisor reviews, however, I think it’s important to remember that different people consider different things to be important. Not only are we responsible for trying to be as fair and clear as possible when writing a review, the onus is also on those people reading the reviews to keep in mind that these other people who wrote them are not them; they will have different opinions/standards/assumptions.

    For example, I’m very sensitive to noise, especially when I’m trying to go to sleep. For others, this is not a problem, and so they won’t think to mention a level of noise that would stop me from sleeping. Conversely, I don’t care if there’s no TV and if the staff don’t take a personal interest in me and just check me in then leave me alone; some people expect these things and mark their reviews down accordingly.

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    • Definitely agree, but I also feel some of what you mention falls under the “don’t expect 5-star service at 1-star accommodations.” You definitely have to learn how to read the reviews for the things that you would be interested in, as well as consider the source for other parts. 🙂

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  8. Love it! You could cover all of that with don’t be a dick really. I know a few people who need to read this.

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  9. Brilliant, as ever, my dear.

    Your TripAdvisor quote surely does beat all: “Bring your own toothbrush. They won’t give you one.” I mean Really? Good grief.

    Likewise, back in the day when I ran my own little adventure travel company (to Belize and Costa Rica) I had a “Ten Commandments for Travelers” that I tucked into every pre-trip packet. Among the most brilliant (and arguably most “well, duh!”) was:

    “Thou shalt not expect things to be as thou hast at home, for thou hast left home to find things different.”

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    • Love that advice, and YES! This is why I don’t get cruise ship passengers. You’re traveling on a cruise ship that is providing you with all these incredible meals. You’re in port in a foreign country for maybe 1 day. Where do you head for lunch? McDonald’s. Sigh.

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  10. I love all of these tips but “Don’t. Be. A. Dick.” might just be the best advice all around….For travel and life in general!

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  11. lol I love how you started this blog Talon …I have seen many of that personality type during my travels.I agree with your trip advisor paragraph. I have travelled to budget hotels and were surprised to read the reviews based on travellers having the five star expectation for the 3 star place. great post. i am going to share this on twitter 🙂

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  12. This post makes me REALLY glad we don’t often travel to places where these sorts of tourists are likely to congregate. It’s funny how the more remote the destination, the fewer dicks there are.

    As for your question, our primary travel tips are about having greater respect– for nature, for wildlife, for people, for cultures and traditions. Dicks tend to forget that they are the guests, and they’re in someone else’s house. Acting with humility, curiosity, generosity and gratitude goes a long, long way.

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  13. haha “bring your own toothbrush” that one was a great review. Some people on Trip Advisor are really unfair. I have to read 20 in order to get a feel of what is really going on.

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    • I’m finding it to be less and less helpful. You definitely do need to weed through them for common themes, as well as pay attention to dates since things can change.

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  14. Oh-I’ve recently had some sad news and this has made me laugh out loud; just what I needed! Cheers, and thanks for my new catchphrase!

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  15. Fantastic! I’ve seen some jerk behavior in my travels that just makes me cringe! Yelling never solves anything. Sure it might feel good at the time, but graciousness and a stiff drink work so much better. And I totally agree with you about the half naked folks. I can still picture this young blonde walking around Bangkok in a tiny tank top and boy shorts so short her tale cheeks were hanging out. Put some clothes on!

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    • Ick! I don’t care how attractive you are or how nice your body looks, that’s just not a sight people need to be exposed to.

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  16. With the TripAdvisor reviews, I’ve found that I really have to read them and ask myself, “does this person sound like they’re like me….” I wish TripAdvisor had category types that people could identify themselves as.

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    • That would be quite nice. I also find myself looking to see where they’re from. If they’re from one of the countries with a rep for dick travelers, I give their review much less weight. LOL

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  17. in Fairbanks we use the word ‘tourons’ too, meaning the RVing tourons driving around town and ‘camping’ in the walmart or sam’s club parking lot. great post.

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  18. Good to see some tips that we can actually use! Don’t be a dick SHOULD be #1 – Its a shame not everyone follows it! Too many dicks out there! (Im not sure if Ive said the word ;dick’ enough yet)

    Respect the culture is SO important and I wish more people would do so. It isn’t hard to learn a few words so you can communicate in their language. It isn’t hard to wear a long skirt and sleeves in a Muslim country. It isn’t hard to not flush the toilet paper in Mexico (okay that did actually take a bit of getting used too lol)…

    Im not a fan of touts but I would never be rude to them (expect for this one time one of them grabbed my arm – not cool dude!). They are just trying to earn a living. If you don’t like them avoid the areas they are in or just simply keep on walking past – Don’t be rude to someone in their own country cause yeah, that makes you a dick!!

    Great post Talon – Thanks for sharing our wisdom 😉

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  19. I’ll just fall back on my usual “Brilliant!!!” and say thanks for the “Oh, yeah, lols.” Excellent advice, and every single word is true. Haha!!

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  20. “Don’t be a dick” is pretty good advice even if you never leave your home postal code.

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  21. I love don’t be a dick. Very true. It’s amazing how much being kind helps out. I’ve actually come to like haggling. It’s like a sport. Dylan Lowe (travelling editor) said it best “politicians get to do it with millions, let us do it over our dollars and cents”

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    • I haven’t reached the point where I enjoy haggling. Sometimes I’d like to be able to just ask a price, have it be reasonable, and pay it. LOL Every once in a while it’s fun, but I could easily do without it. 🙂

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  22. Love this list…so very true! Another one: don’t expect to find and eat your local/customary food, and for heaven’s sake, don’t bellyache about it! You are in another country…so of course, and thank goodness, they don’t have your fries and burgers and beer and wings!!! That’s why you’re traveling – to experience someone else’s culture – which means food, language, beliefs, values, economy, etc.

    Thanks for another great post, Talon 🙂

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    • Definitely true! Even with long-term travel, we try to eat local as much as possible and only do what’s familiar once in a while. That’s part of the fun!

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