There’s an art to international travel. We’re not talking about the ability to hail a taxi in a foreign language, read a train schedule or decipher a French menu, but the unspoken guidelines and codes of etiquette that every traveler should follow if he or she wants to get the most out of their trip. Here are some handy gadgets that can help you follow your wanderlust.
We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
Today you’re in Barcelona, enjoying the Gaudi architecture, and tomorrow you’re in Berlin. In other words, don’t expect things abroad to be like what you left at home. Some people don’t like the extreme foreignness of travel. Other globetrotters, however, embrace the culture shock inherent with new and foreign countries.
Decide what kind of cultural immersion you want on your trip by using the Culture Compass app on your smartphone. it provides insight on every country and includes customs, faux pas, food and a brief summary and “culture score.” You can compare two countries, your country or even compare your profile with the country you are visiting.
The journalist and TV personality Rick Steves has long been considered the leading authority on international travel. From tips on packing light to ways to prevent thefts and scams, Rick Steves’ has a wealth of advice for the first time traveler. When it comes to protecting your valuables, he recommends carrying your passport, railpass, cash, credit cards and other important documents in a money belt. This way you will have all of your important information on you at all times.
REI has a selection of money belts and RDFI blockers with a price range from $12 to $40. Silk money belts for comfort and T-Lock money belts for ultimate security.
Identity theft has become a serious global problem. From stealing your wallet to shoulder surfing while you’re on the Web, identity thieves take hold of your personal information and use it to open new lines of credit, provide an alias when arrested, get a job, travel internationally and drain savings accounts. Before setting out, consider an identity theft protection service. According to a LifeLock identity theft review, if your wallet is stolen you can call the company and a specialist will cancel your affected accounts and complete the necessary steps to replace your lost documents, including your driver’s license, Social Security card and insurance cards.
Use privacy filters on your laptop and cell phone to stop others from seeing what you’re looking at or typing in. The dark film lets you see easily what is directly in front of you, but anyone trying to peer over your shoulder will see only the dark screen. Amazon.com sells filters from all quality and price ranges. Check the reviews to make sure you’re getting the product you want.
Off the Beaten Path
While the guidebooks are always going to lead you to the biggest and most popular sights in the area, traveling’s hidden jewels are found on the road less traveled. In other words, after you see St. Mark’s Square in Venice, get lost in the lagoon city’s labyrinthine network of cobbled alleys. Exploring beyond the guidebook will give you a greater appreciation of a country’s people and culture.
Need a little push in the adventurous direction? Another handy app (after all, there is one for everything these days) is Serendipitor. The is kind of like Google Maps on steroids. It helps you “find something by looking for something else.” If you input a destination, the app will suggest alternate routes and curious adventures along the way. “Go to the tallest building and take a picture” or “Follow someone for two minutes” are commands that can turn your commute into a journey.