Local Don’ts: Many of the local laws are common sense, however, there may be some laws you may not be accustomed. For example, in Thailand drinking is prohibited unless during the hours of 11am – 2pm and after 5pm at bars and restaurants. Egypt does not allow the use of drones unless you receive prior approval from the civil aviation authority of Egypt. Even after permission there are very strict laws on the operation of drones in Egypt. In Kenya you are not legally permitted to smoke in restaurants, shopping malls, theaters, hotel lobbies and grounds, etc. Do not cross the street in China before looking, pedestrians do not have the right away. It is not customary to tip in China, even though Americans tend to tip everyone this is one place you don’t have to worry about the right amount to tip for service. While visiting cathedrals, do not wear shorts as this attire is considered rude and inconsiderate. If you visit the Vatican in shorts and bare shoulders you will not be permitted.
Hand Gestures: The meaning of non-verbal communication is not always consistent in everyone country, please understand the difference before using them in another country. For example, in the US crossing your fingers typically means you are wishing for luck, however, in Vietnam crossing your fingers refers to a woman’s genitalia and is insulting when aimed at another person. The hand gesture some use in the US to indicate rock on has a different connotation in Spain, Greece, and Italy and suggests a man’s wife is cheating on him. Thumbs up in the US means it good or great, but in Australia it means up yours. In India it is seen as offensive to show a person the soles of your feet or to use your feet to point or touch things. Feet are considered unclean and the lowest point in the body.
Medical coverage while abroad: Before travelling abroad provide your medical provider with the area you are staying in. Your insurance company may have a global program and may help you find doctors and hospitals within your network. Review the U.S. State Department website for any alerts or warnings for your destination. If you have some time before your trip, you might think about subscribing to STEP alerts. If you are not covered under your current plan, do not worry you can purchase travel health insurance or medical evacuation insurance in addition to you existing plan.
Conversion rate of local currency: It is important to research and understand the currency conversion rate prior to travelling. The rate is not equal, and you may end of spending more money than you budgeted. For example, in the European Union the 28 countries that participate use the euro as currency. The conversion rate fluctuates; however, the most recent rate is $1.15 to €1.00. This means the US dollar is weaker than the euro, nonetheless you need to research the cost of things prior to travelling. You don’t want to spend more than you should. For instance, in China the conversion rate is ¥6.86 to $1.00. Typically, you can purchase a coffee between ¥20 – ¥30 ($2.91 – $4.37) and between ¥5 – ¥10 for milk tea (aka bubble tea) and fruit juice ($0.72 – $1.45). While travelling you want to understand what the cost represents in your local currency. Determine whether it is a fair price, if not negotiate the price with the vendor. Many countries allow negotiation and you should, because vendors tend to mark-up their prices. Americans typically will be charged more, because they will pay full price and tend not to negotiate.
Bank and credit card provider: Prior to leaving on a trip, whether domestic or international always contact your bank and credit card provider to let them know where you are travelling to and the duration you will be away from home. Doing this will alert your bank and credit card company from blocking access to your accounts and a great way to combat fraudulent activity. Before travelling you will want to check your destination since your credit and/or debit card is not always guaranteed to work. In any case, you should always bring cash with you while travelling the specified amount is up to your discretion.
As you can see there are many things Americans need to understand before travelling to ensure you have a fun, relaxing, and safe trip. Sometimes those hand gestures we tend to do whether positive or negative in our culture may be offensive in another culture.
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