10 Things to Know Before Traveling


1) It’s much cheaper than you may expect.

Couchsurfing and hitchhiking are generally easy and safer than you might expect, while there is always the option of organic farming or other volunteering in exchange for room and food. You don’t need to break the bank to see the world.

Travel hacks I’ve learned include: Signing up for the airline credit cards, which generally offer enough points for signing up to purchase one anywhere-in-the-world flight; taking overnight buses, which saves you the cost of a hotel and doesn’t take any time away from exploring; and eating two-day-old bread, which is often thrown behind the bakery in a sealed bag.

2) It’s NOT free.

I’ve seen plenty of smarmy articles about how someone traveled the world for six months, free. The author then tells us all that we can do the same thing if we just open our minds. I call shenanigans. You can travel for very cheap. You can do a lot of things for free. You cannot travel extensively for free.

A dog will eat your shoe. Something vital will be stolen. You’ll get sick. Charisma alone won’t get you out of police custody. Something will happen. You can travel for very, very cheap, but pretending that you won’t need any money is silly.

3) Different cultures are… different.

Also: water wet.

Much of the world offers a cheek-to-cheek kiss as a greeting. Jordan… not so much. The thumbs up is considered quite rude in many places. And many countries still aren’t LGBT friendly, to the point where talking about your transgendered pet gecko as an icebreaker is considered a faux pas.

These are all considered common knowledge, the point is to just keep your eyes open and be considerate, because eventually something will catch you off guard and you don’t want to make a scene of it. That is, unless you eat guinea pigs with the heads and feet still attached, take five showers daily, use your left hand in place of toilet paper, enjoy bullfights, regularly hold hands with other men, and never look anyone in the eyes.

4) Toilet paper goes in the wastebin, not down the toilet.

Don’t learn this one the hard way.

5) No one else likes peanut butter.

You can still usually find it at the large markets. Life hack: offer some to people, who will try a little bit and politely decline more. They will then forever think that you are generous, and you will never have to share again!

6) If you speak English, you can get by.

Not necessarily comfortably, but when someone’s livelihood depends on convincing tourists to pay entirely too much for oranges, they learn to sell oranges in English. Ditto cab drivers, restraunt owners, airport staff, etc. The major cities have enough English speakers to get you where you want to go and show you what you want to see. However, you deserve whatever you get If you go without at least learning the basic interrogatives.

7) Expect the gringo discount when haggling

Everything bought outside of a supermarket will haggled for, and your starting price will be double what they ask from locals.

8) Negotiate before getting in the cab.

Never, ever, EVER trust a cab driver. Don’t put your bag in the trunk and don’t let him use the meter. If they warn you of traffic or otherwise suggest a faster route, leave immediately.

9) There isn’t a worldwide anti-American conspiracy

If you find that most people dislike you, it’s probably because you’re acting like a douchebag.

Kindness and consideration seem to be universally accepted.

10) The last tip comes from the readers.

What did I miss? Add your own tips and hacks below to keep this guide current.


  1. Great article. I would add learn how key phrases are used in a culture. I mixed up “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” in German while in Austria (interchangeable when you bump into someone in the US in English) and basically mouthed off to an elderly woman for being in my way. I was completely lost until a local clued me in to how the culture used the phrases differently.


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