A Few Travel Tips

December 15, 2017

Although we’re not travel experts, Mrs. Chatterbox and I have traveled to nearly forty countries and we’ve learned a few things over the years. These tips might come in handy on your next trip.


 #1. When dining in Europe, Spain and Italy in particular, expect to eat late, around nine or ten o’clock. Siesta time in warm countries bordering the Mediterranean, usually between 2-4 in the afternoon, is more than a nap. Shops and public buildings actually shut down. People go to bed for a few hours before returning to work so dining comes much later than here in the States. As diabetics, Mrs. C. and I find it a challenge to eat late, but if you enter a restaurant early you’re often served food left over from the previous day. Many restaurants in tourist areas will accommodate early diners but the food is usually bad and overpriced. Baskets of bread are free but they’re usually shared or re-served. And the tip is already included in the price of your meal so no need to tip again.


#2. Don’t worry if your taxi in Rome doesn’t seem to have brakes. We’ve learned that a cab will continue operating without them, but the car goes into the shop if the horn is busted. We’ve also been in cabs that avoid congestion by driving on sidewalks.


#3. In Thailand it’s illegal to take an image of the Buddha out of the country, even though they’re sold everywhere. They will be confiscated at the airport. Also, don’t mention the musical The King and I. The movie is banned in Thailand and considered disrespectful to the much-loved monarchy.


#4.  If you take a cruise, be sure to book all your excursions through the ship. That way,

if the excursion runs late, which they often do, they’ll hold the ship for you. If you miss the boat it can cost thousands of dollars to catch up and reboard.


#5. In India, men wearing shorts, called half-pants, are not allowed in temples. A dress or wrap will be provided, but you’ll feel like a dork, and friends and family will mock you when you share your photographs.


#6. Only drink bottled water in India unless you want to spend most of your trip to the subcontinent in the bathroom. Food is incredibly spicy, even breakfast food. To lessen the heat, mix in butter. You won’t taste the butter but it will mask the heat. 


#7. If you book a tour, you will be given an itinerary of what you will be seeing. Seeing is different from “visiting.” We were told that in Milan we’d see the famous opera house La Scala. We saw it as we drove past at forty miles an hour.


#8. Do not order a martini, or most cocktails, in Turkey. Muslims are hospitable and friendly people but their religion doesn’t permit the drinking of alcohol. They will accommodate westerners, but their bartending skills leave much to be desired.


#9. When in Venice you’ll be tempted to pay a small fee to take an elevator to the top of the Campanile in St. Mark’s Square. The view is spectacular, but don’t make the mistake I made by ascending a few minutes before noon. The sound of the bells up there is deafening and just might end up ringing in your ears for the rest of your visit.


You might find some of these tips useful if you are planning a trip in 2018. Of course you can always take me with you. Just pay my way and I’ll carry luggage and guide you through the museums.


Do any of you have a travel tip to share?




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You should have your own travel show like Rick Steves or all those people on the Travel Channel. I remember in Slumdog Millionaire they would make money by filling empty water bottles with tap water and then resealing them so I guess you have to make sure you buy your water from a reputable source.
By: PT Dilloway on December 15, 2017
We have never travelled outside of the country, so my travel tips would pale in comparison to the great ones you shared here. It just may be worth it to take you along if we ever go overseas.
By: Jimmy on December 15, 2017
no tips as I have just started traveling. going to Portugal for two weeks in May.
By: Ellen Abbott on December 15, 2017
These sound like useful tips. I'd love to visit some of the places you two have been.
By: Rick Watson on December 15, 2017
I'm really good on USA. If you see a car rear end another car in NJ, for instance, find a way around, as the other two drivers probably are out and fighting. I hope to travel next year, but not to lands of spicy food.
By: Joanne Noragon on December 15, 2017
How i'd love to be able to use some of your tips! Any bits of travel wisdom from me would be the same as you get on any site.
By: messymimi on December 15, 2017
It always surprises me just how early Americans eat, but here in the UK we aren't like other European countries and eat at a sensible time of 7.30- 8.00pm.
By: LL Cool Joe on December 15, 2017
I love your practical and smart tips. Just hope I get the chance to use some of them. You always take the neatest trips.
By: Arkansas Patti on December 15, 2017
Good tips. Avoid the people working in your hotel and then meeting up with you on the outside in Egypt who want to be your guide. Make good friends of staff in Malaysia as they can become friends for some time. Do not sit on outside tables under trees in Italy or the nearby restaurant owner will run you off. Having lived outside the country for over a decade I probably have too many tips. Just have fun and do not be mad at yourself for making mistakes.
By: Tabor on December 15, 2017
Watch the common U.S. hand signals . . they can be obscene in some countries.
By: Catalyst on December 15, 2017
Pack lightly and take at least one empty, or almost empty, suitcase to fill with all the cool stuff you buy. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 15, 2017
Thanks for the tips, Stephen. The Buddha one is interesting. Sounds like a racket. They confiscate them and then probably resell them again. Interesting about the butter too. I didn't know that but that will come in handy when I venture out to an Indian restaurant. I work with a lot of folks from India and they are trying to get me to join them for a meal. Take care.
By: Mr. Shife on December 15, 2017
I have no plans to travel outside of the country, but that "seeing" vs "visiting" tip is a good one!
By: Val on December 15, 2017
We've been in many foreign countries & never had a problem (except for a crazy cab driver in Rome). That was between 20 & 40 years ago so things probably have changed!!
By: fishducky on December 15, 2017
I plan to never, ever travel because I like to be home, but some of your tips are hilarious in the telling (maybe not so much for you at the time!)
By: jenny_o on December 15, 2017
Well, since B can't wait past 6:30 for dinner I guess we won't be going to Europe anytime soon. I hear they speak funny languages there, too ...
By: Tom Sightings on December 15, 2017
I think UK lies in between America/Canada and most of Europe regarding times. 8:00 used to be a fairly standard time to go out to eat back there. And I can suggest, wherever you go, be adventurous and eat what the locals eat. If you just try and find familiar fare you'll be missing out on half the point of traveling.
By: Botanist on December 15, 2017
When traveling in North America, don't venture south of San Antonio.
By: scott park on December 16, 2017
Good advice and great tips. Always keep your pass port and if appropriate Visa, with you and in a safe pocket our pouch.
By: Tom Cochrun on December 16, 2017
If I ever travel outside of the USA, the Caribbean or maybe Canada it will be kicking and screaming and dragged by Mrs. C so I will probably never use these tips thought they do seem quite helpful. I don;t know why I do not like to travel, but I just prefer places that I am familiar with and know what to expect...I guess I am just blring that way,
By: cranky on December 17, 2017
Very interesting tips. Thank you, Stephen. I had such a pleasant, easy time traveling in Greece. The only thing I'd say is that in Athens, people drive like maniacs. So as a pedestrian, you have to be extra careful. Also the experience of boarding and exiting a ferry is hellacious. Grab a partner and hold tight.
By: Robyn Engel on December 17, 2017
Take half as many clothes and twice as much money. Also on many of our trips we have just booked in advance our hotel stays for the first night we arrive and the last night before going home. Otherwise we just wandered.Of course this was long before the internet or cellphones. I always had a B and B book with me and we never had a problem finding just what we wanted.
By: Kathe W. on December 18, 2017
People travel to different destinations for a variety of reasons. Some want to embrace and experience the local culture with an open mind. Others may travel just to lay on the beach and relax. Most people over pack as I once did. Over time I learned to lighten the load. If you travel to a location where the standard of living is low compared to North America. Pack some school supplies. The locals will appreciate your generosity.
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 20, 2017
Your list is quite interesting! No travel tips from me, but I can give many tips on moving (for example, ALWAYS mark the box that has the coffee maker in it).
By: Pixel Peeper on December 24, 2017

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