As experienced travelers we still make mistakes. One is assuming all travelers have figured out the same behaviors and precautions we have over the years. Recently hearing some horror stories made us recall others.
- Don’t take a taxi 10 miles inland when your ship departs the same day. You are making the assumption finding a taxi in a remote village is as easy as finding one at the pier. Not true. If you are stuck in the middle of nowhere and there’s a language problem, you are stuck. Years ago, I wanted to go to Larkspur while on a visit to San Francisco. I’d seen the town in a movie. I took the ferry, assuming it was back and forth service like the Staten Island Ferry in New York. I learned it was a circular route. I learned it only ran during rush hour and I had taken the last morning boat!
- Don’t treat the locals as quaint rustics. They might dress differently and have less than you do, but don’t treat them as inferior. They might think we look different too. Assuming they figure out you are American, you have helped them form a negative opinion of Americans.
- Put thought into your clothing. Barcelona is famous for pickpockets. Sitting on Las Ramblas in a Starbucks, I saw a cruise ship passenger walking in a daze. He had a huge camera around his neck. The ship ID card on a cord around his neck and baggy cargo shorts. Don’t make yourself a target.
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry. You might assume having an American passport makes you untouchable. That might have been true once. If you are going out at night or walking down a lightly traveled street, don’t wear your Rolex or big gold jewelry. We were in Buenos Aires and stopped into a store before taking a walk through the city. The shopkeeper noticed my watch, asked what it was and told me to put it away before we started walking.
- Don’t wave your cash around in public. I instinctively count my cash after using an ATM. It’s logical, but not that smart. On my first trip to the French Riviera, I sat with a fellow in a restaurant who waved this wad of cash saying, when you travel to their foreign places, you always need to carry plenty of their money!”
- Don’t walk around without cash. You might have taken the hop on, hop off bus. What if you can’t find it when you need it? What if you need to get back to the ship quickly? You need local currency as your emergency money.
- Always carry documentation. I carry my passport or a copy of the important pages when walking around in port. Like Paddington Bear, you need something (not a tag) that says where you should be delivered. You don’t want t to forget the name of the pier or the town, especially if the taxi driver doesn’t speak English.
- Don’t assume people speaking another language will understand you if you speak louder. It’s been said some tourists believe if the other person doesn’t understand English, simply yelling will solve the problem. Try to learn how to say at least “Hello, goodbye and thank you” in the local language.
- Don’t expect American cuisine in foreign ports. It’s true Marriott hotels around the world try to have the Marriott Burger on their menu everywhere. You didn’t travel this far to just eat American food. You get that on the ship. In port, try the local dishes that make the place famous.
- Don’t comment on how backward you think places are. Realtors will tell you it’s generally not a good idea for the homeowners to be present during an open house. People might say “What ugly wallpaper” or “So messy. You think he might have cleaned up.” It’s hurtful. If you make negative comments about poor living conditions in villages you visit, it has the same impact.
- Ship personnel are your staff, but don’t treat them that way. Ever watch The Crown on Netflix? Several members of the royal family seem to verbally treat servants badly. Watching TV you think, “That’s not right.” Your cabin might come complete with butler, but there’s no reason to be demanding or order them about.
After the pandemic lockdown, you can’t wait to travel. Try to avoid mistakes that might spoil your vacation.
Cover photo: Juggler in Key West’s Mallory Square entertaining tourists at sunset ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews
Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer