Have you selected one or more destinations within a country? Why
I covered this a bit earlier but felt I should go into a bit more detail here. If you are agonizing over destination there are some things unique to each country that would be helpful to consider when planning.
When you travel to a country can have a dramatic impact on everything from the flight cost and frequency to the price of a bowl of soup at your destination. If you’re going to travel during the high season (when tourists descend on a place like locust) you’ll probably save on flight costs. But, you’ll also pay more for a place to stay, food, transportation and the like. In my opinion the locals have a window of opportunity to earn some cash and when the cash cows arrive (that’s you) they adjust their prices accordingly.
You should also remember that when it’s winter in the U.S. it may be summer where you’re traveling or at least a much warmer winter. This is especially true in the South America, Southeast Asia and the southern hemisphere in general. I remember when I was in Southeast Asia at the beginning of the high season which is the beginning of winter for we northerners. It was in the 30s Fahrenheit where I live or lower on a daily basis. But, even during the night in Southeast Asia it was short pants and tank top weather for me. And from what I was told and from my research if I was to travel there during the summer, temperatures well over 100 in the south is considered normal. So, take a look at expected weather for the timeframe you intend to travel. It’s easy to do today with the internet.
As you can appreciate every country has holidays unique to the culture and these can interfere with your travel plans. I’ve learned that many even celebrate western holidays for various reasons (with slight differences). It could probably be due to the westerners traveling there, a large expat community or an attempt to attract tourist money. As I said, this can drive up the cost of your travel or even make it incredibly difficult to move about. A case in point is the Vietnamese New Year and traveling by train. I was researching train ticket prices and availability recently. And, from my research on expat boards and travel advice sites is if you don’t purchase your tickets in advance you probably may not be traveling by train. It’s an extremely important time of year and the country is paralyzed by locals and tourists traveling.
Mardi Gras is another holiday most westerners recognize and it’s a big deal in many parts of South America and I’ve even run into small versions of it in Southeast Asia. If you don’t plan ahead you could run into trouble securing a room or at least a room at a reasonable rate. Tourists descend on these locations in hordes and many pay whatever the rate is so I don’t need to tell you it probably isn’t favorable. The point I keep making is plan ahead.
Is your prospective destination a mecca for westerners? Are there many westerners living there? Is the population homogenous? If there aren’t many westerners or caucasians there you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. This isn’t a bad thing if you’re an experienced traveler but keep in mind you have a dollar sign on your back and some of the vendors can be aggressive.
Real life: I traveled in Istanbul, Turkey for a while and noticed that the vendors are very aggressive, occasionally approaching the offensive. I learned this is the norm and they don’t seem to see any problem with it. If you have thin skin or don’t know how to extricate yourself from a salesman it, could be an interesting experience.
Also, when I was in Bangkok I had a few guys approach me pretending to be looking after my welfare. They supposedly would be happy to give me a guided tour of some cultural sites. The first time they got me, but I quickly learned the point was to drag me into a store for the hard sell. The second and third time I was ready for them and actually took the ride but was ready for the hard sell. I ended up getting a free ride to around a dozen sites and spent only around a five minutes in the suit store.
Do you have any idea what the makeup of the tourist population is? Will you be able to blend in? Also, if this place is a magnet for foreigners it will probably be safer overall. You should still watch for scammers, pickpockets and the like but as the saying goes, there is safety in numbers.
Also, if you’re traveling off the beaten path, always pay attention to your surroundings. This is especially true if the population is homogenous and you aren’t included in that group. Southeast Asia and South America are good examples. If you’re caucasian, obviously you’re going to stand out in these populations if you’re in an area where they rarely see tourists or at least westerners.
Real life: I was in Tirana, Albania and I had just come off of Dajti Mountain. I decided to walk back to the city center and was meandering in and out of alleys and side streets heading in the general direction. Out of dumb luck a cab passed by and I waved him down. I’m caucasian so he didn’t suspect anything until I opened my mouth when he exclaimed, “You’re lucky I came by, people are being robbed in this area and one cab driver was carjacked”. He drove me to the center and charged me what I felt was a reasonable rate but it could very well have turned out different. Be aware of your surroundings and research the country before you go. You should also check out the State Department website before you travel as it’s an excellent resource.
Just like where you’re from the weather is influenced by and influences geography. Even if you’re traveling to a country in the south and you expect it to be warm if you travel into the mountains there may very well be snow.
Real life: A friend of mine was living in Hawaii and had to travel up into the mountains for a few days. He packed light and while waiting to depart another person in the group reminded him to pack cold weather clothing. Of course, he asked why that would be needed, since he’s in Hawaii. He packed the clothes just in case and good thing as there was snow where he ended up. This is just an FYI to be aware of where you’re heading. Thailand is another case in point. In the south it is extremely hot and in the north you can see frost on the mountain tops. I’ve heard of enough hail to make snowballs in the north.