Travel tips

ARGENTINA

Tips by tourradar.com (a travel website worth checking out...very comprehensive with great deals)

  • Don’t be surprised if the locals greet you with a quick cheek-kiss. This is a part of the Argentinean culture.
  • Make sure you pack a variety of clothes and dress in layers as some regions have extreme temperature shifts in a single day.
  • Dress nicely to a tango show or party. Avoid jeans, sneakers and casual attire.
  • Avoid eating in public transportation or on the street.
  • Head to a bar only around 11:30pm or later as the nightlife starts late and goes on until almost dawn.
  • Be careful with hand gestures. The inverted American ‘okay’ sign is considered obscene in Argentina.
  • When you drink yerba mate, the national drink, remember that it is passed clockwise.
  • Avoid sensitive topics which are religious or political in nature.

AUSTRALIA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Australia’s official language is English. Slang however is what you’ll remember! 
  • Australia’s currency is the Australian Dollar. Keep some cash on hand as many shops won’t take credit cards for small purchases. 
  • Be sure to try the “national dessert” called Lamington Cake! Tap water in Australia is almost always safe to drink. 
    If it’s not, it’ll be clearly marked.
  • Australia likes to keep things casual. Dress up or go to the opera in jeans. 
  • Tipping isn’t essential in Australia, but great service in a restaurant is usually rewarded with around 10%. 
  • Don’t leave without a boomerang, Opals and some Aboriginal art.
  • Coffee culture is huge. Go café hopping at places with great names like Fleetwood Macchiato and C U Latte.
  • Internet in Australia is slow and expensive. Free Wi-Fi can be found at libraries.

AUSTRIA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • A train journey through the Salzkammergut region is the best way to enjoy Austrian scenery of lush meadows, picturesque valleys, dense forests and mountain lakes.
  • Spend a relaxing afternoon digging into some delicious cake and pudding at one of the local coffeehouses.
  • Sip on Austrian white wines such as Riesling and Veltliner.
  • Buy souvenirs such as chinaware, handbags and glassware.
  • Try and attend the Sunday Mass at Vienna’s famous Hofburg Palace.
  • Book tickets to watch an opera, cabaret or theatre performance to experience Vienna’s varied nightlife.
  • To cool off spend some time hanging out at beer gardens during the summer.
  • If you're looking to hit the slopes, head to St. Anton am Arlberg as it offers unbelievable ski terrain.
  • While visiting Austria, remember to address the gentlemen as ‘Herr’ and the ladies as ‘Frau’.

BELGIUM

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German; but most young people understand English.
  • If you’ve ordered a heavy beer, don’t drink it straight from the bottle. 
  • The locals drink alcohol mostly for the taste and not to get drunk so don’t go overboard while on a beer tour.
  • Remember that it’s impolite to snap your fingers and or to slap someone on the back. It’s considered rude and offensive.
  • Don’t worry if you haven’t bought chocolates during your trip. You can buy some at the Brussels International Airport- commonly called ‘The world’s biggest chocolate selling point’.
  • It is illegal to wear clothing that covers the face such as the burka and nikab. It will result in a hefty fine or detention and there is no exemption for tourists.
  • Carry extra cash as you may have to pay an entrance fee to enter certain cathedrals and churches. Your tour guide will keep you informed of when and how much you have to pay.

BRAZIL

Tips by tourradar.com

  • The official language of Brazil is Portuguese. Many Brazilians (particularly the younger generation) speak English. 
  • The currency in Brazil is called the Real. ATM’s are everywhere and credit cards are widely accepted. 
  • If a service charge hasn’t be added to your bill, leave around 10% as a tip. 
  • Dress conservatively for religious sites but other than that anything goes as long as it’s tidy. 
  • Don’t leave Brazil without a bottle of Cachaça, Pão de Mel honey cakes and a pair of custom Havaianas.
  • Stick with bottled water. Brazilian water is good but the delivery system isn’t. 
  • Some Brazilian prisoners can pedal stationary bicycles that power street lights in a nearby city in exchange for reduced sentences
  • In 2003, Brazil became the first country in the world to totally ban indoor tanning for anyone of any age.

BULGARIA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Late spring, early summer and the beginning of autumn are the best times for camping and hiking.
  • Avid and experienced hikers may search for multi day hikes with overnight accommodation.
  • Both sides of Vitosha Boulevard are good shopping areas in Sofia and you can buy wine, confectionary, gloves and handicrafts.
  • Be prepared to get heckled by crying beggars and those trying to sell traditional Bulgarian bells.
  • Enjoy folk music and dance performances in the cafes and restaurants of major cities.
  • Try local dishes such as shopska salad, tarator salad, kavarma (a casserole) and cheverme (spit roasted lamb).
  • Remember, shaking your head indicates ‘No’ and nodding your head indicates ‘Yes’.
  • Not all coin-operated phones at bus stations to work.

CANADA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • The weather ranges from minus 40 degrees Celsius in winter to plus 40 degrees Celsius in summer, so pack accordingly. 
  • Try some poutine, which is French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy.
  • You can shop for souvenirs such as bottles of maple syrup, local ale, native art works and wood carvings.
  • Catch all the rodeo action at the 10 day Calgary Stampede extravaganza held in July every year.
  • Learn about Xat’sull native Indian life at the Soda Creek in British Columbia.
  • Try Canada’s unique boutique beers such as chocolate flavoured beer.
  • You can watch the awesome Northern Lights spectacle from Yukon, Northern Alberta, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.
  • Don’t forget to bring your camera along as you’ll need it as you watch the caribou migration in Canada’s Nunavut region.

CHINA

Tips by tuorradar.com

  • Need help with the language? Almost anyone under 25 years old is likely to speak both standard Mandarin and English. 
  • Be sure to check the weather for the areas you’ll be visiting in the month you’ll be visiting them. 
  • Enjoy the food! Try as much as you can and don’t be afraid of the street vendors. 
  • There are bargains to be had when it comes to leather goods, tailored clothes, accessories and jewellery.
  • Tipping in mainland China is not expected but is common in hotels and restaurants that cater to Western tourists. 
  • Cash is king in China. Don’t expect to rely on your credit cards other than in hotels, restaurants and some upscale shops. 
  • For the most part, the Chinese are not comfortable with physical contact. Avoid back-slapping, arm-touching and hugs.
  • China has planted the biggest artificial forest in the world to stop the spread of the Gobi desert.

CHILE

Tips by tourradar.com

  • When travelling by taxi, it is customary to round up the fare.
  • Banks are only open in the morning so plan your day accordingly.
  • Most shops close for a noon break till about 3 or 4pm and then stay open till 9pm.
  • Although Spanish is the national language, it is slightly different from the Latin American version.
  • When walking through the downtown area, it is best to avoid wearing expensive watches or jewellery.
  • For police assistance, call 133 and the Chilean Carabineros (National Police) will come to your aid.
  • Avoid taking photographs of military buildings or navy ships as this is against the law.
  • Tap water is safe to drink but it is hard water that comes straight from the mountains.

COLUMBIA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Enjoy Colombia’s exciting street performances and acts but be watchful of your surroundings.
  • If you’re on a budget, try street food instead of heading to one of the expensive pizzerias.
  • Refrain from saying anything negative about Catholics; the Colombians are closely bound with their religion.
  • If you’re visiting a local at home, you will be offered a sugared black coffee called ‘tinto’. 
  • Wear casual clothing but avoid wearing shorts especially if you want to blend in. Remember that nude or topless sunbathing is not allowed.
  • Whistling to get someone’s attention is considered rude.
  • To indicate the length of an object, extend your right arm and mark off the length with your left hand. Using two fingers is considered an obscene gesture.
  • Avoid paying taxi drivers in dollars as they’ll hike the price. Keep pesos in hand before you travel.

COSTA RICA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • La Fortuna, near Arenal Volcano, offers plenty of thrills such as white water rafting, rappelling, mountain biking and hot springs.
  • Head to the Tourtuguero National Park between March and June for the leatherback turtle nesting season.
  • Shop for rocking chairs, carved masks and ceramics in San Jose’s Central Market.
  • Sip on coffee, ‘pipas’ (coconut water), Cuba Libre and ‘horchata’ (a drink made of cornmeal).
  • Feast on a set lunch called ‘casado’ which consists of rice, beans, fried plantain, meat and salad.
  • Quepos and San Jose offers exciting nightlife options. 
  • Go on a photography spree as you explore Liberia’s colonial era architecture.
  • Come armed with a few Spanish phrases such as ‘Cuanto cuesta’ for ‘How much does it cost?’, ‘Por fovor’ for ‘Please’ and ‘Gracias’ for ‘Thank you’.

ECUADOR

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Take a few days to get acclimatized to the high altitude of Quito before attempting any strenuous activity.
  • Get the latest travel advice before travelling to areas that have active volcanoes. Your guide will let you know the best time to travel to these locations.
  • If you wish to sample local cuisine, try Tamales, Hornado, Musgaratas, Cuy and Ceviche.
  • If you’re speaking to a police officer, refer to him as ‘Mi Sargento’. It shows respect.
  • Walking around Guayaquil after dark is not recommended.
  • Avoid eating raw food or salads and carry bottled water. Further, use a high grade sun block as UV radiation is very high even when it’s cloudy.
  • If you get into an argument with an Ecuadorian, avoid raising your voice or gesticulating.
  • Get vaccinated against typhoid before you travel to Ecuador.

FINLAND

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Don’t be surprised to see people walking with poles. Nordic Walking is a common activity in this country.
  • Sip on water, beer or cider to stay hydrated while you’re in a sauna. 
  • Be careful near cliff edges and waterfalls as there may not be safety rails or ropes.
  • Don’t make comparisons of Finland with Sweden and other neighboring countries while talking to Icelanders.
  • Remember to place your order at the bar and then head to a table. Avoid waiting for a server especially if you’re in a rush.
  • Try some of the local cuisine such as ‘Kalakukko’ (rye loaf stuffed with fish), sautéed reindeer, and ‘Karjalanpiirakka’ (a kind of savory pastry).
  • If you’re invited for a meal, don’t leave before kahvi (coffee) and pulla (bun) are served. 
  • Remember to remove your shoes and place them outside before you enter a house.
  • Check with your tour guide before you decide to go on a solo trekking expedition.

FRANCE

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Always compliment the French people as you interact with them. They are more open towards and willing to help tourists who appreciate them and the things they do and have.
  • Never travel with valuable goods in your rental car. As with many other places, petty theft is a concern in France, and valuables should not be left where they can be taken.
  • Be wary of scams! As a tourist, you are a target for those who may see fit to trick you into handing over money for something that is worthless. Never purchase goods from a passer-by, but rather, go into a stall or shop to make a purchase.
  • Learn some basic French before travelling. The French dislike English as a language, and a little French will go a long way.
  • The trains are relatively safe in France – they are run by security guards! Don’t be afraid to travel home at any hour of the night by train – except the RER train line! Any other line is safe.
  • Eating out can be tricky if you don’t speak great French. Break the language barrier by using your fingers to point at the menu item you want, whilst maintaining eye contact with the waiter and stating the price out loud. You’ll also make sure you don’t end up with something that has been made exactly to your (incorrect) order!
  • Avoid using your credit card as a tab for a bar, especially without checking out drinks prices beforehand. Many tourists have been caught out by being overcharged without recourse.

GERMANY

Tips by tourradar.com

  • A bike tour along the Danube is the best way to explore romantic river valleys.
  • Find a tour that matches your time frame and fitness level, so you stay energetic and relaxed.
  • South Germany would be a better travel destination in winter as it offers world class skiing.
  • For a budget meal, try an Imbiss, a snack stand found at most busy corners and roads. 
  • While on the trail, there will be plenty of sign posts so don’t worry about losing your way.
  • Opt for a guided tour so you don’t miss out on key attractions and sights.
  • Look for tours that give you a daily itinerary, so you’ll know what to expect.
  • Check the business hours at museums and other attractions before you go, as timings vary.

GREECE

Tips by tourradar.com

  • The official language of Greece is Greek. Most Greeks under the age of 40 speak English. 
  • The currency in Greece is the Euro. Credit cards are not accepted everywhere but ATM’s are widely available. 
  • Reward good service by leaving a tip of about 5-10%. 
  • Keep things casual when packing for Greece. Lightweight layers in natural fibres will serve you well. 
  • Be sure to try the national dish of moussaka. Water is usually safe on the mainland but you’ll need to drink bottled water on the islands.
  • Don’t leave Greece without some worry beads, a backgammon board and some “evil eye” pendants.
  • Voting is required by law for every citizen who is 18 or older.
  • Greek people wave with a closed hand as it is considered rude to show your palm of your hand in public.

GUATEMALA

Tips by tourrador.com

  • Watch your step while exploring the ruins as there may be missing steps, uneven ground or tree roots on the way.
  • Keep your eyes open for the rare red and green quetzal which is Guatemala's national bird. You won’t find them in zoos.
  • Remember to carry an insect repellent as sand fleas and flies can be a bother in the jungle.
  • Guatemalans are polite and quite reserved, so avoid being aggressive, loud or rude.
  • Always ask permission before you photograph the Mayan people, especially the children.
  • If you pass a street performance on a marimba; stop, listen and offer a tip. Tips are their livelihood.
  • Try and read up on Mayan history before you visit the sites as it will enhance your experience.
  • Guatemala doesn’t encourage begging, so avoid giving money to people who approach you.

INDIA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • The currency in India is called the Indian Rupee. Credit cards might not always be accepted. 
  • There are 22 official languages in India. English is commonly used and understood throughout. 
  • Always drink bottled water. Be careful of spicy foods, especially if you’re not used to it.
  • Dress modestly. Shorts and short skirts are offensive to many.Be prepared for very cold winters and veryhot summers.
  • Tipping is very common in India. Keep small bills on hand.
  • Don’t leave India without a set of gold bangles, spices and Darjeeling tea.
  • Kissing and embracing are regarded in India as part of sex: do not do them in public. It’s not even a good idea for couples to hold hands.
  • India produces a staggering 4,700 daily papers!

ISRAEL

Tips by tourradar.com

  • The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. Virtually the whole country speaks English. 
  • Israel's currency is the Israeli shekel. Credit is widely accepted and there are ATM’s outside most banks. 
  • Tipping is common. Between 10-12% is the norm if it hasn’t already been added to your bill. 
  • Don’t leave without Dead Sea mineral products, Armenian Pottery and Bedouin rugs. 
  • Feast on street food! Try bagels and zartar, knafe (cheese pastry soaked in syrup) and tamarind lemonade. The water in Israel is perfectly safe to drink.
  • Prepare for hot days and cool nights. Modesty is important around religious sites. Women need to cover legs and shoulders while men need to cover their heads with a yarmulke. 
  • Learn to say “shalom” everywhere you go. It’s used for saying both hello and goodbye. 
  • There are more sushi restaurants per capita in Tel Aviv than in any other city on earth, including Tokyo! 

ITALY

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Finding someone who speaks at least rudimentary English won’t be difficult but you’ll find learning a few common phrases in Italian will be greatly appreciated
  • Italians are impeccably dressed – better to overdress be prepared to cover up for church visits
  • Don’t be surprised to see many stores closed for 2 hours of “riposo” between 12-4:30pm
  • Dinner is served later than you might expect – between 7:30-10pm is the norm 
  • Tipping in Italy is not required
  • Acknowledge people when you enter a shop or a bar with either “buongiorno” ("good morning") or “buona sera” ("good evening") 
  • Practice the Italian two-cheek kiss before you need it – it’s an air kiss (with the kissing noise) planted high on the right cheek and then the left.
  • Italy is the fourth most visited country in the world!

JAPAN

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Tipping is not done in Japan…..anywhere! Service-people are paid a living wage. 
  • Japanese currency is called Yen. Carry at least 20,000 yen in cash with you. Many establishments don’t accept credit cards. 
  • Water is safe to drink. You can refill at any public fountain without worry. 
  • Language can be a challenge. Carry a notepad with you to write down what you want, or even draw it if need be. 
  • Don’t leave Japan without some stationary, green tea and a pair of Geta wooden shoes.
  • Pack layers so you’ll be prepared. Be sure your socks are in good shape! You’ll need to remove you shoes quite often to go inside.
  • Manners are very important in Japan. The polite greeting in Japan is the bow. 
  • Imitate the bows you receive – don’t overbow or ignore the greeting. 
  • Japan has around 5.5 million vending machines. You can find them on almost every block.

NEW ZEALAND

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Carry plenty of water and sun block while venturing outdoors since the sun is much stronger here than in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Respect Maori culture by not sitting on tables or putting your hat on them. Further, avoid eating or drinking when inside a wharenui (meeting place). 
  • You can safely use the word ‘kiwi’ while referring to New Zealanders. They don’t consider it to be an offensive nickname.
  • Eat your food only after it has been blessed by the Maori. Your tour guide will give you an idea of traditions and customs before you visit the tribes.
  • Be careful not to criticize the All Blacks; New Zealand’s favourite rugby team.
  • If you’re wrapping a gift, avoid using the color red as it’s considered a taboo here.
  • Cafes and restaurants usually levy an additional service charge of 10% on statutory holidays.
  • Avoid making the ‘V’ sign to indicate victory.

PERU

Tips by tourradar.com

  • The Inca Trail leading up to Machu Picchu is closed for maintenance during the month of February.
  • May to September offers clear weather and is the peak tourist season.
  • The Peruvian coast is best experienced between December and February.Avoid referring to the natives as ‘indio or indios’.
  • For a different take on Peru’s heritage, try a culinary tour.
  • Popular souvenirs include Alpaca wool sweaters, llama rugs and silver jewelry.
  • There is a ‘no food or beverage policy’ at Machu Picchu but there are restaurants outside the entrance in case you’re hungry.
  • Avoid touching stray dogs even if they appear friendly.

PORTUGAL

Tips by tourradar.com

  • The official language of Portugal is Portuguese. English is widely spoken within the tourist areas. 
  • The currency of Portugal is the Euro. Keep cash handy as credit cards aren’t accepted everywhere. ATM’s are easy to find.
  • Tipping is part of the culture in Portugal. Leave around 10% for good service.
  • The Portuguese are well dressed and groomed. Loose, lightweight natural fibres will keep your comfortable. 
  • Try an egg custard tart called Pastel de nata! Drink bottled water when outside of major cities and towns. 
  • Don’t leave Portugal without some Claus Porto soaps, a bottle of Ginjinha and some decorative glazed tiles.
  • Portugal is the oldest country in Europe. It’s had the same defined borders since 1139! 
  • The oldest bookstore in the world (1732) can be found in Lisbon.

POLAND

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Always compliment the French people as you interact with them. They are more open towards and willing to help tourists who appreciate them and the things they do and have.
  • Never travel with valuable goods in your rental car. As with many other places, petty theft is a concern in France, and valuables should not be left where they can be taken.
  • Be wary of scams! As a tourist, you are a target for those who may see fit to trick you into handing over money for something that is worthless. Never purchase goods from a passer-by, but rather, go into a stall or shop to make a purchase.
  • Learn some basic French before travelling. The French dislike English as a language, and a little French will go a long way.
  • The trains are relatively safe in France – they are run by security guards! Don’t be afraid to travel home at any hour of the night by train – except the RER train line! Any other line is safe.
  • Eating out can be tricky if you don’t speak great French. Break the language barrier by using your fingers to point at the menu item you want, whilst maintaining eye contact with the waiter and stating the price out loud. You’ll also make sure you don’t end up with something that has been made exactly to your (incorrect) order!
  • Avoid using your credit card as a tab for a bar, especially without checking out drinks prices beforehand. Many tourists have been caught out by being overcharged without recourse.

RUSSIA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Never seen the spectacle of white nights, 24 hours of sunlight during peak summer weeks? Then St. Petersburg gives you the chance.
  • If you're a novice climber, try scaling Mt. Elbrus, a massive dormant volcano and continental Europe’s highest summit.
  • For a bit of adventure, head to Kamchatka for some heli-skiing.
  • You can observe polar bears in their natural habitat on the islands of Wrangel and Herald.
  • Take stunning photographs in the Kamchatka peninsula, home to amazing biodiversity and volcanic islands.
  • Taste Russian specialties like ‘Borscht’ (hot beetroot soup served with sour cream), ‘Blini’ (fish/caviar filled pancakes) and ‘Ponchiki’ (sugar doughnuts).
  • You can buy souvenirs like Matryoshka dolls, Palekh lacquered boxes, pottery figurines and metal tea samovars.
  • Sip on flavoured vodka, ‘Nastoika’ (fortified wine) and ‘Krushon’ (a compote made of brandy, champagne and summer fruits).

SINGAPORE

Tips by tourradar.com

  • The four official languages of Singapore are Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English. 
  • Don’t leave without some bottled Singapore Sling, Kaya Coconut Jam, and glass beaded slippers.
  • Clothing is fairly casual but never sloppy. Modesty is key and rain gear is a must. 
  • The currency in Singapore is the Singapore Dollar. Major credit cards are widely used and ATM’s are easy to find. 
  • Tipping is not common. At hotels and restaurants, it’s already included in the bill.
  • Tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Be sure to cool off with desserts like Ice Kachang and Chendol. 
  • Chewing gum is actually illegal and getting caught is expensive!
  • For $32,000 you can enjoy the world’s most expensive cocktail. It includes rare Hennessy, vintage Champagne,edible gold flakes and a one-karat diamond!

SOUTH AFRICA

Tips by touradar.com

  • There are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa. English is spoken widely in most places. 
  • South Africa's unit of currency is the Rand. ATM’s are easy to find and credit cards are widely accepted. 
  • Tipping between 10 and 15% is common practice. 
  • Don’t leave South Africa without a bottle of Amarula, a Mohair sweater and some Rooibos Tea.
  • Try the national dish of Bobtotie! Tap water is safe in cities but drink bottled water elsewhere. 
  • Dress in casual layers. Evenings can be cooler so bring a light jacket. 
  • Don’t sit closer than 2 meters from person of the opposite sex if you’re wearing only a swimsuit. It’s illegal!
  • The world’s first heart transplant was performed in South Africa.

SPAIN

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Don’t forget about Spanish siesta! You might be ready to shop and eat but everything’s closed! 
  • Spanish is the official language of Spain. Know a few phrases before you arrive. 
  • Spain uses the euro (€) as its currency. Credit cards are widely accepted and there are more the 45 000 ATM’s. 
  • Tap water is safe to drink in major cities, but stick to bottled water elsewhere.
  • A dirty floor in a bar can actually be a good sign! It’s acceptable to throw things on the ground in bars. 
  • Tipping is not common in Spain. Leaving between 5-15% is more than acceptable. 
  • While visiting Spain go with a ‘smart casual’ look. The Spanish are stylish and pay particular attention to personal grooming and shoes.
  • Don’t leave Spain without leather goods, saffron, and a Paella Pan. 

USA

Tips by tourradar.com

  • Tipping is very much a part of the culture in the US so check with your guide if you’re confused on how much to pay.
  • When you’re wine tasting in Napa Valley, remember to see, swirl, smell, taste and savour the wine.
  • It is illegal to smoke at bars, clubs, malls and other public spaces in Washington, New York City, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, DC etc.
  • Stay on the left while cycling or walking along designated tracks inside national parks.
  • Stay hydrated and wear used hiking shoes to avoid getting blisters on your feet while on a Grand Canyon hike.
  • For a little variety in cuisine try some reindeer sausage in Talkeetna, Alaska
  • Whether it’s deep sea diving or snorkelling with sea turtles, try at least one adventure activity in Hawaii.