Earlier this week, Savoo told you about ways to save money before and during a gap year. It was factual, informative and packed full of great advice on how you can see the world without breaking the bank. However, it didn’t tell you about some of the hidden costs and pitfalls that can sneak up on an unsuspecting and – dare I say it – naïve, young traveller.
Think scams and frauds, think shady characters, think beach vendors who aren’t what they seem. These are the things we’ve learnt about travelling the world, the mistakes we’ve made and how you can avoid them.
No Drug Smuggling
Let’s start with the obvious. Now, I appreciate anyone reading this is on a far superior intellectual plane than the average human being, but I’m going to say this anyway. Do not agree to carry anything from A to B for anyone. Unless you fancy nine years in San Juan de Lurigancho – Google it!
We’ve seen more injuries, bandages and crying travellers phoning home (when they realise their insurance doesn’t cover them for a scooter accident) than we’ve seen henna tattoos and bongos. Asia (Goa in particular) is a scooter hotbed where the young traveller wants the freedom to roam around, see the sights and not spend all their Baht on taxis. With the wind in your hair and getting a tan at the same time, you’re living the dream – but I can guarantee that, as I type, some poor soul is burning his or her leg on a white hot exhaust pipe, causing their calf flesh to resemble some kind of summing pudding that didn’t set properly. Add to the mix the bus drivers who haven’t slept for three days, the pot holes in the roads and unfamiliar ‘highway code’ and hiring a scooter is a bit like walking around Rio with a German football shirt on singing ‘can we play you every week?’ – dangerous. So please be careful.
Finding a cab in a moment of need can be one of life’s most satisfying moments. That safe passage to your destination, your escape from the torrential rain or blazing sun; your trusty cabby will get you there in one piece. But just make sure he’s licensed and turns the meter on, as Savoo’s seen some nasty price tags suddenly appear and even nastier arguments ensue. This is often a trick used in Asia and South America when gringo travellers look young and easy targets.
South American ‘chits’. Some bars in South America (Brazil specifically) will work a ‘chit’ system. Upon entering the salubrious establishment of your choice, you and your entourage will each be presented with a sheet of paper that lists all the possible drinks you can have. So if you have a vodka and coke, the barman will mark off 1 x vodka and 1 x coke and will continue to do that until you leave. At which point you pay the total and go on your merry way. That is unless you and your mates have used only one chit and thrown the others away. In which case you have to pay the minimum price to exit…and go to a cash machine in the early hours of the morning leaving your mate ‘hostage’.
Know what’s what and where’s where. Don’t find yourself wandering into parts of Cape Town you don’t want to be in after dark. Try and avoid walking through Compton South Central LA with your back packs on. Know where to go and where to avoid.
Separation – do not keep all your cards / cash / travellers cheques in one place because if you do get robbed you’ll have lost the lot and that’s an expensive problem. Hide a safety card somewhere different and safe.
They’re not your friends
You have to remember there are levels of poverty in the places you may be visiting that you will not have experienced before. If you are befriended by a local or offered their services for anything, be aware that they may not be all they appear to be. We’re not saying don’t integrate, experience the culture and be engaging, but remember that poverty leads to extreme acts.
In Asia littering is a criminal offence. A cigarette butt on the floor in a very touristy area can lead to an unpleasant situation with the Bangkok boys in blue and you having to bribe them to let you go on your way.
Remember to get the best price in any market or shop you go into. You’re not in John Lewis now!
“Travel brings power and love back into your life”, Rumi. See new things, smell new smells, taste new tastes and see colours you’ve never seen before. Just use some common sense and you’ll have the time of your life.