Sunday, February 24, 2008

International Travel Tips - Part III

Here are another two more international travel tips in our ongoing series. (Previous tips here and here.)

Make Lodging Reservations in Advance
Ten years ago, the “conventional wisdom” was that unless you were planning on staying in the Ritz hotel, you could find good and plentiful lodging upon your arrival in most countries (especially in Europe) relatively on the spur of the moment. Then things began to change. Just a couple of years ago, we recommended on our How To Travel Europe website that you make your first night’s lodging reservations at any new destination in advance. Now, we take that ever farther and suggest you book at least your first two nights lodging in advance, for every destination you plan to visit. Europe (especially) has gotten busy and crowded year-round, and two nights gives you time to scope out the lay of the land and also enough time to plan the following two days (either in a new destination; at the same place you’re staying now; or a different hotel in the same city). It is no fun – none – to wander around marginal neighborhoods for three hours dragging your too-many bags in a big city in a foreign country knocking on doors and trying to find a room.

Learn Some of the Language
Not only will you be more easily understood, you’ll gain friends by attempting to speak – however badly – the local language (yes, even in France). Learn the following words and phrases: Hello, goodbye, thank you, please, where is, how much is, hotel, bathroom, please, restaurant, beer/wine, sorry, what time does the train leave, numbers (if possible, sometimes difficult), a few menu items, and similar phrases. We’ve connected with folks in New Zealand when we tried to speak a few words of Maori; we had a great semi-understood conversation with a woman in Cuba as we used our very rusty Spanish. And despite the effort it took for us to learn the useful phrases in Slovene and Czech, it opened a few doors and made us a few friends.

In Slovenia