How Not to Embarass Yourself in a Foreign Country

Travelling is supposed to be fun, and you’d want to explore new places feeling as confident and relaxed as possible. But before you head to the airport to catch a flight to Korea, Japan or US, take a look at this cheat-sheet to manage your expectations on cultural customs and behaviors.

1. Know when (and when not) to touch a person
Whether to touch or not can be confusing when you are in a foreign land. In many European countries, invading personal space for a bit may not be a big deal. But with much of African and Asian countries, you wouldn’t want to appear clingy. In France and Italy, maintaining eye contact, touching the other person and reaching out are considered more polite gestures than just staring at the person with your hands crossed over your chest. However, in Nigeria, maintaining eye contact can be perceived as threat or an overly bold move.

2. Mind the table manners
Although you were always taught that elbows should always be off the table and do not leave anything on your plate when done eating, table manners vary widely from country to country. In India and certain parts of Africa, it’s more than just keeping your elbows off the table. You also have to be mindful of your left hand—it shouldn’t touch anything on the table or it will be considered dirty. In Japan, you can slurp the soup, but do that in China and you’ll get all the strange stares at the table. In China, eating your rice with chopsticks is customary, but in Thailand it is considered inappropriate (use a spoon, instead).

3. Know whether you need to tip or not
In America, people do not leave a restaurant without leaving 15 percent tip on the table. However, in many countries around the world, tipping is either already part of the bill, unnecessary because the staff are paid much higher or just plain rude. Do not tip in Australia, Brazil and Japan. Leave at least five percent tip in Germany, France and Italy, while at least 10 percent tip in Russia, Egypt, South Africa and Hong Kong.

4. Dress appropriately
Unless you are headed somewhere In U.S., it’s best to dress more conservatively when in a foreign land. Cover your arms and legs and avoid wearing shirts with graphics and slogans that are too loud to the sight.

5. Learn the most basic local phrases
This is an obvious one, but we’ll say it again: learning the foreign language of basic phrases like “Hi,” “Hello,” “Please,” “Thank you,” “Where’s the bathroom,” and “Do you speak English” will go a long way in making you appear more friendly to the locals. It only takes a few minutes to learn these magic phrases that can greatly help turn strangers to friends anywhere you are.

Above all, be observant. Try to be the tourist that does not make the locals roll their eyes behind your back.

5 Non-Awkward Ways to Meet New People During Your Travel

Solo travel can be enlightening and invigorating, but it can also get boring at some point when you do not make the effort to make friends.

Why not just say ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ to your co-travellers or to a local? Here’s why: because randomly approaching anyone and introducing yourself to a stranger can be creepy and plain awkward—especially when you do not have friends to back you up. If you are one of those people who find introducing themselves to people they don’t know intimidating, here are some tips to help you find strangers with common interest and effortlessly make friends with them.

Stay at Hostels
Staying at hostels is an essential part to becoming a sociable solo traveller. Sleeping quarters and dormitory style room promotes conversation, while communal areas provide an ideal place to bond with co-travellers over bottles of beer.

Join a Walking Tour
A walking tour is not only a great (and free) way to go sight-seeing, but the nature of this tour lends to easier conversation. If you are joining a group that isn’t too large, the host or the tour guide will ask everyone to say their name and where they are from, which will give you an easy way to strike up a conversation with anyone during the tour. Stopping for a drink or meal also gives you the opportunity to socialize.

Eat Your Meal at the Bar
Opting to eat at a restaurant’s bar area will not only allow you to bypass the awkward ‘table for one’ scenario, but also give you the chance to chat with other diners sitting beside you (who is likely also dining alone), people ordering drinks or even with the bartender. Staffs usually make the extra effort to be friendly and chat with solo diners.

Embark on a Group Tour
Whether it is hours of drive or a three-day hike, group tours offer travel experiences that aren’t possible to take on alone. Smaller groups create closer camaraderie, especially when under challenging circumstances, while long drives encourage conversation to make the long travel tolerable.

Offer to Take Photos
Offer to take a photo of someone who’s trying to take a selfie in a good spot. By doing the universally recognized ‘camera’ mime, you’ll be able to start a conversation with a stranger in a non-conspicuous manner. If you spotted another solo traveller snapping a decent photo of themselves, offer your expertise. It is a natural prelude to a small talk that could turn into a picture-perfect friendship.

Travelling alone is a great chance for you to grow and know yourself even more. Do not let being alone dictate how you should socialize. By now, you should have realized that there are many different ways to make friends that the only thing you need is the desire to meet new people. The bottom-line is that making friends is just like how you do it back home: be proactive about it, be open-minded and prioritize your safety always.

Take a Walk: The Most Pedestrian-Friendly Cities in the World

Although riding a car would be more comfortable and cover more ground, exploring on foot is will allow you to truly soak in the culture of the place you’re visiting. Not only does walking give you the chance to mingle with the locals, it also allows you to experience the city up close. However, walking can become a challenge if your vacation spot is full of uncrossable avenues and tight traffic. For a better vacation, here are the top cities that offer the best grounds for pedestrians.

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1.       Florence, Italy. Milan might be the world’s fashion capital and Rome the Eternal City, but Florence is known one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities on Earth. Walking is definitely the most ideal way to soak yourself into the fairy-tale-like and historic Florentine atmosphere. The wide piazzas, narrow cobblestone streets, centuries-old bridges traversing the Arno River, and Renaissance structures all bring the classic Italian city experience to its pedestrian sightseers.

Most of the Florence’s main sights are located in the historic central district. Some of the attractions that you can easily reach by foot include the Piazzale Michelangelo, Uffizi Gallery and the famed Ponte Vecchio.

2.       Paris, France. The home of world-renowned attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées, Paris is another very walkable city that’s definitely worth visiting. Its cobblestone lanes and streets that are blocked off to motor vehicles allows tourists to see how charming the city’s really is. Paris’ gardens and grand parks is what allures walking enthusiasts, while the famed Paris Metro is what makes it possible to get between the twenty arrondissements even without hopping into a cab.

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3.       Barcelona, Spain. Compared to those in the U.S., metropolitan cities in Europe are considerably friendlier to pedestrians. One great example of this is Spain’s capital city, Barcelona. Featuring restaurants, shops and various street attractions, Barcelona is an exceptionally exciting city to walk around in, particularly its central street La Rambla. You can also take a good stroll in Plaça de Catalunya, the city’s central square, and the famous Gothic Quarter.

4.       Melbourne, Australia. Known as Australia’s second city, Melbourne is a more laidback and culturally rich place boasting of its network of trains, trams and buses. Biking and walking paths that crisscross the city is what makes travelling on foot a lot easier. Pedestrians and bicyclists can even cross the Yarra River by going over the Webb Bridge. The city’s flat terrain and pedestrian-friendly streets certainly add appeal to this metropolis Down Under.

Touring on foot is undoubtedly the best way to experience a city up close. Not only does it allow you to get in touch with the locals, it also gives you the chance to enjoy the urban atmosphere in a more direct way. So save yourself from the stress of calling out cabs, and take a good stroll in your vacation spot.

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Why Travelers Love Singapore

There are many reasons to love Singapore –you’ll never regret coming to this small island city-state. Upon arriving at Singapore, you’ll see that even its Changi airport is complete with specialty stores, souvenir shops, and recreational areas –just like a huge mall, and it’s also equipped with a slide. After having fun at the airport, one cannot miss the opportunity to view Singapore on Marina Bay Sands where you’ll get the chance to gaze upon a highly developed urban scenery, especially at night with some fireworks.

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There are a lot of attractions in Singapore just waiting for anyone who wants to have fun and some amazing memories to be treasured and shared –start from having a good rest and being familiar with the means of transportation and your target destination, this will enable you to keep energized and also to save some money. If you’re wondering what’s the best spots and attractions in Singapore, it’s always recommended that you should enjoy all of them.

Start by stopping along the Orchard Road, it’s where most of Malls, Shops, and Restaurants are located –just make sure to have a quick taste of their exquisite Chili Crab and time to fill some souvenir bags. Nights are also buzzing with activities –bars, café, and clubs are open to stage any of your dance moves and chill your taste buds with the finest drinks. Much more, there are great places that might interest your curious mind, like the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at Chinatown, Singapore Night Safari, and the Singapore Art Museum.

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One can avail of many impressive tour package deals that include accommodation and buffet meals –there are plenty of exciting things in Singapore to go around. One can always share a magical experience in Singapore with someone special –an anniversary trip or just something to mark any special day. In Singapore, any day can be made special –a quick stroll in little India and find a good carpet to part with or merely having a fine meal in Singapore’s Hawker Centre with the renowned Tian Tian Hiananese Chicken Rice.

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