How To Travel The Developing World
Travelling through the developing world can be one of the most rewarding experiences out there. Having the opportunity to experience new cultures and out of the way places is an amazing privilege. But how to travel the developing world is an interesting question. We may refer to the ‘developing world’, but remember this only makes sense in a modern economic sense, many of these countries have histories and cultures of such richness and complexity that they leave much of the ‘westernised world’ in the dust. However, planning a trip through regions that may be lacking in tourist infrastructure (or sometimes infrastructure of any kind) can involve more preparation and consideration than one to a more traditional holiday destination.
Before you leave:
Make sure that your vaccinations are up to date and check for any additional ones you may need. This is an important consideration wherever you find yourself, but especially so in much of the developing world where access to good quality health care may be difficult. Bear in mind that some vaccinations require a course of injections over several weeks to give you full protection so make sure to arrange an appointment at least eight weeks prior to your date of departure. Depending on where you are travelling, you may also need to invest in a course of antimalarial medication.
Make sure that your passport is up to date and has at least six months remaining on it. It is also a good idea to take a few photocopies of your passport, some to leave at home with friends or family and a few to carry around yourself in case your passport is lost or stolen. Make sure that you have checked the visa requirements for any countries you plan to visit and make sure that the paperwork is in good order.
Let your bank know when and where you will be travelling – take it from someone who knows, there is nothing more frustrating than having your card blocked due to ‘suspicious use’ when you are the one who is ‘suspiciously’ using it!
Take out good quality travel insurance – it could quite literally be a lifesaver!
Do your research:
Learn as much as you can about the country (or countries) you will be visiting before you leave. Learn about the people. Learn about the customs. Learn a bit of the language. Learn about the politics and the history. Knowing as much as possible about the culture in which you intend to immerse yourself is not only worthwhile in its own right but will help to keep you safe on your travels and garner you goodwill from the people you will meet.
What to pack:
Obviously, this is going to vary depending on the type of trip you are planning but here are a few essentials that it is good to have whether you are camping or staying in a fancy hotel:
- Sarong / pashmina – an essential piece for any serious traveller, it doubles as a scarf, blanket, towel, bedsheet, headrest etc
- Hand sanitiser – don’t leave home without it.
- Thongs (jandels, sandals or whatever they are called all over the world) – lightweight, easy to pack and can save the day when faced with a shared bathroom.
- First aid – just bring the basics, most things you will be able to stock up on once you get there. Definitely include some Imodium to help with travellers diarrhoea.
- Toiletries – as above, just bring what you absolutely cannot live without. Anything else you will be able to buy from local stores and you never, you may discover an amazing new product.
- Travel adaptor – make sure you do your research so you know which one.
- Insect repellents – definitely bug spray and possibly a mosquito net.
- Clothes soap – any eucalyptus wool-wash or Sard Wonder Soap are both great options.
- Less clothes than you think you will need! – Definitely true if you are backpacking. Just remember to always bring something warm and something ‘smart’ for the occasional fancy night out.
When you get there:
When travelling through a country with a culture that is vastly different from your own, you are going to see a lot of fascinating sites and sounds, some beautiful, others, not so. Wanting to document what you are seeing is perfectly natural, just be aware that you are watching people living their lives and that most of what you are witnessing is not being put on for your entertainment, so be polite and ask before taking photographs (if there is a language barrier, just smiling and gesturing with the camera usually works) and, if you feel it is appropriate, leave a small tip.
Understand that the cultural norms where you are travelling may be very different from those you are used to at home. For example throughout much of Asia, the left hand is reserved for ‘toilet duties’, so try to avoid pointing at or passing anything with it. A little bit of knowledge in these regards will go a long way, help to broaden your own horizons and shows respect towards the local people.
Even though you may not consider yourself to be amongst the 1% back home, compared to the people living in poor countries, you will almost certainly notice a vast disparity in wealth. Do not be too flash with valuables, even in areas with low petty crime, you are setting people up for an unfair temptation and may come across as arrogant. Expect to pay the ‘foreigner’ price for goods and services and (whilst not being totally ripped off!) just roll with it – you are probably still getting a much better price than you would back home.
Health and Safety:
Entire novels could be written about the toilets you are likely to experience in the poorer parts of the world. If you are outside tourist areas then you simply have to expect that the cleanliness level may not be what you are accustomed to (although anyone who has experienced nightclub toilets anywhere in the world at 1:30 am on a Saturday night, will probably be well within their comfort zone!). Use a bit of common sense, try not to touch anything, wear shoes, bring hand sanitiser and look on the bright side, squatting is a great work out for the thighs! If you are in Asia and are not ready to embrace the hose (or ‘bum gun’ as the Aussies have nicknamed it!), then remember to carry a bit of toilet paper on you.
Be aware that in many parts of the world tap water does not equal drinking water and make sure you have access to a good supply of bottled water (or purification tablets, if you are a bit more off the beaten track). Use bottled water for cleaning your teeth and try to avoid getting water in your mouth whilst showering. If in any doubt, skip the ice in your drink.
Try to familiarise yourself with local emergency numbers and find out the correct procedures for dealing with different kinds of emergency situations just in case.
Food and Drink:
For many travellers, the opportunity to try new and exciting foods is one of the best parts of the whole travel experience. But, unless you plan on spending half the trip running to and from the toilet, a little caution is a good idea! Switching to an entirely new cuisine can be a challenge for even the most robust of stomachs, and foods may have been fertilised with a more ‘organic’ variety of fertiliser than you are used to back home, giving you the ‘fun’ experience of becoming acquainted with an entirely new set of bacteriological friends. Generally, a good rule of thumb to follow is: “Cook it, wash it (in clean water!), peel it or forget it.”
When choosing somewhere to eat, whether it be a restaurant or a street vendor, try to go to places that look clean and popular. A lot of customers means a high turn over rate of food and makes it more likely that the ingredients will still be fresh. Also, bear in mind that you will not have the same tolerance to local bacteria as the local people so be aware that you may be taking a risk, especially when eating street food.
As far as drinks go, where possible only drink from sealed containers that you have opened yourself. Check bottle seals for signs of tampering before opening as rebottling can be an issue (this goes for water, soft drinks and alcohol). If drinking spirits, be especially vigilant as it is not unheard of for unscrupulous individuals to switch out the good stuff for cheap booze that can have a high ethanol content – potentially leading to serious injury or even death! As mentioned previously, its a good idea to avoid ice in your drinks outside fancy establishments.
If offered any local moonshine, just remember that, made properly, the alcohol content can be extremely high and, when not made properly, ethanol poisoning can, again, be a risk.
Try not to carry too much cash on you and make sure that you split whatever funds you do have between different pockets and bags etc, just in case you get pickpocketed. Having said that, you may find yourself travelling through areas with only limited access to banks or ATMs, so make sure you know in advance how much cash you are likely to need so that you don’t end up being caught short.
Travelling through the developing world, you will most likely have to learn the skill of haggling (as well as when it is appropriate to do so). Much of the time this can be a fun experience, know how much you are willing to spend before negotiating and don’t let yourself be pressured into spending more than you are happy with. Just remember to be fair to the vendor though, a few coins here and there probably mean a lot more to them than they do to you.
Unfortunately, corruption is widespread in many of the world’s poorest countries and, as a foreigner, you may well become a target. As unpleasant as it may be, it is often the easier, and safer, option to pay a small bribe than to argue a point (whether you are in the right or not). Obviously, personal judgement is key in these circumstances, you don’t want to do anything that might get you in further trouble! This is one of the places where a bit of advance research on local customs comes into play to make sure you stay safe and don’t get completely ripped off.
Although it can sometimes be difficult, try not to give money to beggars. If you want to help a community, the best way to do so is to support the local economy by spending your money in local businesses, or by donating, your time or your money, to charities and community outreach programmes.
Embrace the chaos, there really is no point in fighting it! You’ll most likely be finding yourself having the experience of a lifetime!
This guest post was contributed by Bali Villas
With extensive experience in servicing Australian clients, Bali Villas know exactly what families are looking for in terms of location, style and pricing. Each of their family-friendly villas situated on the beautiful island of Bali have been hand-picked by their ‘family expert’ – someone with children who knows exactly what families are looking for.
Contact Bali Villas for a short consultation, and they will be able to find you the perfect villa. Bali Villas aims to take the stress out of planning your holiday, so you can concentrate on creating lasting memories with your family.
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