It would be a thrilling experience for travelers to explore a developing country to the extent of culture and human communication. However, to those from countries with modest economies, especially who ever travelled through Western nations with well-organized tourism, there are some tips worth taking well before starting the trip to be safe, cause no harm and listen well.
1. Do your research.
To avoid out-of-date online information and irregular guidebooks (especially in developing countries),it will be a great idea for travelers to set up your own Google Alert for the nation you are coming.
Brittany G. Lane of Washington D.C. says she always sets up a Google Alert for the country she’s visiting. “Two days before I went to Tunisia there were major protests. The U.S. media hadn’t reported on it yet, but Google Alerts picked up French and British news reports that were useful for me to read,” said Lane, a research associate for The Urban Institute, which works on local governance issues in developing countries. Message boards, such as IndependentTraveler.com’s travel message board forums and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum, are excellent spots to seek out advice from seasoned travelers to your destination. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are also good places to survey other travelers.
2. Learn local language.
You had better be able to speak some basics such as “hello”, “please”, “thank you”, “where is …?”, “can you help me”, “excuse me” or even more in the local language to navigate better as well as create goodwill along the way.
3. Get to know local traditions and taboos.
Spend time researching them before you depart such as surfing CultureCrossing.net, a compendium of social customs around the world, and ViewChange.org, where videos from developing countries offer a glance at everyday life. But also “spend the first couple of days just observing,” Lane said.
Before her trip through North Africa, Lane said she received conflicting advice about whether to wear a head covering. After a few days in-country, the answer became clear. (Not necessary in most places.)
4. Constantly assess risks.
Traveling through a developing country will likely involve risk assessment on a daily basis. Is it safe to walk alone at night? Is that hotel clean and secure? Are you at risk of getting robbed on that train? Or what do you do if a local family invites you into their home for a meal and it’s difficult to decline their offerings? “You have to assess the risk and decide if getting sick is worth it,” said Michael
McColl, director of communications for The Ethical Traveler, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.
5. Be wise to choose transportation
It’s normally hard for modes of transformation in these countries to follow rigorous safety standards. So if you aren’t able to fly aboard an internationally recognized major airline, for instance, be sure you seek out info on a local airline’s safety records. Same goes for trains and buses. Get an input of the company’s name and the term “safety record” or “crash” into an online search.
That’s how Lane learned of a June 2012 Dana Air accident in Nigeria that killed all passengers as well as 10 people on the ground due to a suspected dual engine failure. She explained that “I had the choice recently to fly through Nigeria on that airline, and I chose not to,”.
6. Avoid giving money to strangers.
Better than giving the person in need a few coins from your pocket, McColl said, is to help those in need through a community organization, such as a local nonprofit, church or school. Seek out a respected local leader, and ask about a community initiative that feels like a nice fit for you.
Alternately, you could research an organization once you get back home, or support a nonprofit organization that serves the community you visited.
7. Don’t give handouts to children.
McColl also suggests you avoid giving items to children, no matter how tempting it may be, because “It could condition them to do it again, perhaps becoming more aggressive in doing so in the future,” Instead, school supplies are always welcomed — much more so than candy, especially in communities where regular dental care isn’t readily available. You should give them to their parents or teachers. You could also research in advance the needs of a community — basic medical supplies, or clothing, for instance — and bring those items.
8. Understand the role bribes play in some places.
Again, doing your research in advance should help you determine this.
In some French-speaking countries in Africa, a bribe is known as a cadeau, or “gift”. Paying such fees is a reality in many countries, and a few soles or rupees aren’t going to break your bank. Arguing over paying a so-called bribe could prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. “It’s not your time to make a stand against the rules of the country,” Lane advised. That being said, you should know the difference between a small fee and a full-on shakedown.
9. Bargain fairly.
A lot of countries operate on bargaining, and taxi drivers or street market vendors fully expect you to haggle. Be fair when you do so. Again, a few extra coins aren’t going to hurt you, but you also shouldn’t walk away from the transaction feeling ripped off.
10. Eat and drink cautiously.
The standard overseas eating and drinking rules apply in developing countries. Sollie only drinks water from bottles that are sealed when she herself opens them. Iodine tablets are useful if you need to purify water. Lane also always totes a stash of protein bars. “I find that I tend to make bad food choices if I’m really hungry,” she said. You can stave off that hunger and thus be in a better position to make smart decisions if your stomach isn’t growling.
11. Learn to listen.
This tip is taken directly from The Ethical Traveler, and may very well be the heart of any travel experience. As an article on the group’s website says: “Travelers from the USA in particular should be aware that many people — especially in developing countries — believe that having the ear of an American is tantamount to having the ear of America. So wherever you’re from, listen well — and with respect — to all points of view.