Friday, December 2, 2016 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

7 Crazy Travel Problems (Solutions)

There’s nothing like a serious problem to ruin a travel experience. Whether you are traveling for business or for pleasure, there are many preventable problems that could arise. Don’t let your trip get spoiled by one of these seven common travel problems! Here are things to watch out for and how to avoid them. Make your trip go smoothly, and have happy travels.
 

1    Losing Luggage

It’s always a bummer to get to your destination and realize that your luggage didn’t. Emergency runs to Walmart and waiting for two weeks to get your running shoes back is not exactly the way you envisioned your vacation! To avoid lost luggage (or at least the problems that come with it), be sure to stay prepared. The only way to ensure your luggage doesn’t get lost is to refuse to check luggage. If you’re taking a short trip, traveling light is actually kind of nice. However, longer trips require bigger bags. Check to see which airlines have the best record with sending luggage to the correct location. In case your luggage does get lost, make sure you have a plan B, namely, carrying a change of clothes and your essentials in your carry on.
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2    Sickness

The flu, parasites, food poisoning—getting sick sucks. And unfortunately, it happens a lot when you’re traveling. There are a lot of ways to get sick, but if you’re careful, you can avoid all of them. Stay hydrated and well-rested, and be sure to wash your hands frequently to hold off viruses and infections. Be careful what you eat, too! Unsanitary restaurants and fruit from trees can contain parasites that locals have a defense against, but foreigners will be totally susceptible to.

Don’t assume your existing health insurance will cover you; check before you leave and consider purchasing travel insurance, especially if traveling abroad. You may be able to get advice and prescriptions from a pharmacist. Clinics and doctors are also available to foreign visitors. Depending on the country’s healthcare system, you may be charged upfront or billed later.
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3    Currency

If you’re lucky enough to visit a foreign country, you may be unlucky enough to get stuck with the wrong currency. To avoid this (and the ridiculous exchange rates you may find), be sure to exchange some of your money before you go. Exchange rates at the airport are sure to be high.

When you are in your location, withdraw money from an international bank to exchange it at a place you know you can trust. Savvy travelers make use of ATMs to get local currency at the best exchange rates. Be sure you have notified your bank in advance of travel plans and become familiar with which ATM networks work for your bank.

Also, get a good idea of the exchange rate so you don’t get ripped off during transactions. Make sure you can do rough math in your head to determine how much you are spending each time you make a purchase. You don’t need to know the precise equivalent, but you want to be sure you’re not being overcharged.
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4    Transportation

Getting around your destination can be difficult if you’re unfamiliar with the bus or car rental systems. The best way to head off potential problems is to prepare in advance. Educate yourself on how to travel from place to place. Find out if there is a public bus system, and if it is safe and reliable for foreigners. Do research on the best, most trustworthy car rental agencies, too. Don’t slack off during your preparation and find yourself stranded in a bad situation.
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5    Language Barrier

Depending on where you are traveling, the language barrier may pose a significant problem. Fortunately, there are tons of ways to combat the language issue! The tried and true old fashioned way is to learn the language—or at least the basics. Anywhere you go, you should know how to say hello, request a price, and, of course, ask directions to the bathroom!

Besides learning a few phrases, you can also take along a dictionary or download one on your phone. Use Duolingo during layovers and while waiting in line to brush up on your skills. Or, keep a translator app on your phone so you can translate on the go. Apps are extremely sophisticated these days. There are apps to translate your voice as you speak, and there are apps that scan and translate text in a mere matter of seconds. In a pinch, a few words and pantomime will work, too!
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6    Getting Ripped Off

No matter where you go, foreigners and tourists are the prime target of scammers of all kinds. Don’t be the one that gets taken in by these schemes. As I said before, you should understand the exchange rate so vendors don’t try to skim a nice chunk of cash off the top of your purchase. Watch out for the “tourist price.” In the tourist community where I live, bus drivers have been known to charge $10 per mile to tourists, rather than the set price of 50 cents per town. To combat this, know what fair prices are. Ask disinterested locals what they pay for things like taxis. Also, watch out for con artists and pick pockets! If it seems fishy, it probably is.

Most countries you will be visiting have relatively low violent crime rates but petty theft may be widespread. Never leave items visible in your parked car. If a room safe or safe at the front desk is available, use it! Use a money belt to keep your money, id, and passport hidden away on your person when you’re out and about.
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7    Losing Your Papers

This is my worst nightmare. If your passport disappears, you could be stuck in a foreign country for weeks while the embassy untangles your issue. Protect your papers by keeping them on you at all times. (An exception to this is countries that require you to leave your passport with your hotel. This is also a safe option.) Never store your passport and ID in the same place you keep items likely to be stolen, like your wallet and money.

You can find passport sleeves that hang around your neck, so you can slip your important papers under your shirt and always know it’s there. A travel belt holds passports, credit cards, and money under your clothes and out of reach of pickpockets. Fanny packs, backpacks, and purses can be an open invitation to thieves. You can replace cameras and even cash, but your passport is your key back to your homeland. Keep it safe!
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Most travelers’ issues are minor inconveniences. Keep a positive attitude and you’ll be able to get through them and enjoy the rest of your trip. If you encounter serious problems while traveling abroad, your Embassy or Consular Office is there to help you. Taking reasonable precautions and being prepared for the possibility of a few snags is your best plan of action.

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