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The Do's & Don'ts of Traveling to a Third World Country

The term “third world country” is an ominous term for some people. But even though the world is not all cookie-cutter friendly, there’s a lot to learn by stepping out of your comfort zone. Just last week I ventured to Nicaragua, and though the myth of lesser comforts are true to a certain degree, the experience of letting go of perfection was completely mind-changing. The thing with third world countries is that even though they may not be as wealthy as more economically developed countries, they are rich in other aspects that are more valuable than money, like nature. While on my flight I wrote down a few suggestions to take when traveling to a “third world country”, but I feel once there you’d realize that the silver lining is very much worth the risk.

 

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DON'T

  1. Give all your savings to the first “beggar” outside the airport. If you think about all  the new incoming tourists that fall into culture shock guilt trip at the first sight of a homeless man, then you'd realize that that “beggar” at the airport is probably the owner of a cushy bank account thanks to this. The people who really need help will be farther from the center of the city.

  2. Freak out when there is a power outage. Power outages are extremely common and people have learned to live with it. You know back then we survived without electricity, and surely you can do so for a few hours. This is an opportunity to bask in the silence or connect with the people and the place. Have a conversation with someone.

  3. Bad-mouth the government. Some countries have stricter restraints than others, but if you insult their propaganda, you could be arrested. (Cuba and countries relatively left.) Not all countries approve of freedom of speech.

  4. Make it obvious you’re a tourist. It’s common for people to take advantage of someone unfamiliar with a place. It’s a chance for them to mug, assault or kidnap you so don’t make it easy for them.If you get lost, just keep walking until you find a safe place to ask for directions.

  5. Go anywhere alone unless it’s relatively safe. If you’re traveling alone, you’re bound to be caught in this grey area. But if you get lost just keep walking until you find a populated place  to ask for directions. Be aware of your surroundings.

  6. Exchange currency with the stranger in the corner unless he’s a trusted source and it’s legal. Many places find it illegal to trade currency, but if it is legal, make sure to look the currency rate up online so that you have a number in your mind before you get jipped with the wrong change.

  7. Drink water that's not filtered or bottled. Ever been to India? This is extremely important. Even if it’s more expensive, opt for the sealed water bottle. You don’t want to catch a bug!

 

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DO

  1. Try to use cash instead of credit cards. Some places record your card number when making the transaction. If you went to the World Cup, you’d know this is especially the case in Brazil. Cash is just safer.

  2. Take in the richness of nature. Third world countries may be poor economically, but they are rich in natural resources. (Go figure?)

  3. Help those who are in need, but discreetly. If you can give in anyway, even if it’s only a dollar, it’s a huge help for people. Your country may have exploited theirs at some point, and to be honest, you’re getting more out of theirs. Just make sure you don’t announce that you’re on a charity mission on a loudspeaker or you will be stripped from everything.

  4. Try the typical foods, but with caution. Get the real native food, but not the infection. You never know with these things whether something is hygienic or not, but just be aware of the possibility.

  5. Explore beyond the capital. The most beautiful places are usually hidden from the center of the capital city. So go take a boat, a bus, a taxi, whatever it is, and see the real world.

  6. Speak to someone who can give you their point of view of their country and what they think of yours. This is always a culture exchange. You didn’t travel all the way here just to eat and stare at mountains. Learn from the people.

  7. Keep calm, and brave the heat. A lot of places don’t have air conditioning so your body will have to balance its temperature. Just be patient, if everywhere was like your hometown it wouldn’t be an adventure.

 

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Comments (3)

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Excellent advice Karina. On the "cash or cards" issue, I have found that the pre-loaded cards (with cash) available from companies like Thomas Cook (UK) & Moneycorp are very useful as you can get cash from an ATM when you need it or use it like a credit card - but the big plus is if it gets lost or stolen you get a fast replacement with the full balance of your account transferred to the new card.

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."  Henry Miller

Karina...thanks for talking about getting out of the known world I've traveled in...I've always wondered!
 
I especially like the points about being open to learning about new cultures, and that countries that might be poor financially are often rich in other ways, if you let yourself get out of your comfort zone. 
 
But there are a few things in your article that make me wonder if our own assumptions or "discomfort zones" sometimes get in the way of really understanding things when we're not at home. A few examples include your point about beggars. It's always hard for me to know what puts people in that situation, and their stories may or may not be true, but it's really only a myth that beggars are rich and not poor. I think that idea is mostly from people who don't want to believe how hard life is for many people!
 
There's also the idea of trying to not look like a tourist. I don't think that can be done very easily, even in the "first world," but what you wrote makes it seem as if we travelers are an endangered species, when actually, people are usually very welcoming. There are thieves in every country and you have to be careful to stay alert, but you also have to assume that most people are not thieves.
 
And thanks again!
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