Part of the adventure in traveling is being outside your comfort zone and realizing that how you do things is just one tiny speck among the lifestyles of the world. So this is just a crumb of knowledge based on my experiences.
And because traveling is one of my greatest loves, I hope it makes it less scary so you decide to stop putting it off to “some day” and see the world right now.
Raise your Poo IQ
Here’s the 411 on “Going Number 1” (and 2) in public toilets:
Carry change. Paying 20-30 cents/pence is standard but I’ve paid up to €1 in tourist areas.
- Always carry toilet paper in your bag. Many toilets aren’t stocked properly. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re teepee-less after emptying your bladder in a train station loo.
- In rural areas, sometimes your toilet will look like this.
- Toilet seat covers are nonexistent in Europe.
- If you find a string hanging from the ceiling next to a public toilet, it’s almost always an emergency alert system. If you don’t want to get barged in on with your pants around your ankles, don’t pull it.
These might seem like common sense, but you might not realize how differently households operate in other countries. Things like turning on a light may seem simple, but what if you enter a dark room and feel for a light switch and there isn’t one?
Yup. Welcome to my life in Europe.
When you check in to your AirBnB, make sure you know how to…
- Operate the hot/cold on the shower: you’ll be surprised how differently those work country to country
- Flush the toilet: it may be a set of buttons, a lever or pedal
- Turn on the light: sometimes lights are flicked on by pulling a string somewhere in the room. It won’t always be obvious where it is.
- Use the microwave, washing machine and boiler or heater: American appliances are pretty easy but other countries have more knobs and temperature options
- Lock/unlock the doors: I’ve found most old locks have a “trick” to them. On several occasions, I’ve gotten the “You just have to press in and lift the door a little, then turn” speech.
Trust. It’s a humbling experience calling your AirBnB host from the front door at 1am because you can’t get your key to work.
Watch Your Shit!
Seriously, people. This seems like common sense but I can’t tell you how infrequently it’s practiced. I’m not saying I think like a criminal, but if I were a pickpocketer I coulda robbed hella muthafuckas on this trip…just saying.
People will walk around with $1300 DSLR cameras around their neck and leave their bags on the ground to bury their head in a map on a busy sidewalk. Or count their money on the street after withdrawing from a cash point. Really dude?
It can happen even when you are careful. It happened to my best friend in Rome, at a bus stop. They target touristy areas and crowded public transit vehicles.
So when you head out for the day, take only what you need with you – keep it close, and keep your head up and eyes open.
Like Tupac, I Get Around…
Once you figure out public transit, you hold a city by the balls.
- Find out if your city discounts transit passes when purchased in bulk. In Barcelona and La Spezia, I purchased 10-ride passes for €10 rather than paying €1.50/trip.
- Transit cards can save you money: Cash fare is often more than paying ahead of time.
- Most transit agencies report their routes to Google, so plan your route via the Google Maps app (hit the bus icon for transit directions)