My Top 6 Mistakes Overseas
1. Taxi Scams – Of course we have all fallen victim to these as tourists and business travelers. I have actually become rather adept at noticing these scams in my most common destinations I visit now. Most commonly they will run a higher tariff rate (runs the meter faster) or surreptitiously press a small button that will jump the total rate up, hoping you will not notice. In every taxi ride I ride front seat and watch the meter (very easy with sunglasses), you can generally see if they try to adjust the rate but sometimes it takes a few rides to understand how the typical taxi ride will charge. This should reduce any likely scams but I still have the occasional brazen driver attempt to scam me. And when I find a good, trustworthy taxi driver, I treat him well and keep him around.
2. Not Carrying Your Passport – This could be seen as very common sense by many folks but even traveling in Europe, one should always keep your passport on your person. It doesn’t feel comfortable as an American to have such a sensitize and necessary document on your person but getting confronted by authorities without it is not fun, I know. I made the mistake of going to pick up a colleague at the Warsaw airport and waiting in the baggage claim without my passport on my person. For whatever reason a white guy without a bag in a sports coat was suspicious and I was approached by armed police for questioning soon after arriving. I was then escorted by two very large men in military dress with machine guns to a back room while I made a call to a friend to bring my passport from my bags in my apartment. It was all a rather silly affair being guarded by two soldiers with machine guns for 4 hours till my friend arrived, but seems to be the world we live now. Just keep it on your person.
3. Letting Locals Plan Your Trip – Letting others plan your trip is always hit or miss in my experience. But when you have a local planning for you, there is a certain expectation that they have knowledge you or others wouldn’t about what accommodations, transportation, and food would be best for you. Maybe it is my Texan upbringing but this hospitality does not seem to be the norm in most of the world. I always take lead in planning my trips, whether business or pleasure, to avoid the disappointing reliance on incompetent locals.
4. Expecting Western Sanitation Standards – Do not expect most of the world outside of the US and western Europe to have the same sanitation expectation that you may have. Even in part of eastern Europe (much less Asia and the Middle East), I have been shocked by the conditions of hotels and various restaurants (maybe I’m spoiled though, haha). Most countries outside the west have lacked western standards for sanitation and usually don’t have top notch customer service either. My plan is to try and stay in western hotels or higher end restaurants to avoid any issues when overseas. One of the worst illnesses overseas I have experienced was after eating some questionable street vendor food a local insisted I needed to try.
5. I quickly learned to always carry some basic essentials with me or in my briefcase (which is nearly always with me) including: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, local currency (can buy some from Bank of America and have it in hand even before you leave the US), Clorox or Lysol wipes, and a large water bottle (Nalgene are the best). These help keep me clean and hydrated which is half the battle in staying clean and healthy overseas.
6. Forgetting Good Shoes – I am sure I am not the only one to do this, but it is not a good feeling being 5000 miles from home (or a good mall) and your shoes start coming apart. After many blisters and bandages in a foreign country, I have never forgotten to inspect my shoes before leaving on an overseas business trip. Though I will say I was very happy with the pair of shoes I bought overseas, still have them and they look great. So maybe it wasn’t all that terrible of a mistake…
Its always a learning experience in my travels outside the US and the west. I hope these nuggets of wisdom will help prepare you or your business for trips overseas for business or pleasure. Be sure to reach out to Reidel Law Firm should you need advice or counsel in your business endeavors overseas.