He Said/She Said: Unsolicited Travel Advice

He Said/She Said: Unsolicited Travel Advice

Tourists say the darndest things.  When going on a trip people often leave their common sense behind, thinking that just because the place is different they should leave their thinking to others.  Here are some of the things we’ve heard from travelers that made us scratch our heads…

HE SAID…

Too often it seems that we equate travel with education.  “He must know because he’s been there…” is the logic, but why?  Is knowledge in the water?  Traveling far and wide certainly increases experience, but doesn’t impute knowledge.  Travel can be blinding as much as it is enlightening if we blindly listen to people.  Having been somewhere and speaking with a local does not necessarily make one wiser…especially if the one giving advice is the village idiot.

“What are these pills for?” one of our friends asked our next door neighbor in India as he was unpacking his groceries.  “For my kidneys,” he responded.  Realizing this was an incomplete answer he continued, “I’ve been drinking water from the Ganga for the health benefits and it’s made my kidneys really hurt.”  The Ganga is most likely the world’s most polluted river in the world.  Every one of the 116 cities along the banks of the holy river dumping their raw sewage into it.  Many travelers in Rishikesh and Varanasi, however, believe the Indian Holy men’s claim that drinking the water will cure any ailment.  It won’t, but it certainly may cause an illness.

“The biggest scam in India is children that ask for foreign coins, without thinking about it you give them a quarter and that’s way more rupees than you’d ever hand a kid…”  Let’s examine this.  In a country where the largest companies get laws passed banning foreign competition, where lawmakers are passing a constitutional amendment assuring that lesser qualified minorities get promoted over more qualified people, and 625 million people don’t have access to a toilet because the wealthy don’t believe in taxes, and giving a poor kid $0.25 is the country’s biggest scam? Come on.  Have you ever tried to exchange coins?  Tell me how that goes for you…

“Let’s ask the locals, they will know.”  First of all, in countries where you don’t speak the native language, the ones that speak your language probably make money off serving you, therefore their opinion is far from unbiased.  Second of all, if they don’t sell to tourists, why would they know about touristy things?  Tell me honestly: what are the hours of your local contemporary art museum?  What is the price of admission?  Which buses get you there?  If you don’t know this why expect others to?  While we all want to trust in helpful people, the reality is that it pays to trust guidebooks or go to the source.  Need a train schedule?  Look online or go to the station.  Want to know about a local attraction?  Ask a tourist bureau.  Not only will this help you maximize the time you have in a place, it will make you less susceptible to unscrupulous touts trying to steer you to places that pay them a commission.

SHE SAID…

We’ve all been victims of unsolicited advise and we’ve probably all given it, but travelers are notorious for sharing their opinion whether they are asked for it or not.  I’m not against helpful advise, I love it when someone overhears our conversation and offers timely information that would have taken us hours of research to determine.  On the contrary, I hate when someone passes on an unfounded rumor as fact. I have overheard and been on the receiving end of some particularly interesting words of wisdom on the road.  Many of the suggestions I’ve heard provide further proof that you can’t believe everything you hear.

A group of travelers in China trading advice

“You shouldn’t be eating eggs at altitude” a fellow trekker told me in Nepal, “the body can’t digest eggs above 10,000 feet.”  Maybe I would have believed her if I hadn’t been eating eggs as my main source of protein for four weeks as I trekked above 15,000 feet.  “I’d like to visit Singapore, but you can get arrested just for chewing gum” a backpacker told me in SE Asia. Well, then I guess I consider myself lucky not to be in jail right now.  “You don’t really have to worry about police here, since you can just pay them off if you get yourself in trouble” I overheard on Khao San Road in Thailand.  And, that’s where hearsay can really get you in trouble.

It’s hard not to share opinions or dole out advice, but the repercussions of what we say can be farther reaching than we realize. While we’ve dedicated this site to providing pointers to others that want to see the world we won’t ever tell you to bribe a cop, stop eating eggs or drink from the Ganges.  So, do your research and make sure you use your shit-detector when taking suggestions from your fellow travelers or from the locals.

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YOUR TURN.  Agree or disagree with us?  What’s the worst travel advice you’ve ever received?  Share in the comments below…

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Comments

» Dad A :
Oct 8, 2012

I certainly have not traveled as extensively as you guys, but my experience has been the “natives” have frequently provided me with great insight, cool places to go, excellent directions and memorable eating establishments…..like any advice, one must consider the source and do with it as one chooses….more often than not, I have found the “natives” advice most beneficial….there are stupid people everywhere, which I guess is your point!

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, we both have had some incredible interactions with locals and gotten some excellent advice on where to sleep, what to see, etc. However, in developing countries you have to be careful what you believe as their tips might be best un-followed.

» Tashia :
Oct 15, 2012

I’ll never forget the disbelief on my poor friend Pat’s face when on our first day in Bangkok- after just a few hours of sleep after our many hour flight he discovered that all the tuk-tuk drivers were lying to us when they told us the Palace wasn’t open that morning. A ruse that I’m sure they use on many an unsuspecting tourist to get them to pay inflated tuk-tuk fairs to the far ends of Bangkok to see other wats. This was his first trip out of the US and his first day exploring. I was insistent that we keep walking and NOT take a tuk tuk to see another Wat. And there, just moments after another tuk-tuk driver had tried to convince us otherwise… we found the Palace doors open and available to tourists. It wasn’t a national holiday after all. :)

LOCAVORista Reply:

Tashia, that’s classic- one of the oldest Bangkok scams in the book. Glad that you weren’t taken advantage of, but I can easily see how so many are not so lucky.

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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