Whether you're a seasoned veteran of overseas travel or a bright-eyed newbie embarking on your first trip out of Singapore, make sure you don't fall for these top 9 mistakes you should never make while travelling abroad.
1. Keep Your Passport on Your Person
When travelling in a foreign country, it's never a good idea to go anywhere without identification and proof of your right to be there, just in case. But that doesn't mean you should bring your passport with you everywhere you go. Losing your passport or getting it stolen, while not a disaster (your country's consulate can help you get another one), is still a stressor and waste of precious vacation time. Instead, consider carrying photocopies of the important pages from your passport with you, and leave your passport safely in your hotel room's safe deposit box.
It's not unusual to feel a little more adventurous than usual when on vacation in an exotic locale. But before you stick out your thumb to catch a lift while backpacking through the wilderness, think twice about whether you're casting reasonable caution to the winds. It's generally just not safe to hitchhike in your home country, let alone in a foreign country where you may be identified as an easy target due to being a foreign tourist with few to no local ties and little knowledge of the local geography or customs. This especially applies if you're travelling solo.
3. Get in Arguments with Locals - Especially in Bars!
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When travelling, be sensitive to the possibility that certain topics or opinions may be quite controversial or provocative in your host country, and refrain from engaging locals in arguments. Law enforcement may not work the way you're used to in Singapore, so it's best not to make any assumptions or unnecessarily poke the bear. This advice is all the more important to heed when you're around people whose filters or inhibitions may have been lowered, for example if you're at a bar where people have been drinking. The last thing you want is for an argument to turn into a brawl. As a guest in their country, do your best to respect local customs and taboos, and hold your tongue when it's prudent to do so.
4. Skip Travel Insurance
In the age of crowdfunding, it's not uncommon these days to see people popping up on our social media feeds begging for their friends and family to pitch in to help cover some unforeseen expense they can't afford - such as outrageous medical expenses or an emergency flight back to Singapore after adventures abroad go awry. This may be especially true for people who plan to engage in potentially dangerous sports activities like skiing or scuba diving. If you know there may be some level of risk during your trip, make sure you buy travel insurancewhen travelling overseas to avoid being forced to join their number.
5. Flaunt Your Wealth
This tip doesn't just apply to millionaires. In many third-world countries that double as popular holiday destinations, you're already probably more well-off than the majority of the host population. Tourists are already considered relatively easy targets by local pickpockets in many countries, so it's a good idea to try not to stick out any more than you already do by being discreet with your wealth. In practice, this could look like not wearing excessively flashy or expensive jewelry and refraining from making apparent how much cash you're carrying in your wallet.
6. Skip Your Vaccinations Before Your Trip
You should always make sure you're properly vaccinated for any infectious diseases that may be endemic to your destination country when travelling abroad. You can find out which vaccinations are recommended for your travel destination on websites such as the Center for Disease Control or by consulting your local physician. Depending on your health insurance plan, vaccinations may seem a little bit expensive given the relatively low risks you'll contract a disease, especially for a short-term trip. But you'll thank yourself for going ahead and biting the bullet if you do find yourself somewhere malaria or yellow fever is having a resurgence.
Another consideration is that if you are planning to buy travel insurance (hint: you should be), insurers often require that you take the necessary reasonable and sensible precautions before and during your travel to avoid taking on unnecessary risk. If you are advised to get vaccinated before travelling somewhere and don't, an insurer could justifiably find you negligent should you actually get infected and refuse to pay out for your claim.
7. Drink the Tap Water
The tap water may be safe to drink in Singapore, but assuming it's safe in other places in the world is a great way to spend your entire vacation recuperating from food poisoning in your hotel room. Keep in mind that just because locals can safely imbibe the local tap water without experiencing any issues does not necessarily mean there are no risks for you. As a foreigner, you may not have developed the same tolerance to, for example, bacteria in the local water that locals may be inured to.
For a quick glance at which places it's generally safe to drink the tap water and where you're better off sticking to water bottles, check out the following table:
For the best experience sampling the local cuisine where you're travelling, avoid going to restaurants at or near major tourist traps. These restaurants, designed to ensnare and accommodate the maximum number of tourists who may not want to stray off the beaten path in an unfamiliar place, tend to be overpriced. Not only that, they rarely feature the best local cuisine your host country has to offer. Take the time before your trip to find out where the locals like to eat for the most authentic dishes, even if it requires ditching the well-trodden tourist footpaths to find. As an added bonus, enjoy eating away from the crowds!
9. Use Cash instead of Credit Cards Overseas
Another thing newbie travellers may not be aware of is the massive rewards you can earn for spending money abroad with your credit card. With a credit card tailored towards rewarding overseas spend such as the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite Card, you can earn 3 air miles for every S$1 spent overseas, which is one of the highest mile awate for overseas spend on the market. Not only that, credit cards often give you much better exchange rates than banks or money changers. Avoid the notoriously terrible currency exchange rates at the airport terminal entirely and just use your credit card for the best bang for your buck. For more information about this card and other great alternatives that help you get the most out of your travel, check out our list of the best credit cards for avid travellers.