Nine Lessons from Nine Countries

张骞宁
3 min readMar 28, 2023

I visited nine countries in 2022, and it was a wild ride! Each had its own customs, culture, and quirks. I was constantly reminded about what to do and what to avoid while traveling. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

DO YOUR RESEARCH: I looked up and reviewed local customs and dress codes before visiting Oman, which proved to be useful. Although I got away with wearing traditionally American gym apparels while hiking in Omani wilderness, dressing modestly in more urban venues are generally appreciated. Locals will always be happy to see you making genuine effort to blend in.

DON’T OVERPACK: Believe me, you don’t need as much as you think you do. When I visited Jordan, I brought additional pairs of working shoes that I ended up not needing because the hikes weren’t as strenuous as I had anticipated. Only pack what you absolutely need and leave room for souvenirs and other items you might pick up along the way.

DO TRY NEW FOODS: I tried some dishes I’d never heard of before in Turkey, and it was an unforgettable culinary experience. Although I couldn’t recall the name of the local restaurant (or the dishes) where my guide took me, I do recall telling him how Turks live up to their reputation for having some of the best cuisine in the world. Bottom line: be adventurous!

DON’T FORGET TO BRING CASH: Credit cards may not be commonly accepted in some rural areas of places such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. As a result, it’s always a good idea to bring cash. Make sure to swap your currency ahead of time, and keep some small bills on hand for taxis, snacks, and souvenirs. Keep in mind that not all locations take the currency you may have on hand to exchange for the targeted currency (e.g., BHD for MXN), so bring some cash in “international” currency (e.g., USD or EUR) to exchange later at a local exchange site. This means you may need to make two transactions to obtain the desired currency.

DO RESPECT LOCAL CUSTOMS: When in Saudi Arabia, I observed local customs, such as dressing conservatively and avoiding physical contact with men (even handshakes). This includes counterintuitive actions such as graciously accepting invitations to strangers’ homes for tea. Finally, learning a few words in the local language, such as “thank you,” is always a good plan.

DON’T OVERSCHEDULE: In Austria and the Czech Republic, I tried to cram too many activities into one day, it was overwhelming. In fact, I was so exhausted that I fell sick and ended up resting in hotels for several days. Don’t be like me. Be deliberate with your itinerary. This means including scheduled breaks to recharge.

DO REMAIN VIGILANT: Call me cautious, but you can never guarantee 100% safety. Although some countries like the UAE are generally safe, you should always watch your surroundings and take precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. It only takes one accident to ruin the trip.

DON’T STAY IN ONLY TOURISTY AREAS: While the tourist attractions in Hungary were beautiful, my sense of adventure started only after embarking on an exploratory journey beyond the confines of touristy spots. This included everything from visiting niche venues to finding family-owned restaurants in a nearby neighborhood. I urge you to do the same. Who knows what hidden gems you might find!

DO BE OPEN-MINDED: I was originally hesitant to visit Kuwait due to the extreme heat and the reputation of the locals. However, I told myself to be open minded and enjoy what the country had to offer. As a result, I got to visit quaint venues frequented by locals in addition to touristy spots. The weather wasn’t that bad either if you can manage dry heat. Being open-minded resulted in some unexpectedly pleasant experiences, and I assure you such experiences are not limited to one country.

--

--