Travel-guide books are a dime a dozen (and sometimes even cheaper on Amazon). Some are good, and some are not so good. But in my opinion, far too many are aimed at the high-dollar traveler and concentrate on really esoteric crap like finding the best unicorn sushi, or where to go to get your chakras balanced and aligned.
My wife and I recently spent a week in Mexico and I have put together a few tips for the would-be traveler. My guide is the polar opposite of many of the others available – it’s a practical and useful tool with tips gained through sometimes-painful experience.
I call my guide very simply, “Al viajar en el extranjero, no seas cabron.” Here’s a taste.
Do not demand shopkeepers quote their prices in “real” money. This is tempting, as Mexican bills (or guillermos) come in different sizes (all of which are smaller than ours), and are different colors. All of them bear portraits – one looks like Diego Rivera (or perhaps Alfred Molina) and another features a guy who looks suspiciously like Danny Trejo. Still, it’s not Monopoly money, and comments to that effect are best kept to yourself.
Don’t try to speak Spanish unless you actually speak Spanish. While the natives will find your attempts hilarious, the chiste will be on you. Por ejemplo, I busted out my best español one morning at breakfast and ended up ordering two ranchers’ testicles with a side of fried popes. Also, no matter how graceful you think a man is, do not compare him to a butterfly; trust me on this one.
Speaking of food, a radical change in diet can often trigger a gastrointestinal malady know as turista (aka Montezuma’s Revenge, or Aztec quick-step). It’s usually not life threatening, and it’s easily cured with over-the-counter medications. It’s also something best dealt with before spending the day on a snorkeling expedition – especially if (like me) you’re scared of water. Everyone knows that bleeding in the ocean will attract sharks; not sure about defecating, but it will sure lose you the deposit on your wetsuit.
Anyway, that’s a little taste of my upcoming guide to traveling abroad. Learn from my mistakes and you’ll have fun, make new friends and, most importantly, save some money if you go snorkeling.
Photo by Constantino Arias