Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. I love it so much that I do it multiple times a year and have dedicated much of my time, money, and effort to creating this website that is dedicated to my experience. However, there are certain things about travel that annoy me. While they haven’t gotten to the level of annoyance that I would consider finding a new hobby, I run into these issues everywhere I go.
Transportation- Public transportation has saved me a lot of money over the years. While it costs $2.25 to ride a city bus across downtown San Diego, it costs that amount to ride across the country in Guatemala. However, in the places that I have been, you won’t be able to have your cake and eat it too when dealing with transportation. Being cheap and comfortable are not mutually exclusive when dealing with public transportation abroad. For example, you will either be charged $30 USD to go 10 kms in the front seat of an air-conditional comfortable taxi which is what happened to me in Belize going from the airport to my hotel or you will pay $1 USD to go that same distance in a gua-gua in the Dominican Republic. However, in the case of the latter, your body will be contorted in positions that it has never experienced as you sit six people to a seat designed for three while three other people are hanging out the side of an open door. For what its worth, long distance travel is often cheap and comfortable, but you may only experience that a handful of times depending on how much you move around.
Public Beaches- Most of the places which I have traveled and lived have had a beach. The Caribbean specifically has some pretty nice public beaches that anyone can access without paying. Although the quality of the water doesn’t vary with regards to public vs private beaches the experiences can be drastically different. I view the public beach experience like having free YouTube account in that you are constantly clicking through ads in order to watch the videos that you want. However, with the paid YouTube Red subscription, you can enjoy your music videos in peace. Public beaches often have vendors roaming up and down the shores aggressively attempting to sell you everything from ceviche to massages. Sometimes the same vendors will actually approach you three to four times during a 30-minute time period. If you are alone, it is often hard to sleep or even go out for a swim knowing that these vultures are lurking about. Renting a beach chair can be relatively cheap depending on where you are (between $3-8) and often times the attendant will shoo away the vendors but that isn’t necessarily guaranteed.
Catcalls by Taxi Drivers-Many places outside the United States and Western Europe public transportation is extremely cheap and accessible. In fact, there aren’t even set prices and you can get really good deals if you happen to be great negotiator. However, the accessibility of taxi drivers can often be to your detriment as many are desperate for your business. So desperate, in fact, that you may get catcalled for a ride 5 or 6 times in a 2-block radius. In some countries, taxi or moto drivers may attempt to get your attention by blasting their horn which can be startling if the sound comes from behind you while walking down the street. You really have to walk a fine line in being always being aware of your surroundings and toning out the unnecessary noise.
Initial Arrival- No matter how much internet research you have done, you are at your most vulnerable when arriving at a unknown destination whether it is crossing through customs at the airport or getting off the bus in a new town. You are often disoriented and confused and susceptible to being taken advantage of. It is why most taxi companies at airports charge three times the regular rate to get you to your hotel. There are also opportunist taxi drivers who wait at bus stops waiting to pounce on susceptible tourists. You also see this occur in currency exchange stations. On my most recent trip to the Dominican Republic, the airport exchange rate was 40 Dominican Pesos to $1 USD while outside it was 49 Dominican Pesos to $1 USD. While there is no way to really know a place that you haven’t been, extensive research prior to arrival can help you figure out your different options and avoid losing too much money.
People’s Intentions- One thing that I have realized fairly early in my travels, are there are very few genuine nice people who are interested in knowing you as opposed to your wallet. Like it or not, many locals view tourists as targets, whether it is for legitimate purposes like coming to eat at their restaurants or for more nefarious purposes such a Gentleman’s Scams. This happened to me in Phenom Phen, Cambodia when I was approached by two friendly gentlemen for a chat in what ended up being a distraction while a third one sliced my day bag attempting to steal my money. Most of the time, the nicest locals that I’ve met were hotel workers or taxi drivers who have a financial stake invested in the outcome of our interactions. Even when I got trapped on the island in Korea, the hotel owners were the only one who would give me the time of day due to the expectation that I would stay at their hotel a few more nights. This bullet is not meant to disparage the local people in a given country as they are doing what they have to survive but to outline the reality when it comes to their motivations with interacting with you as a tourist.