Everyone should visit at least one Third World country during their lifetime, and not just as a point of comparison with wealthier travel destinations. However, it’s important to note that visiting these nations requires a completely different frame of mind. Here are a few important rules to follow, according to some of the Web’s most reputable travel experts.
Know When to Bribe
Police corruption is endemic throughout the Third World, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to pay a bribe at some point during your trip. Whether or not you decide to pay may come down to a game-time decision, though Todd (last name not given), the founder of travel blog Todd’s Wanderings, says that paying a bribe should require a three-step approach:
- Understand the local laws and be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge; this may cause the attempt to elicit a bribe to backfire.
- Never bribe someone for the sake of free merchandise, complimentary benefits, or other instances where your freedom isn’t on the line. “You end up contributing to the ruin of that which you came to see in the first place,” Todd says.
- Don’t put yourself in the position to have to pay a bribe. Abiding by the local laws is the best way to avoid these situations, and it might be best to refrain from driving whenever possible.
Avoid Crowded Areas
Marketplaces, busy intersections, and other places where people congregate can lend a little excitement to your Third World travels ― but there’s also a good chance that visiting these areas will lead to you getting pick-pocketed (or worse). Detective Kevin Coffey of Third World Security recommends avoiding spending too much time in areas where you’re required to slow down, because this essentially turns you into a “moving target” ― and likewise, treat anyone who causes you to slow down (i.e., a stumbling pedestrian) with suspicion. The same goes for anyone who walks behind you for a prolonged period of time. For these reasons, a decoy wallet is highly recommended and moving about with large pieces of luggage is strongly discouraged.
Practice Your Haggling Skills
There’s nothing quite like the sights, sounds, and smells of a Third World marketplace. And in many markets throughout the developing world, prices are far from fixed and negotiations are heartily welcomed. It can’t hurt to beef up on your haggling skills prior to departure, says travel guru Rick Steves. Here are a few of the strategies he employs when shopping abroad:
- Snoop around for a few minutes before buying anything to determine how much locals are paying for goods, and then test out vendors by asking about their prices. Many non-Americans think that all U.S. citizens are filthy rich ― we are, relatively speaking, but that’s beside the point ― and there may be a significant mark-up.
- Calculate the item’s value on your terms. Even if you’re overpaying for something, you should still buy it if you’re not getting completely hosed and the merchandise will make a great souvenir.
- Start low in order to pay middle-of-the-road prices. This is one of the cardinal rules of haggling.
- Hide your enthusiasm; if the vendor sees how much you want something, he may raise the price. Don’t forget, business sense and commercial opportunism are universal.
- Walk away if the negotiation fails. There’s no shame in it, and it’ll save you the grief of realizing you just got screwed.
Wash and Sanitize Your Hands Before Every Meal
Forks and spoons are not exactly commonplace outside the Western world. If you’re lucky, there will be chopsticks ― but throughout parts of Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific, eating with your hands is considered the norm. Mother Nature gave us a couple of perfectly adequate eating utensils, after all, and there’s nothing wrong with using them ― but it’s critically important to keep your paws clean.
Says Daniel Noll of Uncornered Market: “Wash your hands often. Then wash them again. Not to sound obsessive-compulsive, but get into the habit of washing your hands before a meal, after a meal and any time you think of it, particularly if you have been holding railings on public transportation or shaking hands at the local market. And don’t skimp on the soap. Carry a tube of anti-bacterial gel for those rare moments when no soap or sink is available.”
Stay Clear of Certain Foods
By all means, eat exotic cuisine to your stomach’s content ― but if you’re in a relatively poor nation, there are certain foods you should just avoid. For instance, dairy products should be approached with caution, says Independent Traveler. In most Third World countries (as well as a handful of European destinations), milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products are rendered from unpasteurized milk that will upset our sensitive Western stomachs (to put it delicately). But I see all the locals drinking milk, you might say ― and you’re not wrong, but please note that their guts are much more durable and acclimated to local dairy than yours. Other edibles you may want to politely decline include raw fruits and vegetables, as well as smoothies or other drinks rendered from fruits and veggies, and raw seafood.
Obtain All the Necessary Shots
For the record, there are a lot of diseases, ailments, and physically crippling conditions that a shot won’t prevent while you’re abroad. However, immunizations are highly recommended for some Third World countries, and all but required for visiting others. At the very least, Lonely Planet recommends obtaining the following vaccinations prior to your departure if they’re not up-to-date:
- Tetanus (often administered concurrently with diphtheria)
- ‘Childhood’ illnesses like measles, mumps, and rubella
In addition, Lonely Planet highly encourages the following immunizations, though some may not apply to certain countries:
- Cholera: Many countries in Latin America and Africa will demand documented proof of this immunization upon entry.
- Hepatitis A: Anyone who travels internationally should obtain this vaccine if it’s been more than seven years since their last shot. This one may jointly protect against typhoid (see below).
- Hepatitis B: Anyone who visits Africa, China, or Southeast Asia and India should obtain this immunization, as well as individuals who are traveling as medical professionals.
- Japanese B Encephalitis: This vaccine should be obtained by individuals who travel to China, Japan, the Philippines, or Southeast Asia, or the Pacific Islands.
- Meningococcal Meningitis: This immunization is recommended for those who visit Nepal, Pakistan, India, Mongolia, and parts of Vietnam. Outbreaks have also been reported in Latin America, particularly large Brazilian cities.
- Rabies: This three-step pre-exposure vaccination is strongly encouraged for travel anywhere. There is also a post-exposure vaccination for if and when you get bit by a rabid animal ― and it’s much more painful than the pre-exposure option.
- Tuberculosis: Although TB (aka, ‘consumption’) is widely regarded as an ‘old’ disease, it still runs rampant throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa. You may not need the immunization unless you plan to be living in close quarters with other people in a rural setting ― but bear in mind, TB treatment requires nine months of absolutely no alcohol.
- Typhoid: This immunization is urged for those who plan to spend a period of two weeks or more in Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Africa. Be warned, the shot can lead to stomach ailments; as mentioned above, the typhoid vaccine may be offered in conjunction with the Hepatitis A immunization.
- Yellow Fever: Proof of this immunization is required for entry into virtually every African country, as well as a handful of Latin American nations. It’s also worth noting that the disease is transmitted through mosquitoes, so your chances of infection are somewhat high if you visit infected countries without obtaining the immunization.
Finally, you should obtain the proper vaccination and prophylaxis pills if you plan to visit any countries where malaria is endemic. For more information, visit our previous post about anti-malaria medications and their side effects.
Best of luck in all of your Third World travels! Are there any tips we missed? Feel free to let us know!