Safe Travel

 

This recently was on Wendy Perrin travel website and I thought it was good things to know.

Some Americans tell me they’re nervous about traveling right now. Given the recent ban blocking travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries, and whatever unpredictable new rules might suddenly get implemented tomorrow, they’re worried that if they leave the U.S., they could have trouble getting back in. Some people are concerned about possible hassles with immigration officials in foreign airports. And, given the new administration’s “America First” attitude, some people fear anti-American sentiment at their destination.

I don’t.  That’s because I’ve traveled in many countries at times when the U.S. government was disliked—and, time after time, I’ve found that, as long as you don’t behave like an “ugly American,” people don’t judge you based on your government. That’s because they don’t want you to judge them based on their government. Many people are accustomed to living under a regime that curtails their freedom and the press. If you’re sensitive and sympathetic, and as intrigued by them as they are by you, what you get is not hostility but a bonding experience.

Even in the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War, I never encountered any hostility from the locals I met. In fact, I always got a warm welcome because people were so intrigued and curious to talk to an American. In the Middle East, I’ve always found people to be astonishingly friendly, warm, and hospitable. As just one example, I remember a policeman in Damascus, Syria, approaching me with a look of concern and an outreached arm, only to pick up my suitcase like a true gentleman and carry it across the street for me.

It’s my firm belief that, right now, travel is more important than ever. That’s not just because travel is fatal to ignorance about other cultures and peoples. It’s because we frequent travelers can help rectify misperceptions that the world may have right now about the United States. It’s important that other countries see that Americans are open to different cultures. It’s important that they meet Americans who don’t necessarily subscribe to the motto “America First” but are, instead, global citizens first.

Here are a few things travelers can do to convey this message and avoid the “ugly American” stereotype. These are easy ways to blend in, avoid offense, bond with locals, and stay safe. These rules of etiquette have long been the case; they’re not new to this or any presidential administration.

Avoid logos and labels.
Don’t wear T-shirts, hats, or anything with words or symbols on them. Don’t wave a U.S. flag. Don’t wear religious jewelry (no Christian cross or Star of David.) Don’t wear a red baseball cap that says “USA” or “Make America Great Again.”

Wear simple, plain, neutral clothing.
Forgo bold colors in favor of earth tones. Wear old black or brown shoes, not shiny new white sneakers (they scream “tourist”). Instead of shopping for new clothes before a trip, leave space in your suitcase to buy clothes once you arrive. That way, you gain the experience of shopping like a local, you blend in, and you come away with great souvenirs.

Speak softly and respectfully.
“Ugly Americans” speak loudly and draw attention to themselves. Remember that, when you travel, you’re like a guest in someone else’s house. Speak to the people of your host country with respect.

Steer clear of crowds.
This is not just for your safety but because crowds usually make both travelers and locals cranky, and crowds in different countries have different etiquette. Bypass political demonstrations and rallies. When practical, avoid rush hour on public transportation. Go against the normal flow of tourist traffic.

If there’s someone you’d like to photograph, establish a rapport first.
Here’s Photo Etiquette: How to Take Pictures of People When You Travel. Remember that it’s often against the law to photograph government buildings, military installations, policemen, guards, and parts of airports and train stations.

Know the country’s rules and customs.
Here are 25 Fascinating Rules of Etiquette From Around the World.

Ask questions that show that you care and can relate.
Good conversation topics—to ask locals you meet—include: How has technology changed your life? (Has it made it better? How has it impacted your work and your family? Do you feel more connected to the world at large?)   What are your biggest stresses and challenges? (The cost of medical care? housing? schooling?) What happens when there’s a new baby in the family? If the mother works, how is this dealt with in the workplace? (Different cultures have very different maternity customs and laws.) How do you care for the oldest members of your family? (Many countries worldwide have more and more elderly people and not enough young people to care for them.) If you were to plan a trip to America, where would you go? What are the things you would most like to see?  Such questions will establish similarities, as well as interesting differences, between your life and that of the people you meet.

Hire a stellar local guide.
A private English-speaking guide, arranged via your hotel concierge or a reputable tour company, can keep you out of trouble and introduce you to receptive local people. Remember, it’s in a guide’s best interest to keep you safe and happy. When a trip is arranged by one of my Trusted Travel Experts, you automatically tap into a network of guides and insiders at your destination who will watch out for you and can arrange for you to exchange ideas with the right local people without fear. These TTEs have their ears to the ground and know how to keep you safe and solve any problem that arises.

Get a new passport if that will give you peace of mind.
If your current passport has a stamp from Iran or another country that’s named in a ban, consider getting a new one, to avoid potential hassles coming and going.

Stay calm and relaxed, knowing you have a safety net.
Being on edge won’t win you any friends. A MedjetAssist Horizon membership can take the edge off because it provides help in an emergency, should a crisis—a political threat, a terrorist attack, violent crime, or the like—strike. It gives you access to a 24/7 Crisis Response Center, a veteran security expert to advise you, and response services to come to the rescue if necessary. Even if no major security incident has been declared yet and you’re just feeling uncomfortable and want to get out of a place, MedjetAssist will help. Full disclosure: Medjet is a sponsor of this site—but they’re a sponsor specifically because I believe in and use their service. Here are 15 other simple steps you can take to be prepared for an emergency when you travel.

Latitude and Longitude

Latitude and Longitude

If possible, refer to a world map as you read through the explanation of latitude and longitude in this section.

unit-1-latitude_and_longitude_of_the_earth-svg

Latitude

Latitudes are parallel lines drawn east to west between the equator and the north and south poles. Latitude measures the location of places north or south in relationship to the equator, which is at zero degrees. A place halfway between the equator (0 degrees) and the north pole (90 degrees) is at 45 degrees north latitude; a place between the equator and the south pole is at 45 degrees south latitude.

 

The equator serves as a boundary between two halves or hemispheres of the earth. All places north of the equator, including the North Pole, are located in the Northern Hemisphere. All places south of the equator including the South Pole are located in the Southern Hemisphere.

Two important lines of latitude that relate to climate and weather are the Tropic of Cancer(at 23.5 degrees north) and the Tropic of Capricorn (at 23.5 degrees south). The tropical regions lie between these two latitudes. Tropical locations experience minimal fluctuations in temperature throughout the year; usually only about 8 degrees. They also experience minimal fluctuations of daylight hours. The farther one moves from the equator, north or south, the greater the changes in seasonal temperatures and amount of daylight.

Latitude lines are always equal distance from each other.

 LONGITUDES

Longitudes are lines that are drawn north to south, all converging at the poles. Longitude measures the location of places east or west in relationship to the prime meridian. The prime meridian is a line that runs through Greenwich, England, and represents zero degrees.

West longitude extends from the prime meridian (zero degrees) to 180 degrees west of the prime meridian. This area includes the Atlantic Ocean, North and South America, and part of the Pacific Ocean. East longitude extends from the prime meridian to 180 degrees east of the prime meridian. This area includes the European continent, Africa, Asia, and part of the Pacific Ocean.

Latitude allows us to divide the globe into Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and longitude allows us to separate the Western Hemisphere (North and South America, Greenland, plus all adjacent islands, including Hawaii) from the Eastern Hemisphere(Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, one-half of Antarctica, plus the majority of the islands in the Pacific Ocean).

Unlike latitudes, lines of longitude are not equally distant from one another because they converge at the poles.

Absolute Location Measurements

To locate or designate a specific location on the earth, you need both a latitude and longitude coordinate. Latitude, the first coordinate, is the number of degrees north or south of the equator. Longitude, the second coordinate, is the number of degrees east or west of the prime meridian.

unit-1-absolute-location-measurements

Here’s a quick way to check your understanding: Locate Mexico City, Mexico on a world map. What is its latitude? (Approximately 20 degrees north of the equator.) What is its longitude? (Approximately 100 degrees west of the prime meridian.) The absolute location measurements or coordinates of Mexico City are 20 degrees north latitude, 100 degrees west longitude.

This was published in the Travel Institute’s Hot Tuesday tip.

TSA Precheck verses Global Entry

If you have flown any in the past couple of years you might have been granted a TSA Precheck on your boarding pass.  Apparently that is ending so if you still want to sail thorough security at the airport you may need to invest in a TSA Precheck card.

You can get one right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  They have an office in Gulfport right off of Hewes Avenue.  The cost for a card that you can use for five years if $85.00.

The TSA Precheck is really good if you are just going to fly within the United States.

However if you are going to fly a few times overseas then you might want to invest in a Global Entry card.  The cost for it is $100.00 for five years.  You can also use your Global Entry card within the United States as a way to get thorough the airport lines quicker.

However, where the Global Entry really works is when you are coming back into the United States and you have to go thorough Customs.  With the Global Entry you just go to a Kiosk and put your card in and answer a few questions and you are on your car.

To get the Global Entry Card you can go out to the Gulfport Airport.  You will need to set up an appointment and submit your finger prints and a few other security items.

It is nice that we have the Global Entry booth here on the coast.  When I purchased mine I had to drive over to New Orleans to make the application.

While they are bit expensive they are a nice convenience and keep you from standing in long lines that seem to never move.

Have any questions about the two different types of cards write me at tourwithdave@gmail.com

Cuba Travel Tips

In 2017 Cuba is rated as one of the top tourist spots for Americans.  It is getting easier to go to Cuba each and every day.

There are several ways to go to Cuba.  Most folks go on a “People to People” trip. They are 12 different reasons Americans can visit Cuba such as a journalist, religious trip, visiting a realitve, scientific and several others.  But the main one is a trip where you will have a chance to interact with the Cuban people and it is called “People to People.”

You can take a land base trip with a company like Globus or Cosmos.  Also now you are able to take a cruise to Cuba on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and other cruise lines.  Many of the cruise lines only visit Cuba for a a day or two spening the rest of their time in the Caribbean.

I recently took 19 travelers to Cuba with Cosmos and it was a wonderful trip.

Also we went on a American Airlines charter out of Miami.  However in recent months several airlines have been given permission to fly to Cuba including America, Delta, Jet Blue and many others.  However, you still will need to go to Cuba for one of the 12 designations that I mentioned above.

You cannot exchange money before you go to Cuba.  You can exchange it once you get to your hotel.  It is really not hard to do.  I would only get a few hundred dollars worth at a time so you dont have to exchange it when you leave and lose ten percent on the exchange.

By the way when you exchange American dollars into the Cuban Peso you lose ten percent of your value.

You will find the Cuban people so friendly. We met Cubans in many settings and we found them so nice and willingly to help you out in any way.

We all felt safe walking down any Cuban street. Crime is quite low in Cuba and unless you go looking for trouble I think you should have no problem walking around most Cuban neighborhoods.

Expect to find music everywhere in Cuba.  I know when we had lunch or dinner at any restaurant there was some group playing some type of music.  It is really nice to have the experience of listening to some Sala or Jazz while eating your meal.

Some people believe you need to wait to go to Cuba when they have five star hotels. I would disagree with that statement and encourage travelers to go to Cuba now and see what the Cuban life is really like.

Since I was there a few months ago, the amount of Americans going has increased.  So if you want to go before there are crowds in Little Havana then you need to start planning your vacation right now.

One treat we had when we visited the western section of Cuba in Vinales was the Casa Particulares which are bed and breakfast establishments owned by local citizens trying to better their lives.  We found them quite nice. In fact the bathroom where we stayed was more modern than most American bathrooms.  The bedroom was quite nice as well.  The Cuban family cooked us a typical Cuban meal which was so good.  If you have a chance on your trip to Cuba try and stay in one for a real Cuban experience.

It is hard but not impossible to get on the internet in Cuba.  You have to buy an internet card which cost from two to four Cuban dollars.  Then you scratch off the code and find a hot spot in the middle of a town or a hotel and receive your emails.  I had one person who bought several cards and seemed to have moderate success in using them.

If you have any interest in going to Cuba write me at tourwithdave@gmail.com and I will attempt to help you plan a Cuban vacation for you.