I went around a bit recently, and the following is a few of the things I picked up:

Tear the cover off of your guidebook, photocopy the pages you need, or somehow otherwise hide the cover. I have no idea why the travel book publishers release books that have loud, fancy, obnoxious covers in which some variation of the words "Travel Book" feature prominently. Walking around with a travel book is bound to get you into trouble should you go anywhere other than the most frequented tourist trap, but especially so if you're going to use public transportation (and especially especially so if you're going to use the subway).

If you need to gaze at a map for long periods of time, it's probably a good idea to do it someplace private, or at least in an inconspicuous manner. Looking blatantly at a map for a long time in a public place is a sure way to become a mark.

Make at least a half-hearted attempt to learn about the currency. You should, of course, know the conversion rate to your local currency by heart, however, in addition, you should learn the general shape or color of the larger coins and bills. Bills are generally pretty easy because they have their amount displayed on them so prominently. Coins are harder to deal with, so you should get a rough idea as to what the larger coin denominations look and feel like. Unlike America, there coins that are worth in the vicinity five dollars in the local currency are in circulation, at least in Europe. When you come across a mendicant (as you surely will) and need to throw some money at him to get him to go away, need to quickly tip a waitress, or need to use the machine that dispenses tickets when there are a million angry people behind you, you need to be able to recognize your coins fast.

More about travel books: Don't trust them. I'm serious. I went around with two guidebooks (both of which were published within two years from then), and between the two of them, they were wrong five or six times. That doesn't sound like much, but when you have a few days in a city, wasting a few hours trying to figure out where the hell the shop you really wanted to go to is, why the museum isn't open, or why the tram isn't stopping where it's supposed to is a big waste of time. I don't really have a good solution to this. Calling ahead in the case of museums to find out their closing time is, of course, a good idea, but it is rarely feasible. Looking in the phone book would be nice to confirm the shop's address would be good, but, of course, you are almost never going to have that luxury.

Don't be rude. I'm deathly serious. This is very important, especially if you're American. Americans already have a bad reputation the world over for being loud, obnoxious jerks. From the other Americans I've seen on the road, this reputation often holds true. They bellow loudly. They cut in lines. They are generally nasty or clueless. Please, make at least a cursory effort to be nice and disrupt the locals' lives as little as possible, or, in the case of people whose job it is to deal with tourists, a little bit less of a hell. They will love you for it. They will smother you in kisses.

Ah, well. That's all for now.
From page six of my United States passport:

  1. Make sure you have a valid passport, and visas, if required. In case of an emergency, a relative in the U.S. should have a passport also.

  2. Call the State Department's Citizens Emergency Center, at (202) 647-5225 for information on the areas to be visited. Stay aware of events in the country you are visiting.

  3. Make two photocopies of your passport identification page. Leave one copy at home. Carry the other one with you in a separate place from your passport. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen.

  4. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home, so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

  5. When traveling in disturbed or remote areas, or if residing abroad, register and keep in touch with the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.

  6. Do not leave luggage unattended in public areas or accept packages from strangers.

  7. Avoid conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money or unnecessary credit cards.

  8. In order to avoid violating local laws, deal only with authorized agents when exchanging money or purchasing souvenirs.

  9. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.

  10. Contact the nearest U.S. consul if you get into trouble.

These tips are exactly as written in my passport, grammar errors included (the first tip made me cringe). Good tips, but they should include the US dialing code for the phone number and the Department of State's website for information concerning traveling to specific countries. A link to the nearest place you can get Guinness on tap would also be welcome.

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