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10 Mistakes to Avoid on Your First Trip

How to Not Be a Newbie During Your First Time in Asia

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Scams in Asia

Would you trust this guy?

Photo by Greg Rodgers

Don't Buy Useless Travel Gadgets

When shopping for your first trip, you'll encounter a multitude of cute, interesting, flashy gadgets that will supposedly make your trip more comfortable. Most of the items are designed to relieve you of your travel savings before you even leave home.

Instead, save your money to take advantage of the shopping in Asia!

Don't Worry About the Language Difference

Unless you're going to a very remote destination, the language difference will usually be hardly more than a small inconvenience. You may get the wrong order in restaurants from time to time, however, you can certainly get around with English and hand gestures.

While learning some phrases in the local language is both fun and helpful, don't spend too much time studying before you leave home. You can learn exponentially faster from locals -- who will gladly help you and correct your pronunciation -- once you arrive. Practicing a local language is a great excuse for fun interaction.

Don't Overpack

Seemingly obvious, packing too much is the most common mistake that all first-time travelers make. Dragging an overweight suitcase or backpack around can really take the fun out of moving around a fascinating country, and airlines will charge you a fortune for baggage. Many people end up giving away or leaving much of the useless stuff that they bring from home anyway.

Aside from these items you should bring with you to Asia, nearly everything you need will be available for cheaper at your destination. Plus you can help out the local economy.

You'll want to buy clothes and gifts to bring home, so don't start with a full suitcase!

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Don't Leave Home Without Travel Insurance

While it's tempting to just take your chances, the peace of mind that travel insurance brings is well worth the meager cost -- especially once you see how taxi drivers handle the roads!

Good travel insurance will protect you and your bags; most include evacuation plans in case you become seriously injured while abroad.

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Forget Stereotypes Before You Arrive

Don't let what you think you know about a country from movies and hearsay prevent you from discovering the real country. Everyone has different experiences in places, both good and bad, and formulates an opinion about a destination based on their own filters.

Arrive with an open mind, beat your jetlag quick, then get outside the resort to discover what goes on away from the tourist environment!

Don't Rely on Only One Way to Access Funds

Carrying money while traveling is all about diversity. Local ATMs will often offer the best rates, assuming your bank at home doesn't charge too steep of a fee; however, if the ATM network goes down as it often does on islands and in parts of Asia, you'll need backup cash.

Despite the recent economy, US dollars are still widely accepted and readily exchanged all over Asia. Your credit card will only be useful in big resorts and cities; use it for emergencies or booking flights. Most places in Asia add a steep commission when you pay with plastic.

Don't Contribute to Cultural Deterioration

Cultural deterioration is happening at an alarming rate all over Asia as more and more Western tourists visit each year. Many popular travel routes such as the backpacker Banana Pancake Trail through Asia have been corrupted; locals change to meet tourists' needs and change their traditions to make visitors happy.

Every time you make a purchase without negotiating -- which is an integral part of Asian culture -- you actually increase prices for both locals and other travelers who follow behind you. Leaving a tip in places where tipping was once frowned upon causes the staff to expect tips over time.

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Don't Be a Target

Taxi drivers, street scammers, and anyone trying to sell you something can spot a newbie pretty quick; they have lots of experience. From the luggage tag on your oversize bag to the wide eyes looking around, you'll get lots of attention as a first-time visitor to Asia.

Traveling around Asia comes with a learning curve, how expensive that beginning education has to be is up to you and your decisions. Learn to listen to your gut and to recognize a scam when you feel one developing, but don't let a few bad eggs you encounter jade you against the local people in a place.

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Plan a Little, Not a Lot

From unexpected transportation delays to beautiful places that you just can't leave, Asia has a way of destroying the best-planned itineraries. A tight schedule or trying to squeeze in too many places in a short amount of time will only increase your blood pressure.

Remember that life moves a little slower in developing countries. Don't be surprised when your train that was scheduled to leave at 3 p.m. finally pulls away around 7 p.m!

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Don't Rely Too Much on Guidebooks

While having a popular guidebook can be comforting in a new place, keep in mind that the writers certainly did not have time to visit every hotel, every restaurant, and every attraction at a destination. Loads of places to eat, sleep, and drink didn't make it into your guidebook not because they are bad places, but because they were overlooked.

Guidebooks are often only updated every couple of years, and over time a popular place can actually become corrupted because of all the patronage they receive from a steady stream of guidebook users. Ironically, you can sometimes receive the worst food and service in the top picks of guidebooks!

Instead of keeping your nose in the book, use your own judgment, take some chances, and ask fellow travelers who have been around a while.

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