Check travel advice websites about particular countries or areas.
Before we head off to any country or city I do a quick search for advice. I don’t just mean the simple information about currency or language, but also about cultural tips or taboo, common types of crime that affects tourists, necessary or recommended vaccinations, and if there are any risks to that area.
Cultural tips or taboo – Are there things you shouldn’t do so that you are respectful to the country that you’re visiting? In Vietnam, it is best to avoid public displays of affection. In Japan, you should try to not turn your back to someone when leaving the room.
Crime or Scams – Are there known schemes that target tourists to scam them out of money? When we visited Harbin (China), our hotel said that they would arrange a taxi for us. The price didn’t seem too bad and we were told it would be difficult to find a taxi so we accepted. On the way back we found our own taxi and found that they had charged us about double what we should have paid. A friend of mine was on holiday in Asia and had children begging her to buy milk. When they went to the supermarket it became apparent that the children actually wanted her to buy milk formula which is much more expensive. Fortunately, she was approached by a shop worker who explained that tourists buy the expensive milk formula and after the tourists have left, the children return the formula so that they can have the cash. These are tame examples compared to the scams and crimes that tourists can be targeted with so it is definitely worth searching so that you can be aware and prepared.
Necessary or Recommended Vaccinations – It is worth having a quick check to see if there are any vaccinations that you are recommended or required to have before you depart. Aim to check as early as possible as some vaccinations require multiple doses so that you are fully covered. However, be careful that you aren’t persuaded to have more vaccinations than you actually need. I know someone who went to a well-known pharmacy in the UK and was told to have about 5 different types of expensive vaccinations. Surprised by the extortionate price, he checked whether they were required and they weren’t necessary at all.
Risks – Are there any concerns about natural disasters such as avalanches or volcanic eruptions? For example, on Bali there are active volcanoes which have caused travel disruptions in the last year. It is worth knowing what the current situation is before you travel so that you are prepared.