top 10 tips for tourists

1. Before you go, learn the language. At least to the extent of knowing, Hello, Yes, No, Please, Thank you, Toilet, Beautiful, Beautiful Toilet and No, I really hardly speak any at all, but thank you.

2. Never try to recreate someone else’s holiday in any but the broadest way. ‘Marrakech is wonderful, especially in the Spring’ is advice to follow. The nightmare scenario is: ‘There’s this fantastic restaurant down an alley with no name in the middle of a maze of streets which only opens on days which contain a letter from the owner’s son’s middle name… now, what was it?’ Do not attempt to locate this fantastic restaurant.

3. Take a taxi from the airport to your hotel or wherever you’re staying. Even if you’re budget travelling, it’s worth the extra cost of this to arrive unstressed (traffic allowing) and in some style.

4. On the way, ask the taxi driver if there’s anything going on locally worth seeing. Whatever he says, take as an anti-recommendation. It’s bound to be some heinous tourist trap where his cousin rips ticket stubs.

5. On day one, get lost. Deliberately. (Probably the most important tip of all.) Turn right out of your hotel and keep walking. Or turn left.

6. Use all your senses to find interesting places. On day two, be guided by smells.

7. On day three, visit the tallest building you can find. If it’s near enough, walk there from your hotel. This is far better than any map. You will also see where the green spaces are, the apartment blocks, the graveyards.

8. Don’t read the guidebook. At least, not until you’ve visited the place. Better still, don’t read it until you’re on the plane home.

9. If you are in a strange city looking for somewhere to have lunch, and already feel hungry, go into the first place you come across, however unprepossessing (fast food outlets excepted). There’s no point trudging until you’ve found five or six cafΓ©s from which to choose. The first is just likely to be a delightful surprise as the labouriously sorted out and vetted fifteenth.

10. Accept that you are a tourist and therefore occupy an indefensible and hateful position. You are the ones dithering at the top of the up escalator. You are the ones walk slowly, three abreast, down the narrow pavement. You are ones who distort the local economy until all it can do is satisfy the desires of more and more tourists. You are vulgar both in your quest for show-the-folks-back-home bargains and your conspicuous consumption in places too expensive for locals. You will never understand anywhere you have been. Your guilt at all this is part of your pleasure and if it’s not, you’re missing out.

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