Travel Tips

Grocery Baggers in the Developing World

Grocery Baggers in the Developing World 1280 1062 Greg Ellifritz

Have you ever thought about tipping the folks who bag your purchases at the grocery store?  If you are from the USA, probably not.  But things work differently in other countries.


When visiting these places, it’s important to notice and abide by the social mores in your host country.  Doing so will avoid any drama or ill will.  It also helps to destroy the “Ugly American” traveler stereotype.


Take a look at the photo below.  The people in the Santa hats are bagging groceries at the large supermarket near the condo where I am staying in Mexico.  Most of the baggers in the store are senior (or perhaps “señor”?) citizens.


Guess what?  They aren’t being paid by the grocery store.


They work entirely for the tips shoppers give them.


This type of “working for tips” gig isn’t universal in any country I’m aware of, but I’ve seen it a lot in Mexico, Colombia, and some of the more impoverished South American countries.  I’ve only seen it at the very large chain grocery stores.


Failing to tip these aging baggers is a social faux pas.  It’s the foreign equivalent of leaving your shopping cart in the middle of a store’s parking lot instead of in the cart corral.  People simply think you are an asshole.  That’s not cool when visiting a country where you have few local contacts.  If everyone thinks you are rude, you will not have a good travel experience.


How do you know whether or not to tip your baggers?  Watch the locals.  Pull your head out of your phone and observe what the people in line ahead of you do.  Follow suit.


You may also notice small stacks of coins near the bagger.  That’s another clue.


There are no set amounts for the tip.  Most people just give the bagger the coins they received in change after paying for the groceries.  If you are paying with a credit card, give up to a US dollar or so.


I always carry some small coins in my pocket when traveling.  They are handy in situations like this where you are expected to give a small tip.  You will also need those coins to pay for access to a public toilet in much of the developing world.



Eating Around the World

Eating Around the World 320 221 Greg Ellifritz

A fascinating look at how people in other countries eat differently than we eat in the USA. The article also has some great tips for healthy eating while traveling.

Well worth your time to read if you are either a traveler or a health nut.


What I’ve Learned from Eating Abroad


“How To Travel Smartly”

“How To Travel Smartly” 960 662 Greg Ellifritz

There are some fairly sensible travel safety tips in the article linked below.


Project Gecko Tells You How to Travel Smartly


If you are mostly interested in international travel, you should also check out this article on South American taxi scams.  These are all very common.  Use Uber or Lyft instead of relying on local taxis as a gringo.

Drugs in Foreign Countries

Drugs in Foreign Countries 532 496 Greg Ellifritz

American media has been reporting incessantly about the American basketball player who has been imprisoned in Russia after authorities found some marijuana vape cartridges in her luggage.

This is far from the only case when Americans have been punished in foreign countries even if they did not bring or consume any illegal drugs in the country in question.


Read this article.

American Arrested In Dubai For Smoking Pot Before His Trip – In Las Vegas


This guy smoked pot legally at home before flying to the UAE.

“The 51 year old was a day into his visit when pancreatitis sent him to the hospital. His urine sample showed traces of pot in his system. And the hospital reported it to police. After 3 days in jail the man is confined to his hotel, pending charges.”


You should also read the linked article about the flight attendant going out on a date on a layover in the UAE.  Police raided her date’s apartment and arrested both of them after they found two joints.


“People can still be charged and convicted in the UAE even if substances were taken outside the country, “as long as traces are still present in the bloodstream upon arrival in the UAE.”


Even worse, you can be arrested for having a speck of weed on your shoe.

Dubai Jails British Man with Bit of Marijuana on Shoe


I’ve also seen tourists rounded up in Bangkok bar areas and forced by police to submit to instant urine drug tests.  If any level of drugs is found in the urine the tourist is either arrested or fined.

I don’t care if you use drugs, but I don’t want my readers going to jail.  Be very careful with your drug use if you are going to be visiting Asia or the Middle East.



Street Meat

Street Meat 960 717 Greg Ellifritz


In the developing world, street food is often safer to eat than food in restaurants.  I eat at places like this as often as possible.  The food can be absolutely amazing and you have a very low chance of getting sick if you follow the tips in this article.

How to Eat Street Food Anywhere in the World Without Getting Sick


This is a salad containing cooked pig lung over a bed of chilled duck blood. It’s a traditional breakfast meal in rural Vietnam. I don’t recommend it.


General Hotel Safety Tips

General Hotel Safety Tips 300 300 Greg Ellifritz

My friend Annette Evans has penned two excellent articles on travel safety in hotels and airports.  The information in these articles is valuable both if you are traveling out of the country or staying stateside.  Check out the articles linked below.


Travel safety: hotel and vacation rental edition

Thoughts on airport safety and security


“15 Safety Lessons Learned from Terrifying Travel Experiences”

“15 Safety Lessons Learned from Terrifying Travel Experiences” 730 484 Greg Ellifritz

I read lots of travel safety articles.  Many are utter bullshit written by people who don’t actually travel.  I recently stumbled across an article that was very different from other pieces I have read and wanted to share it with you.  I think you’ll find it both valuable and entertaining at the same time.


15 Safety Lessons Learned from Terrifying Travel Experiences



“How to Survive a Monkey Attack”

“How to Survive a Monkey Attack” 800 534 Greg Ellifritz

Two weeks ago, I shared a couple articles about defending against shark attacks.  I admitted that I hadn’t thought much about the issue of shark attacks despite swimming with sharks all over the world.


When I saw this article about monkey attacks, I realized that unlike the shark attack, I had seriously considered defending against a monkey attack.


In 2008, I was hiking alone in a wildlife preserve in Kenya.  As I was walking on a remote trail, I encountered a troop of baboons walking the opposite direction towards me on the same trail.  What do I do?


I stepped off the trail about 10 feet to allow them room to pass.  That wasn’t far enough.  Several charged me.  I kept slowly backing off while drawing my blade.  For awhile, I seriously thought I was going to have to stab a baboon.


Imagine getting charged by a couple of these


In 2019, I was camping in a large safari tent on a South African photo safari.  It was the middle of the afternoon when I heard one of my camp mates screaming.  I ran over to the deck in front of her tent where she was completely surrounded by a troop of menacing little vervet monkeys.  I yelled and stomped my feet.  I charged them.  They were completely nonplussed.


I ended up drawing my OC spray and aiming for the nearest monkey’s eyes.  That finally drove them all off.  Those monkeys are such a menace that park rangers there and in places like India use slingshots and paintball guns to drive the monkeys away from the tourists.


Nasty little bastards


Don’t be like me.  Read the article below and learn how to deal with monkey attacks before you have to do it for real.


How to Survive a Monkey Attack | Primates Survival Tips



Thank you to John Motil for sending me this link.

Hotel Safety

Hotel Safety 750 385 Greg Ellifritz

My friend Daisy posted a useful article yesterday on her The Organic Prepper website.

It’s a rare long form article discussing a lot of different aspects regarding hotels and travel safety.  The author, Fabian Ommar, lives in Brazil and has traveled widely and survived some long term economic collapse scenarios.

Now that travel is starting to come back, I think you should probably read through the article before your next vacation.

The Essential Guide to Hotel Safety While Traveling This Summer

If you enjoyed the article, you might also like the author’s book about Street Survival.

Shark Attacks?

Shark Attacks? 1086 610 Greg Ellifritz

I’ve snorkeled and dived with sharks in lots of international locations.  One of my favorite experiences was visiting Shark Ray Alley off the coast of Belize.  Swimming in chummed water with dozens of sharks was incredibly exhilarating.

Picture from linked article


I’ve encountered sharks when snorkeling in Mexico and Egypt as well.  My Egyptian shark encounter was seeing a rare Tiger Shark in the Red Sea.  Despite having contact with these creatures, I never really thought about what I might do if one of these beasts attacked me.


That changed with a couple articles I stumbled across last week.  I thought they contained some good information.  If you venture into shark-infested water, you’ll want to check them out.


How To Survive A Shark Attack: Without Losing A Limb



Can You Fight a Shark and Win?