Travel Tips

Building Floor Confusion

Building Floor Confusion 480 640 Greg Ellifritz

Just a quick note to remind you that in some foreign countries, the floor numbering of multi-story public buildings (like hotels and offices) may not be the same as it is in the USA.

When I was in Mexico last week, I checked into my hotel.  The desk clerk explained (in perfect English) that my room was on the first floor and pointed me towards the building where the room was located.

 

I wandered all around the first floor and couldn’t find my room number.  Then I saw this sign,

 

 

My room was on the first floor…the first floor up from the “ground floor.”  In America, we would have said that my room was on the “second floor.”  I’ve experienced this in several South American and European countries as well.

Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg- Part Two

Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg- Part Two 1024 684 Greg Ellifritz

I’m honestly shocked.  When I looked at my website analytics page, I saw that my article  Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg garnered the most pageviews of any of the articles I’ve written here in the last nine months.

It’s not the vital safety information I convey that brings people to my site.  Posts about day drinking at an all-inclusive resort spark the interests of far more readers.  Noted!

 

To capitalize on what my audience desires, I’m going to add yet another drinking tip for holiday vacations.

 

All inclusive resorts generally serve their guests unlimited alcoholic beverages at their bars.  It’s kind of rare for a guest in one of these resorts to bring their own alcohol since they drink for free at the hotel bars.

 

Consequently, it’s sometimes hard to find a bottle opener if you choose to drink anything but the house draft beer and well drinks.

 

Last week, the free beer started getting old.  Mexican draft Tecate light isn’t a particularly tasty beer.  I soon grew tired of drinking it and wandered down the street to one of Mexico’s ubiquitous OXXO convenience stores.  They had a nice selection of Mexican craft beers.  I bought a few to try them out.

 

My favorite of the Mexican craft beers I tried.

 

I got back to my room and realized even though I had a partial kitchen, there were no bottle openers anywhere in the room. The lack of bottle openers is common at all-exclusives.  Who needs a bottle opener when everyone is drinking free alcohol from the bar?

 

Fortunately, I planned ahead for such contingencies.  I had a bottle opener in the multi-tool I carry whenever I’m in a foreign country, but it was buried in my locked suitcase.  Always have a backup plan, especially when drinking.

 

The bottle opening backup plan I’ve used for the last 15 years ago is utilizing the brilliant Reef Fanning flip-flop.  I took off my flip-flop and used it to open my beer.

 

I’m not normally a flip-flop guy.  I can’t run well in them.  I can’t kick well in them.  It’s far easier to damage your foot or lose your balance and fall in a fight while wearing them.  I reserve flip-flops for the beach, the pool, or communal showers.  As I was staying at a beach resort, I brought my Reef flip-flops.

 

Why are the Reef Fanning flip-flops germane to this conversation?  Because they have bottle openers built into their soles.  Look at the photo below.

 

Reef flip-fops with integrated bottle opener

 

These sandals are exceptionally well padded and quite comfortable to wear.  The bottle opener comes in handy far more than you might think it would.  They are the only flip-flops I’ve traveled with since I bought my first pair in 2007.

 

If you are a serious drinker, you will embrace the concept of tactical redundancy.  You can never have too many bottle openers.  This style of footwear exemplifies the multiple use capability of the gear that makes travelers’ lives easier.
Buy a pair of these.  Take them on your next holiday and you’ll never have to worry about packing a bottle opener in your luggage.

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the above links (from Amazon.com and others) are affiliate links.   As an Amazon associate I earn a small percentage of the sale price from qualifying purchases.

If you would like to further support my work, head over to my Patreon page.

Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg

Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg 480 640 Greg Ellifritz

I don’t often stay in all inclusive resorts, but I wanted an easy travel experience in Mexico so I’m enjoying one right now.

 

One of the things that I hate about all-inclusives that serve free alcohol is that the cups in which they serve the drinks are universally tiny.

Here is the tiny cup containing the margarita I ordered poolside.  It’s difficult to see the scale, but it’s only slightly larger than a urine sample cup you’d get at the doctor’s office.  Suboptimal for a professional drinker like me.

 

Here’s a secret I learned more than a decade ago.  Whenever I go to an all-inclusive, I always bring my own large cup.  I use a large plastic cup I got at a local festival years ago.  Some folks use insulated Yeti-style cups, but I don’t like packing the extra weight in my bag.  The big plastic cup I use weighs next to nothing.

 

 

Much better.  I can get about four of the tiny margaritas into a cup this size.  It makes it easy to stay hydrated (or intoxicated if you prefer) and limits your waiter’s trips to the bar.

 

Speaking of waiters, tip your waiter well and he or she will treat you right.  I find in the developing world $10 a day per person to be a decent tip.  You’ll get your money back with your drinks being constantly refreshed and usually heavier pours.  It’s money well spent and it helps change the perspective of the “Ugly American” who doesn’t tip at all inclusives.

 

As to my drink of choice, I prefer a frozen margarita with extra tequila and a salted rim.  The crushed ice and salt help counteract some of the dehydrating effects of the alcohol.  It’s cool and refreshing in the hot sun as well.

 

I find that when I’m sipping on the beach, I can finish one of these about every 45 minutes.  Out of curiosity, I brought my portable blood alcohol breath tester with me on this trip.  At the one drink every 45 minute pace yesterday afternoon I ended with a blood alcohol concentration of .062.  Perfect.  A pleasant mellow mood without any danger of becoming too intoxicated in a foreign country.

 

Stay hydrated folks.

 

 

Breaking All the Food Rules

Breaking All the Food Rules 640 480 Greg Ellifritz

I get a lot of questions from first time travelers about what foods to avoid when traveling in foreign countries.  I would love to be able to provide an all inclusive list, but, like many things “it depends.”

 

It took a whole chapter in my book Choose Adventure to adequately cover the basics.  If you want my best advice, see the chapter “Eating and Drinking (Without Dying).”

 

Until then, let me stress that in many places you can break all of the “food rules” for international travel and still be safe.  Here was my lunch yesterday.  It was a big dish of ceviche and a Caesar salad with shrimp.

 

The food Nazis would be very unhappy with this meal.  It breaks a lot of “The Rules.”

 

Lets start with the salad.  Everyone knows that it’s unsafe to eat salads in foreign countries.  The cooks wash the lettuce with local water which may be contaminated with bacteria and viruses.  Except in the high end restaurants that cater to tourists.  Those folks know to wash the produce with purified water instead of tap water so that all their guests don’t get sick.

 

Would I eat raw unwashed produce straight from a market in Bolivia?  Probably not.  But at the high end Mexican resort where I’m staying this week, it’s likely fine.  If you have any doubts, ask your waiter.

 

The next taboo is eating any dairy or cheese.  My salad had both cheese and a creamy dressing.  That’s supposed to be bad.  It is bad if it is stored un-refrigerated on an island without electricity in Nicaragua.  At a nice restaurant?  You are going to be fine.

 

Finally, we get to the ceviche.  It’s uncooked (but essentially “cooked” in citrus juice) fish, shrimp, and octopus.  Raw meat and seafood breaks all the rules.  Again, context matters.  I’ve eaten raw sushi all over the world.  I wouldn’t choose the sushi in a land-locked country without reliable electricity, but in a coastal town, that fish is far more fresh than most of the fish in your home supermarket.

 

Take a look at the photo above.  That’s kudu carpaccio that I ate in Zimbabwe.  Yes, it’s raw antelope meat.  Yes, I’m in a country that has been undergoing a complete financial and societal collapse for the last 20 years.  The hamburgers on the street there are cut with sawdust to make the patties bulkier.  I wouldn’t eat those.

 

Why did I eat the raw antelope?  Because it was in the country’s best restaurant and it likely had good safety practices.  Kudu in Zimbabwe is like fish in coastal Mexico.  It’s likely to be very extremely fresh and some of the safest food I could eat.

 

Sometimes you can relax the commonly touted “food rules” for international travel.  Sometimes doing that can cause horrible issues.  You have to be smart enough to know the difference.

 

Excuse me, it’s time for me to get a second helping of that ceviche.

Driving in Central America

Driving in Central America 637 418 Greg Ellifritz

Good information from a guy who spent six months driving with his wife through eight Central American countries.  Unsurprisingly, the two had no issues.  Following some very simple safety rules (listed in the article) kept them from having any problems at all on their journey.

 

I’ve now been to every country in Central America, even spending a week in El Salvador (the most dangerous country in the world that isn’t in the midst of a civil war) and spending a couple nights in the city with the highest murder rate in the world (La Cieba, Honduras).  I am also still alive.

 

Break out of your shell.  Live a little.  The world isn’t nearly as dangerous as the media wants us to think it is.

 

Don’t Drive through Mexico or Central America: You Will Be Kidnapped, Killed, or Worse!

 

Traveling in Egypt

Traveling in Egypt 789 395 Greg Ellifritz

All of my readers who are contemplating a trip to Egypt should watch this video.

 

Egypt Travel Nightmare!! Why I’ll Never Go Back!!

 

 

I enjoyed my trip to Egypt 15 years ago.  I wouldn’t be excited about the prospect of traveling there right now.  Lots of folks are reporting similar hassles and significant security concerns.  I agree with the producer of these videos.  Don’t go to Egypt right now.

 

 

 

Travel Safety Video

Travel Safety Video 734 354 Greg Ellifritz

In the video embedded below, my friend Mickey from Carry Trainer interviews an executive protection agent who specializes in foreign travel.

There’s a lot of good information here.  I disagree with him about the issue of carrying passports.  I think you should carry a copy of your passport and keep the real document locked up in your luggage at your hotel or AirBnB.

I’ve never known anyone who has had their passport stolen from a hotel.  I’ve known quite a few people who lost passports or had them stolen while carrying them around.  The only time I carry my passport is if I’m in an area that is so unstable that I may need to flee the country without going back to my hotel.

Most of you probably shouldn’t even consider those places for your travel destinations.  Don’t carry your passport on your person in a foreign country.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Pose with Guns in Foreign Countries

Don’t Pose with Guns in Foreign Countries 640 421 Greg Ellifritz

A friend recently posted a picture on Facebook from a trip she took to Honduras eight years ago.  On the trip, she convinced a local cop to hand her his pistol so she could get a picture posing with it.  See below.  Photo used with permission.

 

 

The situation turned out fine for her, but this is universally a bad idea.

 

First, some third world cops are also gang members, cartel members, or assassins in their off time.  It’s really hard to tell the difference between good and bad cops.  Many play on both sides of the line.  Do you want the authorities to find your fingerprints and DNA on a killer’s recovered pistol?  That may spoil your vacation.

 

Second, this could be a scam.  It’s likely illegal for you to possess a handgun in that country.  Now the cops have photographic evidence that you committed a serious crime.  They may use the opportunity to shake you down for a hefty bribe to avoid jail.  And after you pay, they’ll also seize your phone as evidence.  It will be sold at the local black market flea market.  What are you going to do?  The answer is “nothing” if you want to avoid being arrested.

 

Finally, you don’t know what type of maintenance or “third world gunsmithing” has been performed on the gun.  Safety mechanisms could have been neglected or disabled.  You don’t know for sure if the gun will fire without the trigger being pulled.  It would really spoil your vacation if you accidentally shoot someone with an unsafe gun.

 

It may be tempting and make for a great photo, but you really should avoid handling weapons in other countries.

Black Market Exchange Rates

Black Market Exchange Rates 304 455 Greg Ellifritz

I mentioned in my book that some countries have an official currency exchange rate as well as a black market exchange rate. This article explains that process well.

 

Bring Good Ole Cash When You Visit Argentina Now

 

Plane Exercising

Plane Exercising 748 498 Greg Ellifritz

With plane seats getting smaller and smaller while airline delays skyrocket, it becomes more and more important to maintain circulation during your flight.  Twenty years ago, walking in the aisles was common.  Airline bathrooms were big enough to do a short workout routine.  Now bathrooms are too tiny to move and security concerns prohibit random walking.

 

While it has become more difficult to exercise on a plane, our culture has also become less fit.  Blood clots and deep vein thrombosis are now serious threats to the traveler’s health.  How does one stay healthy and mobile on a long flight?

 

The article below offers some very good options and is well worth your effort to read.

 

10 Simple Circulation Exercises You Can Do In Any Airplane Seat