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3 June 2013
During the course of my travels since 1987 I've discovered many things that may be useful to other people. So here's a list of random "travel tips" that will keep growing over time as I add to it. I hope you find something helpful. If you do (or even if you don't), please email me.
When having coffee or a meal at a restaurant that has both tables and a counter, it is often cheaper to sit at the counter.
Locals will appreciate any effort you make to speak French, even if you get things wrong. Make sure you make a point of calling women "Madame" and men "Monsieur" - the French like the use of titles in conversation.
A long-distance (inter-city) bus is called a "coach". The word "bus" is only ever used to refer to inner-city or suburban commuter buses. Long-distance "buses" from London therefore arrive at and depart from Victoria Coach Station.
If you order coffee you will get an espresso - a tiny cup of very strong black coffee with no milk. If you want what is called "coffee" in South Africa or the United Kingdom you must ask for an Americano.
A "hostal" is not a youth hostel but a budget guest house with private rooms. A hostel in Spanish is an "albergue".
If you are male, never sit next to a Muslim woman you don't know on a bus or shared taxi. Sitting next to your wife, sister, mother or daughter is fine ; pretty much anybody else is taboo.
United Arab Emirates
The front several seats on most buses are reserved for women. Men can sit there provided no woman is waiting to sit down. If a woman boards the bus and wants a seat, you must immediately stand up for her. Never under circumstances should you sit next to a woman that isn't a close relative of yours.
If a man approaches you on the street and offers to help you, then he is either lying or is trying to con you out of money, probably both. This is absolutely guaranteed.
If you're unsure of whether somebody is Canadian or American (to the untutored ear their accents are similar), do not ask if they are American. Canadians do not like to be mistaken for Americans!
When locals mention "robots", what they actually mean are traffic lights.