Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask While Traveling, Answered

Traveling can be a daunting experience. Navigating strange streets is a lot to take in after a long flight. So having a reliable source to provide information is invaluable and reassuring in an unfamiliar place. Keep reading because we’ve answered some questions travelers might be too embarrassed to ask.

Should I tip?

Man leaving tip on table at cafe
Tipping customs vary. | Jupiterimages/iStock/Getty Images

Tipping customs vary by country. The biggest difference between America and countries abroad is not every restaurant expects patrons to tip their servers. The best thing to do is to casually glance around the restaurant to see whether others are leaving tips on the tables. And when in doubt, leave a small tip.

Hint: Don’t get sick on vacation.

Is it safe to drink the water?

young woman drinking water
If you’re skeptical it’s better not to drink it. |

Before visiting a foreign country, run a quick Google search about the drinking water. Getting sick from contaminated water is no fun, especially on vacation. For those still feeling uneasy about drinking tap water in a foreign country, stick with the “better safe than sorry” philosophy and drink bottled water. Restaurants and grocery stores will carry plenty of options for you.

Hint: Language barriers aren’t a problem if you do this.

Do people speak English?

Man talking to woman while friend watches
Locals will appreciate it if you try to learn a few words and phrases. | Princigalli/iStock/Getty Images

As a visitor to any foreign country where English isn’t the official language, a nice gesture is to learn a few key words and phrases. Try to use what you’ve learned, and natives will appreciate the effort. Although many people in foreign countries speak English, always try using the official language first.

Hint: Don’t wonder whether you’re taking a fake taxi service.

Is public transportation safe?

SEPTA trains Philadelphia
Find out how the locals get around. | Jeff Fusco/Getty Images

Public transportation abroad is light-years ahead of the public transportation system in the United States. However, still research public transportation wherever you’re going. Find out whether most people walk, take the train, or ride the bus. Ask family and friends who have visited the country how they got around. And most importantly, be wary of imposter transportation services.

Hint: You might think getting cash will be a problem. 

Are the ATMs safe to use?

A man takes out banknotes from an automated teller machine (ATM)
There are risks to using an ATM. | Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images

We don’t think twice about using an ATM at home in the comfort of familiar surroundings. Abroad, the entire situation changes. As with any ATM, there are risks. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use an ATM while traveling. ATMs are safe as long as you’re aware of your surroundings.

Hint: People will know you’re an American in a split second if you do this.

Do I stick out like a sore thumb?

Tourist in Florence on guided tour
Know the local customs. | slovegrove/iStock/Getty Images

Again, this is where research is extremely helpful. Learn the customs of the place you’re visiting — everything from what people wear to proper greetings. Don’t wear bulky tennis shoes and khaki pants. Opt for darker colors — even dark socks — when packing.

Hint: Know this phrase, so you’ll always be able to find a restroom.

Where are the public restrooms?

Empty Public Bathroom Stalls
There’s an app for that. | Joe_Potato/iStock/Getty Images

Finding a public restroom in a foreign country can be difficult. Thankfully, there are apps for finding public restrooms, and there are McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks on what feels like every street corner in the world. Learn the phrase “public restroom,” and keep an eye out for signs while you’re out and about.

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