For many people this is a very stressful part of the trip. It’s the “oh no, is someone going to meet me and if not what the heck do I do?” For all of Live-Adventurously’s trips we meet our guests at the airport so they know they will see our smiling and comforting faces to greet them with a cold bottle of water and face towel. Those that prefer, get a local beer!
How do you avoid this stress? Meticulous pre-planning once again! Before leaving home, I print out all contact information for the resorts, transfer companies, dive operators etc….I know who is expected to pick me up and where. ALSO, I make sure I have a contingency phone number or back up plan. If I don’t have currency or know how to use the local phone system, I go to the ticket counter or car rental desk and usually someone is kind enough to help me out. Sometimes, people are delayed as well. Don’t panic, give it fifteen or twenty minutes before you contact the resort, many countries are not so uber time sensitive as Americans.
In the process of arriving in a country, the USA included, and transferring to a hotel or resort you will often need to have a number of small bills. Be sure to have $20 worth of one dollar bills or better yet, local currency, easy enough to exchange in the airport. Best rate is generally in country rather than in the US before you go.
But let’s back up. When you get off the plane be sure you have easy access to the arrival documents of the country you are entering as well as your passport and pen available. Be sure you have filled out the entire document. Be sure to check the seat pocket and under the seat for items you kicked around and dropped while sleeping on an overnight flight. I love my ipod but it is SO freakin’ small I have lost TWO on board planes!
Be pleasant at immigration and customs. I like to say hello in the language of the country, it goes a long way, especially since Americans tend to expect everyone on the planet to speak English. Come on, it’s fun to learn new words and it’s not THAT hard to say hello to someone in their own language! If you visit flickr enough you’ll eventually learn to say hello in about 12 million languages!
Getting Out of the Airport with your Luggage
Most international arrivals have the free use of luggage carts. But be aware that they are not always allowed outside the building or past certain points. This is done to be able to give local baggage handlers the opportunity to make some money. It is not a scam, it is the rule in that airport so go with the flow. Often, they will barge in and just grab your bags. Do not let them intimidate you. Be nice but firm and fair. You can stop them and ask how much, generally it’s just a tip. However, you should have a pretty good idea of the approximate wage in a country to tip accordingly. It’s nice to be generous but don’t over tip. Don’t give them a month’s wage just because it’s only a few dollars in your monetary system. Stay within what would be considered fair. Too many people grossly over-tipping then becomes the norm and wealthy tourists then are taken advantage of. Do remember, though that allowing them to transfer your bags does only cost you a few dollars. They are not shy about asking for a tip and if it’s not enough they may well ask for more. Again, generally it’s not a scam, perhaps you underpaid. A little knowledge can go a long way here. Help out the local economy. Don’t be a jerk!
If you plan to exchange currency, do so in the airport on arrival. You might be able to find a better rate in town but it’s easier and less stressful to just have it when you exit the airport. You will NOT get a better rate at a hotel. Also, don’t be one of those people who exchanges $20 at a time. Then you are constantly looking for a cambio (exchange place) or ATM. If you have an extra $50 at the end of your trip so what? Tip your bartender, put it in a charitable donation box or give it to your grandkids, they’ll think it’s cool.
Since we travel back and forth to a zillion places, we just keep a bag of currency at home and when it’s time to travel we pull out whatever money we need. Yes, the exchange may have changed but it’s a minor thing to care about unless you are in a country with runaway inflation!!
Then after all this work is done, grab a local beer to get in the mood of the country and sit back and enjoy your ride to where ever you are headed. You will find your transfer driver a wealth of information and probably fun to learn from. Afterall, every minute of your experience from leaving home to arrival at your destination is part of your vacation. Enjoy it!!!!!