Smart Tips For the Smart Traveler

This winter study, I'm studying in the Republic of Georgia. Tbilisi, the capital, has a good-sized downtown area, a historical section, and seemingly infinite things to do. Georgian is the main language, although older people usually also speak at least some Russian (taught in Soviet schools) and younger people usually speak at least some English. This is my first time ever being abroad without my parents, and while I do have a host family, I am pretty much responsible for all my own needs (except for breakfast, dinner, and a place to stay). Here are five travel tips I've found invaluable so far.

1. Don't carry all your money at once. Flashing a lot of cash can attract pickpockets, and if you're carrying all your money and your wallet is stolen, you're in trouble. What I try to do is give myself a weekly budget and withdraw only that amount of money at the beginning of the week. I never carry more than 100 USD or its foreign equivalent in cash at a time.

2. Carry a crossbody bag. Mine was a gift from my mom; it has locking zippers to make it harder to steal from. I think this may be a little superfluous, since nobody has tried to pickpocket me so far, but wearing your bag crossbody definitely makes it easier to keep track of your stuff.

3. Get a SIM card with a data plan. I was able to get 5 gigs of data plus unlimited texting for 15 days for 15 GEL, or about 5 USD. I also put 5 GEL, or about 2 USD, on the card for phone calls. This way, you can contact people within the country you're traveling in, and the data means you can use online maps and other travel essentials plus contact people back home without relying on the spotty wifi in some cafe.

4. Identify a few restaurants, cafes, and other hangout spots where your language is spoken. This has been pretty important for me: I usually get off work in the middle of the afternoon, but my hosts don't get home until dinner time, so I have three hours to spend, and I'd rather have a safe, indoor place to sit down rather than spend all afternoon walking around the city or sitting in a public park. It's also useful when you need to fend for yourself at lunchtime--I'd rather go somewhere where I can order in English or Russian than try to fumble around in extremely limited Georgian and hand gestures. Also, pro tip: the word "chai" for tea is used in many, many countries. And try to learn the name of one local dish you like so if you're not near a place where you speak the language, you can still eat.

5. Learn some basic expressions in the local language. Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and excuse me are all useful, and numbers are invaluable, especially if you're in a country where you have to haggle with cab drivers and street vendors to agree on a price.

I hope you find these tips useful, especially if you're planning to study abroad. Stay tuned for more travel tips and stories from Georgia!