Ubiquitous Things - Phrases, Food, and More

Travel Tips
Even at a rustic shack on a small island, with no electricity, they were able to make this wonderful cup of coffee over fire.
Even at a rustic shack on a small island, with no electricity, they were able to make this wonderful cup of coffee over fire.
The world is a wide and varied place but there are a few things you can count on wherever you go.
We want to visit and see new things and cultures when we travel but it can be a relief to have a few familiars in your pocket that you know you can find almost anywhere.


There are still some places in the world where you won't see western fast food, but they are few and far between. You will find everywhere: KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and close followers are Burger King and Starbucks.

As much as I hate seeing the world homogenized and cringe a bit when I see those familiar bright colored logos amidst the traditional local culture, I will admit that when I was on the road for an entire year, my guilty pleasure taste of home was Pizza Hut. And I do love checking out what the local twist is on the McDonald's menu. I don't eat fast food at home but I remember the delicious vegetarian Maharaja burger at McDonald's in Malaysia many years ago!

Most countries have convenience stores. It might be a 7-11 or Circle K, or it might be their own local brand of store.

Coffee. It's an interesting thing trying the local concoction throughout the world! Some countries focus more on tea, but you can find coffee almost everywhere. It might come like black sludge, it might be sickly sweet and creamy, it might be made from cat poop!

Pizza. If you are craving a western twist, pizza is on many a menu but you may or may not get what you are hoping for. The idea of pizza is almost everywhere, but whether or not they pull it off is something else entirely. I have had a raw egg on my pizza and even corn niblets!

Booze. Since you are budget traveling, you are visiting poorer countries. They might not be able to afford a bottle of Absolut but let me tell you that they will be brewing some sort of libation! Some examples are rice wine, sadza (a yeasty brew), and fermented coconut sap.


The word "okay" and usually the term "no problem" are understood worldwide.
Keep in mind though that the word "okay" is only understood in its positive context. When we say "that's okay" meaning "no" like if someone asks if you need clean towels and you say "that's okay" meaning "no" or if you say "nah, the towels are okay", they will hear "okay" and "towels" and think you said "okay, i would like clean towels."

To get your check at a restaurant, use the international charades motion of signing your name in the air. It is understood everywhere.

Pointing to the invisible watch on your wrist works for asking about time. Although I wonder if that will work for future generations given that people use their phones as clocks and don't really wear watches anymore.

"Finished" is the international word for "I'm done" "we're out of it" "not running anymore today" "not running anymore ever" "closed", you get the idea.

In the US we say "to go" for food we're carrying out whereas the rest of the world says "take away". If you are going to use English, use that. Otherwise learn the local term for it wherever you are. For example in Spanish, you say "para llevar" (for carry).

Need some gas for your motorbike? Ask for "petrol". The word "gas" won't get you anywhere. Ooh look, I made a funny. ;)

Photo is also universally understood and should often be used to ask permission to take a picture "photo?" or "photo okay?". Also, you will not take a picture, you will make a photo.

Selfie seems to be a newly found word. It's almost hilarious how much you find it traveling now. I had a guide who barely spoke English say "selfie?" at the end of the tour and we took a photo together. I have even seen establishments named Selfie (like restaurants or hotels or little special photo opportunity places).


Although I love my technology, I am still surprised and a little disappointed at just how quickly smartphones and the internet have become so widespread. I mean you will see the poorest little old woman bent over working in a field and she'll pull out a smartphone!

Many places leapfrog technologies. For instance, the infrastructure was never build for land lines. But now with rather inexpensive data plans, phones are accessible to more people, even in remote regions.

In some very small countries, they might still use flip phones since it's all they can get their hands on / afford. You might even consider bringing your old "worthless" flip phone (unlocked of course) with you to give to someone. I still wish I brought my old phones with me to Comoros. Our guide for the Livingstone bats was wonderful and was using a taped-together barely-work flip phone (similar to his broken shoes).

Long gone are the days of slow internet cafes. You can pretty much count on having Wi-Fi in any hotel. If they don't have it, then the cafe down the road will. Want to travel to get way from life and disconnect for a while? Good luck with that.

The leapfrog principal also goes for electricity. In the past it was simply not possible for small villages to have electricity if they were far from the grid. Enter solar panels. Still not quite everywhere yet due to price, but electricity is on it's way to even the most desolate villages. I have seen this in Myanmar and some Maasai villages in Tanzania.


Machetes. I wonder the statistics on the number of people in the world who own a machete. It's almost like carrying a pocket-knife. People use them for everything from clearing brush to opening a coconut, to opening a beer.


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