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A beginner’s guide to people watching

Anyone can take part. We can indulge in any public place wherever we are in the world. Best of all it’s free to do it. I challenge anyone to deny that they enjoy sometimes just sitting back and watching people go about their daily lives. People watching is of course a very easy thing to […]

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Please Touch: why using the right language matters

Looking around the Victoria and Albert museum in London I was struck by the signs on a couple of exhibits that read “Please Touch”. These were objects that visitors could best appreciate through exploration of texture and weight and not just by looking. Great for kids I thought; but the message ran far deeper than […]

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Eating strange things: the fine line between adventurous and stupid

How much should we go along with the famous piece of advice that you should try everything at least once? While travelling through foreign lands we are faced by a whole range of unfamiliar challenges: these may range from unfamiliar languages and strange customs and manners to weird music and alien fashion sense. Perhaps the […]

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Why you shouldn’t always avoid religion and politics

‘Never discuss religion and politics’; the timeless advice for travellers who want to stay out of trouble. These topics can lead to discomfort, suspicion and in extreme cases even arrest and a free trip to the nearest border (or worse). Is it good advice to adopt wherever we are? I have to admit to ignoring […]

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Why are we attracted to expensive places?

We recently spent a weekend on the Cote d’Azur in the south of France. Thankfully we had been warned about the prices that we should expect and so were not caught completely by surprise. Shabby 2 star hotels charging around €100 for a pokey room and restaurants €15 for a simple plate of pasta was […]

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Tipping in the UK: advice from a local

This is not the first post on the thorny topic of tipping on 501 Places. Previous posts have addressed the variations in the practice of tipping across the world, or have looked at the many national quirks in tipping etiquette and how they inevitably leave a visitor confused and often embarrassed. But in a week […]

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How to be a good local

What’s the hardest thing about being a local? It must be having all those tourists (and travellers) trying to do what you do, eat where you eat and party where you party. Every move you make, someone is probably watching and taking notes so that they can be more like you. It makes me glad […]

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A rubbish post: the global curse of litter

We looked on in shock as the young couple finished their lunch, stuffed a carrier bag full of crisp wrappers, cans and polythene and casually threw it through the open window of the train. Seeing our poorly disguised expressions they shrugged and said “Look, this is India. Everyone does the same here.” The problem is […]

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Burma, Tibet, China, Egypt: what makes a country worthy of a boycott?

Over the last few years a string of government ministers and travel industry chiefs have taken turns in preaching the virtues of ethical travel. They have spoken much about avoiding those countries with atrocious human rights records. Burma in particular has been singled out as a country where no UK person, whether tourist or businessman, […]

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7 steps to slinging the bat

This week’s guest post is a real treat. Intrepid traveller and founder of adventure travel company Untamed Borders James Willcox provides us with valuable advice on how to communicate with the locals on our travels. His 7 easy to follow tips will guarantee that you will make an impact on arrival. While his language skills […]

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