Jim's Guide to Travel in Insalubrious Countries and Cities (Otherwise known as 'Shitholes')

Jim's Guide to Travel in Insalubrious Countries and Cities (Otherwise known as 'Shitholes')

Rather topical, given this week's headlines, regarding "shithole countries" (and let's face it, people, we ALL know exactly what Mr Trump means), but over the past year or so, a number of people have messaged me, or enquired on the boards, as to what 'the trick' is to coming back from these places unscathed...

Without further ado, here are my own personal top tips to getting out of some of the world's dumps and dives without losing blood, skin or property.

1. Always Do Your Research. These days, there really is no excuse for not doing your homework before you go. It's inevitably time well spent, and prepares you for what you might find.

2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Don't wander around looking only at the sights, keep in mind who is around you, and particularly anybody who seems to be taking an undue interest in you, and what you are doing. Don't look at a map on the street, go into a shop and ask directions.

3. Don't Stay in Shit Accommodation. This is an elementary level trap to fall into, and yet people still do it. It really isn't worth it. If it's cheap, it's usually because it's crap, in a bad area of town, or it's insecure (or any combination of the above). Do yourself a favour, reach further into your pocket, and stay somewhere with a reasonable reputation.

Jim's Guide to Travel in Insalubrious Countries and Cities (Otherwise known as 'Shitholes')

4. Don't Be a Martyr to Political Correctness. Do not feel obliged to speak to somebody who approaches you, if you don't like the look of them, and don't be afraid to create a scene if they won't leave you alone, when asked to do so.

Jim's Guide to Travel in Insalubrious Countries and Cities (Otherwise known as 'Shitholes')

5. Take Local Advice. A book or a website is rarely an adequate substitute for local knowledge, and it's seldom a waste of time to speak to the hotel concierge or a taxi driver about which areas of town are worth avoiding and when.

6. Don't Wander Around On Your Own at Night. This kind of goes without saying, but people continue to ignore it, with predictable consequences.

Jim's Guide to Travel in Insalubrious Countries and Cities (Otherwise known as 'Shitholes')

7. Trust your Gut. At the end of the day, most people who are up to no good are pretty obvious. It's the ones who aren't that you particularly need to worry about, but if somebody seems shifty, don't give him the benefit of the doubt.

Jim's Guide to Travel in Insalubrious Countries and Cities (Otherwise known as 'Shitholes')

8. Don't Look Like a Victim. You might not be able to look like a local. But don't look like the type that can be preyed on, either. I don't look Italian or Latin American, but I seem to be able to pass off as some kind of eastern European to Italian and Latin American ne'er-do-wells, who have probably never given Eastern Europe very much thought in course of their lives. But it introduces an element of confusion, because they seem to think that you might not be worth robbing, and / or might fight back hard if they try.

9. Establish a Complete Communications Barrier. How often, when you are at home, does a stranger approach you, with a broad smile, saying "Hello, my friend" or something similar? Only when he's trying to sell you something, which you probably don't need or want. Best way to deal with this, when abroad is to be unable to speak any common language with this type of person. Watch them try, fail, and then they'll give up and fuck off.

10. Choose Your Battles. It's always worth handing something over, if the alternative is getting stabbed or set on by a gang. I have a cheap wallet containing cards and banknotes to hand over in the event of a demand at knifepoint. The cards are expired, from cancelled bank accounts, and the majority of the notes are obsolete Polish currency. They're authentic, but worthless. A mugger will almost never wait around to check his loot, but will usually take off with it, and realise his mistake later.

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Most Helpful Girl

  • Goodtake. I can't understand the mindset of that eat pray love bullshit of backpacking through a third world company as a woman alone. I sure as he'll wouldn't.


Most Helpful Guy

  • Knowing about your destination is essential. I wandered drunk around Tokyo at 3 AM with no clue as to where I was, and no worries. But not many places in the world where that is safe. In Honduras, I stayed near the resort after dark, and in Africa I didn't go out at night, other than to the hotel garden bar. I did go out in European cities but stayed near well-traveled areas late at night.

    Like you say, a lot of US cities aren't safe in places. A colleague of mine was driving with his wife and go off the freeway at the wrong exit in Baltimore. They actually got pulled over by a cop who told them they didn't look like they belonged there, and they'd better follow him back to the freeway.


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Join the discussion

What Girls Said 3

  • When in the Philippines:

    Guys, put your wallet & cellphone in the front pockets of your pants.
    Gals, wear your "cute li'l" backpacks in front.

    Don't lay your stuff on the table when dining out in public.
    Avoid Bank of the Philippine Islands ATMs.
    Uber is far safer than taxi cabs.
    Be careful crossing the streets.

  • It's dangerous to romanticised about being a lone traveler for spiritual retreat reasons but the ugly realities and setbacks should be taken into consideration as well. I went as part of the group to some countries where 1) I don't know the spoken language and customs well 2) I don't know people around locally 3) I can't just find info easily on how to navigate around on Internet.

  • good tips


What Guys Said 14

  • Good take, especially interesting about the decoy wallet, that's a good idea (I would also say don't leave anything valuable in your hotel unless you have it well hidden. Also, yeah we all know what trump was referring to but people just want an excuse to be pissed at him.

  • Nice guide -- basic street smarts are required.

    Also, if you go camping, look down into your shoes before putting them on in the morning. You might find a scorpion down there.

    You should add: don't get sick, or at least have insurance which includes quick repatriation into a country which has functional health care.

  • I find it interesting, under your point of people being 'shifty', you have a picture of Julian Assange

    as you implying he is 'shifty', or, him being the bastion of exposing shifty types

    • He comes up when you Google "shifty eyes". I couldn't find a better photo without spending more time than I cared to.

  • Here is a list of official shole countries.

    El Salvador
    South Sudan

    The people from these countries are the ones Trump was referring to when Durbin said he wanted to give them immigration visas by cutting the visa lottery in half. Durbin CHOSE shole countries over every other one for his proposal.

    If anyone doesn't believe these are in fact shole countries, I would love to hear your explanation as to why not.

    • you missed a few

      That is the official US Government list, not my list.

      It is those countries that are so bad, that the US lets people from there come in on Temporary Protective Status. Problem is, they tend to never leave to go home.

  • racist

    trump thinks that just because africa is majority black, it's all a shithole. it's racism. there are very successful countries in africa

    he said he wants more people from norway. norway is a very successful WHITE MAJORITY country. it doesn't need to come to america

    • Show All
    • @pleasestopthis Nobody can stop Trump from making a lot of stupid statements. He's entitled to it by the 1st Amendment and his stupid statements get publicity because Americans thought he'd be the best POTUS.

    • people that voted for him, thought he represented them. average people..

      the guy's a corporate billionaire. HE doesn't REPRESENT AVERAGE PEOPLE

  • You forget never visit Venezuela.

    No seriously don't, it's pretty dangerous right now and the nation is on the verge of economic and societal collapse.

    • I think they are past the "verge of" and are fully within the collapse (they broke into the zoo and ate the animals their who where also starving to death and have killed each other over dog food).

    • Show All
    • Yeah! Its crazy, especially since they where the richest nation in south America before they became communistic (and are sitting on one of the biggest oil reserves in the world) and now they are reduced to that.

    • @hellionthesagereborn Yeah I agree and lol yeah well that's the power of socialism/communism for ya.

  • Let's stop and think for a second, no country should be called a, "$hithoole". Every country has less desirable areas. Hell, the U. S. A. has numerous undesirable areas in every state. So should our country be called a $hith0le? Because based on the logical that Trump apparently uses, the U. S. A is a large $hith0le.

    Other countries have both great areas and low quality areas, but again in regard to the MyTake, the same logic and caution can be used when traveling through the U. S. So please, if you're going to use logic and rational, use it factually.

    • I do use all of this when travelling through the US, it being a foreign country to me and all. In fact, I'd class various parts of the US as worth avoiding entirely due to not knowing how the land lies. Won't find me in Detroit or St Louis, for example.

      Interested to know where you thought I strayed away from the facts?

    • Trump was being accurate in his description.

      The context is that Senator Durbin (D-IL) proposed cutting the visa lottery in half (not to zero as Republicans have demanded) and giving those immigration slots to people on Temporary Protected Status (TPS). How one gets onto TPS is to come from a country that is a shole.

      It is a short list and includes El Salvador, Haiti, Yemen, Sudan, Somolia, Nepal, and Syria. Note that Syrians and Nepalese are neither black nor Hispanic.

      Trumps alleged question was why are we giving those extra visas ONLY to people from shole countries instead of countries that have people we would actually want as immigrants. He used Norway as an example because he just had a meeting with them.

      Now, if you don't believe that these are shole countries, I suggest you go there and see for yourself.

      And yes, the US has some shole places like East Saint Louis, Flint, Oakland, Baltimore, Memphis, Fresno. Not surprisingly, these sholes are predominately black or Hispanic

  • Those shitholes really are shitholes... and we all know what I really mean.

  • Never thought of the fake wallet thing, I’ll have to keep that in mind

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