Destination research: It’s something you should definitely do before you travel. And we don’t just mean looking up pretty pictures of the areas you’ll be visiting (though that’s important too!) We mean looking into details of a country that are going to help you and your team on expedition!
You’ll want to do some research into your destination’s food, climate, culture and customs. You may be surprised by the cultural differences; for example in China yellow flowers are associated with death, so you wouldn’t want to give someone a bunch as a gift!
So where do you start with research?
Well, Instagram and Pinterest are great places to find images of your destination taken by tourists. Also, many tourism companies will post photos of festivals or cultural events that may be taking place when you are there.
If you are more of a reader then look for travel blogs; whether it’s from previous World Challenge student groups or other writers. There are so many travel blogs on the internet; you are bound to find one that fits with your expedition plans.
A resource that you already have instant access to is the My World Challenge site, log in to have a look at the destination information located in the ‘Your Expedition’ tab.
Lastly have a chat to friends or relatives who may have been to the country themselves. If your school has run a World Challenge to this destination before it’s possible you can even find someone in your school to talk to and learn from their experience.
As well as the standard things like the weather, food and currency, you may also want to have a look at some of the following;
A few key phrases in the local language – This is a necessity in some countries, and is always a courtesy to know a few words of a foreign language. “Hello”, “Please” ,“thank you” and “where is the bathroom?” will always be useful, as will knowing how to ask about any dietary requirements.
What’s the tipping culture? – So you’re in the taxi, cash in hand to pay the driver, do you tip? In some countries people don’t generally tip, but for others it is expected. Figure out what’s appropriate and do as the locals do to avoid offending or over-tipping for a service.
Culture and customs – Do a bit of research on what is appropriate and safe in your destination to avoid any offence to the locals. For example, in Cambodia when visiting temples it is very important that you dress modestly, in fact you won’t be allowed in certain parts of Angkor Wat with uncovered knees or shoulders!
Visiting major attractions – Some attractions may be closed on certain days; For example the Taj Mahal isn’t open on a Friday. You would hate to miss out on an experience for something as simple as opening hours! Visiting a museum on a free day might allow you to see something you’d otherwise miss due to the admission price, and free nights are often packed with locals and fun events.
Can’t-miss tips from locals and other travellers – Here’s where social media can really help you have a great expedition – before departure, ask your travel-savvy friends on Facebook or Twitter what their don’t-miss recommendations are for what to see or where to eat. Even if they are well-known attractions, having a tip from someone who has been there will help you prioritise.
Once you find out some information share it with your other challengers. Remember, you are a team and will all benefit from this knowledge.