Consortium for International Education & Multicultural Studies
People & Culture
One should generally expect to bargain in curiosity shops, open air/flea markets, and smaller specialty shops. There are places where the overeager tourists only make fools or nuisances of themselves in their desire to haggle with everyone (i.e., supermarkets, large stores which indicate fixed prices, and some areas of a market (the meat section where prices are standardized)). As a visitor to a foreign land, you should be aware of this. You should realize that the one cent reduction for which you bargain so cleverly is of more importance to the seller than it could be to you. In most countries, business hours for shops, stores, and businesses range from 9 A.M. to 4 or 5 P.M. with evening hours (open to 8:30 P.M. or so) only one night a week. In some countries, there are closures for several hours during midday. You will not find many things open on Sundays. Banks have even shorter hours, closing between 2-3 P.M. with no Saturday or Sunday hours. (Some major banks in Great Britain do open for limited hours on Saturday.) Post offices generally open at 9:00 A.M. and are open until 5:00 P.M.
In most countries, business hours for shops, stores, and businesses range from 9 A.M. to 4 or 5 P.M. with evening hours (open to 8:30 P.M. or so) only one night a week. In some countries, there are closures for several hours during midday. You will not find many things open on Sundays. Banks have even shorter hours, closing between 2-3 P.M. with no Saturday or Sunday hours. (Some major banks in Great Britain do open for limited hours on Saturday.) Post offices generally open at 9:00 A.M. and are open until 5:00 P.M.
In Mexico and Central and South American countries, electricity is the same as in the United States, but not as reliable. Power surges are common and electric hair dryers and curling irons may blow a fuse. Electricity is also quite expensive in foreign countries, and since your host has to pay the bill, we suggest you be ultraconservative in its use. In Great Britain, the standard voltage is 240v AC. 50HZ. An adapter, or converter, is necessary to use electrical appliances in Great Britain. Virtually all of Europe is served with 220-volt, 50 cycle alternating current (compared to the US's 110-volt, alternating current). If you bring appliances from home, you'll need an adapter. Plug configurations may also vary from country to country. If you need to purchase an adapter, find an electric adapter set which holds various adapters and plug converters in a small, convenient travel case.
In Europe: Greenwich Mean Time: Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain and Portugal are five hours ahead of New York (EST). Central European Time: Norway, Sweden, and the bulk of the Continent, including Hungary, are six hours ahead of New York (EST). Eastern European Time: Finland, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey are seven hours ahead of New York (EST). Most of Europe goes on Daylight Savings Time from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in the September. (The U.S. DST runs from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. Use of the 24 hour clock is widespread, i.e. 1:00 P.M. is 13:00 and so on to midnight, 24:00. Mexico/the Americas: The same time zones that govern the U.S. also gauge time in countries to the south of the U.S., i.e., Mexico City is in Central Standard Time; Bogota, Columbia in EST.
In most countries, there are separate booths for making local and international calls. Local booths are quite common, but international booths may take some looking for. They're quite easy to find in large hotels, pharmacies, and some larger stores and tourist attractions. "Telephone debit cards" are becoming common in some countries (they are very popular in Japan, where most telephones can only be accessed with one). They are extremely convenient, easy to use and can be bought at hotels, newspaper stands, small shops, etc.
There isn't an address in the world that isn't on someone's mail route. Receiving mail while abroad can take anywhere from 7-30 days. You can receive mail at General Delivery (the generally used term in Europe is Poste Restante) in any city, worldwide, usually at the main post office. Mail should be addressed thus: Name, General Delivery, City, Country, Postal Code (if any). If it's important, you can always use any of the various services which guarantee overnight or second day delivery (including the post office) with a high price tag.
You should be able to find tourist information booths at airline and train stations, major squares in cities, near or in the center of a city, near city hall and local government offices, around major tourist attractions, and close to some main cathedrals. Here you can find street and transit maps, basic brochures on the sights, an up-to-date calendar of what's happening, and advice on restaurants and hotels. Most tourist information centers are open normal business hours.
Public toilets can be hard to find and toilet paper downright scarce (you'll eventually decide to carry some with you). Sometimes it's disposed in the bowl, sometimes in a waste basket and usually very little is used.