The Pocket Guide to Preparing for Your First Trip to the Arab World
Pack your long sleeves and plenty of sunscreen because the Arab world is waiting for you to visit. Traveling the Arab world will allow you to view fantastic scenery, immerse yourself in new cultures, and try savory dishes.
While many can’t wait to snap a picture with the Eiffel Tower or see the Roman coliseum, fewer people travel to see the wonders of the Islamic world. Despite this disparity, rest assured that the Arab world has plenty of life and culture to share. This quick-and-easy guide will give you all the information you need to know for your adventure.
What to Pack
Your trip will only be as relaxing as what you forget to pack. Of course, you will need your passport, but you may also need your driver’s license and International Driving Permit if you plan on renting a vehicle. You should also pack appropriate clothing. Not only will you not need your winter parka, but some Arabic countries have a different dress code for women, so do your research before packing your favorite bikini.
Pocket your credit cards and some extra cash. Bring along basic toiletries, but remember that you can buy toiletries at your destination, so shampoos and soaps are a relatively low priority.
Finally, acquire a digital mailbox to handle all of your snail mail while you’re away. With a digital mailbox, you can handpick an actual address, used to receive and process important mail. Because scanned mail is uploaded online, you can view it from anywhere in the world and decide whether it gets stored, forwarded, or shredded.
Learn Some Arabic
You don’t need to speak Arabic to travel to the Arab world. However, it does help to learn a few basic phrases, such as how to say “Thank you.” Remember also that Arabic has many diverse dialects. Egyptian Arabic is the most commonly understood.
You should also consider bringing a travel dictionary or downloading Google Translate for your trip.
Research Local Customs
It is essential to research the local customs of the country you are visiting. The Arab world is not a monolith, and each country has different cultural norms.
Some things are applicable across the Arab world — for example, it’s impolite to decline a drink of coffee. Drinking alcohol is frowned upon or forbidden, as is eating pork.
You should also count on dressing conservatively in the Arab world, whether you are a man or woman. Each country is different, but some things to leave at home include shorts and sleeveless tops. Don’t worry about roasting in long sleeves; just pack long, lightweight clothing, and you’ll be good to go.
On Friday, many businesses close, and people go to pray. If you have permission to enter a mosque, you should take your shoes off at the door. More specific customs will vary by region, so do your research.
Look Up Local Holidays
Many businesses and offices close on Friday, as it is the Muslim holy day. However, there is also a sacred month called Ramadan.
People typically fast during Ramadan, so you might want to avoid eating in public to be respectful. Ramadan starts and ends on different dates every year, as Islam follows the lunar calendar.
Learn How to Haggle in the Arab World
Though American sellers are usually firm in their prices, the Arab world is a little different. Don’t accept the first offer a market vendor gives you. That first number is generally higher than the actual price, and the seller will expect you to counter with a lower offer.
Before You Go to the Arab World
It can be nerve-wracking to travel into a new culture for the first time. With a bit of research and planning, you’ll be exploring the Arab world like a local in no time.