Saving dosh while in market
Nathan: “Don’t go to the electronics market! Also, if it’s too good to be true it’s neither good nor true! And yes, that means the two beautiful young girls who’ve approached you to practice their English are actually going to scam you!”
Marc: “Leverage technology to the hilt. If you’re not using Skype and WhatsApp to cut comms costs you’re paying too much. Don’t stay at the big end of town. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get good wireless, a good bed, shower and breakfast at a reasonable price.”
Kat: “Don’t go shopping! If you’re travelling with a team book an apartment with a lounge and ensuite bathrooms – this saves costs and provides a centralised meeting place. Have a clear daily budget around accommodation, food and alcohol.”
Nick: “Use public transport and eat off the street – don’t be afraid to go local.”
Exporter phone home?
Platforms of choice
Nathan: “Video conferencing is best by far, but usually not Skype. We use Zoom.us – it’s free and much more reliable. We also use a virtual office tool called Soccoco; it offers a mix of text chat, video and audio conferencing and screen sharing. WeChat is also great in Asia. It’s not dependent on your phone number, etc, so people can always get hold of you regardless of the SIM or network you’re using.”
Marc: “Skype and WhatsApp are indispensable to reduce costs. Don’t be lazy and use your phone, unless it’s urgent.”
Kat: “To avoid a massive roaming bill we always click into WiFi in the hotels or cafes. We also send daily updates to the team with photos – so they feel they’re part of the journey and see that it’s not all cocktails and canapes.”
Nick: “WiFi makes communication through Skype, Viber and email easy and cheap. Managing the time difference and expectations from workmates?
Not so easy.
What should you never leave home without?
Nathan: “My computer, noise cancelling headphones and earplugs.”
Marc: “Smartphone with Google maps and Bluetooth speaker for music in my room when pulling an all-nighter!”
Kat: “Hair straightener (frizz is just so 80s), sketchpad, a comfy hoodie to wear at night in my hotel room, and, of course, a hefty collection of jewellery. I travel light on clothing but use my jewellery to spice up my wardrobe.”
Nick: “I never leave without my iPhone and sleeping pills. Everything else I can
How to hit the ground running
Nathan: “Before I go I have my top two to three priorities identified and communicated to the team. I organise the first three to five days of meetings (for a two week trip), leaving the last week clear for what eventuates.”
Marc: “Plan, plan and plan some more and do your research on destination, clients etc. Don’t stand outside the airport looking lost or you’ll be a magnet for every con artist in the area.”
Kat: “We select flights that arrive at night so you get a good night’s sleep. This often means night accommodation is cheaper than flying business class and allows
your body clock to adjust to the new time zone.”
Staying fit and healthy
Nathan: “Try to organise time for exercise on the trip. For me that’s swimming or using the gym at the hotel.”
Marc: “Pilates can be done in your room – keep to a routine. Lay off the alcohol on the plane. Many hotels have bikes available – it beats sitting in a gym and you’ll get to meet locals when you inevitably get lost.”
Kat: “Before I go I stock up on healthy snack food, such as almonds and muesli bars, to graze on during the day and help avoid sugar dips in the afternoon.”
Nick: “Drink heavily the night before leaving. That way you’re so tired you’ll sleep right through the flight and arrive refreshed! I always switch to local time when travelling and adopt my normal ‘home’ routine immediately.”
Tips for a hassle-free stay
Nathan: “If you’re in Shanghai, get a metro card, which can also be used for taxis, and you don’t end up with pockets full of change. Taxis are very cheap and exceedingly plentiful, until it rains! Once it’s raining, anything goes price-wise.”
Marc: “When you have Wi-Fi take photos of maps showing where your hotel is – so even if the taxi driver has no English you can show him the map.
Kat: “We have APEC cards that make going through customs/immigration faster. Hotels must have a Western breakfast and free WiFi in the rooms. Where possible we get our offshore partners to collect us from the hotel and deliver us back.”
Nick: “Don’t let your travel agent book a 30-minute transit time. Always allow more time to ensure you make the next flight.”
Some tips on etiquette
Nathan: “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! The nicer you are the more good things happen for you. So relax, be interested in everyone you meet, and smile.”
Marc: “Learn some basic phrases in the local language. Have a basic crash kit with you with Imodium, Panadol, Codral etc, so you can keep functioning long enough to get home. If you meet someone with an AK47 call them ‘sir’ and smile!”
Kat: “Pretend to love their food – even if you don’t! Follow their cultural lead – for example, if they present their business card with two hands, give yours with two hands.”
Nick: “Eat whatever’s put in front of you, drink if you’re challenged to, dance if it’s what the locals are doing.”
Marc: “I was stupid enough to arrive in Portugal after 30 hours of travel without a visa. I wasted three hours in detention until the people I was meeting extracted me!”
Kat: “A man tried to break into our hotel room in Shenyang. We found out the next day he had somehow managed to get a copy of our room key.”
Nick: “Being treated in a very special Chinese ‘restaurant’ (fish market) and feeling so nauseous I couldn’t eat a thing! Riding in a taxi through Bangkok rush hour with the driver clearly on cocaine, reversing down a freeway into the oncoming truck lane!”
Nathan: “I like going to the indoor climbing wall in Shanghai – friendly people, fun and very relaxed. It’s also fun to seek out the cool and quirky cafés that every city has.”
Marc: “Being taken on a high speed tour of the River Plate delta by a mad Argentinean who thought going head to head with oncoming boats was a great game!”
Kat: “It’s a tie between shopping, eating at divine restaurants and getting a massage or facial.”
Nick: “Trying things that put me out of my comfort zone, particularly riding subways.”
Advice for novices
Nathan: “Do it, take the plunge. Plan but be flexible. Make sure you commit to what you are doing.”
Marc: “Do your research, network and be bold.”
Kat: “Plan your itinerary before you go but allow an extra day or two – often things crop up and you want to maximise your opportunity while there. Work hard to make the trip worthwhile and do treat yourself to that vase at the market – you’ll regret if it you don’t!