|Reference Books for the Global Road Warrior|
What is the best way to prepare for and to research about the issues to do with travel to foreign countries?
Here are two books that offer assistance.
The benefit of such books is that they are a single source of much information, but the matching problem is that attempts to cover the entire world end up with a lot of superficial coverage but not much in-depth coverage, and the information contained runs the risk of becoming out of date.
We also provide links to websites that provide similar content for free.
If you're heading off to a foreign country, you
of course need to know and plan for what to expect when you get off the
Here are two books that offer you a range of helpful information. We also suggest other sources of information to help your travel research.
Traveling to - and Doing Business in - a Foreign Country
Doing business internationally involves a very different set of issues than is the case when doing business locally. These issues range from cultural issues to procedural matters such as delivering goods across borders and through customs tariffs, or of guaranteeing payment while still allowing for delayed payment.
If you don't have the time, patience, or access to some type of formal training institute, how else can you acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in international business?
One possible solution is offered by World Trade Press, a California publisher of a wide range of 56 different trade and travel related books. Other solutions also exist on the internet.
The World Trade Press Range of Titles
World Trade Press has an entire nine volume series of 'Short Course' books on aspects of international trade. They also have an interesting range of books on topics such as importing and exporting and some specific titles on particular types of commodities trading. All these books, and particularly their nine volume series, would be excellent for someone wishing to do a self-study course on world trade issues.
In addition to the above, they have another series - 'Passport to the World' - a range of 25 books, each of 96 pages, giving a general introduction to the business and cultural issues in a particular country.
These are supplemented by more indepth books that they refer to as 'Portable Encyclopedias'. They have 12 titles in this 'Country Business Guide' series, giving a much more comprehensive business overview of specific countries. The books vary in size from 300-400 pages each.
These titles can be very helpful for a person with a specific need for knowledge on a particular country. Tourist guides are of little use for a business person, because they don't tell you the things you need to know about how to do business in a particular country. These books pick up where a tourist guide leaves off.
If you are considering these titles, the only slight word of caution is to check the publication date. Several of the titles are becoming rather 'stale' and are no longer as up to date and accurate as would be desirable.
World Trade Press also publishes two other books that are excellent for a person who travels regularly to several different countries, and who simply needs some 'quick reference' material variously as an introduction or refresher.
This, the first of their two other books, is a 5"x8" (slightly bigger than normal paperback size) soft covered book of 415 pages, and shows a publication date of 2002. It has short 2-4 page sections on 161 different countries, with information being given about the country's power and phone requirements, how their phone system works, area codes for major cities, and information on how to use pay phones in that country. It also has information on what type of cell phones are used in the country, and some information on ISPs and internet cafes.
At the beginning of the book is some very helpful generic information applicable to all international travel - for example, it has good information about using callback type services to save on international long distance costs. I particularly liked the section '20 Problems and Solutions for Mobile Connectivity' which was crammed full of very helpful information about how to solve problems when trying to get connected to the internet in foreign countries.
However, some sections were not so useful. The section on email was written for someone that has never used email before (would such a person be likely to read this book - I think not!). The email section also made no mention of my favorite free remote access email service - www.mail2web.com - a service that works with any pop3 email account and with most imap4 accounts as well.
The information in the section for each country was generally good, but not necessarily always complete or up to date - an unavoidable problem with any printed publication (and also with many internet pages, too!). For example, in the UK section under the heading 'Unusual Calling Features' it makes no mention of 0845 and 0870 numbers - numbers that are very commonly used these days. Its mobile phone provider list for the UK also made no mention of Virgin or T-Mobile.
I could nitpick in several other countries, too, but in the context of not pretending to be much more than a very brief summary overview of a vast number of different countries, the book serves its (albeit limited) purpose.
Global Connect! sells for $24.95.
Global Road Warrior
This is the big brother to the Global Connect! book. It is very much larger - 863 pages, and 6.5"x9" in size. This makes it good as a desk reference, but perhaps a bit heavy to throw in the suitcase prior to heading to the airport.
Although it is very much larger in size, it 'only' covers 95 countries, but in vastly more depth than the Global Connect! book. Each country has an 8-10 page article that covers much of the same information as the other book, but adds extra sections on things like business customs and how to do business, where to stay, customs and immigration issues, local transportation, weather, tipping, and much more. It also includes a map and basic country information such as population, language, etc.
This book sets itself an aggressive objective, and doesn't completely succeed. Some sections are so scanty as to be almost useless - the 'where to stay' sections contain very few hotel listings, and the internet cafe sections sometimes contain as few as 3 or 4 cafes in a city with a 5 million or larger population, and which undoubtedly has closer to 300-400 internet cafes. Such limited information reminds me of the old saying 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing' and perhaps would have been better omitted from the book entirely.
There are some other imperfections as well. For example, in the section on Russia, it says to tip porters half a ruble per bag (about 2 cents). But then on the next line it says to tip porters $1 a bag - 50 times more than what it had just said! In the Russian section, it also utters a falsehood that has been obsolete for a decade when it suggests bringing a supply of US$1 bills to use to pay for items in stores. This is nonsense - indeed, it is very difficult to get regular stores to accept dollars these days - they insist on being paid in rubles.
And in the section on my own home country of New Zealand, it makes another nonsense statement when it says 'Tipping is not necessary in NZ as a GST (goods and services tax) is added to all bills'.
GST is the same as VAT and much the same as our US Sales Tax. It has absolutely nothing to do with 'service charges' - all of the GST goes directly to the government, and none of it goes to the waiter.
Continuing with the tipping benchmark, in the section on the US it says to 'tip 15-20% in restaurants, 10% if service is poor and 5% if service is atrocious'. This advice is contradicted by a recent study in USA Today showing that very few people tip over 15%. Why is it that most guidebook writers seem to consistently over-estimate the amount people should tip?
Furthermore, there is no way that I would tip 5% if the service was atrocious. 0% would be a better recommendation!
There are other errors in the tipping sections for other countries. Another debatable recommendation that appears in many of the country listings is their suggestion that it is customary to bring small gifts to business meetings. I remember, prior to heading off to one such country, asking a more experienced trader what type of gifts I should bring, and wondered if calendars of the Seattle area would be a good choice.
My friend laughed and explained that the type of gifts the people I was hoping to impress would appreciate would be Rolex gold watches or new cars or other such things that hardly fit in my definition (or budget!) of 'small gifts'. I accordingly left the calendars and pens behind, and got on just fine with no gift giving at all, and since then have always looked askance at recommendations to give small gifts.
Global Road Warrior sells for $65.
Free Internet Sources of Information
These books offer the convenience of information in a book format - truly the easiest and quickest way of accessing information ever invented, But if you want to go online and get similar information for free, that is also possible.
Much of the same information in the Global Connect! book is available at www.kropla.com which has a great deal of information on plugs, voltages, phone adapters, and related information.
Much of the general country information in the Global Road Warrior book is available from the CIA's World Factbook website.
Much of the business information and general social issues can be found at the US Department of State's Consular Information Service.
And then there is always Google! :)
Using these Books for Corporate Gift Giving
This is an interesting concept that World Trade Press offers. They will custom print covers onto either of these books with your company's name and details on it, so that the book can then be used as a 'small corporate gift' (notwithstanding my comments above, there are, of course, many situations when a small corporate gift is appropriate and helpful, and not only internationally but in your local market, too). Assuming that you are ordering a reasonable quantity (a couple of hundred or more) the price drops substantially below retail, and in larger quantities can be from one half to as low as one quarter the retail price.
If your company deals with customers that might benefit from such a book, this would make a splendid and distinctive gift - a welcome change from the usual pens and post-it note pads.
And so I find myself in the slightly strange situation of saying 'these books are great as gifts, but perhaps not so good for yourself'! To be fair, I do like the Global Connect! book, although I have some reservations about the pricier Global Road Warrior book.
The Global Connect! book in particular would make an excellent branded corporate giveaway, and probably at an affordable price.
I'm always trying to find giveaway items that are genuinely useful, which will actually be kept and used by the recipient, which will have a long life, and which are distinctively different from everything else out there - how many mouse pads does a person need! Global Connect! meets all these parameters.
Tell David your opinion. Send him an Email - [email protected]
written 2 May 2003, last update
18 Mar 2011