How has your job changed the way you travel?
Sometimes I travel in the same way as I used to 25 or 30 years ago. And then again, on Sunday I went to Cambodia and Vietnam and stayed in five-star hotels.
How much do you plan your trips in advance?
I plan less in advance now. I'll quite often not know I have a trip, and there'll only be a week to plan. Flights and the first night's accommodation come first. After that, I can generally work it out.
What are some packing tips you've picked up?
I rarely pack more than three hours before. I always pack very light. Nine times out of 10 I have no luggage underneath the plane. I often take running gear—a pair of runners [running shoes] and shorts. I never take formal gear, even on a business trip. People overpack, particularly when heading to developing nations. People bring four pairs of shoes. Why?
What do you wear on the plane?
I wear the same thing whether I'm in economy, business, or first class: jeans, a pair of runners, and a T-shirt. Twenty years ago, you perhaps got treated differently if you didn't dress up, but these days, definitely not.
How do you deal with jet lag? I try to exercise before and after a flight. Even if it's an early flight I'll try to get a run in before and after. If it's sunny when you get off at the other end you're lucky, because sunshine is good for jet lag. Generally speaking, going from west to east is a lot worse than the reverse because the sun is going against you, and the time shift is more dramatic. That's when I take sleeping pills.
How do you get your bearings when you arrive at a destination?
I go out walking for an hour or so. I usually have a map, but often don't use it. I always take a business card from the hotel with its address in the local language and writing, so I can hail a taxi and get back to where I started.
How do you approach local cuisine?
You don't necessarily know with street food. Invariably it's cheap. If you try it and you don't like it, you subtly throw it away. It won't cost you anything. I'll try it if it's popular with the locals.
How do you keep in touch with others while traveling?
Mobile phones. They work virtually everywhere now.
What sorts of tourist etiquette tips have you picked up?
As a guy in India, you might want to wear shorts when it's hot, but I won't wear them. I'll wear pants to be polite. In Thailand you need to be very, very careful with how you use your feet—particularly in relation to the king. Someone dropped some coins on a tour once, and they were rolling away, so someone stomped one to stop it. The face of the king was on the coin, so he was, in a sense, stomping on that. And that was not good. Fortunately, I don't think there were any locals around, but the Thai tour leader explained the offense.
Read on to see Philippe de Vienne's top tips >