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Getting a Haircut While Traveling: A Man's Guide

It is not uncommon to find yourself needing a barber when traveling overseas, be it on a long holiday or a prolonged business trip. You may need a haircut either to look fashionable to your international friends, presentable to business associates or just to feel confident and comfortable. Furthermore, especially when visiting extremely humid regions, cutting your hair can be essential to your hygiene. However, getting a haircut abroad isn’t as easy or as straightforward as it is back home. You might, for example, have quite a nerve-racking experience when trying to navigate cultural (regards to aesthetics, local hairstyles, and taste) and language barriers. Language barriers lead to miscommunication and, as a result, may precipitate disastrous results. Negotiating for favorable rates can also be a challenge, especially in countries where local salons overcharge foreigners. That is why you need this 5-point guide to getting the haircut you need while traveling abroad.

Prepare beforehand

The first thing to do when searching for a barbershop abroad is to manage your expectations. You need to be psychologically prepared to lower your standards in case you can’t find the über-trendy barbershops you are used to. Also, you need to be open to getting a simple haircut that makes you look well-groomed, even if it isn’t as super swanky as you’d prefer.

Another thing to prepare for is how to describe your preferred haircut to a barber who doesn’t speak your language. Most barbershops around the world use clippers to cut men’s hair. These clippers have guards that range from number one (3mm) to number 8 (19mm). If you don’t know the best clipper guards to use, consult your regular barber before leaving for your trip. Another practical way of explaining your preferred haircut to your overseas barber is to take some pictures immediately after getting a fresh cut, and then bring them with you on your trip. Take multiple photos of the front, back, and side of your head for extra clarity.

Thirdly and lastly, integrate your haircut schedule into your overall itinerary so that your barber’s appointments can coincide with the days you’re in a big town or a city. The reason for this is that, although there are barbers pretty much everywhere on the planet, you have a better chance of getting a quality haircut in the city as compared to rural areas. There are more barbershops in the city, there are more people who speak at least one international language, and city barbers are more likely to be conversant with your preferred hairstyle.

Do your due diligence

This is probably your first time trying out a new barber in a long time. You, therefore, cannot afford to trust a barber blindly just because they told you how good they are. Take your time to conduct your due diligence and ensure that your new barber is who he says he is. Here are a few steps to guide you through a new barber’s vetting process:

  • Search for “best barbers near me” or “best barbers in *name of the city*” on Google. The internet will furnish you with a plethora of highly-rated barbershops in your location. Read through as many online reviews as you can and eliminate the ones with many unpleasant reviews.

  • Visit the websites and social media pages of the barbershops that remain after the elimination process. Specifically, check how easy it is for you to book an appointment from each website, how easy and secure their online payment gateways are, the kind of aftershave products they use, and how modern and functional each website is. From the social media pages, check how each barbershop interacts with its clientele, the quality of the pictures they post, and the offers that you can leverage.

  • By now you should have a shortlist of not more than 3 barbershops. Call each one of them and try to gauge if they understand what you need. Use this call to gauge the height of the language barrier between you and staff members in the shop.

  • If you are convinced that a barbershop has the ratings and lingual abilities to provide the services that you seek, go ahead to ask about the pricing, discounts, and any other detail you may find useful.

  • Lastly, visit your barbershop of choice and check if they are as good as they appear from a distance. Check the general vibe and the hygiene levels in the shop before sitting down for a haircut.

Differences in Haircut Trends and Prices between Countries

Different cities in the world have different averages when it comes to haircut pricing. You, therefore, need to be prepared for possible fluctuations in pricing. In the United States, for example, the average for a men’s haircut is $44. Up north in Canada, hair salons in Calgary and around the country charge an average of $24 for men. In England and most of Western Europe, barbershops charge an average of $28 for men.

Besides pricing, you need to be informed about differences in haircut trends and vocabulary. In France, for example, the hottest trend right now is men going to unisex hairstyle boutiques as opposed to traditional barbershops. With regards to hair vocabulary, “short hair” in the UK is mostly interpreted to mean no visible hair. In the US, “short hair” simply means a trim. Such a small difference in vocabulary can lead to an unpleasant result in the end.

Lastly, complementary services and tips vary from city to city, country to country. In most third-world countries, you won’t be required to pay more for additional services like shaves and massages, unlike in the US and most of Europe. Tips aren’t too common outside of the US and the UK, but no matter your destination, your barber will appreciate a nice tip in the end. Most of them won’t ask you for it, but you can tell that they needed it from how appreciative they are when tipped.

Do you want a fabulous but cheap haircut?

Getting a quality haircut can be unnecessarily pricey especially in upscale barbershops in big cities. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to get a stellar, stylish haircut abroad. Here are 2 tips that will come in handy when you need a cheap but fabulous haircut abroad:

  • Get a free professional-grade haircut from students at a local beauty institute or hair school. Just Google “beauty schools near me” and choose the local schools with the best online reviews. Most students are meticulous because their grades depend on the haircut they give you, which means the end result can’t be too bad, but then that means your haircut will take a little longer than normal.

  • Take advantage of “happy hour” deals. There are salons that encourage customers to visit during their slow periods by offering discounts and improved complimentary services. All you have to do is research online or ask a few local friends if there is such a barbershop in your destination.

  • The first thing to do when searching for a barbershop abroad is to manage your expectations. You need to be psychologically prepared to lower your standards in case you can’t find the über-trendy barbershops you are used to. Also, you can consider getting low maintenance haircuts for men or need be open to getting a simple haircut that makes you look well-groomed, even if it isn’t as super swanky as you’d prefer.

Or do you want to cut your own hair?

If you want to keep your hair trimmed and neat while traveling but can’t seem to get hold of a good or affordable barber, there is always the option of cutting your own hair. Cutting your own hair is easier than you’d imagine. All you need is to watch a handful of YouTube tutorials on how to cut your own hair (focus on the hairstyle that you desire). Invest in quality clippers, clipper guards, scissors, two small mirrors, a comb, shampoo, and after-shave products, and any other tools you may find useful, and you’re set to go.

Traveling around the world is such an interesting adventure- don’t allow unkempt hair to ruin it for you. If you can’t trust local barbers to get your preferred style, don’t panic. Just ask them to recommend their best hairstyles and then you pick one. You will look good in the eyes of the locals and because your hair will always grow back, you will have a chance of reverting back to your preferred style once you get back home


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