If you have just been bitten by the travel bug and want to set out to explore the world, on your own terms, there are quite a few guidelines and tips that you need to remember and practise, now that the world is in the grip of another unseen bug (the COVID-19 virus). Planning your trip and practising safe conduct is of utmost importance as is the urge of the novice to ‘get lost’ and discover not just destinations and experiences but also one’s own potential to rough it out.
Nomadic Matt, a New York Times best-selling author of ‘How to Travel the World on $50 a Day’ says every first-time traveller often asks the same old questions: How do I find the money to travel – It seems too expensive for me.
Where do I find the best travel deals? How do I save money on flights, accommodation, and other big expenses? How do I plan my trip? How do I stay safe and healthy? The answers to most of these lie in the following set of tips that Matt offers:
By purchasing a small backpack, you will be forced to pack light and avoid carrying too much stuff. Humans have a natural tendency to want to fill space. It’s okay to wear the same t-shirt a few days in a row. Take half the clothes you think you will need but take extra socks.
Always pack a towel
It’s the key to successful galactic hitchhiking and plain common sense. You never know when you will need it, whether it’s at the beach, on a picnic, or just to dry off.
Take extra bank cards
Disasters happen. It’s always good to have a backup in case you get robbed or lose a card. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere new without access to your funds. Get a credit card/debit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee or an ATM fee.
Travel by yourself
You’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to become independent. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Traveling solo teaches you how to fend for yourself, talk to people, and handle unfamiliar situations with ease. Don’t be afraid to use a map – looking like a tourist isn’t as bad as getting lost. Though, wandering aimlessly through a new city is a good way to get to know it.
Visit the local tourism office
They know about everything going on in town. They can point you to free activities, special events happening during your stay, and everything in between. They even offer discounts on attractions and transportation.
Don’t use a money belt
Thieves know they exist and being seen with one basically shouts, ‘Look at me, I’m a tourist with money! Rip me off!’ The more you can blend in and act like a local, the easier it will be to get deals and avoid touts. Limit the amount of cash and bank cards you carry with you on each trip.
Always carry a lock
They come in handy, especially when you stay in dorms and need to lock your stuff up. Carry a small combination lock with you when you travel. Don’t use one with keys because, if you lose the keys…
Carry extra copies of your passport
Carry extra copies of your passport and travel documents. And don’t forget to e-mail a copy to yourself too. You never know when you might need to have some sort of documentation with you.
Learn basic phrases in the native language
The locals will appreciate it and it will make your interactions easier. You don’t need to master the language but learning a few things like Hello, Goodbye, Thank you!, Where’s the bathroom? will be helpful. Also, read up on the destinations you are visiting. It will give you a deeper understanding.
Don’t fly direct
When booking flights, sometimes it is cheaper to fly into airports close to your final destination, and then take a train or bus to where you need to go.
Lunchtime is best to visit historical sites
Be a contrarian. You’ll have fewer crowds getting in your way as big tour buses, groups, and most travelers head to lunch. It’s always best to visit an attraction super early, late, or when people eat.
Never eat in a touristy area
The closer you are to tourist attractions the more you are going to pay and the worse the food (and service). Additionally, never eat anywhere where the menu is in like 6 languages! That means the restaurant is just for tourists!Remember, most expensive restaurants offer ‘lunch specials’ featuring the same food they would serve for dinner but half the price.
Pack a flashlight
It will let you see at night, you avoid stepping on stuff, and help you tell ghost stories. Who’s afraid of the dark? Also, carry a basic first-aid kit as accidents do happen. So be prepared.
Be open to strangers
Not everyone bites. Say hi to people on the road. Turn strangers into friends. Remember, they are just like you. But keep a healthy level of suspicion. You don’t want to fall for any travel scams or get yourself into uncomfortable situations. Be open but cautious.
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