In addition to the previous 5 tips to travel worry-free, I will add another 5. There is always a lot more going on once you are on the road and you can end up in all kind of situations. When you choose to do something, you will never know if it will be the right decision until you have done it. There are always uncertainties and trust me, that is never going to change. Every country has different rules and you always have to learn about them. Of course, the not knowing part is the whole beauty of traveling but making too many bad decisions can reduce the level of joy. It can be exhausting, it can make you feel unsafe or you can lose a lot of money. But then again, this is absolutely not necessary if you know how to play by the rules so I will give you some tips for along the way.
Be alert when it comes to transportation
Obviously, transportation will be a big part of your travel. You have to move from point to point and unless you travel by foot or with your own vehicle, you are dependent on other people. Many things around transportation can be a bit tricky. In the first place, it is a great way for people to rip you off and second, you can end up having a horrible ride. There are many ways of transportation so I will divide things into short trips and long trips. The short trips will be about traveling within a city and long trips about traveling from city to city.
Personally, I hate taking a taxi, a tuk tuk or a motorbike and I always try to avoid them as much as I can. The reason for this is because their drivers often try to rip you off. If you take one, you have to know the rules. First of all, be very specific about where you want to go and always agree on the price first before you get in. If they have a meter, ask them to use it. If he offers a price and you know it is a good price, you can agree on it. Some of the drivers work on commission for a hotel so they try to drop you off at the hotel but never say yes to this. Ask them to drop you off on a street you know or if you already know, the hotel you want to stay. In some countries they will charge some extra money all of a sudden for your bags so ask about that too (if necessary in the country) before you get in. Sometimes, airports have a ticket counter where you can buy a ticket for a taxi in advanced. It is easy and the prices are fixed so always try to look for one if you decide to take a cap. Occasionally they have it for tuk tuks on train stations as well.
But even when you are very careful, they find ways to rip you off. They just take a de-tour if they are forced to use the meter or they drop you of in front of a hotel with almost the same name but not the one you want. When they do not have a meter they will say it is really far while it is not and you will pay way too much. Most of the times I rather walk. Or even better in some cases, I will take the local bus or if they have, the subway/ sky train. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to figure out which bus to take but just ask around. It is super cheap, it will get you where you want without any hassle or frustration and it is a nice way to get in touch with the locals. The subway or sky train are even better because it is much faster. But usually I like to walk because it is my way to get in touch with a place and I see a lot more.
When you travel around, you are most likely going to make longer trips as well. This is usually by bus, by train or by plane. You will find less hassle here but there are a couple of things you can keep in mind. First of all, it is always cheaper to buy a bus or train ticket at a station and just as easy. Travel agencies need to earn money as well so that is where you are paying for. Second, you might want to ask around what the most comfortable way of traveling is. Sometimes you can travel by bus or by train. The train can be a great option for example while the bus is hell because the roads are horrible. Also ask about the time of arrival when you buy your ticket. It is very annoying to arrive in a city in the middle of the night when everything is closed so it is better to arrive during the day. Taking a sleeper bus or train is great because you will not lose time and you pay for accommodation and transport at once.
While you think a train or a bus is a cheaper option than a plane, it is not always true. Flight tickets can be so cheap sometimes and it is worth checking them out as well. Oh, and do not believe the pictures of busses and trains they show you, it is never true.
Use a travel guide, but keep an open mind
Some people think that traveling with a travel guide is less adventure. Sure, it is true in a way. It is nice to wander around in the streets and discover everything by yourself but I think you will miss out on some things too if you are traveling without. Some people do not like to go to places which are in a travel guide because it is always crowded and sure, true as well but crowded can be fun too. If you are traveling alone it is nice to meet other people and these places are a great opportunity. Personally I have mixed feelings about travel guides so that is why I bring them with me but I will not use them for everything. Even though they are a lot of weight, I think it is worth carrying. I will tell you how I use them. Before I am actually traveling I use them for planning my trip for a bit and for learning more about the country. I read about the climate so I know what to pack, I read about some things I would definitely like to visit so I can plan my route and I read about dangers and annoyances so I can avoid them while I am in the country. I like doing this because it makes me feel secure and I also get more excited about the trip.
In the airplane I read about the history, the culture, transportation and the food what gives me a better understanding about the country and their kitchen. I always arrive in a big city and there is no way I am going to figure out everything by myself. So when I am having my first easy day, I read about all the things I want to see in the city and how to get there. Some cities are too big to just wander around so it is better if you know where things are so you can see what you want.
After this, I use it sometimes to read about my next destination but I take advice from other travelers too. Actually, I value the last one much more. Travel guides are not always up to date. Temples will not be going anywhere but restaurants and hotels change all the time. One time in Georgetown – Malaysia for example, I was looking for a budget hostel. The first one in Lonely Planet was turned into a fancy hotel, the second one was closed and the third one as well. I gave up one the guide and started asking around. I ended up in a great new hostel and actually the best dorm I have ever slept in.
To wrap things up, I think travel guides can be very useful but keep an open mind as well. Some things I would have never found without them, some things I would have never found with them. But in the end, it is all up to you of course and how you like to travel.
Watch out for scams
The main thing locals want from you while you are traveling is your money. Most people try to earn their money in a honest way but there are people who want to trick you as well. Scams, you have them in all sizes and if you are not careful, you can lose money or time. In richer countries you will not see it often but in Asia for example you have to be alert on this item. You have the tuk tuk scam (happened to me) in Bangkok for example, where they offer you a tour to some temples, to the station and a tourist office for cheap, so you get to know the city. It sounds appealing and they even show a card as a proof that they are honest but this is fake. You will end up losing half of your day visiting tourist agencies where they try to sell you expensive tours and all kinds of places where you do not want to go. The driver gets free gas in this case.
Like this, there are many different scams and they mostly happen in the tourist areas. If you go outside these areas where they have even less money, they learned to live without and they do not care so much. In the tourist areas are very smooth talkers and they lie and deceive and try to get your attention all the time. It can be exhausting after a while so I created a rule. It sounds a bit rude but I just ignore everyone who wants something from me. If I want something I will look for it myself but I never let myself being talked into anything.
So be alert when people approach you and when you have a bad feeling about it, you can just walk away. You do not owe the person anything. Be always very clear on where you want to pay for and how much. If you want to buy something, ask around for prices first to get an idea about how much it cost. Do not always believe what local people tell you. Some people really want to help you but some people want to earn money on you as well. You never know and sometimes it is better to figure things out by yourself. Read about scams in travel guides. Lonely planet for example always has a ‘dangers and annoyances’ sections where they tell you about these things. It does not really have to be a big issue in the end, just use your common sense.
Take plenty of rest
Traveling is really excited. You are on a big adventure, discovering all kind of new things, getting a lot of impressions and it is all a lot of fun. You want to see as many things as possible and most of the time you are busy visiting buildings, making hikes, trying food in different places or traveling to another city. Sometimes you are traveling on a tight schedule but it is so important to take your rest as well. Like I told you in my previous 5 tips, take it easy for the first few days but also, take your rest once in a while when you are on the road.
Traveling can be exhausting too. You had a long bus ride for example or your last dorms were noisy and you did not sleep well. All those new impressions and uncertainties can be tiring as well and If you add everything up, it is better to take some rest. If you are tired it is harder to enjoy things and you become more vulnerable for making the wrong decisions.
So from time to time I take my rest and preferably at the beach. I will stay there for a couple of days and give myself the time to relax. I eat, read and walk on the beach so I can clear my head and build up my energy level again. Mostly after a week I feel good to go again and excited about my next destination.
Do not be afraid to ask questions
When I am traveling I am always able to give advice to other travelers because I ask a lot of questions too. And I often ask things twice or more to other people so I know what to believe. Locals can he really helpful sometimes. When we were looking on the map in India, people helped us without asking. But in the same India when you ask something and they do not know, they just want to be polite and send you in a direction, even if it is the wrong one. Some locals want to earn money on you and they lie so that is why I ask questions a couple of times. If I hear the same answer more often I know it is true.
The backpackers community is very friendly and always willing to help. They can provide you with great tips and all you have to do is ask. When I was in Bangkok for the first time, I wanted to travel north. Travel agencies tried so sell me expensive trips which I did not want and it seemed impossible to get some honest information. I got so tired of it and eventually I asked it to a random backpacker on the street. He was already traveling for 10 months and just told me what I had to do. He brought me to a honest agency and I had a cheap ticked in no time. What took me half a day without success, he did in 10 minutes. So always ask around. No questions are stupid and everyone is willing to help.
Of course there are a lot more tips for traveling and I want to ask you if you know any good ones? So if you have any tips, please leave them in the comment section and help me and others with your advice.