Tips That I've Picked Up Along The Way...
Having a bit of traveling experience under my belt has helped me learn a few things along the way. While this will be an ever-growing
list (many tips will come after fumbles along the way), here are a few things for starters...
- Always back memory cards up on CDs (especially when traveling for a while). When having places do this, make sure to have
them review it with you to see that the pictures made it onto the CDs.
- Never fall into the trap of trying to exchange money for a person. They will divert your eyes somewhere else and...bam!...they
have just snatched some of your money!
- Check to see if there are any holidays before you arrive. For example, traveling during Ramadan changes things a bit. Good to
know this before you arrive.
- When giving cab fare, tell the driver how much you are handing him. We got scammed when the driver switched out the 20 we
gave with a 2 and insisted that we handed him a 2. He seriously did this in the matter of 2 seconds. They're good.
- Some of the most useful things I brought with me have been: earplugs (for buses, dorm rooms in hostels, etc.), a hat (seriously
makes a person so much less hot when it is boiling outside), a book (always necessary to have with you in case of delays, etc.),
anti-sting stuff for mosquito bites from REI (takes the itch out of bites in only a few minutes and works for hours!), aspirin/Advil
(it is horrible having to deal with a headache while traveling).
- Take a few business cards from the hotel/hostel you are staying at. You might think that you won't need them but it pays off to
have them. Whether you are walking or taking a taxi, it is good to have the address with you in case you forget it or a taxi driver
has never heard of the name of the hotel/hostel you are staying at. This is extremely important in Asian and Middle Eastern
countries where things are in different characters and they have absolutely no idea what 'letters' mean.
- I believe in the 'counting system'. When I am leaving to catch a flight, bus, train or cab, I count how many items I am carrying
with me. Then when I exit the plane, train, bus or cab, I count the number of bags I have with me. This is a surefire way not to
forget something. And it saves you from feeling like you need to recheck things ten times as you know you aren't forgetting
something if you leave with the same number that you arrived with.
- Third World Toilets: First of all, don't expect toilet paper. Their plumbing isn't equipped for it. In Asian countries there are
usually waste bins in the bathroom stalls to discard the toilet paper (that you, of course, are providing for yourself). There are
buckets with water faucets in the stalls. Run the water and take the small bucket and use that water to 'flush' the toilet.
- Always to try to snag a few little towel wipes from airplanes that you are on. These come in very handy when dealing with the
- When sending things home the economy way from many countries, always just assume that you won't ever see the items again. I
learned this the hard way as my sister never received my packages from South Africa or India. Try your best to never have to send
CDs of your pictures home. If you need to send them, send them home using a very reliable route.
- Have taxis turn on their meters. Nine times out of ten you will get a better rate. In cities with taxis that do not have meters,
always negotiate the price before getting in. In that case, don't ask them how much it is to go to a certain place. Tell them what
you will pay to go to the place.
- When bringing cash, bring new bills (i.e. the ones with holograms). I brought some $100 bills and $50 bills with me to Africa
because I heard they accepted U.S. Dollars. But they wouldn't accept the ones I had because they were they were the old-style
$50s and $100s. Their bureaus wouldn't take those in fear that they were counterfeit.
- Make sure your PIN code for ATM machines and credit cards are four digits. If you need to, change your PIN before you leave so
that you can use the machines while you're overseas.
- Check to see what ATM codes (i.e. Cirrus, Star, etc.) are on the back of your card. There will be times that your card doesn't work
and it's because they don't accept the type of card you have. We take it for granted that we can use just about any ATM in the U.S.
Most of the time, it will just be a matter of walking around for a little while to find one that will work with your card.
- Lots of places offer breakfast with the price of your room. Take some of the packaged crackers or put a few rolls in a napkin so
that you have a snack later on while you're walking around.
- Set your alarm to wake up early. Especially in a big city. There's nothing cooler than seeing some of the major sites when not one
other person is around. Then find a cool spot to watch the sunrise. (I know it can be painful to wake up early. Don't do it
everyday. But I think it's extremely rewarding when in an extremely touristy place.)
- Always try to start conversations with locals in their native language...even if you only know the word for 'hello'. Try not to be
- When you first get into a country, try to find out the approximate exchange rate for the dollar. You don't necessarily have to
exchange money at the airport, but check out the screen to see what a dollar is going for in the local currency. It's good to have a
rough idea before you head out into town. Otherwise, you will have no concept of how much a meal is costing you or how much
you are spending on other expenditures.
- If there is a huge line and you just don't want to sacrifice two hours of your time to see a museum, try going towards the front of
the line. Tell a person that you will pay for their tickets if you can get in line with them. (This worked when we went to the
- If you're just planning on staying in a place for the day and then taking the train out, be sure to find out the time that the last
train leaves. Sometimes it's much earlier than you would think. This can prevent you from having to sleep at a train station.
- Walk instead of taking the metro/subway everywhere. You see far more of the city this way.
- If I could go back in time, I would have collected a little trinkety something from each place I went to (this can even be something
as small as a postcard). My mom did this and collected little charms. I still have them and look at the places that she went to
when she toured Europe after she finished college. I don't have anything that represents each place I've visited. I would
recommend that others do this...especially if they're just about to begin a big trip.
- Pack light!!! (This is something that you will for sure learn after the fact. Nobody ever listens to this suggestion until they
experience what it's like lugging a huge suitcase on and off every train they take.)
- Buy food at grocery stores and go to a great location and make your own picnic. This is cheap and offers great scenery.
- If you want to bring home wine from a place, pick it up at a grocery store. Many times they have the same brands for a fraction of
the price (e.g. I got a 1997 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany at a grocery store for $26).
- Don't plan on doing much on Sundays in Europe. Just assume everything is going to be closed. Use this day to do leisurely
things in small towns or things such as museums in bigger cities. Just don't plan to do your shopping!
- Always take a business card from the hotel that you're staying at before heading out on the town. This is especially important in
countries where you don't speak their language but also countries that don't use the Roman alphabet.
- Bring ziploc bags. They come in handy for random things.
- I've learned that for long trips it is great to have dryer sheets in your bag so that your clothes can smell semi-nice.
- A lot of public bathrooms don't supply toilet paper. Try to always carry tissue of some sort with you. (And for that matter, anti-
bacterial wipes, too.)
- I find it very useful to always have band-aids and aspirin on hand. Nothing is worse than a newly formed blister or a headache
that doesn't go away on its own.
- Always carry your passport on you when you're taking a daytrip. Even if it's a really small one. When we went to the Dead Sea,
there was a checkpoint. I was lucky and they let me through but it definitely caused an increased heart rate for a minute or so.
You still need to have it even if you aren't going across to a different country.
- When you see a sign for a 'W.C.', that is the equivalent to a toilet. It stands for 'Wash Cabin'.