Having been exploring the world for many years now, we have discovered a few things that have helped us along the way. Here we share some tips that we have incorporated into both our travel preparations and life on the road:
On your travels you may be climbing mountains, cycling around ancient ruins or hiking on desert trails. You don’t know what opportunities may come up, but when they do you want to be fit enough to take on the challenge. It makes sense to prepare… hiking, biking, running, yoga, whatever you enjoy. Eat healthily – once you get on the road there is no guarantee you will have access to nutritious food all the time, but at least you can start your trip feeling the optimum of fitness and health!
Get Rid of your Stuff
Minimise! You won’t need to take much with you, so get rid of all the excess you can. When you are on the road, you realise how little you actually need, and if you are planning on travelling for a while there is little point in keeping lots of stuff in storage. Selling your stuff not only simplifies your life, but provides the vital cash you need for your travels. For us, a big part of travel is living an uncluttered, un-materialistic lifestyle – the freedom to pack your bag and hit the road at a moment’s notice!
Learn the Lingo
Depending on where you’re going, learning a little of the language of the country you are headed to is a sound idea, sometimes a necessity. There are a wealth of methods out there to choose from. Duolingo is an online app which makes learning easy and fun. If however, you just need a few essential words, there are many short courses that will allow you to do learn the basics. Even if you only know a few words, the locals will appreciate it if you make an effort to communicate in their language.
Do Some Research
Some travellers enjoy the planning stage of a trip as much as the trip itself. Others prefer the spontaneity of travelling without a plan. Whatever you prefer, the time leading up to the trip should be an exciting time, full of anticipation for the impending adventure. It does however, make sense to at least do a little research.
An example of when we were pleased that we had done some research was at the Thai-Cambodian border, when we foiled a regularly practised scam. Luckily, we had read about it previously and we were ready to deal with it when it happened and consequently weren’t ripped off. Although the ‘free and easy, travel without a guidebook’ philosophy is an idealistic way to go, sometimes it does pay to be a little informed.
Work out a Budget
Working out a budget for your trip is essential. A daily expenses budget will hopefully ensure that you will have enough cash to travel for the period of time that you want to. Additionally, a small (or large!) nest egg to come back to is a good idea.
Have a Party!
Not really a tip, but leaving to go on a trip is a great excuse to throw a party! Celebrating your escape from the rat-race to set off on on an adventure is a great way to say goodbye to your friends and family. We have certainly had more than our fare of farewell parties!
Random On-the-Road Tips
Take some Zip-lock Bags
Take a few zip-lock bags – they are excellent for keeping bus trip/hiking snacks fresh. You can also use them to keep passports/documents or electrical items dry.
Keep a Journal or Start a Blog
Keep a journal or maybe start a blog. Photo’s are great, but only capture a moment – you will forget a lot if you don’t write about your travel experiences. A few years down the line you will be glad you did. Blogging is also an ideal way to keep family and friends up to date with your journey.
Prepare for Power Cuts
Take a head torch. They are essential for camping and also useful in countries where power cuts are common. Alternatively, a phone which has a flashlight will suffice.
Watch out for Scams
Be aware of scams! Check out the scene before you travel – different destinations are notorious for their own unique scams, so be ahead of the game. These guys are good at what they do! India, particularly, is known for its scams and we can vouch for it! Be particularly careful when arriving at major airports – if possible, arrange for your hotel to collect you.
Before you get into an un-metered taxi or tuk tuk, pre-arrange the fare. Also ensure that the price includes all passengers! We have experienced a full range of scams when it comes to taxi drivers and still get caught out with a new one every now and again!
Be cautious if approached in the street for no apparent reason. It’s sad that this attitude has to be taken as on occasion locals are merely being friendly. Scammers often put a lot of effort into befriending you and winning your trust before going in for the kill!
Wrap up for Bus Trips
Make sure that you take a fleece or sweater on bus trips – sometimes the air conditioning is set high and it can be very cold! Even better if it has a hood which adds more warmth and can block out light. Feeling cold can be especially unpleasant on overnight buses when it can feel like you are travelling in a fridge!
Passports and Documents
Keep a copy of your passport somewhere separate in case of loss or theft. Also, keep a photograph of it on your phone or laptop. This goes for any important documents your are carrying.
In India and Nepal, you can buy small sachets of washing powder for around two rupees each. Very convenient for travelling light and on-the-road laundering! Also, pack a lightweight bag for laundry.
Get Up Early!
We have a tendency to rise early when we are travelling and there are lots of benefits! The foremost advantage is that we arrive early at popular attractions such as museums, palaces, castles and galleries. This means that we often get the place to ourselves for a while before the bus tours arrive! It’s also sometimes nice to explore a city early in the morning just as it’s waking up. Additionally, there’s the appeal of quiet beaches and hiking trails…
Take a Spare Camera Battery
The last thing you want when you are travelling is to be in a beautiful place and not be able to take photographs. Packing a spare camera battery in your camera case will ensure that you never get caught out – even if you forget to charge your original battery.
We always take a mini packet of playing cards with us. It’s a great way to pass the time whether you are waiting for a flight or spending an evening at your hotel or guest house.
Pack some Alcoholic Gel
Even pre-pandemic, taking along some alcoholic gel was a good idea. It’s especially useful for camping, but also for general use when travelling.
Write Down the Name of your Hotel, Hostel or Guest House
It’s easy to get lost when you are in a strange new city. Consequently, it’s not a bad idea to either write down the address of your accomodation or keep one of their business cards on you. If you have to take a taxi back, at least you have an address!
Additionally, when we arrive in a new city, we usually have the address of our accomodation written down on a piece of paper ready to give to the taxi driver. It can save hassle and misunderstanding, especially if you don’t speak the local language.
Try and Book Accomodation with Free Wi-Fi
If you anticipate using wi-fi for long periods of time, ensure that your hotel or guest house offers free internet. Most places do these days, but we have occasionally been caught out when we have stayed in mid-price hotels. Some of them offer free internet for half an hour and then charge quite heavily.
Don’t Get Hungry on Long Train and Bus Journeys
Take snacks along for long bus/train rides. Sometimes, it’s easy to buy food en route, but on other occasions, it’s best to be prepared. For example, the three day Trans Mongolian Express isn’t renowned for its food.
Stock up on Sachets
Before we go on a trip, we try to collect small sachets of black pepper, ketchup or soya sauce. They are easy to carry and can spice up the blandest of foods.
A Mugger’s Stash
If you are are travelling somewhere that is known to be a little edgy, it’s not a bad idea to keep a small amount of mugger’s money to hand. This should be kept separately to your main stash. $50.00 or so should do the trick in the unlikely event of a ‘situation’.
Take your own Supply of Toilet Paper
In Asia, toilet roll is a rarity, so keep some with you. The other alternative is to adopt the Asian method of washing. If you feel more comfortable using toilet paper, make sure you don’t put it down the toilet, as the systems can’t take it.
Download Chapters of Guidebooks onto your Kindle
To save carrying a heavy guidebook with you, download the chapters that you will need onto your Kindle.
Don’t Forget to Take Water when you go for a Walk
Take water with you when you go for a walk, even if you don’t intend to venture far. This is especially relevant in hot climates – it’s surprising how soon you can become dehydrated. It’s rather obvious, but we have been caught out more times than we like to admit!
Take a Back Up Credit or Debit Card
If you only have one card and it gets stolen, lost, or stuck in an ATM, you are in trouble. Relying on one card isn’t a good idea, so it’s wise to take a back-up card for emergency situations. In addition to our debit cards, we carry a pre-paid Caxton card as a back-up. Also, don’t forget to inform your bank that you will be travelling abroad so that they don’t suspect fraudulent activity.
Don’t Change Money at Airports
Because it’s a captive market, airports never offer a good deal when changing money. If you can, wait until you arrive in the city and use an ATM or money exchange there.
Pack a Foldaway Backpack
A small foldaway backpack is a useful asset, especially if you (like us) carry a day pack as your main luggage. You don’t have to unpack your bag every time you go out – you can just take the essentials with you in your foldaway backpack.
Sometimes travellers find themselves in countries where things are done in a very different way to their own culture. India, for example, is a fine example of organised chaos. You can be told to go to four or five different ticket offices at a railway station before you eventually find yourself at the right one! Staying cool and having a laidback attitude can make the difference between having a great trip and a difficult and frustrating one!
Happy Travels! 😎