When we travel we learn things from country to country, tricks of the trade so to speak so I thought I’d share a few that I have managed to pick up along the way:
1) You cross a border and have no idea about how expensive/cheap the country is going to be. Don’t jump in a taxi and get ripped off, jump in a newsagents, 7/11, street vendor and buy a can of coke. Relate that back the country you’ve just come from and it’ll give you a quick idea of what to expect. If it’s a similar price so the taxi price should be similar too (*also works well with McDonalds AND that gives you an excuse to eat fast food in a foreign country without feeling guilty, all in the name of research thank you very much)
2) You know you are getting value for money on long distance trains or buses if the ratio of hours spent traveling to USD spent is 1:1. For example 10 hours in a bus for $10 is a good deal almost regardless of where you are. I would go as far as 1:2 but beyond that and you should start looking for alternatives (Europe, ANZ and North America excluded of course)
3) Eating on the street is normally fine (regardless of what your guidebook says) if there is a crowd of people eating it to. Never eat food from a street vendor if they are no locals doing the same.
4) Check out time from your hostel is too early and you need another hour or two. Just before it’s time to check out, go and talk to the person on the counter, explain to them you know when the check-out time is but you’re running a little late and you’re sorry, you should be downstairs in 20 minutes or so. That WILL buy you at least an hour, probably 2.
5) First time travelers often believe that traveling by bus/train overnight is great because it saves you $5 – $10 on accommodation. I do agree with this but with stipulations, it saves you money and of course that’s great but at what ultimate ‘cost’. If you travel over night, save your $5 and then sleep all day in your new destination, you’ve lost a day of your travels for $5. So calculate what you’re saving and ask whether, when you go home, would you pay another $5 to have had an extra day on your trip? I think you know the answer.
6) Changing money before you get to a new country is pointless aside from a couple of exceptions (you’re getting rid of a currency you’ll never need again, you’re going to a country with no ATMS – Sudan, Somalia but this is rare). You’re flying to Vietnam, don’t bring Dong with you, nor Baht to Thailand, Yen to Japan or Real to Brazil. Simply use the ATM in the airport and save yourself the time and hassle.
7) Understand the visa situation of the countries you want to go to on your trip. I’m no planner, not by a long shot, but I’ll always know if I need a visa before I hit the border. You don’t want to turn up to the Chinese/Russian/Bangldeshi border to get told to climb back under the rock you came from (it happens!).
Ok guys if I think of more as I continue to meander around the world I’l update it. Please add any more you can think of in the comments below. Good luck and happy travels! J