Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Just Another 20 Travel Tips

Ada in Montenegro. 

There are some things you should never forget when travelling. I have discovered most of these the hard way. By screwing up myself. Through travels to 198 countries.

1. Download maps in advance
Before you travel, download the maps to your smartphone. This will usually save you a lot of money in roaming charges, especially if you travel to a new continent. The GPS in your phone doesn't cost anything to use, but to download maps will if you have to pay for data traffic. You can alternatively find a Wi-Fi spot after arriving, but don't count on them being available for free in or near the airport, the train station or at the bus stop. Even if you find a spot, it will delay you when you should rather spend time exploring a new gem of a place. 

2. Scout out your transport options
Find out your options on how to get from your point of arrival. You may want to just take a taxi, but you should then know what it should set you back. There are unfortunately a lot of price elastic friendly taxi drivers in many countries, and their prices never flex the right way. There are 11 reasons why I usually travel by public transport when I can. Still insisting on going by taxi? Don't forget this.

3. Make a note of the exchange rate
Find out what the exchange rate is before you go. How else are you supposed to haggle?

4. Bring cash
You know the phrase. Cash is still king, never forget. Norway may be the odd exception, Zambia, Panama and Tuvalu certainly are not. The latter out of those do not even except any credit or debit cards. US dollars will still create the biggest smiles in most countries, although Euros are not too bad in countries with a European colonial past.

5. Split your cash
You will sometimes become involved in nasty situations. A policeman, someone who poses like one or other scam artists may for instance demand money. Have most of your money in one safe pocket or purse, but always keep small notes in another pocket for use in such situations. You can then empty that pocket and lose only the small notes that are there.

6. Never show off stacks of cash or valuables
Common sense, ain't it?

7. Print out tickets, schedule and contact details
Some countries will not even let you into their country without a printed return ticket, while certain airports won't let you enter without your itinerary on paper. And you will always need the address of your hotel or final destination. You do of course have it all on your tablet, smartphone or laptop, but flashing any of the above gadgets attract unwanted interest like your sweat attract flies when hiking a mountain. And don't expect to pay less than normal to the taxi driver after having shown him a tablet that costs more than he makes in a year. Not to mention limited charging options in many countries around the world. Paper is king, especially in countries less travelled. 

8. Remember the right adapter
Not much is as annoying as not being able to recharge your favourite gadget. Often the only thing between you and a refreshingly green battery indicator and a new bragging photo on Instagram is that tiny adapter. And do not assume that the country you are going to has the same sockets or plugs as you do. Britain, the US, Switzerland, Israel, China, South Africa and most of Oceania have screwed up systems. To name a few places. The power plug is actually probably one of the few things the French got right. Said the Norwegian. 

9. Backup everything
Do not under any circumstances bring the draft of your groundbreaking genre changing novel, major thesis, proof of a mathematical problem or the newly developed cancer cure without a backup at home. Or better still, in the internet cloud. By using Dropbox, Google Drive or similar, you will always have all documents where you need them. Sort of. Given that there is an internet connection where you end up. And that you have power on your device. If you do not have a backup, your computer is likely to be stolen. Murphy said. 

10. Use guidebooks to find out where not to go
I hate guidebooks because they tend to influence people into seeing exactly the same things, often even in the same order. That means that service will get worse, prices will go up and you will be surrounded by other tourists. If that is what you are looking for, use guidebooks the way they are intended. If not, use guidebooks to find out where not to go.

11. Dare be impulsive, plan as little as possible
The more plans you make, the fewer of them you get to complete. Dare to accept possibilities for trying something new, getting to know someone new, tasting something new or to take part in activities you had not planned or didn't even know existed. Having to follow a schedule even when I am on holiday is so not my idea of relaxing. It is also the reason why I shy tour guides like the plague. Even in North Korea, where you are required to have two guides by your side at all times I managed to find a loophole to legally get to explore on my own. Planning ruins the best thing about travelling; the surprises and the unknown you could never plan for anyway.

12. Eat local food
Seriously! You didn't go all the way to Asia to eat western junk? And worms are tasty too! At least they give you a slightly more special story to tell at home than one that involves the words big and mac.

13. Decide on who's boss
If you travel with someone you can never agree on stuff with, let each of you be boss one day at a time. For fun, give the boss a hat, a scarf, a ring or a horrible pink shirt. The boss will have limited powers, but should be able to pick restaurants, activities, which droute to take and other major minor details. The other(s) should still be able to veto in extreme situations if they really are not comfortable with the boss' decision.

14. Be humble
Yeah, I know you are a rich kid from New York, Paris or Seoul. Does that make you cooler than me? Think about it, would you act nicely against a stuck up prick? Toning down any arrogance will always be wise. There is a possible exception if you find yourself being conned.

15. Travel with hand luggage only
It is more flexible and relaxed and you will never have to take a specific big taxi or be banned from a metro or a bus because of too bulky luggage. To travel light gives you more control over the travel experience. And 8 other reasons.

16. Go to unusual spots
I find it intriguing that you enjoy standing in queues on your holiday. Or why else do you always travel to places where everyone else goes at just that time of year? Inspiration here.

17. Trawl the web for cheap tickets
There are many ways to help you find cheaper tickets. Some tips here.

18. Dress smart
That will get you better service. And suit jackets usually come with inner pockets which are great for keeping your passport, tickets and other valuables safe.

19. Always carry a pen
A pen can be a great friend when travelling as you will far too often have to fill out some sort of a form when for example crossing a border. Not having a pen can see you fall way behind in the passport control or custom line, as you will have to wait to boorow one. And do not expect to be allowed to do so from one from the passport officers. They will not happily wait for you or accept that you hold up the queue.

20. Show no fear
You may be nervous or even outright afraid sometimes if you are lost or find yourself in a dodgy neighbourhood. Do in that case try to not show that you are scared, but put on a determined face and walk straight to a point you can see, such as the next street corner, a shop or a taxi. People who are clearly lost or afraid make easy and attractive targets for criminals. Unfortunately.


  1. Good tips all around, but: What offline maps do you recommend. A search on Google shows too many alternatives, and like your guide books, one shouldn't always do what your guide book tells you, i. e. get the one with the most stars.

    1. Hi Geir,

      I usually find that buffering up Google maps for the area or city you are going to works just fine.

    2. CityMaps2Go is a great app that allows you to save offline maps of almost anywhere, it has really helped us a lot.

  2. I found a way to protect my valuables while traveling, while maintaining privacy and security. It is a global lost and found service that I found online at My Stuff Lost and Found, but it is available from other sources as well. Your lost valuable finds you via text and email. Pretty cool if you lose your passport in Rome and you are headed for Germany in 48 hours.

  3. I have never managed to travel with hand luggage only... And doing ok anyway ;)
    For the rest of them: Great tips I totally agree on!

    I love your blog!

  4. Indeed, back up of all that data, maps and bills is very important so always use drop box or sky drive to avid any sort of mishappening. Also remind that if you are traveling to a country side hiring a car is always a better option to enjoy the scenic beauty and landscapes.

  5. Great work. As a general rule, how long does a person need to travel substantial distances? For example, if someone living in Los Angeles only had one week to travel could he still visit a country in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa, or are there some destinations where you just need more time?

  6. Hi Max,

    Leave on i.e. Turkish Airlines' direct LAX-IST flight after work on Friday, return Sunday a week later and you will have a full week plus a weekend. That gives plenty of time to visit Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I would still recommend to stay longer at each place, but it certainly is possible...

  7. Offline maps: OffMaps 2 (I use it on my iPhone) The best stuff tried in many occasions. This is not an ad, but a true traveler experience.

  8. Great travel tips. Along with these tips, visiting to the travel clinic doctors is important in order to lead a pleasant travel to reduce the risk factor of viral diseases in the destination region.

  9. All are great indications, I would like to add the importance of online travel website these days. How to search the quality one and features of a great service provider is really a challenging issue. Especially I have observed my organizations are running their business through website. A typical example would be the limousine industry in the United States. Where every second limo service provider market their business through online. Here comes the quality.

  10. Man, congratulations to your trips! That wowed me, seriously! I know many think of doing the things you did on traveling, but it takes one to actually do it. Anyways, I just want to ask if traveling is pure hobby for you. Do you still consider business trips as part of the travels that you do for the 198 countries?

    1. Hi Richard,

      I have travelled a lot on business, to almost 30 countries. But I have been to all 198 countries on holiday as well. So hobby is definitely a hobby, although sometimes it can be work too.

      I can't complain, really. Being able to combine is fantastic, I would have been jealous :)

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  12. The last advice is the most important.

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  14. Nice. Two questions for you.

    Four of your tips refer to the advantages and also the limitations of electronic devices (e.g. need for paper copies). I don't yet have a smart phone/tablet/etc... Would you, could you, or should you travel without them?

    I thought that learning some key words in the local language would have been a tip. How key is this?

  15. I have to visit various places during my business time or each and every place gives me a new experience...These tips are so helpful for me during my trip..I'll also share this post with my friends..!!

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  17. if you are traveling to a country side hiring a car is always a better option to enjoy the scenic beauty and landscapes. Cuba Forum

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  22. Appreciative information these all 20 tips can make your travel more joyful for you. I want and some thing in this list. When you need travel local or one city to an other city try to use local bus transport. It will show you real beauty and peoples of there.

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  31. Thanks a lot man for your travel tips its really a great source of help for us .I like your blog so much because some of the tips you discussed I don,t know before checking this blog.So i,m really thank full to you.Nice work done on this blog .I like it so much.