Like the rest of the masses who have had their passport stamped in various locations, I’m always super keen to pass on what I’ve learnt from my own experiences. In this post I’m going to focus on tips I think are beneficial to beginners- those who are just getting ready to explore the world. These tips will be for what to do before you step on that plane, train, boat, coach etc. I think these are useful preparations to assist in ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip. Although it’s a fun, romantic idea to imagine randomly turning up at an airport and picking the first flight available, it is (generally) better to be at least slightly organised.
1. Start Small
By this I mean if you’ve never left your home country, it will be a complete culture shock if you decide to head to the other side of the world. Even the most adventurous can feel a little overwhelmed at times, this is completely natural. It is equally important if you’ve only experienced family holidays or similar- travelling solo or just with friends is a completely different experience in which you are much more self reliant. My first ‘travel experience’ was from London to Paris, which was great to build self-confidence for future adventures. So, for example, if you live in Europe it may be best to visit another European country, as it is close to home and you can embrace cultural similarities, as well as the differences.
Also it can be helpful to visit popular touristic cities, Paris being an example. The locals will be used to helping lost and confused tourists, and it will be easier to find someone who speaks your language, particularly in hotels and hostels. With large touristic businesses in these cities, they are more accommodated in helping you enjoy your visit.
2. Research Beforehand
Although a traveller might recoil at the thought of using a guidebook, they are really useful to own. With them you have easy access to a knowledge of the best places to visit, tips on embracing the local culture, and useful phrases to communicate with. The internet is also brilliant for finding out everything you need to know: reviews, off-beat attractions, and where to stay. Without a background knowledge of the place you wish to visit, you might end up missing out on something amazing. And researching can increase your enthusiasm for visiting a place once you learn more about its history etc. Also, ask other people. When I went to Budapest, for the best bars and places to visit I asked a Hungarian university colleague, a Hungarian I met in a bar, and someone through twitter who had previously been. People are always happy to share their tips, and sometimes they know the perfect places. My Dad recommended to me the best toilets to visit in Bratislava. Worth it? Yes.
3. Budget Wisely
It’s always best to avoid using your credit/debit card as much as possible when abroad. Use cash, but hide it securely. In my previous post about Paris, I mentioned running out of money, which is a nightmare. For big cities, a larger daily budget is needed than in smaller cities, or those with less annual tourist visitors. Because you will tend to eat in restaurants daily, visit museums and galleries, and buy souvenirs, you can end up spending more than you realise. For places such as Paris or Rome, I find 50 euros a day sufficient for me, but those with larger incomes (poor student problems), or who wish to have more luxury when travelling may spend more. And those who are more thrifty than I, or don’t feel the need to buy gifts for all of their family, friends, partners and next doors dog, can get away with less.
4. Have an Ideal Travel Companion
Unless you are travelling solo, then this won’t apply to you. Spending 24/7 with someone for the entire trip can either be heaps of fun, or hell on earth. Everybody has friends they can’t spend more than a few hours with, and those who they could live with (and sometimes do). It is important to think carefully about who you could travel with without wanting to rip each others hair out by the end. You will have to rely on that person a lot: maybe they’ll have to hold your hair back whilst you’re vomiting the local drink (lovely), or they have a knowledge of the local language. Travelling will give you amazing memories: you will want to share those with someone you adore.
5. Plan what you’ll Pack
Check the forecast, the climate, what activities you’ll be doing and pack accordingly. Bring sensible footwear, and some kind of camera to record those spectacular sights for future cherishing. Have a list of personal essentials you couldn’t live without wherever you are: for me it involves contact lenses, eyeliner, lipstick, and a fetching hat. Try not to forget toiletries, adapters or underwear, but they can be bought quite easily. If you’re travelling with someone you can arrange to share luggage and/or items e.g. shampoo, hairbrush, even clothes. If it helps, write a list and only tick something off once it’s packed.
5. Have Important Info at Hand
This is for when you arrive at the airport or wherever. As a girl, I like to keep my boarding passes, tickets, and passport in my handbag rather than my hand luggage (or sometimes the front pocket). Don’t have it so easy at hand you might lose it, but it’s quite reassuring to know you can check the boarding gate/time for the millionth time without hassle. In times you might need to ask for help, it’s good to have this info at hand to refer to. And when you arrive at your destination, it’s useful to have directions/addresses/money within your own easy reach.
Travelling is the best: you learn so much more about the world experiencing it first hand rather than through TV, film or a book. It broadens your horizons without you even realising, and you’re always guaranteed to have a great story to tell again and again.