Best Travel Advice (Part One)

It never fails, once you tell people about your plans to travel, you will be offered a myriad of advice, tips, and recommendations on what to do and what not to do. Some are good advice, and some are bad; some tried and tested, others fallacy at best.  Here are some of the best ones I’ve received and tried out for myself.

  • When looking for a good cheap place for to eat, go where the locals go. They know where all the hidden gems are at, can give you recommendations on what to try (and even how to eat it correctly), as well as tell you what exactly it is you’re eating.
grilled squids at Lokanda Peskarija, recommended by the B&B owner in Dubrovnik, HR
grilled squids at Lokanda Peskarija, recommended by the B&B owner in Dubrovnik, HR
  • When traveling to a country with a different form of writing, have your hotel’s business card with you all the time. You can use this to show cab drivers or the people you’re asking directions from, the exact address of where you need to go. Also, spell out phonetically the hotel’s name and address and write it at the back of the card.
  • Learn a few phrases of the local language.  You’ll be amazed at how much friendlier people are, and how much more willing they are to help you if ask them politely in their language. Even simple phrases like “good day”, “please”, “thank you”, and “nice to meet you”  in the local language can go a long way in making your trip an amazing experience.
Lonely Planet Phrasebooks are a godsend for quick language lessons
Lonely Planet Phrasebooks are a godsend for quick language lessons
  • Always bring a pair of flip flops. In hostels, they are absolutely necessary for going to the bathroom or even just hanging out in your room. You never know what germs or cooties your roommates picked up along their travels and brought back with them.
  • Bottled water is your BFF. Yes, it is not environmentally responsible to keep buying them, but they are an absolute necessity unless you want to spend the rest of your trip battling Montezuma’s revenge. Your choice. On a related note, be wary of having ice in your drinks, no matter how fancy or clean the restaurant is. Chances are, the ice came from tap water or a third-party supplier. Err on the side of caution. Same advice goes for salads and unpeeled fruits such as apples.
  • Book your onward trip before leaving the bus/train station when you first arrive if taking the same mode of transport out. This will save you from having to go back to the station in the next day or two to get your tickets, especially if the station is on the other side of the city from where you’re staying. Also, this will guarantee that you can get on the bus/train you want.
The Bratislava train station was on the other side of town from where we stayed..
The Bratislava train station was way way out on the other side of town from where we stayed..
  • Bread, cheese, water, and chocolate bars are your best friends when traveling long distance by bus or train. I define long distance as any trip over 4 hours. Most buses have rest stops every 2 or 3 hours, and these are usually at fully stocked highway oasis so you should be able to buy food and provisions there as well as relieve yourself. Trains on the other hand, are a bit trickier. You generally cannot get off to buy food when the train makes it stops, as these stops are usually just long enough for passengers to disembark and board.

Train stations in Asia or in Eastern Europe usually have vendors come on board the train selling food and other wares. Lucky for you if this is the case, if not, you will be eternally grateful that you picked up some food before boarding. Also remember that even when you have the chance to buy food along the way, you may not have the correct currency anymore and will have no access to an exchange office. That bread is looking good now, isn’t it?

  • Free walking tours are a good way to meet people, get local insight, and get acquainted with a new city. Try to do the tour on your first day so you can get yourself familiar with the city’s layout and history, as well as have some recommendations on where to eat, what to do, and as well as tips on living like a local. The tours are really free but please do tip. Majority of the guides do it because they are really passionate about sharing with you the beauty of their hometown, even if they only earn peanuts doing so.  Here’s a couple of really good ones I went on in Budapest and Bratislava.
Dominika, our intrepid walking tour guide in Bratislava.. She effortlessly commandeered 40 drunk kids and made them interested in Slovakian history
Dominika, our intrepid walking tour guide in Bratislava.. She effortlessly commandeered 40 drunk kids and made them interested in Slovakian history
  • When traveling alone on buses, try to get a seat within a few rows of the driver. Heaven forbid some pervert decides to have fun with you, the driver will be well within earshot of your screaming and will be able to assist you quicker, as oppose to you being on the back of the bus. Also, make sure to book only with a reputable bus company. Your should not be compromise your safety just to save a few bucks.
  • If traveling with a group, do not hesitate to spend some time alone.  It’s fun to travel with family and friends, but you do not have to spend every single second with them. There will be things you want to do or sites you want to see that your companions might not be interested in. Do not deprive yourself of those opportunities just because you feel obligated to be with them 24/7. Set a day or afternoon for you to whatever you want, you’ll be grateful you did.
  • Getting takeaway for dinner and eating it in the hostel common room is a great way to get have a good cheap meal and meet people. The other guests in the hostel are on the same page as you are budget-wise, and will be doing the same thing. Join a table, break bread with strangers, share your meal, have fun. I guarantee you that by dessert, those strangers have will have transformed into your new best friends.

Dorm/hostel mates pooling money together to buy groceries for tonight’s dinner? Join in! Nothing enables strangers to get to know each other better than spending time in the kitchen preparing a meal that you will all then share. Granted, some people may try to act superior and boss you around the kitchen, and some may try to shirk out of helping, but for the most part, people are cool and will help out without any attitude.

With Maya, my Croatian partner in crime in Split
With Maya, my Croatian partner in crime in Split
  • Moleskin is your other BFF. Nothing ruins your day quite like blisters, corns, and calluses. Before your footsies develop any of these evil growths, individually wrap your toes that you know are susceptible to rubbing and chafing. Moleskin usually comes in sheets or rolls, use scissors to cut it to your desired size. Wrapped correctly, the moleskin should stay on for a couple of days even with you showering.

  • Pack light, as light as you can! Try it! You’ll be surprised on how well you can live off very little. Nothing dampers a trip more than severe back pains caused by a grossly overweight backpack. Pack only the essentials that you know you can’t abroad such as your prescription medicine. Believe me when I say you can find anything anywhere in the world. Some items like tampons might be harder to find and you might have to settle for pads, but if you look for it hard enough, you will find it. Don’t wanna waste time looking for stuff? Be adventurous, try the local alternatives, you’ll be surprised at the quality, and you might end up with new favorites. I’ll talk about the delicate art of packing at a later post.
One month in Europe in October, one 38L backpack and still with room for a lot of shopping..
One month in Europe in October, just one 38L backpack and still had room for a lot of shopping..

Got any advice or tips you want you to share, let us know in the comments. Safe and happy travels!!

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