Travelling dos and don’ts
I know what you are thinking, more travel advice. I am sure there are many of those on the net and I am willing to bet some points on this list has been said somewhere else. However, for this to be in any way different from the hundreds of others I am sure you have read, I have decided that an article of things to do and not to do abroad is simply not enough.
Having travelled to more countries than I can count off the top of my head, I have seen what different types of people do abroad and I am in a prime position to criticise said behaviours so people don’t make these mistakes over and over again.
First things first…
I know, I know. Seems pretty obvious right? Apparently not in the ways that count. When people travel, it is quite intuitive to plan for accommodation and have an idea of what they want to see. Nevertheless, I find a number of people changing currencies at the airport. Anyone with some knowledge of economics will know that high demand + short supply = shitty prices. Even if you are the type to ‘wing it’, changing some money before travelling will allow you to get to your accommodation without needing extortionate airport rates. It will also give you time to ‘shop’ for a good rate elsewhere.
You might want to check out blogs of people who have been to places you are going to in order to get a general idea of how much things are likely to cost e.g. meals, transportation, entrance fees to attractions. I have personally found this extremely helpful.
To avoid or not to avoid is the question. Sometimes it can be fun to venture into shops that clearly cater to tourists, especially if you want to buy souvenirs. They are usually flashy and colourful with attractive advertisements and knickknacks that will attract you. If you have the money to spend and want the tourist experience then these places are great to visit.
Tourist traps will come in different shapes and sizes. They could be anything from shops, restaurants, or the attractions or places to see themselves!
They are likely to be something native to the place that cannot be experienced at home. A practical example is tuk tuks in Cambodia (can be found in some other Southeast Asian countries). These are best described as the bastard child of a bus and a tricycle and are great fun to try once or twice. You have a bird’s eye view of everything on the road plus a nice breeze. However, if you are on a budget you might not want these to become your main form of transportation.
As far as restaurants are concerned, a similar principle will apply. If you are not on a budget and want a tourist experience then feel free to visit restaurants in the main tourist areas. If not then you might want to shop around to find places with better prices, which will usually be further away from the city central or tourist areas. I personally have found in some countries I have visited, Bangkok for instance, restaurants around tourist areas alter their dishes to suit tourist tastes. A general rule I have used is if there are too many people in a restaurant who do not look local then the restaurant is likely to be less authentic and tamer with more ‘fusion’ food. The best places to eat will always be those the locals prefer, as rarely will locals eat in tourist restaurants.
Experience the culture
This is something I simply cannot emphasise enough and is where many people tend to err when travelling to a different country.
So how do you experience the local culture you ask? If you want a real experience, the best way is to speak to the locals. They will tell you where the real attractions are, the best places to eat and how things are done generally. Online recommendations can only go so far and will mostly focus on mainstream tourist areas.
A lot of the time what I see when I travel is that people unconsciously (or otherwise) tend to want to find other people from their country or area that happen to be travelling. I understand that it is human psychology to want to be around like-minded people. It would be extremely easy to go to a new country and do all the things you are familiar with, hit up the Hard Rock Café or other expat areas where you are likely to find people like you, but what would be the point of that? It would defeat the entire purpose of travelling in the first place. If you wanted to find people from your local area or country, you could have stayed back home where they are in abundance.
Some people return from a foreign country and do not really know anything about the people, the culture, their values, et cetera. A good tip is to try pick up a few phrases in the local language, if you do not speak it and try strike up conversations with the people. You might be surprised at what they have to say.
Different people are likely to travel for different reasons but whatever the reasons are, they need to be realistic. Travelling can be a tremendously eye-opening experience that will broaden your perspective on a lot of things and expose you to different places and customs around the globe. Though there are some key things you have to keep in mind.
You are essentially going to a place that is likely to be completely different to what you are used to. What is normal to you might be different or even the complete opposite in your place of travel, so you will have to be open-minded or planning on becoming so. This might seem obvious, but in practice it is not quite so easy to accept; not many people are truly willing to go out of their comfort zone. If you are one of these people, travelling abroad might not be the best option and you might want to consider regional travel first.
Like any other place in the world whatever location you are planning to visit will have its picture perfect views and its not so post-card worthy ones. This is something to keep in mind or you might end up disappointed.
Finally, as we all know travel is highly romanticised in many western cultures. There is the common trend of travelling to ‘find yourself’, to look for a deep spiritual connection you were missing back home. In all my travels I have never encountered such eureka moments. Don’t get me wrong travelling is incredible, but it is not a quick fix for not knowing what you want to do with your life. You will be the same person who left with just a bit more life experience under your belt, nothing more, nothing less.
In the end, travelling is more about discovering a new place and enjoying the company you are travelling with. If you start off with this mindset and are aware of all the points covered in this article, you will most likely be able to make the most of your travels and have an absolute blast while doing it.