Traveling extensively for the first time is an exciting, and at times, a daunting experience. From avoiding scammers and sampling local cuisine, to being savvy with your cash—here are a few vital tips to ensure you have the experience of a lifetime.
Taking photographs is one of the best ways to capture amazing memories and share them with your friends and family. However, being overly snap happy can mean that you miss out on the experience itself. Be mindful of the moments you capture and don’t prioritize a good Instagram opportunity over an incredible experience—remember that a beautiful sunset will rarely look as good on camera as it does in real life.
Learning how to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in the local language is obviously essential. Impress, or perhaps more likely amuse, the locals by learning a few more complicated phrases of the language of the country you’re visiting, such as how to order a beer or a cup of coffee. Even if you don’t wax lyrical, it’s always fun to learn new skills and you might find it helps you gain a deeper understanding of a country’s culture. Download the Duolingo app for some help.
Make sure you have enough cash to last you your entire trip, and a little bit extra in case you find yourself engaging in a spontaneous bungee jump or a beach excursion. It’s always a good idea to get a Travel Money Card, so that you avoid suffering the charges for using your debit card abroad and can. Also, keep in mind that exchange rates can be complicated. For example, in Bali, you may initially feel like you’ve won the lottery when you’re handed thick wads of cash until you realize that two million Indonesian Rupiah amounts to just over 100 pounds. The converting process can leave you scratching your head over large numbers, which can result in you potentially spending more (or less) than you intended. Bring a calculator if you have to.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Nearly everyone has a story about being conned while traveling abroad, but it’s relatively easy to avoid if you know what to look for. Obviously don’t be mistrustful of everyone you come across, but be sure to apply a certain level of skepticism when encountering extremely friendly locals who want to take you on shopping trips and free rickshaw rides. Thailand is particularly notorious for scamming tourists so make sure you wise up on the most common tricks before visiting.
One really great way to become acquainted with a culture is through work. Whether it’s teaching English in a school in China, or volunteering on a fruit farm in Cambodia—you may find that working is a far more rewarding and inspiring experience than simply hopping from place to place. It’s also a chance to pick up valuable life skills to take home with you and make some friends for life.
Despite the aforementioned tip, speaking to locals can also open up a whole new world and allow you to discover unique and unexplored areas that you won’t find in the guidebooks. Ask around for the best hidden places, restaurants, and make sure to pick the brains of fellow travelers you meet along the way who can give you insider hints on where to head next.
Don’t be afraid to sample mysterious local cuisine. Gaining new and unusual experiences is an important aspect of traveling, and one of the simplest ways of doing this is through food. For example, meals cooked by street vendors in the outskirts of Bangkok are often far superior to the Pad Thai you’ll get in tourist-ridden restaurants along the Khao San Road. If you apply a sense of adventure when it comes to the food you eat, you’ll likely encounter flavors that you never knew existed; both the delicious and the not so delicious variety.
Although it’s not one of the most exciting aspects of traveling, this is incredibly important. You’re probably statistically more likely to get into trouble at home than you are while traveling, however securing decent travel insurance is an essential—it’s always better to be safe than sorry. World Nomads is one of the most reputable and offers various packages for a wide range of adventures—covering everything from sporting injuries to thefts.
It’s always wise to make yourself a vague schedule, but be also be prepared to deviate from it, as some of the best things happen when you apply a little spontaneity whilst traveling. Your plans will likely change depending on who you meet along the way, unexpected weather, and many other factors. Not knowing where you’ll end up is one of the most exciting prospects of traveling.
Although some customs may appear silly, pointless, or even offensive, you must always ensure that you respect the laws and moral codes of whatever country you’re visiting. Every society has its own unique ideas when it comes to values and culture—avoid being arrogant at all costs and seek to be informed rather than judge. You’ll also find that you have an easier and more relaxing adventure if you’re clued up about dos and don’ts.
Although some may think that technology ruins the romanticism of traveling, there are some apps that are just too useful not to download. Rebtel allows you to make phone calls inexpensively without the internet, Hopper is the best for booking cheap flights, and Packpoint generates bespoke packing lists so you won’t be sitting on your suitcase, trying to squeeze everything in. Lastly, although it’s not for everyone, Tinder is an easy way to meet some like-minded fellow travelers, even if you’re not looking for a holiday fling.