Hope y’all enjoyed part 1 of helpful travel tips. Here I’ll breakdown the awesome things I learned prior and during my trip that really saved my life and saved me good money as well. If you’re a backpacker, you know how much budgeting can really save you.
Here are some of the things I’ve picked up along the way.
When travelling I’ve learned a lot about the countries I’ve visit. Their tradition, culture, religions, customs, food and the people, most of all. My most valuable advice is to travel with the best representation of yourself. What I mean is go with sensitivity and tolerance of the different world out there beside the one you grew up accustomed to. Visit, travel, explore with an open mind and heart.
A painful and honest trust I learned while travelled is that some country have a good reputation and some not so good. It is for stupid reasons. It’s for honest reasons. It’s for things I understands. It’s for things I do not understand. Represent yourself the best you can but always be honest and true to yourself. Take the time and effort to learn and absorb the different cultures and more out there.
It’s the best and most raw way of learning. It’s a mind opening experience. My most cherished experiences happen this way. Now let’s get into other travel tips that have other benefits for you.
Photo: Penang, Malaysia
RESEARCH IS KEY.
It always help to do your research. I don’t mean you need to plan out every moment of everyday of your travel but doing the preliminary research will save you a lot of headache, time and money.
The most important research for me was to research local culture. It will ease you into the place. If you’re a foodie, look into what is the local food, fruits, drinks and more to try while there. My favourite things to try are the local fruits. My favourite place to visit is the local market which is bustling with vibrant colours, energy and local goods to check out.
Research the documentation, visa and vaccinations you will need prior to departure. Learn what’s the best location to stay based on your interest such as city centre with the hustle bustle versus the quiet artistic area for a more local feel. Look into the proximity of your accommodation for convenience to move around via public or private transportation mode. This will save you money on fare and time for travel.
If you are into museums and galleries, check if there are special days or time at there is no admission or discount. In NYC, there tons of free museums day. Some of first Friday or Sunday of the month for MoMa and Brooklyn botanical Garden. There are loads of free galleries in Chelsea, Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn in NY. There are tons of free admission to general exhibits for museums in Hong Kong. If you are a student, bring your student ID. Many places have student discounted prices.
Expect the unexpected when travelling.
- Backup. Always have a copy of travel documents. I always carry a copy of my passport with me in a separate place from my passport in case of the unfortunate event it is lost or stolen. I also sent a copy of it to myself, my mother and my brother so that there an e-copy that is accessible.
- Itinerary. If you have an itinerary or a booked tour. Make sure to read and keep a copy for reference. Research the company and go through their reviews.
- Emergency. Make an emergency contact list. It should include numbers of your insurance provider, credit card, bank (debit) card, and emergency contact back home.
- Inform. Make your calls to your bank, credit card and mobile provider that you will be out of the country. Let them know your dates and countries of travel so it can be noted. Worst thing is to be stuck in a foreign place with no access to money and have your mobile service cut. Be sure to learn what are your foreign exchange fees, ATM withdrawal fees for your bank and credit cards. Be sure to inform yourself about international rates and fees.
- First aid kit. Be sure to purchase or DIY an kit. It has helped me and fellow travellers time and time again. It should include a few bare essentials. Plasters of various sizes, sterile gauze, small scissor, tweezer, alcoholic wipes, medical tape, anti-rash cream, anti-septic cream, paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamine, mosquitoes repellent, oral rehydration salts or electrolyte tablets and antacid tablets.
Photo: China House, Malaysia
If you’re planning to travel for long time and do not have health insurance, I highly recommend you purchase travel insurance. It will save you the peace of mind. There are tons of travel insurance available depending on your resident country and destinations.
This is a helpful site that my friend put me. It was a big helper to compare what was available for me based on coverage, liabilities and cost.
Check out your credit card coverage provided. Most will have some language and coverage around car rental liabilities and damage, trip cancellation and delays, baggage loss and more. You can always talk to a representative which will be better to comb through and assist on the coverage provided.
Photo: India Railways, India
Packing light is something I’m still struggling with one year in. Think light, pack light. Packing cubes have been a life saver for organisation. I’ve been travelling to countries in summer, fall and winter so I have an array of clothing. Packing cubes help me pack summer clothes together, winter clothes in one, undergarments in one. A dirty laundry bag doesn’t hurt.
If you plan to hike and/or camp, invest in good outdoor gear. Most places will have rental if carrying a tent, sleeping bag, mat, more is not an option. I would say definitely bring a headlamp and sleeping sheet. If you plan to hike, bring at least one good pair of hiking socks.
A sleeping sheet has been so helpful for the many many overnight bus or train rides. I purchased a cheap 3USD sheet in Vietnam which is easy to wash, dry and pack. There are affordable sleeper sheets on amazon or your local outdoor store like REI or Decathlon.
Here a few things I’ve learn are awesome to pack and are versatile:
- Scarf – Used for warmth; blanket for the beach; coverup when religious areas for the head, shoulders or knees in temples or such; pillow for rides; and coverup for dust.
- Hat – bad hair days; sun protection; and hiking trips.
- Joint protection – I have a bad knee so my knee sleeve have saved me many times from hikes in the Himalayas, horse ride in India and my 3 day hike to Mt. Rinjani.
- Legging/Long John – whether it’s for a fashion piece or pajamas, this has been a big staple for my wardrobe. It’s been essential when I have an unexpected desire to do yoga, camping in the desert when the temperature drops 30 degrees F or need an extra layer of warmth.
- Quick dry towel – great cause it dry quickly, packs small and very durable. You can purchase one at a local outdoor store or online.
- Lock – be sure to lock up your valuable when you’re not around. Or you can carry it with you. It is your preference. Most hostels have lockers for use for your valuables. It’s best to have your own lock to use because sometimes you have to purchase a subpar one or worse, go hunt for one.
Photo: Hou An, Vietnam
It’s important to be able to keep my devices up and running. I have my camera, phone, external battery as my main electronics. I’ve been to countries where the voltage varies so I invested in a nice all in one adapter that has 4 USB docks (2 rapid, 2 normal speed). Syncwire has been awesome. Some places only have one outlet sadly in the room so having a multi port charger has saved me lot of time and effort of switching out devices to charge.
There has been many times that my electronics run low or completely out of battery. Definitely get yourself an external battery while travelling. It will literally save your life. I got a 10,000mah one from Anker. It’s an awesome and very reliable company. It’s lasted me 1.5 year until I unfortunately got it wet during a snorkelling trip. I highly recommend Anker.
Always ask around before you settle! Whether it’s purchasing a tour, buying an electronic gadget that’s already super cheap, or getting into a rickshaw or tuktuk. When travelling to a developing country, prices are fluctuating and pretty much higher for foreigners than locals. If you can use some
Local phrases, that’ll be great as well. So that merchant do not feel like you want to undermine their prices but actually appreciate their business/service but feel like you are being over charged.
For car rides, you can ask your hotel what is an estimated fare from the airport to the hotel as an exact reference point. You can also use apps like Uber as a reference. This was very helpful in Indonesia because driver would charged at least 20% more because I am not a local.
For street market, always try to be negotiate first. I know it can be quite uncomfortable but if you would like to save money, try it. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. My golden rule is to ask what the price is and ask for 50% of that as a starting ground. I work my way until we both will not move. There has been many times where I’ve gotten things at 30-50% off just for asking such as embroidery slippers or dresses. This applies to car or rickshaw rides as well.
Photo: Guangzhou, China
Almost everywhere I went has been quite easy to get around but that might be a bias statement cause I’m from NYC and it has one of the more complex metro systems. The metro system can be really helpful to getting around if you don’t mind public transportation. It’s actually one of my favourite way of exploring a new place because you are commuting just like a local. If you’re planning to move around and stay a few days, look into an unlimited metro card. For NYC, we have daily, weekly and monthly metro card which has unlimited rides on the metro subway and bus. If you use it twice to three times a day, you already saved yourself some money. I was able to take advantage of this in Ireland as well via their bus system. Hong Kong and China also have unlimited passes for their metro system. Make sure if it includes all mode (subway, over rail, buses and more).
Google Maps is awesome to help you to navigate your way around town or ask the receptionist for help. If metro isn’t your thing, there is always walking, biking, private car for hire and tours. Walking is my number one choice to explore. If you don’t have mobile service, make sure to download maps.me app which a worldwide map you can download and use offline. It has navigation features via car, bike and walking. I love the bookmark feature where you check all the places you want to visit.
For private car for hire or taxi, be sure to check out what services are available at the destinations. I love using Uber, grab, lyft, ola and other services because it is a much cheaper alternative to taxi and more secured. You can follow the route so that you’re sure that you will not be scammed. Some taxis take longer route to the destination in order to get a higher fare. Additionally, there are discounts and you can connect your credit card as payment. This helped me a lot with ATM withdrawals which has attached fees and I got points with my credit card. Win win!
Photo: Thar Desert, India
There are tons of accommodations. My go to are hostels then followed by Airbnb. I mainly stayed 80% hostel, 5% Airbnb, 5% hotels or b&b and the rest is mix of volunteer, stay with family and couchsurfing.
Definitely read reviews and what amenities are included when considering booking. My top factors:
- Location – will save you time and energy if it’s closer to city centre or a metro stop
- Cleanliness – check photos and read reviews. A dirty bathroom or even worse, bed bugs is a red flag.
- Service – good guest services always win me over. Helpful tips always make your travel more smooth and you may discover hidden gems and food spots thanks to the people at the accommodation.
- Amenities – must have wifi. Breakfast, kitchen, yoga room, rooftop, pools are all bonus. Another big plus is if there is filtered water because of the convenience, less waste for plastic bottle and save that $$$
- Ambiance – good ambiance just makes your mood better. Energy is so contagious. I’ve made awesome friends in some places and other places, I just felt such gloomy dark energy.
Photo: Ha Noi, Vietnam
EAT & DRINK SMART.
Eating local food is the absolute best. Wherever you go, local food will be less costly than international foods. If you’re up for it, go for street food and little hole in the wall spots. Always check the sanitation of course and if the food is freshly cooked. Beware of food that has been left out for days or have been exposed to the weather and bacteria. I’ve had a bad experience with a fruit juice because the fruit was pre cut and exposed to bacteria.
- Better to eat in group because the more folks, the more dishes you all can share and try.
- Night markets are a haven for cheap fast local food. Whatever has the biggest crowd of queue is usually a good indicators.
- Sample the local fruits. Fruits in south east Asia is amazing and stuff I can never find back home. Bananas are so tasty and sweet in Indonesia.
- If there’s a walking food tour, check it out. You can sample a lot and the guide will always steer you to right place with the best local goods.
- If there’s a pub crawl, check it out for sure. Very easy to meet people and lots of good times rolling in! I’ve awesome memories and good times every time I do this.
- Check the happy hours. Especially at party hostel, there will be specials. I’ve seen free beer happy hour, ladies night (men who dress as women get free drinks and/or admission), half off specials.
- If you want to check out the local brewery or distillery and want to get a taste in. Check out their flights. I’ve really enjoyed myself in Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin. Always whiskey and cocktails.
- Local beers are always cheaper than imported beer. And why not try it! I love beer!
My favourite to eat has been in Vietnam. My favourite place to drink has been Berlin, Budapest and Ireland.
SIM cards and plans are quite cheap compared to what I’ve paid in the states. Each country and company has their own service plan matrix so make sure to take some time to research and ask questions so you get the best plan that suits your needs. Check a few stores before you settle to get the best price. Not all store sell the same package or the same prices for the same or similar package. Be sure to check the coverage map if you plan to move around the country. This range very true for India and Indonesia.
For countries that have set usage time for the SIM card, look into package that you can top up as in refill with money for additional
minutes, data and more. Additionally, it is usually cheaper to top up via the local venue versus directly through the carrier. For example in Indonesia, topping up via the indomart (local convenience store) was cheaper than purchasing a new SIM card since most shops will prefer to sell you a new SIM card versus topping you up. A new term I learned for this is “pulsa” which means a top up. When I mentioned top up, no one understood what that meant in other countries. The pulsa term was used in India and Indonesia.
For example, Airtel (mobile provider) is the top mobile provider followed competitively by Vodafone (mobile provider). But Airtel is terrible in Goa, India with many dropped calls. idea! Is great for Goa, India but not so much in the northern states. Doing your research will save you frustration and money in purchasing another SIM card that will work.
For India, it is more expensive to get a SIM card at the airport but if you need it asap, its the best option if you don’t mind waiting around a bit. It took only 1-2 hour to activate versus 2-3 days which friends of mine have experienced.
Social media is amazing for travel tips and more. If you’re travelling and have questions, you can just go online and google. But did you know that you can join groups and ask question to fellow travellers? That’s absolutely wonderful platform to share and discuss.
Here are some of the Facebook groups I’ve join are:
- The solo female travel network
- Girls love travel
- Australia backpackers
- Australia rideshare
- Backpacking Nepal, India and Sri Lanka
For instagram, search the country or city you are visiting. There is one or more accounts that are verified account dedicated to tourism. Some IG accounts I follow are listed below. There are tons of different accounts based on your interest and hobby that can inspire a trip there.
I follow tons of hiking and travel photography accounts.NYC: @datethiscity @nycgoIndia: @natgeoindia @india.photography @india @india.clicks @highonhimalayasSingapore: @visit_singaporeIndonesia: @indtravel @natgeoindonesiaHong Kong: @discoverhongkongAustralia: @australiaNew Zealand: @purenewzealandPrague: @wonderfulprague
Hope you got some useful tips for your next trip! As always, feel free to leave me a comment or questions. Love to hear your travel tips as well. I’ll be breaking another section on the travel Apps that has been upmost helpful. Stay tuned!!
Live, Learn, Love soulfully!
Angela in Wonderland //
follow me on Instagram @jelloooh