Sharing a list of tips is a bit like sharing my favourite destinations, it's largely down to personal preference and I can safely say should not be relied upon to suit everyone!

Despite that caveat, I have had a fair amount of experience travelling on a budget and in luxury so perhaps some of my advice will apply to whatever type of trip you are planning.

I could write post after post of travel related tips, so for this page I have kept it to what I think are the 5 most important ones that I would follow if I had to start all over again :).

1. Research

This has to be top of the list.  In my experience the best trips I have taken have involved extensive research before, during and after departure.  For example, the majority of my fleeting visits to a number of cities during 2012 had been very last minute and often unplanned and reliant on whatever info I can collect at the airport bookshop, or on arrival at the hotel or local tourist office.  Not at all a good way to travel as you're bound to miss something (eg. realise on your arrival to Helsinki that it's actually Midsummer and everything is shut!), be terribly uninformed and ill prepared (think bikini in rain - not that I have suffered this mishap recently), or just feel like in-part you have had a wasted journey.  That is of course assuming that you actually want to know anything about the place, and I assume you do or you would have stopped reading this after the last paragraph.

With the Internet, these days (I'm starting to sound old!), there are numerous sources of information at your fingertips.  That said, I always try to get my hands on at least one guide book. Ebay is great for second hand bargains and so are friends and family who have been there before; even out of date issues contain everything you need to know about a place - just the prices will be a little old! I've more recently become accustomed to ebooks and am now almost completely dependent on my Nexus 7 handheld tablet device which allows me to flick from book to book and access articles offline.

I tend to read as much as possible in advance of my trip, and then save/print out key pieces of info that I want to refer to, but usually have a paperback (or more so these days an ebook) stashed in my bag to read on the plane or bus etc.

2. Plan

This is obvious in the sense that you would plan where you want to go and what you want to see etc.  However, what I find is key to a good trip, is ensuring that you have a list of places you want to go or things you want to experience, but that you are prepared to be flexible and not try to tick off everything. 

Have a list, compiled from your research or following recommendations, but just pick out a couple of items from it that you feel you MUST do, particularly if you are short on time or travelling with others. 

For example, ahead of my trip to Krakow in Poland I was adamant that I wanted to see Auschwitz.  Well, I couldn't possibly go all that way and not go there.  So despite my travel companion having been before, I planned to stay and extra day there and to book a tour/guide and ensure I ticked it off my list.  Fortunately I wasn't left to go on my own in the end, but it was a hard few days.  That leads me on to my next tip...

3. Make friends or hook up

Travelling alone can be, do I dare say it - lonely!  Yes, even this independent traveller sometimes find herself feeling a little bit lost and alone.  I've actually had some good trips by myself but the best moments are those that you can share.  Even if you have to travel solo, there are always options which will ensure you are not simply alone, all of the time:

- Book a tour.  Perhaps for the main part of your trip, joining up with a tour company that is preorganised will ensure you are looked after and have little hassles along the way.  I have often booked with a group when I only have a week or 2 to travel, as I don't want to miss anything or waste time trying to get from A to B and organised group tours make travelling easy.  However, when I have a longer trip planned I still often either start or end the trip with something organised, or join up with groups along the way.  If I'm meeting a friend or relative then it just makes things easier.  If I'm on my own or somewhere particularly remote, it just makes me feel a little safer and usually there are no hidden costs.
- Meet up.  Friends often pipe up when they hear about my plans and offer to join me along the way.  This is great, because I can look forward to a friendly face and also experience what someone else might like to do for a change.  I've travelled with my friends, other half and even Mum on a variety of trips and there is no doubt that if I could find a lifetime travel companion (once again) I would most definitely be planning more trips and more often.
- Hang out.  Staying in hostals is great for meeting people along the way.  You can hang out in the reception/lounge or wherever there are others in a similar position.  Depending on where you are heading, I highly recommend internet cafe's (the social kind) for meeting people outside of your accommodation.  I've also had the chance to meet some great people following volunteering and more often than not if I visit a school or orphanage, they are always more than welcoming and willing to show you the local highlights.

The most important thing when your travelling alone, is to not be shy, but to also be careful not to step out of your comfort zone.  Don't put yourself in danger... by going somewhere that is unsafe, and just use your common sense.

4. Experience local life and help

Whether you are planning a short or long haul holiday, or to somewhere rich or poor, there are always experiences to be had that you just won't get back home.  Do you know someone who has been there before, can they recommend a place to stay. How about someone who still lives there, if you don't know someone, someone else you know probably does.  Local contacts will provide a wealth of experiences.  The best experiences I have had, have involved volunteering or visiting a local school or orphanage.  You meet the locals, you see what life is really like and best of all you are made to feel so extremely welcome.  I haven't had a bad experience yet, here are a a few of them:

Cambodia - a meal with a local village arranged by a waitress from the hotel, we ate with the families and danced the night away.

Ecuador - helping out on a conservation project in the middle of nowhere. Living on what the farm could provide and getting involved in all sorts from planting to baking.

Bolivia - teaching English after school and staying nearby in the home of one of the teachers. I also took Spanish lessons with a difference and got to hang out with my teacher and experience local life.

Bali - visiting an orphanage and teaching English, plus I did some learning of my own with lessons in the local dance, with the girls there.

Sri Lanka - I arranged to visit a children's home in Colombo, the capital, and spent the day making Christmas cards and sharing my love of crafting with the girls there.

5. Record

In my view there is no point experiencing what the world has to offer if you can't share it.  If you can't actually literally share the experience with someone special then I can highly recommend keeping a journal/diary or as it now seems to be, the most modern equivalent and of course my most recommended - a blog.  When I started blogging about my travels it was merely to keep my friends and family updated on what I was up to and to avoid having to go over the same stories time and time again when I finally returned. 

These days I am so glad that I took the time to write along the way, as I often look back and reminisce over a trip or two, especially when I am busy preparing for another.

My travel writing started out as just a record of where I had been and what I had seen. These days I hope it has become a little more in depth and well informed, albeit still largely centred around my own experiences.

There are numerous travel writers that I greatly admire and dream of being able to write in comparison to, but for the most part, having a paperback/ebook or two of theirs as company along the way is enough for now. 

More tips:

13 items I don't travel without
13 items you probably don't need to carry when you travel
Travel tip: Don't travel without doing it...
What to pack: For a short break to Europe
Flashpacking is...
My recommendations for maps whilst travelling (and geocaching)
Use Marmite and Crocs to avoid the same conversations when you travel
I challenge you to give Wikivoyage a try

1 comment :

jamaica said...

Nice to read this article will be very helpful in the future, share more info with us. Good job!