Updated on March 1st, 2018
Most people aren’t born savvy travelers. It’s something that only comes with on-the-road experience. In the beginning, you make a lot of mistakes. Travel savviness is a process born of missed buses, foolish behavior, cultural unawareness, and countless tiny errors.
THERE’S an art to traveling well. Some little secrets you learn on the way. Here’s our ultimate travel advice list. Have we missed any? Let us know.
1. Take photos of and with people. Lots of photos. Years from now, you’ll want to look back on those nights you can’t remember and the people who made them memorable.
2. Always have an extra USB charger. Batteries die. Your good mood shouldn’t.
3. Take earplugs. Snorers are everywhere and you need your sleep.
4. Don’t overplan your trip. Let your days unfold naturally. Schedule two or three things and let the day fill in the rest on its own. It’s less stressful, and letting the day just take you is one of the best ways to travel.
5. Be patient. Things will work out in the end. No need to rush. You’ll get to where you are going in due time. Travel is about the journey, not the destination.
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6. Get travel insurance. Don’t be foolish. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to be out thousands of dollars in bills. Travel insurance is the most important thing you get that you never want to use.
7. Eat street food! If you skip the street food, you miss out on culture. Don’t be scared. If you’re nervous, look for places where kids are eating. If it’s safe for them, it’s safe for you.
8. Get vaccinated. Because falling prey to an illness in a foreign country is not fun.
9. Get good shoes. You walk a lot when you travel. Don’t beat up your feet. Love them as much as they love you, and they’ll take you to amazing places.
10. Take pictures of your luggage and clothes. If your bag gets lost, this will help identify it more easily and speed up the process of having your travel insurance reimburse you.
11. Take free walking tours. Besides being free, these tours will give you a good orientation and background of the city you are in.
12. Take an empty metal water bottle through airport security and fill it up at your gate. Drink from the tap when you can — you’ll save money and help the environment.
13. Try new food. Don’t ask what it is. Just put it in your mouth and see if you like it. If you put your guard up, you might miss out on some unusual and delicious local cuisine.
14. Be open to strangers. Not everyone bites. You just might make some lifelong friends.
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15. Stay in hostels. They are cheap and you’ll meet a lot of people! Hostel bars are also very cheap.
16. Carry a basic first-aid kit. Accidents happen, so be prepared. I take with me bandaids, antibacterial cream, and ointments for cuts and scrapes.
17. Pack a flashlight. It will let you see at night, help you avoid stepping on stuff, and help you tell ghost stories. Who’s afraid of the dark?
18. Eat at expensive restaurants during lunch. They offer lunch specials — same food as dinner but half the price.
19. Locals don’t eat out every night and neither should you. Go grocery shopping. You can learn a lot about locals’ diets by seeing the type of food they buy.
20. Lunchtime is the best time to visit historical sites. The sites empty out and you’ll have fewer crowds to fight.
21. When you check in to the hotel, don’t be afraid to ask for an upgrade. They have a lot of flexibility, and it can’t hurt to ask.
22. Always get behind business travelers when in security lines. They move fast. Try to keep up.
23. Shop around. When booking flights, sometimes it is cheaper to fly into airports close to your final destination, and then take a train or bus to where you need to go.
24. Don’t be ashamed to walk into a Starbucks. Sometimes familiarity is comforting.
25. Ask hostel staff for information — even when you aren’t staying there. They deal with budget travelers all day, every day. They know exactly where to go for cheap meals and attractions.
26. Look both ways when you cross the street. Especially in countries whose traffic flow is different than you’re used to.
27. Always carry a lock. They come in handy, especially when you stay in dorms and need to lock your stuff up.
28. When you go out, take only what you need. Limit the amount of cash and bank cards you carry with you, so if something does happen, you can easily recover.
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29. Always visit the local tourism office. They know about everything going on in town. They can point you to free activities, special events happening during your stay, and everything in between. Use this resource.
30. Don’t be afraid to use a map. Looking like a tourist isn’t as bad as getting really lost and ending up in the wrong neighborhood.
31. Be aware of the local laws. Don’t get drunk on the streets of Dubai or expect to chew and spit gum in Singapore. You’re leaving Australia – don’t expect our law system to follow you around the world.
32. Scan your passport and travel documents. Give copies to family/friends. If you lose your passport or travel documents, this backup will save you a lot of heartache. It will also help your family to find you in the event of a disaster.
33. Learn a few phrases of the local language. Speak to the locals. Experience their culture. Don’t just wander through it.
34. Know the scams of each destination. ‘Thai driver want to show you his best restaurant?’ It’s probably his mate’s. Get on the internet and work out the scams so you don’t become a sucker.
35. Learn the art of haggling. Haggling saves you money. Be bold. That extra $4 will buy you a coffee.
36. Take a jumper on the plane. It is cold. It has air conditioning.
37. Take thick socks for the plane. Cold feet will stop you sleeping.
38. Find out if the country you are going to sells tampons. Some countries don’t. Or they are really hard to find. Even places you wouldn’t think of – like Athens.
39. Be aware of altitude sickness. Give yourself time to adjust between altitudes, drink a lot more when you are high up.
40. Be respectful. Pay attention to how local women dress to work out how you should.
41. Wash your clothes in the sink / shower. Use the hotel soap. Or take a little traveller sized bottle of laundry detergent with you. It’s much easier than finding a Laundromat in a foreign country. And there are only so many times that you can wear the same pair of undies.
42. Learn how to say “no thank you”. Most travel advice columns will tell you to learn how to say “hello”, “yes please”, “thank you” and “do you speak English?”. But in some countries you really want to be able to say “no thank you, please leave me alone”. Think about the crowded market places in Asia. Knowing how to say “no thank you” in their language is going to give you a lot more peace.
43. Keep an emergency stash of money. If you lose your wallet you will still need to eat. An empty Chapstick is a fantastic secret hiding spot.
44. Learn how to drive a manual car. Stuck at an airport after your flight has been cancelled? You could drive. You will be smacking your head on the desk if they only have manual cars.
45. Always keep a stash of spare plastic bags for dirty clothes / shoes. Smelly socks will make your clean clothes stink. Always.
46. Learn how to swim. You never know when you might need to on the spur of the moment.
47. Know how much it should cost in a taxi. Carry a card with the hotel address and a map. Ask for taxi drivers to use the meter. Make sure they are legitimate taxi drivers.
48. Make sure your bank cards work. There is nothing more annoying on holidays than spending hours on the phone to the bank back home.
49. Learn how to take a decent photo. Don’t come home with a bunch of Instagram selfies. Memories fade and you’ll want something to remember the scenery by.
50. Get folders for travel documents and itineraries. Keep them organised so you don’t have to mess about digging through pockets in your bag at the airport check-in.