Lao Tzu said “a good traveller as no fixed plans and is not intend on arriving.” Although I am just beginning my travels, here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.
First Stop, Information – seems trivial, but information offices usually offer free maps, make suggestions on places to visit and often book hotels. Plus, in a foriegn country they are most likely to speak your language or at least partially understand you.
Locals Know Best – ask your server their favorite dish or a local what their favorite places are. You’ll discover gems which aren’t on any map or in any tour book.
Never Plan More Than One Day – it is important to remain flexible on your schedule. Often trip highlights come from unplanned stops which would not have been possible if you planned your entire itinerary before you left home.
Pack Lite – besides a philosophy for life, it is also important to pack lite on your travels. Practice, ‘if you can’t carry it on your back, don’t bring it.’ Do you really need to bring multiple pairs of jeans? Why not just buy a pair on route? It will help the local economy plus makes for a nice souvenir.
Don’t Buy Maps – since tourist offices usually offer great free maps which highlight local attractions, it is a rare occation that you’ll ever need to buy a map.
Never Guess Someone’s Country – nothing more offensive than trying to guess where someone is from, and getting it wrong. I am often asked, ‘what part of the States are you from?’ and my reply is always ‘..the good part, Canada!’
Avoid Tourist Traps – it’s sort of ironic being a tourist and trying not to be but there is good reason to avoid tourist areas: crowds, lines and high prices.
Travel Off Season – visiting off peak season usually means you can avoid the crowds and save money, since many places offer seasonal discounts (just be aware some places may be closed).
Can’t Understand? Try Pictionary – if you are having problems communicating, a picture can be worth a thousand words. It is also helpful to write down destinations, times and prices to avoid miscommunication. I once met a guy who just finished a round the world tour. Having encountered dozens of languages, he said his most valuable possesion was thirty laminated cards, each displaying a picture of a common travel need (toilet, bed, water, clock), brilliant!
Also Photograph The Sign – ever get home and have no idea what church or building is in your photo? It’s helpful to first snap a photo of the building information sign.
Overnight Buses/Trains (Free Hotel) – if you are trying to be really thrifty or save travel time, overnight buses/trains can get you to your destination and save the hotel bill (just don’t forget your earplugs and eyemask).
You’re An Ambassador For Your Country – it is important to remember you are representing your country, so be polite and respect local customs. It will go a long way for those who travel after you. And don’t be afraid to brag about your country, others are usually interested in new places to travel, why not recommend your own?
Got any travel tips?