Travel tips

Some of these tips are courtesy of Gunnar Garfors (why reinvent the wheel?), I simply added my own ones to the list.

Email scanned copies of your passport/visa/credit-debit cards to an online mail account

Losing your passport or credit card is a big pain in the proverbial and some embassy won't even let you in without proof of ID, which is kinda daft when you just lost it. Having it stored in an online mail account such as hotmail/yahoo/gmail means all you need is an internet cafe with a printer.

Download maps in advance

Before you travel, download the maps to your smartphone. This will usually save you a lot of money in roaming charges, especially if you travel to a new continent. The GPS in your phone doesn't cost anything to use, but to download maps will if you have to pay for data roaming. You can alternatively find a Wi-Fi spot after arriving, but don't count on them being available for free in or near the airport, the train station or at the bus stop. Even if you find a spot, it will delay you when you should rather spend time exploring.

Scout out your transport options

Find out your options on how to get from your point of arrival. You may want to just take a taxi, but you should then know what it should set you back. There are unfortunately a lot of over-zealous taxi drivers who will do their best to plunder your wallet, and their prices never flex the right way. I try to use public transport as often and practically as I can.

Make a note of the exchange rate

Find out what the exchange rate is before you go. How else are you supposed to haggle?

Check the Passport, Visa, Health & Customs requirements

The IATA has a fantastic free Travel Centre which has all the details on your destinations passport, visa, health, customs, currency and airport information.
Moroccans currently have visa-free or visa on arrival access to 56 countries.

Check the weather

Check the forecast so you know what to put in your suitcase.

Bring cash

Cash is king. Europe/USA may commonly accept credit/debit cards, but Sierra Leone, Angola and Laos certainly do not. Always take cash with you for payments, otherwise you might find yourself doing the dishes at a restaurant for hours to pay for your meal. US dollars is the most common currency, Euros and Sterling close behind.

Split your cash

You will sometimes become involved in nasty situations. A policeman, someone who poses like one or other scam artists may for instance demand money. Have most of your money in one safe pocket or purse, but always keep small notes in another pocket for use in such situations. You can then empty that pocket and lose only the small notes that are there.

Never show off stacks of cash or valuables

Common sense, isn't it?

Print out tickets, schedule and contact details

Some countries will not even let you into in without a printed return ticket, while certain airports won't let you enter without your itinerary on paper. And you will always need the address of your hotel or final destination. You do of course have it all on your tablet, smartphone or laptop, but flashing any of the above gadgets attract unwanted attention. And don't expect to pay less than normal to the taxi driver after having shown him a tablet that costs more than he makes in a year. Not to mention limited charging options in many countries around the world. Paper is king, especially in countries less travelled.

Remember the right adapter

Nothing is as annoying as not being able to recharge your favourite gadget. Often the only thing between you and a green battery indicator is that tiny adapter. Do not assume that the country you are going to has the same sockets or plugs as you do. I recommend one of those multi-adapters which has all 5 in 1.

Travel insurance

It may seem like an annoying unnecessary expenditure, however you will be thankful the day it comes to your rescue. I had a tooth ache in Dubai which needed specialist orthodontics treatment without insurance I would have been over $1,200 poorer today.

Vaccination/Inoculations

Unless you're a fan of Russian roulette, always check what vaccinations you need and whether you're up to date. Not to mention, some countries won't even let you in without a yellow fever certificate.

Backup everything

By using Dropbox, Google Drive or similar, you will always have all documents where you need them if there is an internet connection where you end up. Having a second copy mitigate the risks of your laptop getting stolen.

Forget guide books

I hate guidebooks because they tend to influence people into seeing exactly the same things, often even in the same order. That means that service will get worse, prices will go up and you will be surrounded by other tourists. If that is what you are looking for, use guidebooks the way they are intended. If not, use guidebooks to find out where not to go.

Be impulsive, plan as little as possible

The more plans you make, the fewer of them you get to complete. Dare to accept possibilities for trying something new, getting to know someone new, tasting something new or to take part in activities you had not planned or didn't even know existed.

Eat local food

Seriously! You didn't go all the way to Asia to eat at McDonalds? And fried scorpions are tasty too! At least they give you a more colorful story to tell at home than one that involves the words big and mac.

Don't be afraid to lose people

Whenever you travel solo, you will inadvertently meet other travellers who will either tag along or suggest you continue together. Unfortunately, there are some very negative characters out there who constantly moan, do not waste your time with them and ditch them as soon as possible.

Be humble

Yeah, I know you are a rich kid. Does that make you cooler than me? Think about it, would you act nice with a stuck up prick? Toning down any arrogance will always be wise. There is a possible exception if you find yourself being conned.

Travel with hand luggage only

It is more flexible and relaxed and you will never have to take a specific big taxi or be banned from a metro or a bus because of a bulky luggage. To travel light gives you more control over the travel experience. Just pack the essentials, whatever else you need you can find locally.

Go to unusual spots

I find it intriguing that you enjoy standing in queues on your holiday. Or why else do you always travel to places where everyone else goes at just that time of year?

Trawl the web for cheap tickets

There are many ways to help you find cheaper tickets. Holidaypirates.com and Secretflying.com are good sites for awesome deals.

Don't dress like a hippie

That will get you better service. And people will respect you more when you put some effort in your sartorial elegance.

Always carry a pen

A pen can be a great friend when travelling as you will far too often have to fill out some form when for example crossing a border. Not having a pen can see you fall way behind in the passport control or customs line, as you will have to wait to borrow one. And do not expect to be allowed to do so from one from the passport officers. They will not happily wait for you or accept that you hold up the queue.

And a notepad too

You never know when you will end up in a place where no one speaks your language. Then a pen and a piece of paper may be your best friend. For example in a restaurant, if you draw something remotely resembling a chicken or a cow, chances are they will understand what you want to order (beats having to flap your arms like a chicken).

Show no fear

You may be nervous or even outright afraid sometimes if you are lost or find yourself in a sketchy neighbourhood. In that case try to not show that you are scared, and instead put on a brave face and walk straight to a point you can see, such as the next street corner, a shop or a taxi. People who are clearly lost or afraid make easy and attractive targets for criminals.

Stay with a local

A lot of accommodations are not available online. In Morocco, it's quite common to walk into a neighbourhood and ask around if anyone has a flat or room you can rent out which will work out much cheaper than say Expedia.

Use local people for the best tips

The best guides are usually the people who actually live in a place, and they certainly beat guidebooks. And who wants to reproduce the guidebook writer's holiday anyway? Take part in your own trips instead. You can ask locals in coffeeshops or streets for recommendations. You can also ask the person you rent a room/apartment from. Just be clear and let them know what you are after, and be clear to specify if you want gourmet, non-touristy or cheap and cheerful. And do keep in mind that local people rarely know much about where to stay. Think about it, how often have you stayed in a hotel in your hometown?

Smile and have a sense of humour

Yes, totally free and very simple. Then again, it may not suit the shy among us. But try it, and you will suddenly find yourself invited to a party, a dinner, a mountain hike or even a wedding. And the countless mishaps that will come your way, laughing about them will thicken your skin.

Cameras/phones

I like to travel light which means not clogging myself with heavy items. I'm not a professional photographer so don't need one those cameras that look like a machine gun. After extensive research, I found the best compact cameras (i.e. that fit in pockets) to be the Canon S100 and the newer Canon S120 (as of 2015). Buy a spare generic battery off Amazon/eBay for $10 and you'll get great quality pictures, even in low light. For the phone, I got the pocket-size Samsung Galaxy Young, which sadly has been discontinued but can still be found on ebay. The GPS in that model is awesome and super fast, which sadly is not the case in the newer models, and the battery last much longer.

Notify people at home

You will of course update all sorts of status on social media, share photos and maybe even write your own blog. But always inform people closest to you, especially family, exactly where you are too.

Prioritize your money and spend sensibly

Travelling takes planning and prioritization to ensure you bag a good deal as prices fluctuate a lot, depending on the season/time. The usual rule of thumb for flights is to book way ahead, and keep an eye out on special deals. I also recommend using momondo.com to scan flight prices. And there are of course also trains, ferries and buses, not to forget hitchhiking and car sharing. For food and drinks, buy it in shops or markets, it is usually much cheaper than in restaurants. You can also stay in a tent in many countries.

Practice

The best way to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. Travelling is like any other activity. You need to practice to be great at it. You never travelled outside your country except that sunny resort down south somewhere? Do not start travelling to Somalia, Yemen or Afghanistan. Start slow, even inside your own country. Then expand and try to travel both alone and with others. You will gain experiences and learn which travel style you prefer. You will gradually become better, possibly even reaching a level where you might decide to go pro and travel full-time.

Avoid jetlag

You can avoid jetlag, or at least reduce its effect by following two easy rules. Do not drink alcohol, and most importantly, stay awake until at least midnight, local time, after you have landed. Do not, under any circumstances give in to the temptation of lying down on the comfy hotel bed before midnight - you will then fall asleep in an instant and suffer jetlag for days or even a full week.

 

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