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Over ten years of travel experience means I’ve made many mistakes along the way. Here are some tips to hopefully make your travels easier…
- Take pictures of your passport and any relevant important documents and store them online (I use Google Drive).
- Carry spare passport photos with you in case you need them for visa applications.
- Buy a passport holder with a pocket in-built – good for storing boarding passes. Some places require you to hand in your boarding pass as you leave so always keep hold of it until you have left the airport.
- Ensure you check whether you need a visa for each destination you intend to travel to. Some places allow you to apply online in advance or pay on arrival. Other destinations have more complicated entry requirements, for example when I visited China I had to go to the Chinese Embassy in Dubai and submit a lengthy application form with copies of my passport, flights (you have to book a return ticket), hotel booking and a letter from my employer confirming they gave me permission to travel to China.
- Buy a travel purse – a pouch with a couple of pockets would do – to store the various currencies you will use. I keep the currency I am currently using in my main purse and store the rest in a small travel purse.
- To avoid too many ATM charges, work out your daily budget and withdraw the money you need once a week. This will also ensure you are not carrying too much cash and help keep you on budget.
- Always pay in the local currency and watch out for ATMs that offer confusing conversion options – just select to withdraw cash in the local currency.
- Don’t exchange money at airports unless you are desperate. Rates are too unfavourable.
- Avoid using your money cards in general – stick to cash as much as you can. Lessens the risk of your cards being fraudulently copied/misused.
- Hostelworld is good if you need to make a series of bookings ahead of time but can’t afford to pay for them yet. You pay a deposit to secure the booking and the remainder when you arrive. Each hostel usually gives good written descriptions telling you how to get to them and a link to Google Maps. If you are able to pay up front, it’s always worth checking prices directly with the hostel who may offer you a cheaper rate than the one offered on Hostelworld.
- Buy a TSA approved padlock – you can use this for your bag/suitcase when you travel and for your hostel locker when you arrive if a lock is not provided (my suitcase was smashed open at an airport in the US as my in-built suitcase lock was not TSA-approved).
- Keep your smartphone on airplane mode when not using it. It makes the battery last longer when you are out and about in the day and also stops any surprising data roaming charges if you are on a contract. I have a pay-as-you-go sim from the UK but I only use free wifi when travelling. Some countries offer free sim cards on arrival to tourists if you can’t live without data.
- Install a VPN on your phone and laptop. I use Express VPN and have always had good service. You can’t always access the websites you need in various countries ( -for example, you can’t use booking.com in Turkey, I couldn’t access my Gmail in China – so a VPN is invaluable and also lets you watch your favourite TV on the go (BBC iplayer etc) if your wifi connection is strong enough.
- Take advantage of hostel freebies such as free breakfasts, towels, walking tours or any discounts they offer – for example chain hostels have links with each other and may be able to give you discounts for staying in multiple hostels within the chain, help you book shuttles to travel between them, or offer discounted tours, for example, Envoy Hostels have hostels in Tbilisi, Yerevan and Phnom Penh. If you book a stay with Abraham Hostels they give you 10% off your stay in another one of their hostels – they have hostels in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Tel Aviv.
- Book direct with airlines rather than using third party companies. This makes it easier to make any changes you might need to or deal with any issues such as missed flight connections. Use a site like Skyscanner to scout out which airlines fly where and then go to the airline’s own website if you see a fare you like the look of and buy it from there directly. If you book flights on the Norwegian site of Norwegian Airlines using Google Translate, the price is 20% cheaper. Create a profile first and buy the ticket you want. I’ve done this and it was straightforward.
- If you need to book a return flight to be able to enter a country that is easily cancellable as your plans may change, take a look at Fly Dubai. They fly to lots of destinations now and when you cancel one of their flights, you immediately get a voucher to use on their airline at a later date instead of the usual delay some airlines take to return your money to you. Turkish Airlines are another good option – I had to make changes to a ticket recently and it was very cheap to do so.
- Sign up for airline loyalty programmes and build up loyalty points/air miles.
- Download useful travel apps, for example, airline apps to store mobile boarding passes or translation apps like Snap & Translate. Lots of travellers use maps.me which allows you to download a map for your location and use it offline. This app also helps you search for supermarkets, restaurants etc. Many places have transportation maps you can use offline, for example London and Tokyo underground both have apps that help you plan your journey and tell you which metro lines to use.
- Invest in a lightweight travel towel. Though some hostels provide towels for free or for a small rental fee, it’s good to have a trekking towel you can use for beach days or hikes that won’t take up much room in your day bag.
- Stick to drinking bottled water and in countries where the water quality is poor, you will want to brush your teeth with bottled water. Be cautious of ice in drinks and salads in such places too.
- For travel insurance I can recommend World Nomads.
- Things I can’t live without – a travel adapter/travel hairdryer with different voltage settings/lightweight day bag (mine is from the Columbia brand)/earplugs.
I am sure to encounter more things during my round-the-world trip so I will add tips as I go. Feel free to message me with any essential tips you think I’ve missed and I’ll add them to this list. Happy travelling! 🙂