I'm currently travelling round the world while working for ReignDesign. Here are a collection of my 50 personal travel tips, from the familiar to the odd...
- Buy noise-cancellation headphones. They're expensive, but they last for years and they make long-haul flights far more pleasant.
- Always carry a pen on flights, to fill out the immigration card.
- Always have the address of a hotel in your destination ready (even if you haven't booked it).
- Always check visa requirements before booking a flight, especially if you're transiting another country.
- Chew gum on takeoff and landing to avoid painful ear pressure.
- Buy a cheap luggage scale. It's far cheaper than excess luggage charges.
- Always take your expensive gadgets (laptop, camera, phone, iPod) in hand luggage.
- Everyone reacts to jetlag differently. Take it easy the first few days after a long flight.
- Ask for an exit row at checkin. If you have to pick a seat online, pick the row behind the exit row, you may be able to move forward.
- If you want to use airport lounges, but can't afford business class, join Priority Pass.
- If you're not sure how something works (say a ticket machine), hang back and watch other people use it first.
- If you want someone to take your picture, choose someone who's carrying a decent camera themselves.
- Get a universal plug adaptor, then you'll never be stuck for an electrical outlet.
- If you have to get up at 4am to see a magical sunrise, and you're not a morning person, don't go to sleep. Nap when you get back.
- Take the lightest laptop you can afford, which is still powerful enough for you to do what you need to do.
- Don't lug around a giant Lonely Planet. Download the chapters you need from their website.
- Memorise your passport number and mobile phone number.
- Tell your bank if you're going abroad.
- ...but have your bank's phone number ready for when they block your card anyway.
- Danger socks! Take all matching black socks, and one pair of bright pink/green socks. When you reach the pink/green socks you know it's time to do some laundry
- Eat out at lunchtime, not at dinner time to save cash.
- Roaming charges can be outrageous, so get a local SIM card as soon as you can.
- Go to a public library. You can consult travel books for free, and often get free internet.
- Where there are students, there are cheap restaurants and haircuts.
- Reading the local newspaper is always cheap fun.
- Withdraw money from an ATM with a debit card; and withdraw in large amounts to avoid high per-transaction charges.
- Finding a great hotel: go to TripAdvisor, find the city, pick the highest ranked place in your price-range, book online for better rates.
- Check if your hotel will organise a free airport pickup.
- Youth hostels often have private rooms which are much cheaper than a "real" hotel.
- Check local "what's on" websites for free events, or "group buying" websites for coupons.
- After arriving in a new country, drink yoghurt to settle your stomach.
- Every country has a national beer. Every country has a colourless spirit. For your health, drink the beer.
- The area around the train station is ALWAYS dodgy.
- Drive more cautiously than you'd do at home. You don't know the conditions or the other road users.
- Carry a bottle of water with you and keep yourself hydrated.
- ...and if you're in a hot country, you need to be drinking *litres* of water every day.
- Register with your consulate if you're going anywhere remote or unsettled.
- If there's a natural disaster, let your family and friends know you're OK (even if you're thousands of miles away... people aren't thinking about geography at these times!)
- Only swim in the sea if you can see others swimming.
- FInd out about common scams. If someone (particularly an attractive member of the opposite sex) invites you to tea, to an art exhibition or to take part in any kind of gambling game, it's a scam.
- If you only learn one word in the foreign language, make it "thank you".
- Don't bargain over a few cents in countries where incomes are far lower than your own.
- Wear trousers, not shorts.
- People still like getting postcards.
- Don't carry your backpack on your front. You look like an idiot.
- When riding a train/long-distance coach, offer to share your food with the person in the seat next to you.
- Find out about tipping customs. Attempting to tip in some countries can be embarrassing for the recipient, failing to tip in others can cause major offense.
- Talk to people about their country, and listen: this is not the time to impress your political views on them!
- Reduce the amount of rubbish you create: turn down plastic bags in shops and reuse plastic bottles.
- When you get home, don't be the annoying person who says "this Pad Thai just doesn't compare to the one I had in this little village near Chiang Mai..."
What's your personal travel tip? Feel free to share them in the comments!