Top travel tips

I met a young and energetic American traveller starting out on his travels. He wanted to know, “what would be my top 3 travel tips to someone starting their own travelling adventure?”

You see, I was at the start of my 5 week journey in India. I was enjoying meeting lots of other like-minded travellers at the Madpackers Hostel. Conversations always eventually lead to what countries have you travelled to. My response always blows people away – “well this is my 70th country, do you want me to list them all?” I love seeing the amazement on their faces.

The questions tend to be similar each time. But on this occasion a traveller asked me a question that no one has asked me before. How did I survive eleven years of non-stop and safe travelling? Can I give him any travel tips or tricks to help him kick start his journey on the right foot?

Nothing strange about the question. But he got me thinking because no one had asked me that question before and so I had to get back to him the next day.

Here are my top 3 travel tips:

First top travel tip - Trust 

Don’t trust anyone!

a guy wearing a scary mask with his hands around a females neck. trust being a top travel tip

I know that it sounds bad but in my time I have heard quite a few travel tales where things went horribly wrong. So while my main concern is to not only enjoy and have fun on my adventures, but to also look out for number one – me!

I always read up about a destination in the Lonely Planet guide:

  • Study the city maps for main street names and tourist attractions. So that I can never get lost or be aware when a taxi is heading in the wrong direction!
  • Read up on the scams that people get caught in, so that I don’t get caught unawares.

Watch your bags and other travel items important to you – ie. cameras, phones. No matter which country you travel to, there will always be poor people. And they will take any opportunity to better their finances. The easiest way is to target unsuspecting tourists.

It’s still important for me to have fun and enjoy the food and culture of the country. I take that extra step of always being aware of my surroundings and watching or observing people. I prefer avoiding the hassle of finding the embassy to get a new passport (so much paperwork). Or buying a new camera or phone. It depletes my spending money.

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Second top travel tip – tune into your internal GPS system 

This follows on from the above tip. Don’t discount the genuine people you meet because you may miss out on a rewarding experience. Who knows where it can lead you.

I remember stopping in a town in southern Chile called Coihaique as there were no buses and the flight was full. A beautiful town surrounded by picturesque mountains. The only thing was that there were no tour companies or local buses. We wanted to explore the surrounding countryside. So we hired a taxi driver for the day, named Mauricio. He took us to all the best and stunning viewing points. And even gave us a commentary of the area –exactly like a tourist guide.

Upon returning to the town he invited us to his house for evening drinks and then take us to the best dancing bar in town. My instincts told me that we could trust this guy. We met his lovely family and enjoyed the conversation. Then a couple of Mauricio’s friends came over, with bottles of wine, and ended up dancing in the living room until 4am.

a taxi driver standing between two female passengers in front of his taxi

Maruicio, our taxi driver

a group of people dancing in an apartment

Dancing in Mauricio's apartment

I guess it helped that I was travelling with two friends. So it was safety in numbers. We all agreed that the authentic cultural experience was much better than going to a bar and talking amongst ourselves. Would I have accepted the invitation if I was travelling alone… probably not. But that comes from a safety issue.

How to trust

Its hard to determine if people are genuine or not. How can I tell the difference? I simply use my good sense and intuition – my gut feeling about people, locations, streets I walk along. Intuition is basically your gut instinct. Its your naturally built internal GPS system that guides you in the right direction. It truly knows best. Scientists describe our stomach as our second brain. So listen to what your gut feeling tells you – that strong feeling of knowing. It’s always right..

If you don’t know how to use your intuition, then you’ll have a few ‘interesting’ stories to tell your friends!

Third top travel tip - Surrender

When people ask me what’s my favourite place I’ve visited, quite often its usually the last place Ive been to. That’s because the enjoyment of the holiday is still fresh in my memory.

I allow myself to totally immerse in the culture –

- Eat the local food, not western meals in western type restaurants

- Chat with locals – you find out more about their way of life.

- Use local transport instead of taxi’s or private car. You certainly do meet some characters on buses, metro, tuk tuks, rickshaws, boats etc.

- I smile at everything I see.

- I marvel in how different our lives are instead of judging it or comparing it to my life back home in Australia. It is different for a reason and I fully accept it all – even the things we may call ‘imperfections’.

For me, every place in the world has its own joy, wonderment and bliss. All you have to do is surrender to it and enjoy it. Thats why I love to travel so much.

What are your top 3 travel tips?

I’ll leave you with one boring practical tip. I always carry my credit card, cash and passport in a body travel pouch underneath my clothes. Rather than throwing it into my bag. So should I ‘lose’ my bags, I still have a way to get cash and get home. I guess the only time I cant do this is when I’m lazing on the beach. In this case, I either secure it in the hotels/hostels locker or safe, or lock it in my suitcase/rucksack.

Do you have any travel tips that you found very helpful or useful that you would like to share?

{Acknowledgement: Thanks to Jesse (USA) for asking me this question}

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About the author

Lisa is a travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.

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