Sunday, October 24, 2010

10 Travel Tips, Whether You Will Be Gone for Two Days or Two Years

Here's ten tips for traveling that I wish I had known years ago:
  1. Travel light. One bag max, one small bag preferable. Even the spouse, after much cajoling and complaining, is now able to bring only one bag no matter how long we will be gone. It is easier to schlep around, easier to keep track of, and just easier to manage in general.
  2. Buy local. Thanks to airline regulations, there is no temptation to travel with regular-sized bottles of anything since you have a 3 ounce limit for stuff like shampoo, etc. Instead, we carry trial-sized items to start with then replace these at our destination with local purchases of soap/shampoo/toothpaste/etc. This can also go for clothes, shoes, and basically anything else you have need of.
  3. Do laundry more often. You can easily travel with fewer clothes if you can wash them often. My choice for laundry ranges from lowest preference (hand washing) to a better option (laundromat), to the best option (paying a local laundry woman a couple of bucks to do it).
  4. Go local. Almost any thing you can want/need/choose to do, can be done less expensively if you do as the locals do. Taxi or jeepney? Locals choose the jeepney because it is cheaper. Imported Wisk laundry soap or the local powdery version with a name you can't pronounce? The locals choose the cheaper powdery stuff. Going diving with a nationally known tour company? The locals (actually the expat locals) will go with a hole-in-the-wall place that is cheaper and locally run (the average native local doesn't SCUBA dive as far as I can tell).
  5. Eat local too. A food cart or tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that is packed with locals is better for a number of reasons. First, it is usually cheaper because it caters to local people's incomes, second the food turns over quickly which is good, hygienically-speaking, and third, if a local restaurant isn't good, it will go out of business pretty quickly.
  6. Acclimate yourself. It will save you money on air conditioning (or on the flip side, heating) if you force yourself to acclimate to the local weather. You can tell the tourists by how much time they spend in their (highly) air conditioned hotel rooms or (highly) air conditioned chain bars.
  7. Be nice, and useful if possible, to the locals. If they like you and later trust you, you will have some things that money can't buy. Namely local connections you can rely on, opportunities that the average tourist won't have, and local info and insight that will help you save money or in a worst case scenario, save your life.
  8. Check your American (or French or fill in the country) attitude at the door. The way you have always done something doesn't mean it is the best/most effective/most appreciated way to do something in your new locale. Watch, listen, and learn. I tend to bite my tongue when it comes to giving advice unless it is asked for or I feel it is a life and death situation.
  9. Obviously you will never be a native and based on your skin color, you may stick out like a sore thumb, but you can integrate yourself into the culture to the benefit of everyone (yourself and the locals) if you learn some of the language, learn their manners and customs, and behave respectfully to all.
  10. Learn how to haggle. This is a time honored custom in most parts of the world. A lot of people from where this is not done are embarrassed to even try, to their own detriment (and the amusement of the locals). Granted I will haggle for what I feel is a reasonable price but don't drive a super hard bargain because I can afford to pay a bit more than the locals so I feel I should do so.

The corollary to all of this--you don't need a whole lot of stuff to survive virtually anywhere; what you need most is a good attitude and willingness to "go local".

1 comment:

  1. This is a very good list. We learned the 1st one many years ago when traveling by bus in Mexico (didn't want to deal with lost luggage) and we were surprised that a week worth of vacationing could be done with minimal hassle.

    One thing we have learned since then - adding another bag for future materials is very handy, one of those 'roped' bookbags kids use makes a great day pack for incidentals.