Five travel tips you never knew you needed
I was asked the other day what tricks I learned on my year abroad that I would use again this time around, as I prepare to go travelling again. It was a great question. Here are the top five hard-earned tips I learned while on the road:
Keep your luggage smelling fresh
When you’re on the road for any extended amount of time, you soon realise that you have to pack and carry your dirty laundry together with your clean clothes. And if a laudromat isn’t readily avilable, you don’t yet have a full washing load, or don’t have enough change to put on a load, your suitcase can end up quite whiffy! You’ll be holding your breath every time you need to open your luggage.
A little trick a fellow traveller imparted to me was to carry a bunch of tumble-dryer freshener sheets in a zip lock bag. Leave one sheet within your clothes to keep your bag smelling fresh between washes.
Never get lost in a new place
This was one of the best tricks I learned as a solo traveller. Whenever you check into a hotel or hostel, pick up one or two of their business cards and put one in your wallet and day bag. If ever you get lost, are not good with the language, or are trying to take a cab after a few drinks and can’t remember the name or address of where you’re staying, pull out the business card and show a local or the cab driver. Its a great backup, and it makes communicating where you need to go so much easier.
Move in with the locals
Some of my most memorable experiences was when I stayed with locals I found through the Airbnb membership. Locals who have a spare room or two, sign up to rent these rooms to international travellers for short stays. In my experience, its much cheaper than booking a hotel, the rooms are homely and comfy, and the hosts usually provide a home-made breakfast to boot! The other advantage is that the hosts only have you, and maybe one or two other people, to worry about. So they can provide lots of time and attention to informing you on how to get around, what to see, where to get good and even some history. And the best part is that you get to see and experience for yourself how the locals live – and that’s what you’re travelling for, isn’t it?
There is also the Couchsurfing program which is similar, but you sleep on people’s couches. I have yet to try this, but have heard nothing but positive things about it from fellow travellers.
Travel easy – bring your own washing soap
This is another laundry-related tip for you (you don’t realise how important these things are until you are living entirely out of your bag!). Don’t carry around bottles of laundry liquid or spend too much money on buying laundry soap at the laundromat. Get to a supermarket and buy a packet of laundry detergent pods.
These capsules contain pre-measured, concentrated liquid detergent within water-soluble packaging. The outside of the pod rapidly dissolves when in contact with moisture, so keep it dry in your luggage. When its time to head to the laundromat, just grab one of these babies, chuck it in with everything else, and hit go. Then saunter off and enjoy a coffee at that funky looking cafe you spied on the way in.
Get orientated as soon as you land
Don’t be too quick to run for a cab as soon as you land at a new airport. Look for an information desk and pick up a map of the city to start getting your bearings. While you’re there, enquire about hotel shuttle services. These courier busses are quite an economical option for to-door drop off, as long as you don’t mind riding around dropping other customers off too. Its especially good if you’re not feeling confident enough yet to take public transport, but don’t want to pay extraordinary taxi fares.
I’ll update more tips as I remember them or discover them. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear any gems you’ve learned. Leave a comment if you’ve got one to share!