#1 Get out and about
The immediate area around the hotel isn’t far enough I’m afraid. The little tourist shops selling bright blue dolphin figurines, amusing t-shirts and bottle openers shaped like penises are not what makes the place you are in worth visiting. At least you could pick the most exotic of the trips that your tour guide offers. The all-inclusive beer fuelled boat trip does not count I’m afraid. It always amazes us how many people travel half way around the world and see nothing of the country they are in.
#2 Meet the locals
If they are making great efforts to sell you something it doesn’t count. People are usually friendly, and the further off the beaten track you are, the more they will be interested in you too. We have been to places where the kids have never seen white faces before, its weird when you are the attraction and the café staff are taking sneaky pictures of you.
#3 Try the local food
Local food doesn’t have to be scary and can make a nice change from the all day breakfast they serve at the bar with the ‘we show all the soaps’ sign. Street food is a great place to start, it is usually simple and wholesome, freshly cooked and cheap. Really cheap. This is also a good place to meet the locals. You might want to give this one a miss in Egypt though, never been so ill!
#4 Take lots of photographs
The more you travel, the more you see, the more things that you are likely to forget. Its really nice to go over the thousands of photos we have sometimes and reminisce. Its our goal that by the end of our lives we will have forgotten more things than most people have ever done.
#5 Travel light
We have all done it. Pack a bag to within an inch of its life, struggle through the airport, wrestle it onto a coach then only use half of it while your away. Dumb isn’t it? We find that 15KG of luggage is enough for the two of us on most trips. I mean how many pairs of shoes can one person wear in a week? 5 Kilos of make-up and beauty stuff? Really?
#6 Check the price before hand
This applies to everything, especially in tourist trap resort land. The locals may have a tendency to see you as a walking wallet, because often they get away with charging 3 times the price. This is especially important when it comes to taxi’s, ALWAYS agree a price beforehand. Its OK to overpay a bit, especially in a poorer country. We always offer over the odds in off the beaten track markets, like paying double for spices in Sri Lanka, nothing to us, a good bonus for them.
Make sure you have enough of it, then take extra. Keep it in the hotel safe if possible, and don’t carry more than you need when out. Consider carrying a ‘dummy wallet.’ Shove a couple of unimportant cards, maybe supermarket reward cards and a few dollars worth of currency in a wallet and give this one up if you are robbed. They will glance at it, see your cards and think they have your actual wallet, which of course is elsewhere. Get credit cards. Not to use, to have in an emergency. Imagine you lose all your money, get robbed or something. You can use this to get a flight home.
#8 Copy of hotel details
It is far too easy to forget the name of your hotel, especially if you have not long arrived or you have recently stayed in quite a number of hotels. Put it in your phone as soon as you arrive or before if you have it booked. We once met a group of young girls, wandering San Antonio in Ibiza at 3AM. They had arrived, dumped there bags, gone out on the town and now it was time to return they did not know the name of their hotel or indeed any idea where it was!!!
#9 See the local Wildlife
A safari was one of the best things that we have ever done, but you don’t have to go to the jungle or savanna to see wildlife. Everywhere has wildlife and no matter what kind of trip you are on, it is always worth taking time to see what flora and fauna are around. You will probably be surprised.
#10 First aid kit
Carry one whenever you are out and about. Buy a ready made one in a nice, tidy, water resistant case and add in the extras that you personally need and feel comfortable using. We carry all sorts on a big trip because we are qualified to use all sorts. If you don’t know much first aid it may be worth learning some as its good to be self sufficient with no need for pharmacy’s. In very poor countries its a good idea to carry your own clean needles and syringes as hospitals are usually in great need and re-use them.
#11 Photocopy Passport
Take a couple of photocopies of your passport and keep them in different places throughout your luggage. If you lose your actual passport, it is easier to replace it if you have a copy, and you can take a copy out with you rather than your original.
#12 Drink lots of water
There are two reasons for drinking: one is, when you are thirsty, to cure it; the other, when you are not thirsty, to prevent it. If you live in a country with crappy weather like we do, you may not be used to drinking large amounts of water. In hot environments you may be requiring 4-6 litres a day, getting this amount of fluids into your body can be difficult. If you are planning a lot of activity, carrying large quantities of water is difficult. Instead carry a good filter so you can use whatever water source you come across. See our review of the katadyn combi filter.
#13 Travel insurance
Get cover suitable for the type of trip you are going on and the duration. We buy a years multi trip policy as it is much cheaper than single trip. Be sure to disclose any existing conditions or medications as they will do anything to avoid paying out.
Whether you like the kindle or the more traditional paperback, reading material is a travel essential. Novels are OK for the beach if they are your thing, but before you leave its worth reading up on the local culture and history. At a minimum, reading the lonely planet or rough guide is essential, but if you really want to get to know a place, you need to dig deeper.
#15 Bigger, Higher, Faster, Further
Be sure to push you limits and step out of your comfort zone – often. Do something different, learn something new, go bigger, higher, faster and further than you have ever been before. Its the stuff that memories are made of. The difference between a forgettable trip and memories that will last a lifetime.