Travel Tips
for Independent Travellers

ToastedRaisins

By TOASTEDRAISINS

They say experience is the greatest teacher and this statement is nowhere truer than in the world of travel. There are just some things that you can’t know before you go. It can be anything from handy hints that make your life a little bit easier to key pieces of advice that can save you hundreds of dollars. This is where a long list of travel tips comes in handy.

After 3 years of life abroad including 6 months traveling around South East Asia, we have collected 20 such tips that will save your time, money and stress. The tips are broken up into different sections according to the part of travel to which they relate. If you would like to add some of your own tips, please send us a message HERE! Let’s help each other travel better!

#1 Packing For Your Adventure 

So, you’re planning your big adventure. Maybe it’s one week in Bali. Maybe it’s a 6-month stint in South America. Wherever and however you may be going, packing properly will save you time and hassle down the track. 

What You Need

When packing, it is key to understand what you really need and what you can do without. 

For a shorter trip, you can get away with overpacking a little bit. But even if you have a luxurious 30kg to play around with, those kilos are going to feel pretty heavy when you’re lugging your suitcase down a stairwell in a hotel without a lift. And also, more room at the beginning of your journey means more room for souvenirs!

AND, if you’re planning a longer trip, you will quickly realize that you can actually do without a lot of the stuff that seems crucial to your life at home. Within the first month of our 5-month trip around South-East Asia, we had already ditched 3 bags of clothes and sent one whole suitcase home because didn’t have room for them and they were costing us big bucks at the airport. 

Think critically when packing. If you’re going somewhere tropical, you will be in either shorts of long fisherman pants and your t-shirts will be used for sun protection and mosquito repellant. No tight skirts, no jeans, minimal going-out clothes. If you’re going somewhere cold, don’t waste time with clothes that look good but don’t warm you up. They will only be a burden for you. Take lots of socks and undies because they always seem to run out first! 

Laundry is super cheap in some locations so it’s often better to take minimal clothing and just wash as you go. 

Medication

Have a good, hard think about what medicine you’ll need when you’re away. While basic pain killers are accessible in most parts of the world, things like contraceptives, thrush creams and stronger pain killers may be harder to come by. Also, research the most popular painkillers, anti-diarrhea and anti-motion sickness tablets in the place you’re going to. You want to have these supplies ready BEFORE you need them, so stock up either at home or as soon as you arrive at your destination. 

Sending Bags

If you do find yourself in a foreign country with some excess baggage to send home, then don’t worry, it will be easier than you think. DHL and FedEx are speedy and reliable services that can get your goods wherever they need to go. And most countries will have their own local couriers that are much cheaper than the big names. Ask at your hotel or google ‘how to send a parcel from X to Y. We sent a whole 20kg suitcase by ship from Istanbul to Maleny, Australia for $300 and it arrived, undamaged, in about a week. 

Batteries

If you are taking any vibrating our loud electrical devices with you, do remove the batteries from them before you pack them. Trust us, we’re talking from experience. It is no fun when you’re called up to the boarding gate to ‘sort out the vibrating suitcase’. Better safe than sorry!

ToastedRaisins

By TOASTEDRAISINS

They say experience is the greatest teacher and this statement is nowhere truer than in the world of travel. There are just some things that you can’t know before you go. It can be anything from handy hints that make your life a little bit easier to key pieces of advice that can save you hundreds of dollars. This is where a long list of travel tips comes in handy.

After 3 years of life abroad including 6 months traveling around South East Asia, we have collected 20 such tips that will save your time, money and stress. The tips are broken up into different sections according to the part of travel to which they relate. If you would like to add some of your own tips, please send us a message HERE! Let’s help each other travel better!

#1 Packing For Your Adventure 

So, you’re planning your big adventure. Maybe it’s one week in Bali. Maybe it’s a 6-month stint in South America. Wherever and however you may be going, packing properly will save you time and hassle down the track. 

What You Need

When packing, it is key to understand what you really need and what you can do without. 

For a shorter trip, you can get away with overpacking a little bit. But even if you have a luxurious 30kg to play around with, those kilos are going to feel pretty heavy when you’re lugging your suitcase down a stairwell in a hotel without a lift. And also, more room at the beginning of your journey means more room for souvenirs!

AND, if you’re planning a longer trip, you will quickly realize that you can actually do without a lot of the stuff that seems crucial to your life at home. Within the first month of our 5-month trip around South-East Asia, we had already ditched 3 bags of clothes and sent one whole suitcase home because didn’t have room for them and they were costing us big bucks at the airport. 

Think critically when packing. If you’re going somewhere tropical, you will be in either shorts of long fisherman pants and your t-shirts will be used for sun protection and mosquito repellant. No tight skirts, no jeans, minimal going-out clothes. If you’re going somewhere cold, don’t waste time with clothes that look good but don’t warm you up. They will only be a burden for you. Take lots of socks and undies because they always seem to run out first! 

Laundry is super cheap in some locations so it’s often better to take minimal clothing and just wash as you go. 

Medication

Have a good, hard think about what medicine you’ll need when you’re away. While basic pain killers are accessible in most parts of the world, things like contraceptives, thrush creams and stronger pain killers may be harder to come by. Also, research the most popular painkillers, anti-diarrhea and anti-motion sickness tablets in the place you’re going to. You want to have these supplies ready BEFORE you need them, so stock up either at home or as soon as you arrive at your destination. 

Sending Bags

If you do find yourself in a foreign country with some excess baggage to send home, then don’t worry, it will be easier than you think. DHL and FedEx are speedy and reliable services that can get your goods wherever they need to go. And most countries will have their own local couriers that are much cheaper than the big names. Ask at your hotel or google ‘how to send a parcel from X to Y. We sent a whole 20kg suitcase by ship from Istanbul to Maleny, Australia for $300 and it arrived, undamaged, in about a week. 

Batteries

If you are taking any vibrating our loud electrical devices with you, do remove the batteries from them before you pack them. Trust us, we’re talking from experience. It is no fun when you’re called up to the boarding gate to ‘sort out the vibrating suitcase’. Better safe than sorry!

#2 Buying Tickets 

Buy Baggage Beforehand 

Most airlines allow you to add baggage to your ticket after the purchase and right up to the time you check in at the airport. Many also allow you to do this online with a few clicks of your mouse. Nevertheless, with some airlines (i.e. Nok Air) it is not straight forward and you can save yourself quite a few dollars by adding baggage immediately, even if you’re unsure of how much you’ll need. 

Case in Point:

We were not able to add baggage to our Nok Air flight from Chiang Mai to Phnom Penh (via Bangkok) online because we had booked the tickets using an intermediary agency and not directly via the Nok Air website. We were advised to call Nok Air directly.

But, even when we called their office directly, we were told that we would have to wait until checking in before we could add luggage which was, of course, much more expensive than if we had simply added the extra luggage when we were buying the ticket.  Now we always add baggage when buying our tickets, even if we’re unsure of how much we’ll need. 

Cancelling Legs

If you buy a ticket with several legs (i.e. Krasnodar – Moscow – Doha – Bangkok), do make sure that you are on every single one of these flights. If you happen to be in Moscow earlier than planned (due to family circumstances, changed travel itineraries etc) and decide you can simple skip the Krasnodar-Moscow leg and rejoin your flight in Moscow then THINK AGAIN. If you miss one leg of your flight, the airline will most probably cancel ALL legs of the flight under your name and you will be forced to purchase new tickets on the spot for ALL legs.

Case In Point:

We were planning to fly the route mentioned above (Krasnodar – Moscow – Doha – Bangkok). However, at short notice we decided to fly to Istanbul before this trip. Rather than return to Krasnodar and then fly on to Moscow, we decided it would be easier to skip the first leg of our flight and fly directly from Istanbul to Moscow and then onward to Bangkok. At the check-in desk we were informed that the airline servicing the first leg of the flight had closed our tickets because we hadn’t been present on the first leg of the flight. They did it despite the fact that had notified the airline in writing that we wouldn’t be flying on the first leg but would be continuing our journey in Moscow. 

What happened? A lovely air hostess went out of her way to let us call the airline company, explain the situation and ask for them to reopen our tickets. She even let us use her own personal WIFI as Domodedovo airport in Moscow does not have free WIFI for passengers. After 40 minutes of waiting, we were finally sent an email stating we would have to repurchase tickets for the whole trip and the cost was over ten times as much as we had originally paid. What? They cancelled our old tickets and are now forcing us to buy new ones at ten times the price? Yes. 

Thankfully, the airhostess realized we were highly distressed and about to miss our flight. She weaved some magic, got us through check in and we somehow made it through immigration and customs with only 10 minutes to spare. Don’t make the same mistake as us…

Credit Card

If you, like most people these days, pay for your flights using a credit or debit card, make sure you either have the card on your person or have a photograph of the card with you when checking in for the flight. Why? Because if the name on the card used to pay for the flight differs from the name on the ticket, the airline will ask you to present proof that it is your card and not a stolen/fraudulent card. A simple photograph of the card itself it considered adequate proof.

However, if you’ve used the card of a spouse or family member or one of your own cards that you don’t have on you at check-in-time, and you can’t provide a photo of it immediately, you will be asked to buy new tickets for the flight. The airline will refund the cost of the old tickets to the card used to buy them but it will take some time. You don’t end up losing any money if the airline agrees to sell you tickets at the same price for which you originally bought them, but you will probably acquire a few grey hairs from the stress of having to buy new tickets, check-in and find your gate before the flight leaves. 

Downloading Ticket To Phone

No horror stories here, just a simple reminder to download your tickets to your phone in advance. Why? Because not all airports have free WIFI and if, for some reason, you can’t access your emails at the airport and you need to show check in staff proof of booking or proof of extra baggage purchase. Then you’ll need to have the documents on your phone, ready to go. 

#3 At The Airport

Open Your Suitcase

Have you ever taken the wrong bag from the airport carousel? No? Neither have we! And that’s because we always follow this simple rule. After taking your suitcase, just unzip it a bit and have a peek inside. Even if it’s got your name on it, even if it’s got the red ribbon on it that you always tie on it. Just open it, have a quick look for something familiar and then you’ll know for sure. 

Checking Times 

This one seems obvious, but it’s amazing what a sleep-deprived mind is capable of…or not capable of. Check your flight time, your flight gate, your terminal, your airport and the day that you’re flying multiple times. Check it when you’re booking, when you print your ticket, when you’re getting ready to leave for the airport and when you arrive. Ask someone else to check it to be double sure. Just do it.

 

#4 Border Crossings 

Dual Passports

If you do have two passports, keep one in your bag and out of sight when crossing borders. Of course, it’s not a crime to hold two passports but if officials see that you’re carrying two in your hand, some questions might arise that could delay your departure from said border crossing.

Case In Point:

Land Crossing into Northern Laos: Official mistook the papers in my passport cover for a second passport while I was walking away from the Vietnamese border and actually called me BACK onto his side to check why I had two passports. Of course, when he realized his mistake, he smiled and apologized. But still, you don’t need any extra problems at border crossings. Trust us. 

Extra Dollars

When leaving or entering a country, always make sure you have a few American dollars either in dollars themselves or in local currency on you. While you might feel a bit silly carrying these notes of insignificant value out of the country where you could spend them, they might just be the thing that gets you across the border into the next country that requires fees for health checks and passport photos.

Case In Point:

Kep, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by bus. Four of our travelling companions did not have the $1 required to pay for the health check that was necessary to pass before entering Vietnam. Luckily, we had some change with us and could pay for us all. 

Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam to Muang Khua, Laos by bus. In addition to the $30 visa fee, there were several additional fees, all between $2 and $5, to cover, well, we aren’t really sure, but we were required to pay them. One of them was to be paid only on weekends (apparently the border staff don’t like working on Saturdays or Sunday) and another was so our names could be handwritten in the ledger for incoming tourists. OK. 

Phnom Penh Airport. $5 fee for me because I didn’t have a passport photo (see next point). 

Photos

Before leaving for your trip, get a good amount of passport photos taken (probably 2 per country). You will need them at both land crossings and international airports and will be charged if you don’t have them. Even if you have researched the question and are sure you don’t need one, remember that border rules and regulations are changing constantly and even though it’s relatively easy to get photos taken overseas, it’s not something that you want to be worrying about when you’re trying to enjoy your holiday. 

EVisas

If you get an Evisa, or any visa for that matter, research which ports of entry and exit you are eligible to use with such a visa. Oftentimes you can enter a country with an Evisa via an international airport but you might not be eligible to leave the country via certain land crossings with this visa. This is non-negotiable. You will be turned around at the border and taken back to the nearest town. Not a good situation to be in especially if your visa is expiring.

Case In Point:

Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam. A popular land crossing between Vietnam and Laos. Evisa holders are NOT eligible to exit Vietnam here. When we were in Dien Bien Phu we heard several stories of people who had been turned back at the border recently and even the day before. What will happen if you get turned back? You’ll either have to buy tickets to fly out of the country or travel to a different land crossing where you are eligible to exit and enter. But, if your visa expires the day you were planning to leave, you might find yourself overstaying your visa. While this is something that can sometimes be paid for (e.g. $10/day for overstays in Cambodia), you really don’t want to risk tarnishing your record with such an instance. Research your visa!

Investigate Price

Find out how much visa and entrance taxes are going to cost. And research which ‘extra’ costs you might be required to pay to enter a country. Often, these fees are not official so don’t just rely on government websites for your information, read up about the question on different travel blogs to make sure you’re fully informed.

#5 Accommodation

Where Should I Stay?

While it might be tempting to book accommodation right beside the biggest attractions, it isn’t always the smartest move. We have come across this stumbling block several times and have finally learned our lesson. 

Staying near the major attractions is convenient. You can flounce straight out of your hotel and into the hustle and bustle without having to worry about transport. But if you’re only going to be spending a day or two visiting this attraction, there is really no need to stay close by. 

Why? 

Firstly, because the hordes of tourists flocking to this place daily might start to get on your nerves and you’ll wish you lived a little more out of the way so you could get some peace and quiet. 

Secondly, because after you’re done with the main attractions, you’ll be looking to explore the city itself, discover some cool laneways, street art and maybe even catch a glimpse of how locals really live. And, if you book accommodation that is itself located in one of these cool laneways, your trip to the main attractions will turn into interesting walks through different areas of the city that you otherwise would not have discovered.

Case In Point:

Chiang Mai. We booked a hotel right near the Night Market. After the second night, we realized that the night market is too crowded and busy and we don’t want to spend our evenings there. By the fourth day, we realized that most of the tranquil, artsy places that Chiang Mai is famous for are located on the other side of town, along with the less touristy and cheaper restaurants. 

Free Breakfast

Never underestimate the power of a free breakfast in your accommodation. It saves you time, it saves you money and it is a lot more convenient to eat at home if you’re up early for a tour or bus ride. 

Ask For A Receipt

If you have booked your accommodation online, chances are that you might be using a post-pay system whereby you pay when you check out. If this is the case, double check and triple check the amount that you should be paying for your stay. This can be especially problematic if you booked in your currency but are paying in the local currency. Have a currency converter handy on your phone so you can check your online booking, convert the cost into local currency and make sure your hotelier isn’t trying to scam a few dollars off you.

Yes, this does happen and no, the booking company will not help you unless you have proof of this transaction i.e. a receipt. So, remember to triple check the price of your booking AND ask for a receipt so you are completely insured against overcharging. This happened to use and we lost our money. Learn from our mistakes!

Think About What You Need

When searching for an appropriate hotel room or dormitory, think about more than just how clean it is and where it is located. Normally it’s not until you arrive that you realise you can’t live without a hairdryer, a kettle or a desk to work at.

Don’t Overbook

If you’re travelling on a relatively flexible schedule and aren’t sure how long you’re going to be staying in each place, then here is a piece of advice for you. Book one or two nights in a reasonable looking hotel so that you have somewhere to dump your bags and take a shower when you first arrive. Check out the area, the facilities, the room itself and decide whether you want to extend your stay or have a walk around town and find a better offer. If you decide to stay in the place you originally chose, you can negotiate the price with them directly on location. They will probably be happy that they don’t have to pay commission to a booking company and might even offer you a discount. 

Another thing to remember here is freedom of movement. If you book three weeks in one town and then discover that 20km down the road is a gorgeous village where you’d like to spend a few nights, you’re going to have to double book and lose some money. Stay flexible, book in chunks of 3 or 4 days! 

AirCon

Do not underestimate the power of aircon in warmer areas. Even if you think that you’ll be spending most days out of the room, unless you’re travelling in winter or to a reasonably cold place, you will be looking for the aircon after a long, hot day of exploring. Really consider your ability to fall asleep covered in sweat if you’re thinking of staying somewhere without aircon.

 

#6 Buying Stuff 

Where Is Cheaper?

Walking down the tourist strip of Siem Reap with sunburnt legs, you might be tempted to nip into the first shop you see to buy some soothing aloe-vera cream or sunscreen to protect you pale skin the future. But just think about it. Are the prices in the chemist on the most touristy stretch of road in town really going to be the most competitive? Although it may be inconvenient to go hunting for cheaper options, it could very well save you a few dollars. This goes for most things, like food and clothes. The more touristy, the pricier.

Simcard

Absolutely buy a sim everywhere you go. It will save you more times than you know. From calling taxis, booking accommodation, finding a nearby vegetarian restaurant and even using google translate, the internet is an invaluable resource that makes travelling so much easier. 

You can pick up a sim right at the airport but do keep in mind that it might be more expensive there. They are normally cheaper at travel agents and corner shops and more expensive in border crossing towns.  
Ultimately, you should research your destination and find out where the best place to buy a sim is and what the best deals are. There is loads of information out there, you’ve just gotta google it. 

 

#7 Travelling By Bus 

Travelling by bus is such a great adventure. Stunning views out of the window, interesting travelling companions and a whole lot of unexpected events. However, to make sure you reach the ultimate level of comfort on your bus trip, you might want to take the following items with you.

Pillow

Yes, some sleeper buses do have pillows. Do they get washed regularly? Who knows. Do you know where the head of the last person lying there has been? No. Taking your own little pillow with you will save you from horrific thoughts about lice and general dirtiness that appear when using a foreign pillow. You can also use a rolled-up scarf if you don’t have a pillow handy. 

Jumper

Yes, even when it’s 40 degrees outside, the aircon on buses can be bloody freezing and the blankets provided are not always sufficient. Take a jumper with yourself just in case. You won’t regret it. 

Socks + Easy To Take Off Shoes 

On some buses, particularly sleepers, you will be required to de- and re-shoe yourself every time you enter/exit the vehicle. If you’re scrambling madly to get out for the toilet stop, you don’t want to be fiddling around with laces. Keep it simple. Also, take a pair of socks with you. You never know what you might come across in a bus and having a thin shield between your skin and a grubby surface does a lot for your comfort levels. 

#2 Buying Tickets 

Buy Baggage Beforehand 

Most airlines allow you to add baggage to your ticket after the purchase and right up to the time you check in at the airport. Many also allow you to do this online with a few clicks of your mouse. Nevertheless, with some airlines (i.e. Nok Air) it is not straight forward and you can save yourself quite a few dollars by adding baggage immediately, even if you’re unsure of how much you’ll need. 

Case in Point:

We were not able to add baggage to our Nok Air flight from Chiang Mai to Phnom Penh (via Bangkok) online because we had booked the tickets using an intermediary agency and not directly via the Nok Air website. We were advised to call Nok Air directly.

But, even when we called their office directly, we were told that we would have to wait until checking in before we could add luggage which was, of course, much more expensive than if we had simply added the extra luggage when we were buying the ticket.  Now we always add baggage when buying our tickets, even if we’re unsure of how much we’ll need. 

Cancelling Legs

If you buy a ticket with several legs (i.e. Krasnodar – Moscow – Doha – Bangkok), do make sure that you are on every single one of these flights. If you happen to be in Moscow earlier than planned (due to family circumstances, changed travel itineraries etc) and decide you can simple skip the Krasnodar-Moscow leg and rejoin your flight in Moscow then THINK AGAIN. If you miss one leg of your flight, the airline will most probably cancel ALL legs of the flight under your name and you will be forced to purchase new tickets on the spot for ALL legs.

Case In Point:

We were planning to fly the route mentioned above (Krasnodar – Moscow – Doha – Bangkok). However, at short notice we decided to fly to Istanbul before this trip. Rather than return to Krasnodar and then fly on to Moscow, we decided it would be easier to skip the first leg of our flight and fly directly from Istanbul to Moscow and then onward to Bangkok. At the check-in desk we were informed that the airline servicing the first leg of the flight had closed our tickets because we hadn’t been present on the first leg of the flight. They did it despite the fact that had notified the airline in writing that we wouldn’t be flying on the first leg but would be continuing our journey in Moscow. 

What happened? A lovely air hostess went out of her way to let us call the airline company, explain the situation and ask for them to reopen our tickets. She even let us use her own personal WIFI as Domodedovo airport in Moscow does not have free WIFI for passengers. After 40 minutes of waiting, we were finally sent an email stating we would have to repurchase tickets for the whole trip and the cost was over ten times as much as we had originally paid. What? They cancelled our old tickets and are now forcing us to buy new ones at ten times the price? Yes. 

Thankfully, the airhostess realized we were highly distressed and about to miss our flight. She weaved some magic, got us through check in and we somehow made it through immigration and customs with only 10 minutes to spare. Don’t make the same mistake as us…

Credit Card

If you, like most people these days, pay for your flights using a credit or debit card, make sure you either have the card on your person or have a photograph of the card with you when checking in for the flight. Why? Because if the name on the card used to pay for the flight differs from the name on the ticket, the airline will ask you to present proof that it is your card and not a stolen/fraudulent card. A simple photograph of the card itself it considered adequate proof.

However, if you’ve used the card of a spouse or family member or one of your own cards that you don’t have on you at check-in-time, and you can’t provide a photo of it immediately, you will be asked to buy new tickets for the flight. The airline will refund the cost of the old tickets to the card used to buy them but it will take some time. You don’t end up losing any money if the airline agrees to sell you tickets at the same price for which you originally bought them, but you will probably acquire a few grey hairs from the stress of having to buy new tickets, check-in and find your gate before the flight leaves. 

Downloading Ticket To Phone

No horror stories here, just a simple reminder to download your tickets to your phone in advance. Why? Because not all airports have free WIFI and if, for some reason, you can’t access your emails at the airport and you need to show check in staff proof of booking or proof of extra baggage purchase. Then you’ll need to have the documents on your phone, ready to go. 

#3 At The Airport

Open Your Suitcase

Have you ever taken the wrong bag from the airport carousel? No? Neither have we! And that’s because we always follow this simple rule. After taking your suitcase, just unzip it a bit and have a peek inside. Even if it’s got your name on it, even if it’s got the red ribbon on it that you always tie on it. Just open it, have a quick look for something familiar and then you’ll know for sure. 

Checking Times 

This one seems obvious, but it’s amazing what a sleep-deprived mind is capable of…or not capable of. Check your flight time, your flight gate, your terminal, your airport and the day that you’re flying multiple times. Check it when you’re booking, when you print your ticket, when you’re getting ready to leave for the airport and when you arrive. Ask someone else to check it to be double sure. Just do it.

 

#4 Border Crossings 

Dual Passports

If you do have two passports, keep one in your bag and out of sight when crossing borders. Of course, it’s not a crime to hold two passports but if officials see that you’re carrying two in your hand, some questions might arise that could delay your departure from said border crossing.

Case In Point:

Land Crossing into Northern Laos: Official mistook the papers in my passport cover for a second passport while I was walking away from the Vietnamese border and actually called me BACK onto his side to check why I had two passports. Of course, when he realized his mistake, he smiled and apologized. But still, you don’t need any extra problems at border crossings. Trust us. 

Extra Dollars

When leaving or entering a country, always make sure you have a few American dollars either in dollars themselves or in local currency on you. While you might feel a bit silly carrying these notes of insignificant value out of the country where you could spend them, they might just be the thing that gets you across the border into the next country that requires fees for health checks and passport photos.

Case In Point:

Kep, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam by bus. Four of our travelling companions did not have the $1 required to pay for the health check that was necessary to pass before entering Vietnam. Luckily, we had some change with us and could pay for us all. 

Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam to Muang Khua, Laos by bus. In addition to the $30 visa fee, there were several additional fees, all between $2 and $5, to cover, well, we aren’t really sure, but we were required to pay them. One of them was to be paid only on weekends (apparently the border staff don’t like working on Saturdays or Sunday) and another was so our names could be handwritten in the ledger for incoming tourists. OK. 

Phnom Penh Airport. $5 fee for me because I didn’t have a passport photo (see next point). 

Photos

Before leaving for your trip, get a good amount of passport photos taken (probably 2 per country). You will need them at both land crossings and international airports and will be charged if you don’t have them. Even if you have researched the question and are sure you don’t need one, remember that border rules and regulations are changing constantly and even though it’s relatively easy to get photos taken overseas, it’s not something that you want to be worrying about when you’re trying to enjoy your holiday. 

EVisas

If you get an Evisa, or any visa for that matter, research which ports of entry and exit you are eligible to use with such a visa. Oftentimes you can enter a country with an Evisa via an international airport but you might not be eligible to leave the country via certain land crossings with this visa. This is non-negotiable. You will be turned around at the border and taken back to the nearest town. Not a good situation to be in especially if your visa is expiring.

Case In Point:

Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam. A popular land crossing between Vietnam and Laos. Evisa holders are NOT eligible to exit Vietnam here. When we were in Dien Bien Phu we heard several stories of people who had been turned back at the border recently and even the day before. What will happen if you get turned back? You’ll either have to buy tickets to fly out of the country or travel to a different land crossing where you are eligible to exit and enter. But, if your visa expires the day you were planning to leave, you might find yourself overstaying your visa. While this is something that can sometimes be paid for (e.g. $10/day for overstays in Cambodia), you really don’t want to risk tarnishing your record with such an instance. Research your visa!

Investigate Price

Find out how much visa and entrance taxes are going to cost. And research which ‘extra’ costs you might be required to pay to enter a country. Often, these fees are not official so don’t just rely on government websites for your information, read up about the question on different travel blogs to make sure you’re fully informed.

#5 Accommodation

Where Should I Stay?

While it might be tempting to book accommodation right beside the biggest attractions, it isn’t always the smartest move. We have come across this stumbling block several times and have finally learned our lesson. 

Staying near the major attractions is convenient. You can flounce straight out of your hotel and into the hustle and bustle without having to worry about transport. But if you’re only going to be spending a day or two visiting this attraction, there is really no need to stay close by. 

Why? 

Firstly, because the hordes of tourists flocking to this place daily might start to get on your nerves and you’ll wish you lived a little more out of the way so you could get some peace and quiet. 

Secondly, because after you’re done with the main attractions, you’ll be looking to explore the city itself, discover some cool laneways, street art and maybe even catch a glimpse of how locals really live. And, if you book accommodation that is itself located in one of these cool laneways, your trip to the main attractions will turn into interesting walks through different areas of the city that you otherwise would not have discovered.

Case In Point:

Chiang Mai. We booked a hotel right near the Night Market. After the second night, we realized that the night market is too crowded and busy and we don’t want to spend our evenings there. By the fourth day, we realized that most of the tranquil, artsy places that Chiang Mai is famous for are located on the other side of town, along with the less touristy and cheaper restaurants. 

Free Breakfast

Never underestimate the power of a free breakfast in your accommodation. It saves you time, it saves you money and it is a lot more convenient to eat at home if you’re up early for a tour or bus ride. 

Ask For A Receipt

If you have booked your accommodation online, chances are that you might be using a post-pay system whereby you pay when you check out. If this is the case, double check and triple check the amount that you should be paying for your stay. This can be especially problematic if you booked in your currency but are paying in the local currency. Have a currency converter handy on your phone so you can check your online booking, convert the cost into local currency and make sure your hotelier isn’t trying to scam a few dollars off you.

Yes, this does happen and no, the booking company will not help you unless you have proof of this transaction i.e. a receipt. So, remember to triple check the price of your booking AND ask for a receipt so you are completely insured against overcharging. This happened to use and we lost our money. Learn from our mistakes!

Think About What You Need

When searching for an appropriate hotel room or dormitory, think about more than just how clean it is and where it is located. Normally it’s not until you arrive that you realise you can’t live without a hairdryer, a kettle or a desk to work at.

Don’t Overbook

If you’re travelling on a relatively flexible schedule and aren’t sure how long you’re going to be staying in each place, then here is a piece of advice for you. Book one or two nights in a reasonable looking hotel so that you have somewhere to dump your bags and take a shower when you first arrive. Check out the area, the facilities, the room itself and decide whether you want to extend your stay or have a walk around town and find a better offer. If you decide to stay in the place you originally chose, you can negotiate the price with them directly on location. They will probably be happy that they don’t have to pay commission to a booking company and might even offer you a discount. 

Another thing to remember here is freedom of movement. If you book three weeks in one town and then discover that 20km down the road is a gorgeous village where you’d like to spend a few nights, you’re going to have to double book and lose some money. Stay flexible, book in chunks of 3 or 4 days! 

AirCon

Do not underestimate the power of aircon in warmer areas. Even if you think that you’ll be spending most days out of the room, unless you’re travelling in winter or to a reasonably cold place, you will be looking for the aircon after a long, hot day of exploring. Really consider your ability to fall asleep covered in sweat if you’re thinking of staying somewhere without aircon.

 

#6 Buying Stuff 

Where Is Cheaper?

Walking down the tourist strip of Siem Reap with sunburnt legs, you might be tempted to nip into the first shop you see to buy some soothing aloe-vera cream or sunscreen to protect you pale skin the future. But just think about it. Are the prices in the chemist on the most touristy stretch of road in town really going to be the most competitive? Although it may be inconvenient to go hunting for cheaper options, it could very well save you a few dollars. This goes for most things, like food and clothes. The more touristy, the pricier.

Simcard

Absolutely buy a sim everywhere you go. It will save you more times than you know. From calling taxis, booking accommodation, finding a nearby vegetarian restaurant and even using google translate, the internet is an invaluable resource that makes travelling so much easier. 

You can pick up a sim right at the airport but do keep in mind that it might be more expensive there. They are normally cheaper at travel agents and corner shops and more expensive in border crossing towns.  
Ultimately, you should research your destination and find out where the best place to buy a sim is and what the best deals are. There is loads of information out there, you’ve just gotta google it. 

 

#7 Travelling By Bus 

Travelling by bus is such a great adventure. Stunning views out of the window, interesting travelling companions and a whole lot of unexpected events. However, to make sure you reach the ultimate level of comfort on your bus trip, you might want to take the following items with you.

Pillow

Yes, some sleeper buses do have pillows. Do they get washed regularly? Who knows. Do you know where the head of the last person lying there has been? No. Taking your own little pillow with you will save you from horrific thoughts about lice and general dirtiness that appear when using a foreign pillow. You can also use a rolled-up scarf if you don’t have a pillow handy. 

Jumper

Yes, even when it’s 40 degrees outside, the aircon on buses can be bloody freezing and the blankets provided are not always sufficient. Take a jumper with yourself just in case. You won’t regret it. 

Socks + Easy To Take Off Shoes 

On some buses, particularly sleepers, you will be required to de- and re-shoe yourself every time you enter/exit the vehicle. If you’re scrambling madly to get out for the toilet stop, you don’t want to be fiddling around with laces. Keep it simple. Also, take a pair of socks with you. You never know what you might come across in a bus and having a thin shield between your skin and a grubby surface does a lot for your comfort levels. 

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