Monday, 15 April 2013

Pens Guide to Surviving Abroad (Travel Tips & Tricks)

I travel, fairly often. Since returning from my massive year long trip I've been abroad four times already... So I think I know a few things about surviving abroad... so I shall impart my wisdom on to you. Be these bizarre or just random, I hope they help.
Lesson 1: Approach large sleeping beasts slowly, from behind.
Essential Tools On the Road
I always have a cheap unlocked phone (when I'm not losing it) which will take any sim card. This enables you to plug in a sim card from that country an save money on calls. This is beneficial in a number of ways:
-You can call hostels/tours and check availability
-You can give your number to fellow travellers to easily arrange meetups when on the road(FB not always avail)
-Its cheap and therefore easy to replace/not a target to steal unlike your flashy iPhones you hipster travellers, stop uploading everything to instragram anyway.

A machete. You never know when you will need to cut down some jungle. I have opted for a traditional bamboo model from Thailand. Failing a machete an all purpose swiss army knife will suffice and can open bottles, cans and almost anything else you might come across on the road.

Duct tape. If you haven't fixed the problem you haven't used enough. Will fix everything. Once a tour guide attempted to fix my broken boots with roots, the fix didn't last and I promptly threw away the boots. This wouldn't have happened had I had Duct Tape.
-Some people suggest a sewing kit... this is fruitless for two reasons: If you rucksack has broken, a few threads will not hold and it will break again shortly. 2. You have to be good at this sort of skill (I am not)

Personal items I always find useful (particuarly in Asia) your own chopsticks, beats using the annoying wooden ones that give you splinters.

Foods & Drink
Commons sense/General travel advice says don't drink the water, drink enough water etc. The best thing for this is a camelpack. This can also double up as an excellent discrete method of drinking in public (whilst in America especially useful) - This can also come under useful tools.
I would usually choose a better rum than Bacardi
When in expensive countries I found buying food and breakfast selection always to be a bit lacking, probably cause I don't like most traditional breakfast items (except Samesun Vancouver, holy shit that hostel they had the best free breakfast set up ever, bagels and everything) I had an easy way round this.... Peanut Butter! 1 jar, last for weeks easily goes on toast (which is usually provided) and doesn't really go off. The next item, is more for jazzing up everyday food or in Japan - pot noodles: One jar of Tabasco Sauce.

Learn some of the language. Do you really want to the stereotypical tard that just raises the voice and repeats themselves? Besides learning the simple phrases for 'Beer', 'Thank You' and 'I would like' is REALLY easy. Further in this series of phrases you should ALWAYS KNOW 'How much?', Numbers up to ten and tens (once you know 1-10,20,30,...100) You can figure out nearly every other number. Once you have basics the rest is easier, an even just pointing on the menu and saying "I would like this please" is less rude. Plus it'll impress the locals and fellow ignorant travellers.
If you are in need of a more complex help with language, ie a transaction that isn't just a souvenir, I would suggest either a translator (usually hostel staff who you bribe with beer or are happy to try out their English) OR when this is not available, Google Translate...
Plus you can laugh at the bad translations...

Getting Around
Pay serious attention to the Wikitravel page relating to taxi's and bus companies on the area you are in. Foreigners are notorious for being rinsed by illegal taxis and unscrupulous individuals. If it sounds to good to be true it is and you will probably be robbed. The advice where it says ask your hostel to call you is there for good reason. I remember a time in China, we arrived at the same time as some others and were going to the same hostel. The taxi they got, took them in circles and then tried to charge them a ludicrous amount, the hostel staff intervened and police were called. However there was no way of telling this was going to happen (both taxis were identical). In Arequipa you can hire a taxi car and pretend to be one, this is a well known scam in the city. Hence the numerous warnings. In other news, sometimes you meet a very nice taxi driver who knows his stuff and is friendly, probably still tries to sell you stuff but hey s'all good.

Barter! If there is no meter, either refuse the taxi or agree a price in advance. This is how it works. Never accept the first price either.

I always pay more for a nice bus company, less dodgy and 18 hours comfort for what is usually £2-3 is definitely worth it. Enough on travel as it varies from country to country.
Taxi's in Arequipa

Common Sensicles

Always be prepared. Essentially leading on from the essential tools section, this is more about knowing where stuff is, being mentally prepped and ready to roll.

Always pack your stuff the night before you are due to leave. This is doubly important if you are:
a) Leaving early
b) Going out with fellow hostel goers and
c)Both of these.

I can guarantee you will lose something if you do not do this and wake up in a rush to get stuff packed. It also means if you oversleep you've more chance of making it on time as you can just leave. This also means sometimes you should sleep in what you plan to travel in. 4am Starts have never ever been fun.

If you are arriving late night/early morning always have a hostel booked/know where you are going. Makes you feel safer, also be weary of the 'your hotel is closed' scam. Rocking in to a town at 3am and needing to find a hotel at the last minute, is rather difficult and can be quite sketchy.

I use Wikitravel or the guide book to get a basic idea, Guides are better for the maps than the actual suggestions. Last bit of this advice is to build a thick skin, keep your mind aware and expect the unexpected.
Famous words..... "Don't Panic"
Sometimes you end up on a floor!

Where to Go?
Often I follow the #askSTA twitter session on a Friday afternoon for general amusements. Often you get people asking the most pointless questions or seemingly asking for every little detail to be planned. Which is fine but it's not how I roll (or think anyone should roll)

Question example: "Where should I go..."
This is a fair enough question in a location or asking for tips in a city/country but they were asking in the whole world, If you don't know where you want to go.... why are you planning a trip?
Where to go should be Point 1 in this whole bit of advice.

If you don't have a clue its easy to narrow down some points.... if you like food say Indian/Chinese/Italian then clearly go to these places! If you want to party like a spring breaker on speed then Thailand beach parties it is. If you want a true adventure in Jungles/Trekking then find those places.
If you don't have a clue, ask me and I'll tell you.
Some people travel to learn 'Legendary Nunchaku Skills'

Happy Travelling!