Travelling to new and different places, countries and cultures can be an enthralling, invigorating and enlightening experience, which can provide you with rich insights and experiences, and memories that will last a lifetime.
However, when you decide to visit somewhere new or unfamiliar, remember that not everything will necessarily go according to plan. Be prepared for the unexpected to happen. Approach your journey with an open mind, do not be too confident, and try to adapt to different circumstances.
Here are the Top 10 Tips for making the most of your travels.
1. Check, and then check again!
Although you may have planned your journey down to the last detail, do not expect it to be one hundred percent fool proof. There are a lot of things that can wrong, such as the date of a connecting train, or the check-in time of a hotel. Therefore, to give yourself peace of mind, cross-check important details and contact travel or hotel operators if need be for confirmation.
2. Don’t let bad news affect you
Whilst it is sensible to be cautious, at the same time you should not worry if you hear bad news in the newspapers, TV or online about a place that you intend to visit. Whilst a severe storm or a transport strike may threaten your destination, that is no reason to cancel your trip or reschedule your journey. Chances are that the predicted storm will have blown itself out, or the threatened strike cancelled by the date of your trip.
3. Avoid having a tightly packed schedule
Whilst it is natural, when we visit a country or city for the first time, that we want to see everything, having too tight a schedule can ruin our enjoyment of the trip, and means you spend all your time trying to cram too much into your stay. Instead focus on a few places that you really want to see, and allow a little time to explore, and experience the areas away from the tourist spots.
4. Be patient and polite
When you are visiting a new place for the first time, it is important to realise that they may be culturally different from you, and that things there may get done in ways that you are not used to back at home. That means service may be slower, transport less predictable, and opening and closing hours not always as advertised. Be patient and polite – and remember that a little bit of humour can go a long way!
5. Do not follow the beaten track
Try and venture off the beaten track and visit some of the lesser known places. They can be just as interesting, and with fewer tourists around, you will have more time to experience and enjoy them. For example, if you visit Venice, don’t just flock to St. Mark’s Square or the Rialto Bridge with the thousands of other visitors to the city. Take to some of the back streets, and enjoy the hidden squares, churches and canals in relative solitude. Every country or city has a host of similar places which barely make it into the guide books. Make a point to include some of them in your travel plans.
6. Mix with the locals
When you journey to a new place, you are not just there to visit historical monuments or museums, or to take in the natural beauty. You are also there to meet the local people. Don’t be standoffish but be open and ready to bond with those you meet, as you may easily strike up a friendship with some of them. In many places, you will find that the people will extend a warm welcome and hospitality to you, without expecting anything in return. It is these types of encounter which sweeten the memory and make you want to come back again.
7. Don’t rely too much on travel reviews
Whilst travel reviews can give you valuable information and insights about a particular place, hotel or restaurant, don’t rely on them too much, particularly if they express a negative view. It is important to remember that such reviews are subjective, and may not be indicative of the standard or service of the place as a whole. Perhaps the reviewer was in a bad mood when they posted the review, or they were served by somebody who was not at their best on that particular day. So use your judgement when reading reviews and try to get a balanced picture.
8. Dress appropriately
Whilst dressing casually and informally may be acceptable in most parts of Europe and America, how you dress is important in some Asian countries, particularly in the Middle East. This is particularly so for women, who may not be au fait with the strict local dress codes that may apply. Therefore, make sure that you are familiar with any dress code that may be required, before you travel.
Even if you are travelling in countries where every day dress is informal, remember that you will be required to cover up if you visit a church or temple, so make sure you follow the rules.
9. Keep your documents handy and ready
Make sure that you keep any important travel documents with you, especially in the event that a local official demands to see your passport or other proof of identity. It can be frustrating and stressful to have to deal with such people if all your documents are back at the hotel, especially when language barriers are involved. Many countries expect visitors to carry their documents with them, and with enhanced security in place in many countries, local officials are more likely than ever to ask to see them.
Remember also if this does happen, smile and be polite. They are only doing their job.
10. Be wary of touts
In many tourist spots you will find touts trying to sell you goods, tours, or other services. Try and avoid them as much as possible. They can be very persistent and annoying, but try not to engage with them. Their aim is normally simple – to try and part you with your money.