I’m not lying to you when I say, this whole travelling business is still quite new to me. But I never thought I’d be in the position I am in now, with friends and family asking me ‘Any tips? Any advice?’ And I found myself unable to contain my passion.
So here it is, my top tips for first timers. Male or female.
1) ALLOW YOURSELF TO DREAM and then run with it. There is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it. Probably.
2) Done with the dreaming? Got your ideas bouncing around your head? Good. Now stick them down on paper and start thinking of what is feasible and how you’re going to make it work.
– Passport: Validity? Expiry? Dual citizenship?
– Visa: Do you need one? Are you sure? Are you double sure? How much is it? When do you apply? And how long will it take to get to you? Can you get it on arrival? If so, how much is it?
– Travel Insurance: I tend to go for annual insurances so I don’t have to stress about this. I also make sure it covers any likely ‘adventurous’ pursuits I may be doing. For example, trekking usually involves the requirement of helicopter rescue insurance. Most trekking holidays will point you in the right direction if you cannot find something yourself.
3) MONEY. Yuck. Nobody likes to talk money, but trust me you’ll thank me for it once you do.
Work out finances, and then add a healthy couple of 100 to your maximum amount. Stash away bits and pieces here and there, emergency funds if you like. OR if you are fabulous with your money, work out a budget and stick to it. Everyone is different, everyone has different levels of comfort with what they’re willing to dish out. KNOW WHICH PERSON YOU ARE.
Figure out whether you can get money in your home country or whether you can only get it when you land? Most places exchange £, $ or Euro.
4) What kind of traveller are you?
Solo travel is not for everyone.
Some people try it and realise, actually this isn’t for me. If you’re not sure you can either dip your toe in the water or jump in at the deep end. I did the latter, and it worked out ok. But beware of all the hidden pitfalls – YOU ARE 100% RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING.
That’s quite a lot of pressure. Can you handle it? Do you need someone else to bounce ideas of? Check lists? Someone to talk to? Company/companionship? How do you fare eating dinner in a fancy restaurant on your own? Can you go to the cinema by yourself? Can you ride a bus without checking Facebook every 30 seconds (because chances are, you’re not going to have onboard wifi).
One of the things I love about travelling solo is that you can be alone when you want to be, and seek companions when you don’t. There’s always someone up for a story or two.
5) Ok, so you’re definitely going then? WHERE WILL YOU STAY?!
I have one piece of advice on this – always have your first night accommodation booked. Even if it’s hell on earth, it’s only one night. And if it’s not you can always stay on.
6) This follows on from above – AIRPORT PICK UP
I’m a real stickler for this when arriving at a new place, because you’re never your most vulnerable than when you first arrive in a new place. New sights, new sounds, new smells, new language, new people. It’s great, it’s fab, it’s new! But unless you’re happy to haggle in a language you don’t speak, look for the person standing with your name on a lop-sided (sometimes laminated) piece of paper and you know you will be safely transferred to your first night hotel.
This goes with train stations, bus stations, whatever you fancy really. It helps, trust me.
Whether you are male or female, don’t be stupid about this.
Give someone your contact number, get hold of theirs. What would you do at home after a night out? Text your pals to let them know you’re home. Why wouldn’t you do the same thing abroad?!
Follow local customs and policies. Take advice from hotel managers and local people. They know the place far better than you do.
And I would probably add – TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.
Hard to tailor to everyone, but I’d probably say think about this early. Make a list of the things you are likely to forget (toothbrush, charger, adaptor, spare batteries, camera, sunglasses, sunscreen, ok this list is endless). Have a look at my Kit List for any trekking trip. It has served me well.
9) READING and WRITING material
Maybe I’m biased, but I’m a great lover of books. I never travel with less than two books (what if you finish one and then you’re totally stranded and have nothing left to read?!), my diary and a pen (or two). I’ve also added my iPhone with music and headphones, though use it sparingly if you know you won’t get a chance to recharge.
10) AN OPEN MIND
Remember that travel is not supposed to be predictable. In fact, I can sit here and write screeds and screeds and screeds and yet you will never be the wiser. The only way to really know what to expect is to expect the unexpected. Plan to be surprised.
You’ll discover immense reserves within yourself and be able to come home knowing you’ve pushed yourself beyond any limits you could ever have dreamed of. Trust me, you will be just fine.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you travel is escape, because it will fill you up in holes you never even knew existed