"Don’t waste your money on bottled water! I just drank the tap water and I feel fine," brags a fellow hostel guest in Kathmandu. This person won’t be seen again for three days, looking about 8lbs lighter.
"I never book a room before I get to a destination. It’s better to visit all the hostels first, then make a decision," a traveller confidently informs you as you spend 10 minutes booking a room online. This person will spend four hours wandering the streets in search of the last open bed in Barcelona, lugging all their possessions and spending US$8 on public transport, while you check in, go to a museum, eat lunch and maybe have a nap.
"French people are very rude and British people are all polite," says your auntie, who has never been abroad.
The travel advice above sounds dubious immediately. At least to most people. Other bad advice takes a little thought, or possibly an expensive and painful mistake, before being declared bogus. (For the record, tap water, even in a few unlikely countries, is usually just fine.)
Learn from the mistakes of others by studying our selection of classic and contemporary pieces of bad travel advice.
1. Women should never travel alone
One of the most debated, most nuanced statements in travel. The answer, naturally, is ‘it depends’. Places like India and some countries in the Middle East can be challenging for solo female travellers. The baseless warnings that women shouldn’t travel solo in places like Thailand or, hilariously, England, are the ones that cause experienced travellers to curse in protest. Bad things can happen in any country, to women or men, and the best piece of advice is don’t take any risks you wouldn’t take in your home country.
2. Don’t eat the street food
This is, without exaggeration, the worst piece of travel advice in the history of forever. Yes, in some countries certain precautions should be taken when choosing a street food vendor; but street food is arguably the most direct and inexpensive route to a country’s identity and should be considered an integral part of travel. Furthermore, most experienced travellers will have a tale of woe about getting sick from an ostensibly fancy sit-down restaurant, even in places like the US or Italy, proving that one can get sick eating almost anywhere.
3. Take traveller’s cheques for emergencies
Traveller’s cheques stopped being essential in the late 90s when international ATM networks became ubiquitous. Indeed, these days, traveller’s cheques are nearly useless in many destinations because so few banks and businesses are willing to cash them. For emergencies, carry a back-up ATM card or credit card stored safely and separately from your wallet. In some instances, a hidden stash of a large notes in a preferred currency like euros or US dollars is also a good idea.
4. Italy has the best pizza in the world
Budget travellers in particular will have a tale of the ‘worst pizza ever’, purchased on the street in Venice or some such place in Italy. Tourist traps everywhere sell abysmal food in or near the most conspicuous places of interest, even if it’s their own world-famous cuisine.
5. Plan everything/don’t plan anything
These kinds of statements need a dozen or so caveats. Time and destination permitting, planning little to nothing - on, say, a shoulder-season trip to Greece - could end up being one of your most memorable trips ever. The same approach for island-hopping in the Caribbean in high season could bankrupt you or leave you sleeping on a park bench. Thankfully, most destinations fall somewhere in the middle area and striking a balance between planned and unplanned travel is usually pretty safe.
6. You can’t get on Facebook in China
For the most part, this isn’t a problem. It’s possible to access Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and just about anything else while in China, if one is duly determined. A quick search for the most recent information should present several workarounds.
7. Bringing more clothes means less laundry
Factually correct, but not at all helpful. With notable exceptions, doing laundry on the road is pretty straightforward and can sometimes be easier and less expensive than at home - in Vietnam, doing laundry is as simple as handing the dirty clothes bag and US$1 to your hotel/hostel clerk. Also, the more clothes you bring, the heavier your bag, which can cause all kinds of trouble for long journeys overland and penalty fees on airlines.
8. Bring enough contact lens solution/sun block/tampons/over-the-counter medicine for the entire trip
Again, this can vary depending on the destination, but generally speaking they have everything there that you have at home. And often cheaper.
9. Bring a knife for protection when you travel to [REDACTED]
Anyone who gives you this advice hasn’t travelled much and should probably be avoided at home as well.
10. Don’t bother with a guide, you can find whatever information you need online
This may be true some day, but for the moment relying solely on travel advice gleaned from hours of rooting around online is still a dubious proposition. Some excellent destination-specific websites exist, but for every one of those there are a hundred sites that are out of date, have never been fact-checked, or are of the easy-to-game, crowd-sourced variety.
More importantly, there’s a heartening trust that comes with reading travel advice from a consistent, vetted source, proofed by a meticulous editor, and gathered by a savvy author who was on that trip specifically to collect that information. I honestly can’t fathom how that festival of confidence can be improved upon, but until that magical day comes I’ll pay for a guide.
Traveling often seems like a series of to-do lists, from the pre-trip planning process (book flight and hotel, call credit card company, stop the mail, pack) to selecting the activities you want to experience once you arrive in your destination. But what about after you get home?
Some of us do nothing but slump exhaustedly on the couch for a day or two after a trip, while others leap immediately back into their daily life as though their trip never even happened. Why not find a happy medium? The following list of what to do after traveling will help you save money, stay healthy and savor the afterglow of your trip for just a little bit longer.
While this is good advice for anyone at any time, it’s particularly germane to travelers. As Ed Hewitt notes in 11 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft While Traveling, “Identity theft is a growing problem worldwide — especially for travelers, who are very vulnerable, forced as they are to use unsecured Internet connections, carry extensive personal documentation with them at all times, and share their credit cards with merchants about whom they know nothing and whom they’ll never see again.”
Within a day or two of getting home, go online and check your credit card and bank statements for things like double charges, missing refund credits or spending that you didn’t authorize. Report any issues to your bank or credit card company immediately.
Many travelers add an international calling, texting and/or data package to their usual plan so that they can use their cell phones affordably during a trip overseas. But once your trip is over, make sure to remove the package from your plan so you’re not continuing it to pay for it over the next month and beyond.
If you haven’t been keeping up with email during your trip, you’ll likely arrive home to a bulging inbox. The longer you wait to deal with it, the more it will pile up, so take a few minutes to zip through the heap, responding to anything urgent and deleting any newsletters or alerts that you’ll never have time to read. Don’t forget to turn off any “out of office” or “away on vacation” auto messages you turned on before your trip, and to restart any newsletter subscriptions you may have canceled. And if you haven’t already called or texted, send a quick note to your family and friends letting them know you’ve arrived home safely.
Crossing time zones, stressing out over flight delays, over-indulging at restaurants and bars, sleeping fitfully on planes … these are just a few of the ways that travel can be hard on your body. It’s not uncommon to get sick right after a trip, but you can help prevent this by taking care of yourself when you arrive home. Drink lots of water to rehydrate yourself after a long, dry plane ride, and counter all those heavy restaurant meals with fresh fruits, vegetables and salads.
If your body’s craving sleep, take a nap rather than forcing yourself to adapt immediately to your new time zone. Many travelers find that an extra “recovery” day after their vacation — to sleep and catch up with other post-vacation tasks — is useful in easing themselves mentally and physically back into the real world. (See Do You Really Need a Vacation After Your Vacation?)
Ever waited so long to go through your vacation pictures that you’ve completely forgotten the name of that gorgeous stone castle or those crumbling ancient ruins? Don’t let it happen. Sort and caption your pictures while your memories are still fresh; same goes for producing photo albums, scrapbooks or other similar mementos. If you fall behind by a trip or two, you may never catch up again.
If you belong to a frequent flier or hotel loyalty program, log on a few days after your trip to make sure you’ve received the miles or points you’re entitled to. Hold onto your hotel receipts and/or boarding passes until you’re sure your account has been properly credited.
If something went awry during your trip and you need to make a claim on your travel or health insurance policy, don’t put it off; there are often time limits in the fine print of your policy, and if you wait too long you may be ineligible for coverage. Gather all the necessary documents and file your claim as soon as you can.
A good trip often leaves travelers feeling inspired. Maybe the week you spent watching endangered wildlife in the Amazon left you with a newfound passion for conservation — or you were touched by the plight of street children in India and came home wanting to find some way to help them from afar.
It’s all too easy to get swept back into the flurry of your daily life and forget about the moments that moved you most in your travels. Before those memories fade, make a donation, seek out a volunteer program or find some other way to turn your inspiration into action.
While crafting your itinerary, did you read hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, compare restaurant ratings on Yelp or check out the experiences of fellow IndependentTraveler.com readers in our trip reviews section? If you’ve benefited from the wisdom of other travelers in the past, consider paying it forward by writing about the highs and lows of your own journey. For best results, do it within a week or two of your trip, while you can still remember the name of that restaurant with the awesome martinis.
A recent survey found that while travel makes us happier, it doesn’t take long after a trip — usually just a couple of weeks — for us to return to our normal levels of contentment (or lack thereof). Luckily, it’s not just travel that makes us happier; so does the process of planning a trip. If you’re looking to fend off the post-vacation blues, it’s never too early to start dreaming about that next journey.
What are your travel resolutions for 2014? by Lonely Planet
"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." St. Augustine
Ready for your most adventurous year ever? Get there cheaper, faster and easier with the following travel hacks.
“Wear heels on a walking tour in Europe. The cobblestone streets will get them!” — Julianne K Fulcher
“Have full-size hairspray in their carry-on.” — Ron Buckles
“Travel to a foreign country … and forget their passport.” — Larry Shaine
“Bring the full-size pillow from their bed at home — I’ve seen adults do this so many times. On a road trip, okay, you’ve got extra space in the car, but on a flight???” — Jenny Szymanski Jones
“Don’t have customs forms filled out!” — @ChefStaib
“Bring a bag they can’t handle themselves (as a carry-on).” — Lavida Rei
“Wear multi-color neon running shoes with matching neon earrings AND leggings to walk down the Champs-Elysees.” — @Carellirec
“[Bring] more than a pair of heels, too much cosmetics to put in one handbag — new travelmate blues…” — @derahma
“[Wear a] camera around the neck; [spend] too much time looking at maps; guidebook in hand, ask me for help while I’m also ‘away’ & happy to help!!” — @CollCostello
“Follow the ‘rules’ too closely. Take some risks and if someone tells you ‘oh no we do not do that here’ you’ve learned something about a new place!” — Clare Olivares
What would you say is a sure sign someone is a newbie traveler?
– written by Sarah Schlichter