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Travel Tips
Introduction
People have asked me many questions on travel and below is a series of tips I have given them.
Planning
  • Buy several travel guides on the country you want to visit. Get one on the country and another on the city you are want to see. This way you get a broader range of information without too much duplication. Guide books I use include: Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, and The Blue Guide.
  • Consider how long your vacation should be. Vacations that are too short can be unrewarding and vacations that are too long can be taxing. Think about how long you want to live out of a suitcase, eat every meal at a restaurant, etc. that you can handle. For some it is three months, others a week. For me it is about 12 days.
  • To truly see a country, get out of its major city. Major cities are quite uniform in nature and can never give you the complete flavor of a country. For example when I went to the United Kingdom, I spent some time in Oxford in addition to London.
  • In order to appreciate the city or town you are visiting, you need spend the appropriate amount of time there. If you spend too little, you may feel rushed, or miss seeing the things you want to see. Too much time, you may get bored. I generally plan to spend 3-4 days in major cities and 2-3 days in smaller cities/towns.
  • Before you go on your trip, figure out what you want to do on your trip and draw up an itinerary. One of the worst thing that can happen is finding out about something you want to see or do after you left that destination. Another bad thing is to plan to see something on your last day in a city, only to find it closed that day of the week. If you do the research in the beginning, thing like the above can be avoided.
  • When making your itinerary. plan to visit sights that are near each other so that you do spend time crisscrossing the city you are visiting.
  • An itinerary is a suggestion on what you want to do and does not need to be followed exactly. Be ready to change due to weather, learning about new things to see, or just a change in your mood.
  • Watch a movie or read a book set on where you are visiting and when you are at your destination, try to find and visit the places in the book or movie. This can be a interesting way to see a different side of the destination.
  • One of the great ways to see a city is to taking a walking tour. You get to see places of the beaten path and have a guide who can explain the history of the ares you are seeing. Another great way to see a city (If the city is on a river, lake, sea, or canal) is to take a boat tour.
Getting There and Around
  • When flying to your destination, consider using an open-jaw ticket. This is a ticket where you leave from you home and fly to City A and fly from City B home. For example on my trip to Germany, I flew from Washington to Berlin and back to Washington from Munich. This allow you to see more of a country without having to backtrack in order to fly home.
  • For trips between or within Europe and North America, you can book your tickets online for a great price. For travel to other destination, look into a travel agent that specializes in travel to your destination. Many times these agents are themselves from your destination country and market their services to fellow immigrates. These travel agents usually has connections with the airlines from the place you which to visit and can can provide you good discounts. Also the agent can usually arrange transportation from the airport to your hotel which can save you aggravation.
  • When in Europe, use the train system to go between cities on your trip. The train system is extensive and usually has cheap fares. If you are going to travel a lot between cities, investigate Rail Passes, but make sure that better than to buy individual tickets (many time it is not).
  • When traveling in North America, your best bet for transportation between cities is to rent a car. unfortunately there are few public transportation links between cities and a car provides more flexibility in traveling between cities (allowing for additional stops for example). A car is also useful in inter-city transport as only a few cities (New York City, Washington D.C., Montreal, and Toronto for example) have have good public transportation systems.
  • In the rest of the world many times private buses offer the best opportunity to travel between cities. For travel within a city in the rest of the world, use taxis, they are usually cheap and reliable.
  • Many countries throughout the world, now have low cost airlines that can fly you between cities for a low cost. These can be a good substitute for train travel over long distances or where train or bus travel is not convenient or even possible.
  • When in a major city that has a good public transit system, it is a good idea to buy a day or multi day pass. These passes usually allow unlimited use for a discounted price. This can save you a lot of money and are easier to use than to buy individual tickets ever time you use the transit system.
Hotels
  • Stay in a local hotel and eat in local restaurants. Why travel to stay in a hotel or eat in a restaurant that is the same as where you live? Try something new and different.
  • A hotel is where you sleep, it does not need to be fancy or have services that you are never going to use. Stay at a cheaper hotel and use the money you save to spend a longer time on vacation. I prefer to stay in small, family run hotels as they are affordable and show off the local culture.
  • Many hotels (large and small) have their own websites usually in the in the local language and in English. Also you can book a room online easily and without having to know the local language or deal with time conversion issues.
Money
  • Using the same ATM card you use at home when you are traveling will get you the best exchange rate. When taking out money, make sure to take out good size amounts to minimize the amount of money you might have to pay in fees that your bank may charge you to use an ATM outside of your banks own ATM network.
  • When withdrawing money from an ATM, try to take out odd amounts like 95 or 90 rather than 100. This way you get some smaller bills which are more useful when you make purchases of smaller items like bus or subway tickets.
  • Take cash in your native currency with you just in case you can not find a working ATM right away (I usually take around 100 USD with me). If you do not use it while on vacation, you can easily used back home unlike traveler's checks or foreign currency.
  • For US Residents: Examine your credit card agreement and see how much they charge for currency conversions. 1% is the minimum charged and some banks charge 3%. If your issuing bank charges more than 1%, get a card from one that does not. See Credit/Debit/ATM Cards and Foreign Exchange for a listing of cards that charge a 1% conversion fee.
  • Keep a record of your expenses. This will help you determine where you money is going and can help you determine how much you should withdrawal from the ATM the next time you need cash. The record also will help you have a reasonable amount of cash on you when you leave the country rather than having too much which will need to be converted.
  • Spend you remaining cash at the airport duty free shop as converting it to your home currency is usually expensive. This is a good opportunity to buy presents for your family, friends and coworkers.
  • Never use the hotel mini bar and avoid going to a bar or restaurant for snacks and drinks. Go to a grocery store and buy snacks, drinks, etc. and save some money.
Miscellaneous
  • Give yourself a break on your vacation. Do not spend every minute at a museum or seeing a sight, spend an afternoon in a park observing the city and its people. You are on vacation to relax not to get exhausted.
  • Buy a Post Card and mail it to yourself. You get a record of your visit and get to see the stamps of the country you are visiting.
  • A Cheap Souvenir - Keep a set of coins from where you visited.

Last Updated on January 2, 2009 Images and Text © 2005 Andrew Patton - Copyright Information