When you first make the exciting decision to go travelling, it leaves you with an overwhelming feeling of elation and complete and utter panic.
How are you going to get from one place to another? Where are you going to stay? Do you need any visas? What are the visa regulations? How much money are you going to need? How long do you need in each city/country?
These are just a few of the questions, which will be zooming through your head at the speed of a tuk tuk in India, before you set off on your journey of a life time. However, there is no need to fret, because with enough research and organisation you will be able to answer these questions. And if you don’t, you are bound to learn them along the way – which in some circumstances, is a lot more fun anyways, don’t you think?
Here are five things I wish I’d known before I went travelling, which I hope will help calm some of your pre-travelling nerves!
How much of a life saver the bible of travel can be – Lonely Planet
I underestimated how essential these babies are when travelling.
Your Lonely Planet will tell you everything you need to know, from culture, religion and budget to accommodation, top attractions and restaurants. It will end up feeling like an extra travel companion on your journey, which you will protect, rely on and go to for help and moral support when you’re feeling insecure about a certain part of your trip.
Tip number one – before you go to a new country, read as much of your Lonely Planet as you can. You will learn about the country’s culture, scams, transport, food, etiquette, people, hostels/hotels, prices, things to see and do etc. which will make you feel a lot more prepared for when you arrive.
How easy it is to travel from one place to another
Travelling in each country is different. The cost, reliability, comfort and booking processes all vary. Therefore, it is important to refer back to your travel bible to find out the best way to get from one place to another.
From my experience, in Australia, the greyhound bus works well. You can hop on and off as much as you like, you can book your seat up to a day before you intend to travel and it’s not horrendously expensive (bonus!). In Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, bus is also the way forward. They are reliable, comfortable, cheap and, if you decide last-minute that you want to move on, you can book your bus journey as late as on the morning you want to travel. I booked most of my buses through travel agents, which you can find scattered all over South East Asia.
Tip number two – when travelling through these countries, expect to be shimmied from a bus, to a tuk tuk, to another bus, to a boat, to another tuk tuk – this is normal. Don’t panic, go with the flow and you will eventually end up where you want to be. It’s all part of the experience…
In India, you can travel by both train and bus. Have a read of my blog post about the trains of India here, to find out more.
How easy it is to get (some) Visas on (some) borders/in other countries
I found that it was a lot easier to get visas on some of the borders than I had expected. However, it is still very important to do your research on the rules and regulations of visas for each country you are planning on visiting before you leave.
Tip number three – ensure you read the most up to date visa regulations as they do tend to change on a regular basis. If you are unsure, contact the relevant embassy or a travel agent to double-check.
When I went travelling in my gap year (this was 3 years ago, so please do double-check these regulations haven’t changed), I bought my Australian tourist visa online, I was given my Thai visa on arrival at the airport (you receive a 30 day visa if you enter via the airport or a 15 day visa if you enter via the border) and got my Laos and Cambodian visas on the borders.
Tip number four – take passport photos with you – you’ll need these to be issued a visa on any country’s border.
As I did not have enough time to send off for my Chinese and Indian visas before I left for travelling, I got these issued in Bangkok. Although it was rather nerve-racking having to leave my passport in the middle of Bangkok for a couple of weeks, there were no problems and the visas were legit (thank god!)
Therefore, if you are worried about trying to sort out twenty visas at once before you set off, don’t panic, you can get them whilst on the move.
Hostelworld and Hostelbookers are ideal for booking your accommodation whilst travelling. You only have to pay a 10% deposit when you book and can check out their description, location, photos and reviews to ensure their your ‘kinda hostel’.
However, if you are looking to book a hotel, head over to Booking.com. This website is a gem! It doesn’t charge you a penny when you book and allows you to cancel your room up to 24 hours before you are due to arrive… for free!
Tip number five– if you book a hotel through either of these hostel websites they will charge you per person, rather than per room. Therefore, stick to Hostelworld and Hostelbookers for… hostels, and use Booking.com for hotels.
How infectious the travel bug is!
I’d love to know what you guys wish you’d known before you set off on your travels? Comment, Tweet, Facebook or E-mail me to let me know :).
Happy travels everyone!