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Important Pre-Travel Information

    How to Travel Like a Local

    For me, travel is all about learning about and understanding different cultures as well as, seeing first hand how the locals of a country live.

    And what better way to achieve this than to travel like the locals do?

    Not only does travelling like a local benefit backpackers as they’re able to get a true taste of a culture but, it also contributes to the community and puts their money where it’s really needed.

    Read more

    Why I Chose World Nomads Travel Insurance…

    If you have ever tried to purchase travel insurance (especially for a longstay trip) you will feel my pain.

    Insurance is one of the most important things to tick off of your pre-travel checklist however, where do you even begin? There are SO many different companies to choose from and SO many different levels of cover to consider, that it can all get a little bit mind-boggling.

    I have spent the last two to three months sifting through different travel insurance websites, comparing prices, reading reviews, scouting for people who have had experience of making a claim, weighing up the different levels of cover, analysing the policies wordings and questioning whether my well-being is actually worth this tedious research (I joke)… but insurance is important and I didn’t want to regret my decision later on down the line hence, my extensive search.

    I first came across World Nomads through a post on travel insurance by Nomadic Matt (very helpful!) and from then on, this company seemed to crop up all over the place. Recommended by Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Nat Geo Adventure, the list goes on, I knew from the get go that World Nomads would be a very good company to go with. However,  I had the slight problem that it was a weeeeee bit more expensive than I’d hoped to spend. Therefore, the search went on…

    I researched and researched for cheaper policies with similar coverage and came across some, which were as cheap as £200 for a year. So, why did I still end up booking through World Nomads, I hear you say? Here are my top reasons for paying a bit more to go with a better, well recommended company:

    They allow you to travel on a one-way ticket

    Unlike a lot of other companies, World Nomads allow you to travel on a one-way ticket, making it ideal for long term travellers who, like me, do not have a fixed itinerary/return date. They also don’t mind if you to take out a policy whilst you are already overseas.

    There is no limit to how long you can take out a policy for

    Again, unlike any other company I came across, World Nomads have no restrictions on how long you can have a policy with them for. Although you can only take out a policy for up to 18 months at a time, you can extend/renew it online, which will then automatically issue it as a new policy if it exceeds the 18 month limit (please note, you must extend/renew your policy before your previous one runs out).

    They come highly recommended

    World Nomads wouldn’t be recommended by the biggest names in the travel industry if they hadn’t proven their worth!

    Their customer service is great

    I called their customer service line on multiple occasions with lots of different questions and they not only picked up the phone (there were a couple of companies, which I called and didn’t get an answer once… not very reassuring!) but also answered all of my questions quickly and efficiently.

    They cover everything I wanted my policy to cover

    Medical cover is a given however, every insurance policy varies in its level of excess and cover. Cancellation, curtailment, missed departure, travel delay, money and travel documents… not every policy covers everything so, make sure you check you’re covered for all that is important and relevant to you. I, for instance, wanted to ensure that I was covered for political unrest and natural disaster and therefore, went for World Nomad’s Explorer Package rather than their standard one.

    Their website is a community of backpackers 

    World Nomad’s website is not just a place for you to go and purchase your travel insurance, it has been created into a community of like-minded travellers. They offer forums where you can ask any question you’d like about your travels as well as, scholarship and partnership opportunities.

    They support charities

    Each policy that is purchased from World Nomads gives you the option to donate to charity as a way to give back to the communities we travel through. A very important and heartwarming sentiment.

    They allow you to add gadget cover at a reasonable price

    Although some of your gadgets/belongings may be covered under your main policy, these days, most travellers (especially us bloggers) carry a fair bit of expensive equipment, which will need to be insured separately. World Nomads allow you to add specified, high-value items to your policy (at a premium), which cover your valuables for up to £2,000 with a £750 limit per item without depreciation being applied. Winner winner, chicken dinner…

    Admittedly, it took me a while to accept the importance of not scrimping on my travel insurance. It is very easy to see insurance as throwing money away… until something goes wrong!! You’ll be so thankful you are covered if, touch wood, anything were to happen to you along the way. I ended up paying £350 for a year long Explorer policy with World Nomads, which works out at around 95p a day, not bad eh?!

    Happy and safe travels!!

    N.B. Please note this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own. 

    I’M GOING TRAVELLING IN 4 MONTHS!!!

    The countdown on my blog has some how managed to whirl its way all the way down to four months until I leave on my one-way trip of a lifetime…

    FOUR MEASLY MONTHS!!

    Therefore, I thought it was probably about time that I shared with you a little bit more about what I have planned for my big adventure…

    Flights

    The one aspect of my trip, which I have actually sorted… well, kind of…

    I have only booked two flights so far – one from London to Goa and another from Chennai to New Zealand.

    Why?

    Because I don’t want to limit my time anywhere.

    The one thing, which really bogged me off when I was travelling on my Gap Year, was that there was a time limit on every place we visited. If I want to lull in a hammock on the beach with a good crime thriller for weeks on end, then why not?

    South India

    As you probably already know, India holds a very special place in my heart… I am somewhat… obsessed.

    This will be my third visit to this marvelous country and I am bubbling with excitement to explore the South in a lot more detail.

    As I have already backpacked through Rishikesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Kerala (very briefly), this 6 week stop over will be solely dedicated to the Southern Indian, chilled out way of life – beaches, yoga retreats (can anybody recommend any?), backwaters, tea plantations and inevitably… lots and lots of ‘special tea’ (beer).

    Route planned so far… 

    Goa —> Hampi —> Kerala —> Chennai

    If you can recommend anything to see, do or add to this list then please pleaseeee let me know via comments or social media…

    New Zealand

    I have always known that I will have to settle and work at some point during my travels to earn a bit of extra cash. Australia seemed like the obvious choice – an abundance of cosmopolitan cities to choose from, picture-perfect coastlines, the Great Barrier Reef and jobs that pay a very decent salary.

    However, New Zealand offered me something, which trumped this all – my best friend.

    Just over a year ago, my dear pal, Fran made the huge leap to move to Auckland with her Kiwi boyfriend… and after hearing stories of surfing, dolphin watching, afternoon picnics on the beach and weekend trips away admiring New Zealand’s luscious countryside, I didn’t need anymore convincing…

    New Zealand is brand new travelling territory for me therefore, I intend to explore it to the max.

    Whilst I’m there, the plan is to live/work in Auckland for around five months and then travel the country for a month or so. However, this schedule is very very flexible.

    Again, if you can recommend anything to see/do in NZ or, have any tips on moving to Auckland, please impart your wisdom to me via comments or social media…

    Where to after New Zealand?

    Fiji –> Australia –> The Philippines –> Indonesia –> Malaysia –> Thailand –> Laos –> Vietnam –> USA –> Central/South America… I’m sure this list will be added to along the way…

    Who will I be travelling with?

    Although I am technically flying the nest on my own, I have also managed to recruit some willing companions to join me at different stages along the way.

    My best friend and backpacking virgin, Fiona is planning on joining me for a couple of weeks in Goa, which means I have a guaranteed New Year’s Eve drinking buddy (winner). Whilst my Mum, who came with me on my second visit to India (read about her experience here) is hoping to join me in the depths of the Keralan tea plantations for a more organic experience of the South.

    I also have a few other friends and family members who are hoping to hunt me down at some point later on in my journey.

    Next planning stages…

    – The fun task of sorting out my bloomin’ travel insurance, which I have been flapping about for a fair few weeks now (can anyone recommend any good companies?).

    – Decide on the camera(s) I would like to purchase.

    – Book a doctor’s appointment to see whether there are any vaccinations I need before I leave…

    Please keep your eyes peeled for more updates on my travel plans as well as, anecdotes on how I’m getting on with the essential pre-prep for my journey…

    Are you currently preparing for a trip of a lifetime? Where are you going? What stage of planning are you at? Please comment, Facebook or Tweet me to let me know :)!!

    Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Travelling…

    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!

    A collection of Lonely Planet travel guides Photograph: Alamy

    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.

    5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Travelling - Bus - My Culture Craving

    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.

    5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Travelling - My Culture Craving

    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.

    5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Travelling - Hostelworld - My Culture Craving

    How handy Hostelworld.com/Booking.com etc. are 

    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.

    And finally…

    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!