A great friend of mine, Alice who I did a ski season with in Verbier, got in contact recently as she's heading off to South East Asia backpacking and wanted some advice and tips. I though this would be a great opportunity to share some of the things I learned about travelling and to help you plan your next big travel adventure.
This post covers off everything you’ll need to know before you go and gives you an essential check list to help you prepare.
Decide where you want to go!
I know that sounds pretty obvious, but so many people want to visit everywhere and see and do everything and they only give themselves a few weeks to do it in. This is going to make traveling very stressful as you’ll be dashing from place to place without really having the time to appreciate where you are and what you’re seeing.
By taking this time you'll make the whole trip so much better and you’ll really be able to make the most of the time you have available.
Do your Research
Loads of people find research boring! I think it’s great fun; looking were other people have gone, seeing what’s out there, trying to decided what you have to do and which places you want to visit. Somethings will just jump out at you and become a must do. Visiting the giant Buddha in Hong Kong, learning to dive in Thailand, crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam to name a few.
There are some incredible places to see in the world and specifically in South East Asia, its got such a wonderful history and the cultures of each country are fascinating and very different to the UK and western world.
As well as doing your own personal research speak to other people who’ve been travelling. Where would they recommend? What are their top attractions to see?
Read different travel blogs and books. This will give you a variety of different perspectives and will help you to make the right choices for your trip.
Remember this is your adventure, you get to decide what you want to go and see and how to spend your time. You can’t do everything so pick and choose where you want to go, make it individual to you!
Or the lack of money is the number one reason why people don’t go traveling and I get it I really do. But I also know if you want something badly enough you can make it happen. No more excuses, I worked three jobs, I didn’t go out on a Friday or Saturday night and saved up birthday and christmas money. I worked any job I could and saved every penny.
If you’re motivated and are crystal clear why you’re saving. It becomes a lot easier to deprive yourself in the short term as you know the benefits will be huge when you’re travelling and having an incredible experience and you can afford to do all the amazing activities such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, scuba diving etc.
I never worked while I travelled, as I didn’t want the stress of running out of money, or not knowing how I was going to get from A to B . So I always saved before I went. Doing this also helped me to plan and budget. But equally, if you want to work and travel and you have the skills to earn money while abroad, go for it. Just make sure you do have some cash in reserve in case there is an emergency and you need access to cash asap.
Book all your flights in one go as that will make it a lot cheaper instead of booking them as you go. This will also help to give structure to your travels, as you know you’ll need to be in a certain place at a certain date and time.
I’ve always found Trailfinders and STA Travel to be really useful. Even if you don’t book flights through them, it’s worth chatting with the representatives, they can give you great ideas and help you to plan your individual itinerary.
Make sure your flights arrive at a sensible hour, you don’t want to be arriving at two in the morning in a strange country where you don’t know where you are, so think about that when you book your flights.
Generally you’re going to be flying economy! Know now - it sucks! I think it's a right of passage and everyone needs to have done some long haul flights in economy before being upgraded to business or first! You'll end up appreciating it a lot more when it does happen!
Check to see if you need any visas before you visit the country! There would be nothing worse than getting to the airport and not being allowed on the flight as you haven’t sorted your visa out. This can happen!
Most recently I forgot I needed a visa for Australia...it was touch and go to see if they were going to let me on the plane. In the end I had to pay £40 for an emergency visa.
If you google which places you're going to, you’ll soon know if you need a visa or not. Start doing this sooner rather than later, as you may need to send your passport off.
For the majority of countries in Asia if you’ve a British Passport you’ll be fine and you shouldn’t have any problems getting a visa.
Check if you need any injections before you head off. If you have enough time you’ll be able to get them free on the NHS if you leave it too late, you’ll have to pay for it. I left it till the last minute before I went to South America and I ended up spending around £400 on injections and booster shots I needed.
Injections I had for South America:-
If you take any regular medication, make sure you have an excess supply to take with you to last for the entire trip. This also goes for contact lenses and solution.
This is a common one that loads of people forget about! Its relatively cheap and its better to have peace of mind while travelling, so if anything does happen, your medical expenses will be covered.
Read the small print and see what you are and aren’t allowed to do. Activities such as scuba diving, white water rafting etc can be considered to be an ‘extreme sport’ so double check you’ll be covered.
Accommodation for the first night
It can be very stressful arriving into a new country for the first time. You'll have been on a long flight, probably won’t have slept that well. You'll be in a different environment, not being able to understand the language.
Now's not the time to start looking for someone to stay. You’ll either end up in the dodgy part of town, or you’ll end up being ripped off and paying a fortune for somewhere to sleep.
Book your accommodation in advance, at least for the first night until you’ve got your bearing. This will give you peace of mind as you’ll know where you’re going when you first arrive in a new country.
These are just a few simple tips you can do before you head off, and this will make your life so much easier when you’re actually out on the open road. If your parents are worried about you going travelling talking though each of these points, and explained the route your taking, how you’re going to travel, having your finances etc in place will do a lot to alleviate any issues they have with you going travelling.
I'd love to hear more about the trips you have planned or if you have any questions you want answered please send me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or comment below.