To be honest, I rarely look for travel tips before starting a trip. But when I do, I always stumble upon travel tips (given by bloggers and travel experts) that are quite similar to mine.
You see, I always learned something from each of my trips. The lessons, whether bad or good, have helped me to improve the way I travel.
If you find the travel tips in Part 1 useful, check out Part 2 for 11 more travel tips I think you’ll appreciate, too!
1. Bring your own water bottle
When I was hitchhiking in Thailand, I didn’t have a water bottle. I stopped by 7-11 several times a day just to buy bottled water. Looking back at it, I think it’s such a shame. What I did wasn’t environmentally-friendly, and I was spending money unnecessarily.
From then on I always carry a water bottle with me while I travel. I refill it when it’s empty. My water bottle does take a lot of space in my backpack. So I usually don’t put it in the bag. My water bottle has its own insulated pouch that can be slung across my shoulders, making it easy for me to reach it. If you prefer smaller bottles, you can go to Amazon to find travel-friendly collapsible travel bottles for less than USD10.
In many parts of Europe, tap water is drinkable. There’s no need to cook it. In some parts of Asia, however, is a whole different story.
Not everybody drinks water from the tap. From where I came from, we only drink tap water when it’s filtered or cooked. For those who don’t have a water filter at home, they buy big water bottles that can last for days. Otherwise, they buy water at much cheaper prices from water vending machines. It only costs around 20 cents to fill up a litre of water bottle using the water vending machines. You can find many of the machines in Thailand, too. Some folks don’t trust these machines, though. They think the water isn’t clean.
You can get water (for free!) if you know where to get it. Many big cities in Asia provide free water refills in public spaces. If you’re in Kuala Lumpur, you can find them at the KLCC park.
Many restaurants in Asia offer drinking water for free when you dine in their restaurants. You can try asking the restaurant servers if it’s okay for you to refill your water bottle and drink from it instead. Some of my friends already did that.
Optionally, you can drink rain water that’s falling from the sky. If you’re travelling in the UK and need to refill your water bottle, the Refill app by refill.org.uk can help direct you to local businesses (that are committed to plastic waste reduction) near you.
Can’t take a full water bottle with you before boarding the plane? Drink your water before you get to the airport. If it makes you want to pee, go to the bathroom before you go through immigration. And if there’s still any form of liquid in your bottle, simply empty your bottle. Refill your bottle after you pass airport security, or before you exit from the airport of your arrival.
Some people are cautious about drinking water from the airport water fountain as they fear that the water isn’t clean enough. If you’re one of those people, do what’s best for you. You don’t want to get sick, do you?
2. Don’t look for hotels only on travel sites
I keep seeing advertisements from Trivago ever since I arrived in New Zealand. Telling people to book their hotels at Trivago is what their advertisements are about.
While it’s true that sites like Trivago offer great hotel deals, customers can also get good prices directly from hotels themselves. The deals are sometimes even better. That’s because many hotels regularly offer discounts and perks that are not, or cannot be given by travel agents. If you need an upgrade, it’s the hotel that’s going to give it to you, not the booking agent.
I’m not sure about other parts of the world, but in Southeast Asia, many small guesthouses are flexible with their hotel prices. It means you can actually negotiate the price of your hotel. To do that, you may need to be a walk-in guest. You can’t negotiate hotel prices when you make reservations online. This might not work for you if you’re the kind of traveller who wants everything to be sorted out before you start travelling.
When I was in Vietnam, I managed to get a discount for a night stay in a small local guesthouse. The cheapest room was VND 250, 000. But the owner agreed to accept VND 200,000 instead. I never get to do that in touristy places.
Since the guesthouse is located in a small town, not many tourists come around. Furthermore, I was there sometime in February, which was the low season.
3. Don’t be afraid to try street food
Not only is street food cheap, it’s also very delicious. For many, street food is even better than all of the overpriced dishes served in restaurants. Unlike restaurant food, street food is cooked right before you. You can see whatever that’s being cooked. Since street food is often fried or barbecued, it’s likely that your food is free from any germs and bacteria that might have contaminated their ingredients.
I travelled around Southeast Asia for three months, ate a lot of street food in the process, and had never once caught diarrhoea. I was doing just fine until the day I had a plate of duck rice at a fancy restaurant in Vientiane. I ended up having diarrhoea for three miserable weeks!
I bought a bottle of diarrhoea syrup from a shop that was selling tyres and medicines. How weird is that? The syrup didn’t seem to work, though.
What I learned from this trip: Street food isn’t as bad as some people think it is, and that it can even be cleaner than the food served in restaurants.
4. Save money by swapping things with other travellers
If you’re on a long-term trip, consider swapping things you need with other travellers who might also need something from you. Common things you can swap with others are like clothing, books, money (from different currencies), gadgets and many more. There’s no need to buy brand new things if good second-hand items are available. You can save money this way. Optionally, you can also sell your stuff at cheaper prices.
Backpackers tend to leave their winter jackets behind when they no longer need them. I found so many good and quality winter jackets and raincoats in New Zealand. They all belonged to backpackers who were travelling in the country by campervans. When they sold their vans, they left some of their things behind, from an expensive Sony speakers to winter coats I can’t afford.
5. Get to know the locals
If you have plenty of time to spare in the country of your visit, make an effort to get to know the locals. A short conversation might lead to a dinner invitation, or even a place to sleep. It happened to me when I was travelling in Thailand. The locals even bought me food. That was very kind of them.
My German friend who was travelling in Indonesia was even invited to a local wedding. He looked so happy in his traditional Indonesian outfit.
Recently, I experienced my first ‘Hangi’ with a Maori family in New Zealand. Everyone was very nice to me even though that was the first time we actually met. They also made me feel like I was part of the family. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
6. Keep your stuff organised
When it comes to backpack organisation, travel experts always recommend using packing cubes. I have a second-hand packing cube where I keep my bras, socks and panties. I don’t have another similar packing cube for my bigger clothes, though. So I stuff my clothes into 1 of the 3 lightweight Quechua waterproof bags I have instead. Oh my, I’m glad I have them. Thanks to my friend François for getting them for me.
I can also use these bags to keep my important documents and travel gadgets. They make very good beach bags, too. Unpacking can be a little messy, but that’s fine with me. If you prefer something more organised, invest in packing cubes.
Some travel experts also recommend using hanging toiletry bags as many hostel bathrooms such as the ones in Europe don’t always provide spaces for you to put your bathroom essentials. The advantage of having a hanging toiletry bag is you can simply hang it on the door.
I’m currently using one which was given to me, but I might have to leave it behind when I move to my next destination. There might not be enough space in my backpack to keep it.
If I decided to leave my hanging toiletry bag behind, I shall use the smallest waterproof bag I have as my toiletry bag. Since the bag already has its own holder, all I need to do in order to complete the look is to give it a hook.
If your toiletry bag looks like this, you can simply add a hook to it and hang it on your bathroom door.
But there are chances of your stuff falling from the bag. Don’t worry; you can always alter your bag with a bit of sewing. By using a small piece of thick and strong fabric, you can create a small hook holder for it.
If you have a toiletry bag that looks like a packing cube, you can re-purpose it if you don’t want to keep your toiletries in it anymore. Use it for your clothing storage instead.
8. Get creative with your things
With a little bit of creativity, you can help yourself save more money. Re-purpose your things to help you do other things. For example, if you have a pair of earphones that no longer work, you can use them as your washing line instead.
You can even make your own toiletry bag using a fabric and a stapler. If you have a sunglass case, you can use it to keep small things like pens, makeups, pins, earphones or cables. In case you’re travelling during winter and you need extra warmth, you can turn your old socks (if any) into a pair of gloves. In fact, you can even use your old sock as an insulated water bottle cover.
If you find a shower cap in your hotel bathroom, take it and use it to keep your shoes. Or if you have a retractable pen without ink that you don’t want anymore, take out the spring and use it to protect your chargers from bending and breaking.
9. Get your first-aid kit ready in case of an emergency
If you know that you’ll be doing some adventurous and risky activities in the outdoors, make sure you already have a first-aid kit packed before you start your trip. If you injured yourself (especially when you’re in somewhere rural), you can at least take care of your wound before you get to the doctor. If you have a sarong, you can temporarily use it as a sling or bandage.
In some countries, going to the doctor can be quite expensive. Therefore, it’s advisable that you carry tablets for treating headaches, fever, cold and diarrhoea. If your condition isn’t serious, you can skip your visit to the doctor and treat yourself using the medicines you already have.
10. Always pack snacks
I don’t know about you, but I’m always hungry. I don’t eat much at a time, but I eat small portions of food several times a day. That means I’m always looking for food, even when I’m travelling.
By packing my own snacks, I can eat anytime I want. I don’t need to buy expensive snacks from the tourist attractions I’m visiting when my stomach starts growling. Sometimes I don’t know when I’ll find the time or place to eat.
To prevent your food from losing its freshness, I recommend using resealable food bags that can easily be reused.
This might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but taking an airtight food container while travelling is helpful. You can use it to pack your breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner. True, containers take up space in your bag, but you can always give it another different purpose. For example, you can keep keep small items in it when you’re not using it to store food.
In Asia, street food doesn’t only come in the form of a snack. The locals go to street stalls to buy their lunch and dinner, too. I tend to always have leftovers. In order to not waste them, I keep them for later in case I get hungry again.
When you choose to use food containers instead of plastic bags or styrofoam, you’re helping the world to reduce its plastic waste. You’ll also save more money on food.
11. Don’t spend more than you can afford
Just because you’re on a holiday, doesn’t mean you should exceed your credit card limit. If it means getting into debts and getting pressured every day to pay it back, then maybe you shouldn’t do it.
I know a lot of frequent travellers who aren’t able to afford a house, or a car. But they don’t get into debts just because they want to travel. They save up for it. Some of them even make money while travelling.
Here’s a situation: You have $479 that you have to put into your monthly car loan repayment. Don’t use it for travelling if it means you’re not going to be able to pay your loan. If you do that, that basically means you’re overspending. You may even have to pay more for your loan later.
You might think that if you don’t do it now, then you’ll never do. Don’t forget that there are ways to make that dream come true. Some people choose to cut down their expenses. Some people take extra jobs. And some people sell the things they no longer need.
Perhaps you can rent out your space while you’re gone. I did that when I was out travelling for three months around Southeast Asia. It saved me three months of rent. Explore your options.
Also, don’t go on a holiday just because you found a very good travel deal online.
Of course, how you spend your money and how you want your holiday to be is up to you. In the end, it’s all about giving yourself the holiday you need without having to neglect your other priorities.
If you have other travel tips you’d like to share out, feel free to leave your comments below. Happy travels!