A couple of days ago my sister in law sent me a link to a blog post written by Anthony Bourdin on how to travel. The name sounded familiar to me and when I opened the page I recognized him from a couple of his travel and food shows in CNN (ie. parts unknown).
It was interesting to read his tips because even if I haven't traveled to so many different places as himself, I have been lucky enough to visit many cities in North America, Central America, Asia and particularly in Europe. I got used to fly quite frequently when I was living in Ireland and I had to do it every time I wanted to visit a city in mainland Europe.
So when I read the post from Mr. Bourdin some of his tips sounded very familiar based on my experience. I also realized that unconsciously I also have been creating for myself a set of tips on how to travel and I would like to share them with you on this post:
- Pack light: It seems pretty obvious but this is in my opinion one of my most important travel principles. Carrying around an overweight suitcase or backpack will not only hurt your back, slow you down and make you unhappy during your trip, but it will also increase the costs when checking in luggage or paying for extra weight. Ask twice if you need EVERY item you are packing. Once you finish, try out wearing the backpack / suitcase and remember you will carry this load all along the way. If it feels too heavy … it is indeed!
- Passport security belt: A passport is the most important document that you will have in your possession as a foreigner so you definitively want to keep it safe. I always keep it under my clothes using a safety belt (even when I pass through the security machines at the airport). You don't have to worry where your passport might be because you will always know.
- Dress for flying: When I pick up what I will wear during a flight, I try to wear the most comfortable but functional clothes possible, that will make easier to pass through security lines: I wear jeans, sneakers, t-shirts and a light jacket with many pockets. I try to avoid metal objects as much as possible. Today I tried a non-metallic buckle belt and it worked great!.
- Destination Airport Information: Knowledge is definitively a time saver when visiting a new city and arriving to the airport. Does it have a train or subway station? Or is it better to go by bus? How much one should pay for a taxi to the city center?. Most of the airports have websites where you can check this information out, but I found particularly useful the "Get in" section of most the Wikitravel entries. For example in the Singapore article they discuss:
Subway: MRT trains run from a station between T2 and T3, but you'll need to change trains at Tanah Merah to a city-bound train: just exit through the left hand side door and cross the platform.
This information sounds very useful!
- Get a map on your mobile device or take a picture of one: I always try to download a map of the city I'm going to visit, so when I get there I can pinpoint relatively easy where I will be (I downgraded my version of Google Maps to get the offline option). If I’m not able to get the offline map, I try to get a picture on the web and put it on my phone. If I'm already on the city I take a picture of the first map I find on my way.
- Blend as a local: I always try to blend as a local as much as I can, doing what they do. If I find out everybody walks a certain pace I try to follow them, if the get out subway in a particular direction I try to do the same and if I see them entering an interesting place I find out what it is. I just don't like the "lost tourist label" glowing out of me, so I try to avoid it if I can.
- Avoid the "Tourist Menu" restaurants: I really hate the feeling of being ripped off at an overpriced restaurant where the food is bad, the servers are rude and the bill is expensive, containing hidden charges. Everytime I see a restaurant with the words "Tourist Menu" translated in English, French, German and Spanish, I run away!.
- Negotiate the price of a taxis before starting the trip: I always try to use public transport as much as possible but sometimes there is no way around it and I have to catch a taxi. If the cab has a working taximeter and he will use it, brilliant, but otherwise agree on a price to avoid nasty surprises at the end of the ride.
I think those are my main tips. As usual I will update this post if I remember more "tips" but I think I put here the main ones. Do you agree? What are yours?
PS: I'm posting this from the Zurich airport on my way to Singapore. Now the adventure really starts!