tips for traveling abroad
I figured I would share some of the useful things I've learned while traveling while they were fresh in my mind. Obviously this is what John and I have found useful in our travels, but everyone travels differently, so these may or may not prove useful in your travels.
We are not budget travelers nor are we luxury travelers. We fall somewhere in between. We attempt to find reasonably priced accommodations in a good location and generally eat in cheap or mid range restaurants with the occasional splurge. We take public transportation, but we do not wash our own clothes in the sink (some things are just worth paying for).
*When you first arrive in a city...get a map, even if you have a guide book. Sometimes the maps in books are incomplete (missing some smaller streets) or inaccurate, especially if you have a book that covers multiple cities and/or multiple countries. When we were traveling last year, we used the map in our guide book for some of the smaller places we went and that proved to be frustrating. Most often, the first thing we did when we arrived was hunt down a city map. You can often find these for free at the train station or airport, but even if you have to spend a little money on it, it's worth it!
*Carry the local currency! For both our trip last year and this most recent trip we dealt mostly in cash and always in the local currency. Visit an ATM when you first arrive and get at least enough money for transportation and a meal. Also, it's important to remember that not everywhere will take credit cards (how common that is depends on where you are traveling). You'll almost always get a better deal if you have cash. Some of the places we went took Euros along with whatever the local money was, and unless you live in the Euro zone, you'll get a better deal if you just use the local currency.
*Make sure your accommodations have free internet access. Surprisingly this is easier than it sounds. Every place that we have stayed while traveling abroad had free internet access. Some hotels and hostels only offered it in the lobby, but that was only a minor inconvenience. Having internet access was essential to us being able to get from one place to the next (it's much easier to check train/bus schedules online than trek to the train/bus station), and make sure we had a place to stay (we would book a hotel a few days in advance of our arrival, or whenever we decided where we were going next and how long we were going stay there).
*Plan...but only a little. I much prefer the loose plan to the knowing exactly where you are going and how long you are going to be there plan. A couple of times we got to a place and decided we wanted to stay a day longer than we had originally planned. If we had booked all of our hotels in advance, this would have been much more difficult. Instead, all it involved was making sure the place we were staying was available for an extra night. What you are going to do each day deserves a little more planning, in my opinion. It's even worth it to make a list before you go on your trip so you don't waste valuable time deciding what you do and don't want to do once you get where you are going.
*Learn some important words. If you are traveling from place to place by train or bus, I suggest learning the word for "main train station" or "main bus station" as there is often more than one train or bus station in larger cities. Sometimes it's not terribly inconvenient if you get off at the wrong one, but sometimes it is.
Do you have any travel tips to share?