15 quick and dirty travel tips

Maybe you planned a whirlwind overseas trip or just booked a weekend getaway. Either way, there’s an art to travelling well. Here are 15 last-minute things you should do before locking your front door.

1. Always carry a hardcopy map

Most of us rely on our smartphone maps to get around, but it’s sensible to also carry a hardcopy map, to save your battery for when you really need it. As soon as you arrive at the airport, buy a comprehensive map of the city and keep it with you at all times.

2. Plastic bags will save your life

Or at least, your clothes. Smelly socks or wet clothes mixed in with your clean laundry will spoil the day, every time.

3. Learn how to take good photos

The compulsion to take selfies everywhere is strong, but they don’t help you hold on to memories that well. If you’re the photographer, learn a few simple tricks to frame photos effectively, including where to place the subject in the frame, and to never have the camera pointed towards the sun. Where it feels appropriate to do so, ask strangers to take photos of you.

4. Know the local laws

Ignorance is no excuse. You don’t want to spend a night in the slammer because you forgot which side of the road to drive on in Greece, got drunk in Dubai or chewed gum in Singapore. Even New Zealand has a few different laws.

5. Master the art of sink washing

If you’re spending all your time travelling between cities or countries, washing your clothes becomes an inconvenience. This is where hand washing becomes a life-saver. Use the hotel shampoo to hand wash small items until you manage to get to a washing machine. Most travel shops also have useful washing lines, which can be strung up anywhere and which use twisted elastic instead of pegs – great for hanging underwear and socks.

6. Know your geography

Know, roughly, where the country or city you’re visiting is located on a world map. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being caught out as a traveller who doesn’t know where they are.

7. Find your closest supermarket

Markets and grocery stores are a traveller’s best friend. You can’t eat pizza and pasta every day in Italy without getting a little bit tired.

8. Carry cash everywhere

Whether you’re sticking to the city or heading off the beaten track, it (literally) pays to carry some cash while travelling somewhere unfamiliar. There won’t always be an ATM handy, and the possibility of running into technical issues makes relying on bankcards a risky business. And if you run into trouble, cold hard cash can get you out of tricky situations.

9. Have tissues and hand wipes on you

In a pitch, tissues can double up as toilet paper. And hand wipes? Well, that just makes sense.

10. Become handy with a needle and thread

When you suffer a tear or popped button, a safety pin can sometimes do. But it’s better to be able to quickly mend a little hole or replace a button on-the-go. Learning to use a needle and thread is a useful life skill for everybody.

11. Pack a bag in your bag

When packing luggage before a trip, most of us have leave ‘space’ for souvenirs. We might also think, ‘the less room I have, the less I will buy’. The more sensible among us know this is a lie we tell ourselves. Why not save yourself the hassle of buying a second piece of luggage while away? Simply pack a small, collapsible sports bag in the bottom of your suitcase before filling it with clothes.

12. Practise haggling

Learning how to successfully haggle while still being respectful is an art in itself. It’s also expected in some countries. Stay strong. That $5 you save could buy you your next coffee.

13. Learn basic first aid

You never know when you might need it. If nothing else, it’s a great life skill to have.

14. Talk to the locals

Where should you eat? What should you do? Which areas should you avoid at night? These are questions best asked of a local, so don’t be afraid to be friendly.

15. Learn to say “No, thank you”

You’ve heard countless times how it’s important to learn the local language, to be able to say “Hello”, “Yes” and “Thank you”. But it’s equally important to be able to say, “No, thank you” and “Please leave me alone”, especially in situations where you’re clearly a foreigner.

Related articles:
Learn to bargain like a pro
Nine must-have travel skills
How to eat like a local

Written by Amelia Theodorakis

A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.

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