Travel tips: nine must-have travel skills

Our list of essential travel skills will prove invaluable to anyone heading off on a holiday.

happy mature woman laying on her back in the park

It’s always exciting to prepare for a long-awaited holiday, but there’s more to what’s in your suitcase that you should consider taking with you on your journey, such as these must-have travel skills.

1. Drive a manual car
Most hire cars these days are automatic, but often, cars with a manual transmission are more available and may even come cheaper. And if your preferred car isn’t in the lot when you arrive, you may be only be left with a choice of a car with a manual transmission.

If you can drive a manual, you may even find that you can upgrade your pre-booked automatic vehicle with a much nicer manual model at very little, or no, extra cost, because hire depots would prefer to keep their automatic options. It’s also worth noting that European hire car companies often have more manual vehicles than automatics, so it pays to have the option of driving both.

And you don’t have to pay for driving lessons either – you can find video tutorials online and you can practice with a friend in an empty parking lot.

2. Read a map
Back in the day, reading a map was an essential travel skill. With GPS so readily available on smartphones or as part of a hire-car package, it’s easy to get around foreign lands with little map-reading experience. But what happens when you have no mobile phone signal?

Map reading is still a highly useful skill to have in such situations, but it can also help you when getting around town, as many hotels and airports will have paper maps directing you to popular tourist destinations. It’s also fun to study maps prior to travelling, and a paper map can also be a great souvenir to reflect upon when you arrive back home – especially if you use it to jot down little notes of your experiences.

3. You’ve got to haggle
If you want to save money by avoiding the usual treatment by overseas vendors, then haggling is a must-have skill when travelling.

The trick to haggling is to start low, then walk away if the seller won’t budge on price. Now, it goes without saying that you should be relatively reasonable when naming the price that you’re prepared to pay for an item or service. No one likes a tyre kicker. But if the vendor really wants the business, they’ll come to the party.

You should remember, though, that this is a street or market vendor's living, so please be fair when haggling. 

And it’s not just goods and services that are subject to the almighty negotiation – you can also haggle your hotel costs by calling first and asking what is the best rate they’ll offer you. If they don’t come down in price, try asking for extras, such as parking or free breakfast. What have you got to lose?

4. Approach the locals
Okay, so you were raised never to talk to strangers, but gabbing with the locals will often lead you to the best restaurants, shops and attractions. This skill will also help you if you ever get lost.

If you’re not too confident about talking to strangers, why not try doing it in your local area? Talk to shop owners or marketeers, or even have a quick chat with your local café barista. And here’s a free tip: your waiter or bartender are often the best people to point you in the right direction for a true ‘local’ experience.

5. Basic car maintenance
One thing people often take for granted when they’re driving around their hometown is the fact that they can just call for roadside assistance should something go wrong with their car. Not so when you’re on the road overseas. Sure, your hire car company may offer you a roadside assistance service at a modest (translation: exorbitant) fee, but being able to at least change a flat tyre, top up your radiator or jumpstart a car could save you a lot of money and get you back on the road far quicker than waiting in the middle of nowhere for an old tow-truck. Jump online and search for a how-to page that covers basic car maintenance. You won’t be sorry. Even if you don’t use it overseas, its still a very handy skill to have back home.

6. Learn the language
This one will not only help you on your travels, but also give your brain a boost. Learning the language of your chosen destination a little further than “where’s the loo” or “do you speak English” will put you in good stead with the locals. In turn, they’ll be more likely to want to help you, and they’ll look after you a little more than they would if you act all ‘touristy’.

And learning a new language, whilst not an easy task, is not impossible by any means. Start with the basics, such as yes and no, hello and goodbye, how are you doing, and, yes, where is the toilet. Once you get the hang of those simple terms and phrases, you’ll find it’s fun, and you’ll want to know more.

There are plenty of apps available to help you on your way, and if you really get stuck for a word whilst you’re overseas, there’s always Google Translate.

7. Do the maths
If you’re heading to a country that deals in miles, Fahrenheit and gallons, you’re going to need some basic maths skills to help you work out how far you’ll be walking, how hot it’s going to be and how much water you’ll need to drink.

It will also be handy to estimate currency conversion rates, so you won’t overspend overseas.

If you have trouble with arithmetic, there are a heap of handy apps that may see you through, such as MultiConverter and xe.com.

8. Basic survival skills
We are lucky to have one of the best health systems in the world. If we cut ourselves, or sprain an ankle, we can go to the docs and get it plastered or bandaged at little or no cost. Not so in many other countries. A visit to the hospital in the US for basic treatment can cost you a fortune and really spoil your holiday.

It will do you no end of good to know basic first aid, perform CPR or know the Heimlich manoeuvre. It may save you money but, more importantly, it may save a life.

Keep in mind too, that there are many other basic survival skills that could be handy to acquire, such as swimming, self-defence and orienteering. You never know when you’ll need them, either over there or here at home.

9. Learn to fly under the radar
It’s a worry for many who venture overseas that they’ll be mugged or heckled, but, more often than not, if you keep to yourself and attract as little attention as possible, you should be a little safer from harm. Now, this is by no means a guarantee, but speaking from personal experience, I’ve had some of my most memorable travel experiences in some of the ‘rougher’ parts of cities I’ve visited. I’m not saying rush in all gung ho and you’ll be safe, but a commonsense rule of thumb to follow is: don’t act like a tourist, be polite to everyone (no matter who they are), be assertive when it’s necessary and don’t flash around money, mobile phones or cameras. Stay under the radar, and you’ll be more likely to stay safe.

Can you recommend any other travel skills for our readers?

Read more at www.tripadvisor.com

RELATED ARTICLES





    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Maggie
    3rd Jul 2017
    11:07am
    This lot makes me think it would be easier just to stay at home!!!
    JayUK
    3rd Jul 2017
    4:38pm
    Twice when we've travelled to Sydney from UK we've ordered a manual car well in advance as my husband has only driven manual cars for 50 years but the request is completely ignored and there's been no manual available. Not easy being thrown into Sydney airport's traffic in an automatic. What is automatic is putting your foot on the non existent clutch which turns out to be the brake. You soon make sure you keep your left foot tucked back!
    CindyLou
    3rd Jul 2017
    6:43pm
    I actually think the suggestion to learn to drive manual is really dumb - I don't think it's sensible to be inexperienced driving a manual on strange roads etc.
    Eddy
    3rd Jul 2017
    11:58pm
    I would have expected that most people on the site would have learned to drive manuals, from recall it wasn.t until the 1970s or 1980s that automatic transmissions became generally available without a hefty price premium. I have been driving automatics since I bought my 1st automatic in 1996 (two pedals and two feet are a good ratio) but nowadays when I get into a manual I slip into manual mode with no problem.
    CindyLou
    4th Jul 2017
    8:22am
    I learnt to drive in a manual however that was a LONG time ago and my first car was an automatic so I've lost those skills...I could certainly drive a manual in an emergency, wouldn't be pretty but I could get 'moving'. But as I stated above, driving in an unfamiliar country / location is tricky at the best of time and I do not believe you need to add more complexities to this scenario by changing a familiar mode of driving (automatic vehicles).
    Rae
    3rd Jul 2017
    5:07pm
    Check out the laws before you go. For example always having a receipt in Italy. Never having tablets with codeine in them in Greece etc.

    Dress like the locals and always carry a sarong in your bag to wear as a head or shoulder covering in certain places or if a desert wind springs up.

    I always carry enough US$ to get home in a money belt on me. I keep my debit card and passport there as well and use a credit card from a different bank. If my bag or wallet goes I can still get on with the trip. If the ATM s or credit system fails I can get home.
    fish head
    3rd Jul 2017
    9:12pm
    The last thing anyone needs is an inexperienced manual driver in heavy city traffic - certain recipe for disaster.
    nannyalone
    16th Sep 2017
    8:09am
    When in a country like Asia, Baltics and places with foreign currency, I write up a quick currency reckoner and keep it in my wallet as a handy reference so I can quickly refer to it.


    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles