Excited. Nervous. Terrified. That’s how I felt when I was 21 traveling around the world. I had no idea what I was doing, and that was okay. Everyone has to start somewhere. Right?I used to be the one who would ask whomever I could for travel advice – any advice that they spared was much appreciated.
Now, as we travel all around the world we are the ones getting asked for our best travel tips. I thought we should share a few of our tips for newbie travelers getting started on their around the world travels.
My Best Travel Tips
Always check for your passport and phone
This one is one of my very best travel tips. What are your two most important travel accessories? Whether you are traveling with your grandma’s cookbook, Rose’s Heart of the Ocean, or your favorite pair of jeans the number one thing you do not want to lose is your passport. It’s small, it’s expensive, it’s a legal document, it’s your means to travel, and it means you can get home.
Always check that you have it. My second most important travel accessory is my phone. It gets me from point A to point B, allows me to check my emails, and holds some pretty precious photos. Knock on wood that I never lose these two small items during my travels. That’s why after every bus, plane, and train ride I habitually check to make sure they are still on me.
Download an offline version of the area you are in on Google Maps
Did I mention that my phone gets me around a new city? I would love to credit my impeccable map reading skills, but in reality, I usually rely on Google Maps to determine my location. Whenever possible, Cameron and I download offline versions of these maps which let the app run smoothly without WiFi.
Americans should invest the time to get a Charles Schwab Debit Card
American’s traveling abroad should invest the time to get a Charles Schwab Checking Account and Debit Card. The card doesn’t incur any ATM fees from Charles Schwab, receives an even exchange rate, and it reimburses ATM fees from banks worldwide, making it the most important card in our wallet. Personally, I feel vulnerable walking around with a ton of cash. We have never been robbed, but if we are I don’t want to lose an arm and a leg. Sometimes we may have to access an ATM more than once a day, but we don’t care because we have this card! There are no monthly service fees, and no minimum account balances – so there is no excuse not to get one. Check out more of travel banking tips.
Student ID’s are gold
The third most important card in our wallet is our Student ID. Sure, it may be nine years old and showcase us at our worst but damn does it get us some serious discounts. If you look relatively “student aged” then make sure to always bust the card out in museums, train stations, and special events. Some places will require you to be from a certain region, but it never hurts to try!
Avoid currency exchange offices whenever possible
I can count the number of times we have used currency exchange offices on one hand. They typically give crap exchange rates and have hidden fees – we avoid them like the plague and my best travel tip is that you do too. We get our cash from the ATM for the very best rates. Our minds are always thinking about the amount of foreign currency we carry when we are in a new country. We also never leave a country with leftover currency even if it means buying an unnecessary trinket at the airport as once you leave the country chances are you won’t use it again unless you are a frequent traveler to that area.
Always ask for a metered cab fare or agree on a set price beforehand
It doesn’t matter what part of the globe you’re around the world travels take you. A cab can be one of the best ways to get scammed. To avoid overpaying or being scammed it’s important to always ask for the meter to be turned on or agree to a set price beforehand.
Know the exchange rate before landing
I will never forget meeting a traveler that went to Mcdonalds in Dubai, ordered his meal, figured 100 UAE Dirhams couldn’t be that much and ate away. I hope it was the best Big Mac he ever tasted because the burger ended up costing $26! Always have a general idea of exchange rates before arriving at your destination, we use the XE Currency Converter application on our phones to stay up to date on currency fluctuations.
Do your research beforehand
If you’re on a budget, go around and check out prices in your new destination before purchasing anything. Take a gander into a couple shops, ask around for current prices, and even research online the correct price of things. I kick myself when I find out I pay a “tourist” price when I could have been paying the fair local price for things. This tip is big for food and drink costs.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Yes, this age old saying also applies to travel destinations. Bus stations are almost always located outside the main city centers, and sometimes train stations can be located in some downright dodgy locations. There have been countless times when we have got off our bus and thought “this place doesn’t look that great.”
It’s important not to let first impressions get the best of you and to delve into a new destination a few days before labeling it undesirable. For example, we’ve heard from many people that Napoli is a total skip in Italy, but we found it to be one our favorite destinations in the boot-shaped country.
Get a credit card
And a travel related one at that. Our favorites for Americans are the Capital One Venture, Barclay World Elite, Citi ThankYou, Chase Reserve, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred. We never pay foreign transaction fees, can dispute false charges easily, and rack in some serious airline and hotel points.
If there is a washing machine – use it
One of the most dreaded tasks while traveling long term is washing clothes. It’s always a hassle and is never ever fun to take time out of your day to do laundry while exploring a new city. I’ve never met anyone who feels comfortable paying to wash their clothes starting at $13 a pair of socks at a hotel.
Free washers are a rare find, but should never be passed up. If a hotel or hostel offers cheap laundry service, we typically take them up on it, no matter the number of dirty clothes we have. We do our wash about every three weeks, and when that time comes we try to specifically seek out a good Airbnb with a washer or affordable service.
Don’t be the disrespectful American, Aussie, Brit…etc
Don’t be the loud, drunk, or insensitive vacationer that disrespects the locals and trashes a foreign city. We once got yelled at by a local in the Baltics for speaking English to each other. Chances are it was just some cranky woman…or maybe she was just sick of privileged Westerners coming to her country and treating it like a wasteland. You have seen them, you know who they are, don’t be them. Act like your mother is watching you and be aware of social cues.
Learning hello and thank you in the language will get you a long way
I hate to admit it, but I am a horrendous linguist. Sometimes, we travel fast through certain regions and the languages are always changing. Despite this, we always learn “Hello” and “Thank You” in the local language. Trust us, these two words can make all the difference in your experience with a local.
You do not need to know the language
That being said, you do not need to know the local language to travel internationally. I mean, of course knowing French, German, Spanish, or even Zulu will help and probably enhance your experiences in a country. However, do not let that keep you from traveling. We travel all around the world, and sadly, cannot speak another language besides English fluently. We still get from point A to point B, and we have a great time doing so.
Travel during the off-season
Traveling outside of the summer months will generally yield lower prices, friendlier locals, and fewer crowds. Not to mention peak summer is a miserable time to be outside in most places. We travel during all periods of the year, but truly love traveling in the fall and early spring when crowds are dwindling and we get a destination all to ourselves.
Use public transport
Unless it is absolutely unavailable, or we arrive somewhere new past midnight we always take the local public transport options. Whether it be the metro, bus, or a tuk-tuk, we get around like the locals do. 99% of the time public transport will be cheaper, 99% more eco-friendly, and 100% of the time it will be more of an adventure.
When you travel people are going to be interested in your story – accept it. Whether it be new friends at a hostel or the man waiting at a bus stop with you, you may get some questions. Where are you from? How long are you traveling? Where is your favorite destination? Or my personal favorite – How can you afford to travel? You’re going to get a lot of the same questions, a lot of different questions, and many, many personal questions. Accept them, and be curious back!
Pack quick dry items
There is a lot of polyester in my bag, and it’s not because I’m sporty. Cameron and I travel with a number of quick dry items in our bags. Many countries don’t have dryers for their clothes, so the quicker my clothing air dries, the better. You can see my full packing list here, and Cameron has a detailed men’s packing list here. We both have the Youphoria Quick Drying Bathing towel which is a lifesaver!
Eat and shop local
This goes for anywhere in the world – traveling or not. Would you rather support the large companies or the local merchant? Do you fantasize about putting fruit into your body that has been imported from other continents or eating the fresh local produce from the farmers market?
Think before you haggle
Many shops in South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East operate on a bargaining basis. These are my favorite as I love a good deal, and I believe I have a self-awarded gold medal in bargaining. However, sometimes it’s important to stop and think about who really needs that money – the local villager or the traveler? Sometimes I find myself getting caught up haggling over 50 cents, then I really have to stop and think relatively about this.
Document your documents
Take a photo of your passport, credit cards, insurance cards, and anything else that may be important. Send it to your parents, save it in the cloud, or print out extra copies and keep them with you. You never know when you may need to revert back to these. We also like to travel with passport sized photos of ourselves in case we ever need extra ones at border crossings (This happened between Thailand and Cambodia, and saved us $20).
Learn to say YES
Be a Yes girl! Be a Yes boy! Just be a YES person. Would you like to try a fried spider? YES (No). Would you like to get hit in the face with one hundred tomatoes? I suppose so! Good stories rarely ever come from saying no.
Hide your money
You never want to be caught somewhere without cash. Many places in the world are cash only and if you are robbed, have lost luggage, or you have drained your bank account you could be facing some trouble. We have money and extra credit cards stashed in many places just in case something unexpected happens. I like to hide money in empty chapstick containers, and always in a stable currency. Read more about how we protect our money abroad here.
Purchase travel insurance
Thankfully we have never had an injury while traveling, but that doesn’t mean that we travel without insurance. Purchasing travel insurance is crucial. Just like at home you never know what can happen. We use World Nomads for all our insurance needs.
Not on your plate. If there is one thing I have learned while searching for flights it is to clear my browsing data and cookies before searching. Airline booking engines can track your recent searches and may raise the price next time you search for it, demand meet supply. All because they know you want it like Cookie Monster wants a cookie.
Out of all of our best travel tips that we can share with you, the number one is to smile. It’s the most common language in our wide world.
What are your best travel tips for travel all around the world? Comment below!
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