On this day 8 years ago, I moved from France back to the UK. I did a lot of travelling while living there and today’s Blog Every Day for May theme is ‘top tips‘, so it makes sense to combine the two.
- Make sure you have the right travel documents, e.g. visas, passports, travel insurance, EHIC card, medical notes, any emergency phone numbers. Keep any official looking bit of paper you are given- I was once given a raffle ticket sized stub of paper on entry to Brazil, which you were required to present on exiting. It was sheer fluke I kept it, but it would have been so complicated if I’d thrown it away!
- Do some research before you go. Work out what you want to see and what you’d like to see if you have time. Ask other people what they did or where they ate, recommendations are a great place to start. Some attractions are booked up months in advance online (Alcatraz in San Francisco, for example), some have timed slots that mean you can skip a lot of the queues if booked in advance (Parc Guell, Barcelona) and most have discounts for advance purchases (Universal Studios, LA).
- Allow for some flexibility, however. Seeing places on foot is sometimes the best way to soak up the culture and feel of the place. You might see something that wasn’t advertised online, like a local festival. You might get too tired and just want a day to chill out! By all means plan it out to an extent, but you don’t have to see everything a place has to offer just because the guidebook says.
- Weigh up tour guides’ inclusive packages against pay as you go. Some things might also be cheaper once you get there. In Rome, we found a good deal for the Forum, Coliseum and Vatican which worked out cheaper than buying single tickets. This wasn’t the case in Venice though, it was cheaper for us to ignore the city tours.
- Find out about the local etiquette. Are there modesty rules? Is it customary to leave a tip? What are the business hours? Are there any laws which are different from the UK? If you’re driving, are you road worthy in that country?
- Eat where the locals eat. It might be tempting to go for brands and chains you recognise, but you’re not getting to know the culture by doing that. That said, be aware that in some countries you shouldn’t eat dairy or eat fruit/salad that might have been washed with local tap water- read up before you go.
- Look at transport options when booking accommodation. Everyone loves a bargain, but if it means you’re staying miles out of the city and have to spend hours or lots of money on travelling in, is it worth it? Also check to see if resort fees/local taxes are included- a lot of the time, these are added on when you go to check out.
- Check for any bank or religious holidays or any local festivities which might change business hours. There might be other activities to do instead linked to the day, but some attractions might be closed or close early on those days. Local school holidays might also have an impact as to how busy places are.
- Learn how to say ‘thank you’ in the language (at least). People are more willing to help you out if you make an effort.
- Avoid checking-in on social media everywhere you go. Aside from the fact that you’re advertising that you’re not at home to any potential burglars, if you’re constantly looking for 4G or WIFI, you’re not fully appreciating your surroundings. Use it as an excuse to disconnect and see things with your own eyes, not just through your mobile phone screen.