In the past 3 years, I have visited over 20 countries. One of my goals in college was to take advantage of as many traveling programs as possible so I went on a Dubai business trip, interned in Indonesia over the summer, and studied abroad in Spain. All of these experiences helped me to become a savvy traveler, and I wanted to share a few of these tips with you. As the famous saying goes, “Knowledge is meant to be shared, not saved.”
Money exchange: Before anything else, make sure to get a good credit card that doesn’t charge you for foreign transaction fees and gives you bonus rewards for using the card while traveling. Try to use this card whenever possible, but if you need to use cash, my number one rule is to always pull out cash from an ATM instead of going to a currency exchange store. Use your travel credit card to pull out cash or if you can’t use your credit card, then still at least use your debit card. Even with your bank fees, you’ll still get a better overall exchange rate than going to a currency exchange store. These stores charge a percentage fee on top of a base fee, and their rates are usually a lot lower than your banks.
If you must go to a currency exchange store, go to one in the country that you are traveling to instead of one where you live. The country you are traveling to has a much larger supply of the local currency so will thus give you a much better rate than if you went to one where you live.
Booking flights: When booking your flight, my main advice is to research, research, research. Use price comparison websites such as momondo.com or Google flights. An unwritten rule is that flights also drop in price on Tuesdays and this has actually worked for me before.
Also once you’re in an area such as Europe or Southeast Asia, flights between countries in that area may be cheaper than taking a train or bus. Many of the flights that I booked during my backpacking trip in Europe were a lot cheaper than actually taking a train. There are tons of budget airlines such as Ryanair (Europe) and Lion Air (Southeast Asia).
Transportation: This all depends on the public transportation system in the city that you are traveling to. Both Madrid and Tokyo have an excellent metro system and I could easily get around the cities with no problem. On the other hand, Jakarta’s public transportation system (and traffic) was horrendous. If this is the case, my first advice is to see if Uber is available in that country. Using Uber, you can minimize miscommunication due to language problems by inputting your pickup and drop-off location, you can tell exactly which route the driver took you, and you know exactly how much the ride will cost upfront. If you have any problems, you can always contact Uber’s customer service.
Your next option is to rent a bike if the city is not too spread out. I rented a bike in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, and it was a great way to see both of the cities.
Last but not least, if all else fails, you can always order a taxi. Just make sure your driver understands exactly where you want to be dropped off and check your Google maps to see if the taxi is trying to take you on a longer route to earn more money.
Air BnB vs Hostel vs Hotel: This largely depends on whom you are traveling with. If you are traveling with a large group, then I would recommend renting an Air BnB. This way your group can stay together, and you can have a whole apt or house to yourselves. In Bali, ten of my friends and I rented out an entire villa with a pool and we had free reign to blast music and barbeque for the Fourth of July.
If you are traveling alone, I would definitely recommend a hostel. With that said, make sure you do your research and book a hostel that is highly rated and has good reviews. If you do this, I’m sure you’ll find a hostel that is super social and you will make a lot of new friends. When I traveled to Singapore, the hostel I stayed in with two friends was actually the best experience of that entire trip. The hostel had a rooftop bar, and we met so many cool people from all over the world. We all went out together to the bars and clubs at night, and we even went together to visit some sights during the day.
If you’re with a small group or a significant other and you want to keep to yourselves, I would recommend a hotel or Air BnB. Check both and see which one is cheaper. I went to San Diego with my girlfriend at the time, and we rented a hotel that ended up being cheaper than Air BnB’s in the area. It had a great view of downtown San Diego and it was very close to the Gaslamp district.
Health: My last tip is very important. When traveling you are more prone to getting sick because of new viruses, jet lag, and the stress of new environments. You need to make sure you are healthy both inside and out so that you can enjoy your time traveling.
First see if there are any vaccinations or shots that you need. For Africa, there are lots of vaccinations needed beforehand.
For less developed countries, only drink water from bottles and avoid getting ice in your drinks at restaurants (most of the ice is made from tap water). When I visited a rural town in Angamacutiro, Michoacán, Mexico, my family and I got really sick from the ice in our drinks at a restaurant. Our stomachs weren’t used to the bacteria in the water and we were sick for a couple of days. My girlfriend at the time and her family were from there so none of them got sick. Their bodies had already built up an immunity against the bacteria in the water.
Make sure you eat well-rounded meals and receive all the nutrients and vitamins that your body needs. If you are unable to, make sure that you use supplements to replace the vitamins and minerals that you are unable to get.
Lastly, being healthy doesn’t mean just on the inside, but on the outside as well. When traveling to countries, especially during the summer or going to beach side locations, you need to make sure to keep your skin healthy and beautiful so that you look your best while on vacation and prevent future damages.
When I was in Bali, I got super sun burned and my skin always felt very dry from all the salt water and dry humidity. The first couple of days were horrible with my dry sunburned skin, and I immediately decided to buy sunscreen. At first I thought this was enough till I met an experienced backpacker, who taught me the importance of skincare. I know it sounds cliché but this hippie looking backpacker actually knew what he was talking about. I didn’t realize how much of a toll the sun puts on your skin, especially when traveling when you’re most likely to be spending the whole day in the sun. You not only need to use sunscreen, but you need to use moisturizers and serums as well. Serums are especially useful while traveling because they don’t contain any thickeners or lubricants. Thus, they are much more potent and deliver the essential nutrients that your skin needs to repair itself and prevent future damages.
With these tips in mind, you should be ready to tackle any adventure abroad. Stay tuned for my next article where I’ll give out more tips/hints and stories from my travels abroad.