I have been traveling on my own for last than 18 years, so I can say that my travel is now in its adulthood. All these years I had traveled to the different places, traveled in different styles, made travel mistakes, learned a lot and these helped me develop as an individual. Travel gave me a feeling of empowerment, liberation, learned from different cultures, stepped out of my comfort zone and confidence to handle different situations. In this post, I would like to share what I learned from my mistakes or learned from the travel mistakes of other travelers. I am still under learning process but I would like to share some travel tips from my experience.
Before I write about the travel tips and things I learned, I like to share one of my experiences. It’s an old story from the infancy years of my traveling. One of my friend and I planned a trip to Rajasthan for little more than a week during Christmas and New Year break. We planned to explore Bikaner and Jaisalmer.
We had decided to travel by Indian Railway because it was the most convenient way to travel at that time. The online portal of IRCTC was launched but it used to get hanged and not at all user-friendly. We were both busy with office work so we decided that I would go to RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism) for hotel booking and she will book railway tickets. Fortunately, she caught hold of a colleague who booked the train tickets from railway booking office. We were ready to go as our train tickets and hotels booked.
While booking the train tickets we made two mistakes, one was our decision and other happened as we didn’t check the things at our end. Let me tell you both one by one. I travel mostly in 3A (3rd Air-conditioned class) but at the time of ticket booking, there were no confirmed seats available in 3A class. So both of us decided that we book in first class (In those days this class was available) though there were seats available in 2A. Our decision was based on economics as we tried to save some money because first class was cheaper then 2A. This was our first wrong decision because it was December end and weather was extremely cold in north India especially at night. We both carried blankets for the night for our overnight journey. During the night it got extremely cold when the train was running in the desert area and we shivered in blankets. To counter the cold wind (Windows were closed) both of us shifted on one berth as first class seats used to quite be broad and we layered our blankets. Still, we could not sleep due to cold and we had a terrible night. Finally, we reached Bikaner around 6.30 AM and got relieved from torture.
Rest of our trip was a wonderful trip and finally, it was time to come back.
We came to Jodhpur from Jaisalmer by afternoon as we didn’t get direct tickets from Jaisalmer and secondly we thought of doing some shopping from Jodhpur. Our train was at 10.30 PM and we reached station after dinner. Both of us had 3 bags each because of shopping, winters clothing and that additional blanket from our first travel mistake. The train arrived on platform 30 minutes before departure and everyone rushed in. We clumsy girls were last one to board due to our multiple bags. As we were standing at the gate before moving inside, a railway employee pasted the passenger chart outside the train. I went to check the chart just to see who all are next to our seats because in the chart railway mention name and gender. I went through entire chart twice but could not find our name. I asked my friend to give me the ticket to recheck if we were in right compartment.
Yes, it was right compartment but when I closely scanned the ticket I noticed that our ticket was for 2nd January instead of 1st January. We both went in to shock for two minutes, then we caught hold of ticket collector but he was of no help because there was a big waiting list. We had no idea what to do, as our ticket was invalid for travel so we got down from the train and it departed in front of us. It was 10.40 PM and we were nervously standing on the platform with luggage. As we were contemplating a drunken man came and tried to strike a conversation with us. I was already upset and I shouted at him at full volume and thankfully he went away. There was no other train for next few hours and station was getting empty. We went into the waiting room but the attendant told us that he will close it after 12 midnight after the departure of the last train. After enquiring we came to know that there were retiring rooms in the station and we may get a room thereby paying. Thankfully, we got one room that was not so nice but it was luxury at that time. Next morning we bought the tickets for 6.00AM train till Jaipur and from Jaipur, we returned back to Delhi by bus. So we wasted a full day, spent more money and had discomfort because we missed rechecking our travel documents.
These two incidents are a good example of wrong decision without considering weather condition, trying to save money without logic, and not double-checking our travel documents. There were many other small or big travel mistakes happened with me over the years but these two initial ones and made a lasting impact. Since then I book 90% of my travels and always forwarded the booking copy to my travel partner to recheck. If other person made the booking then I ask for the booking copy for rechecking.
Now lets talk about most common travel mistakes we all made at some point of time and how to avoid them.
It is good to keep one or two extra pairs of clothes but carrying too many extras because you are not able to decide what you want to wear is totally useless. Don’t carry the things that are not necessary or you think that I “may” use. Traveling light is a blessing and these days airlines charge a huge amount for extra luggage.
Not keeping enough time in between flights
Always book direct flights to a destination it will save you lots of hassle at the airport and also save time. But if you think that booking a flight with stopover will save a lot of money and there is no time constraint then book a flight with stopover instead of two separate tickets. In this case, if your first flight is delayed and you miss your second flight then airlines are responsible to put you on next flight though usually, they wait for the passengers from first flight. If you still book 2 separate tickets to save the money then keep enough time between two flights.
Double-check your travel bookings and documents
It is always better that you double check travel documents, like tickets, hotels, and activities. If by mistake you had made a wrong booking it can be rectified in time instead of realizing at last moment as happened with us. If traveling international then double check your passport and visa documents validity. It will take only 10 minutes of your time but will save you from hassle in case of any mistake.
Keep your valuables safe
Always carry your laptop, camera or other valuables in handbag instead of check-in baggage while traveling. You may have to carry all the time but it is better than losing some stuff. If you are alone and there is no one to take care of your luggage then carry your bags everywhere instead of leaving with a stranger. I sometimes carried my suitcase in the toilet also because I was traveling solo.
Saving money at the expense of time or comfort
Don’t look for free days to visit a monument or place. You may save some entry ticket money but remember others also trying to do it. Most of the places are overcrowded on free days and this can ruin your experience. Always decide wisely when booking tickets or hotels, remember the discomfort we had in the first class compartment and if we booked 2A then we had traveled in comfort. Don’t book an economical hotel in a suburb if it is not well connected with public transport because while staying in that hotel you may save some bucks but it will cost you in taxi fare as well as extra time to travel.
Traveling with outdated information
Don’t totally rely only on guidebooks because these books were printed few months or years back. Always check on the Internet for latest information because due to more tourist influx or any other reasons things keep on changing, government or keepers of monuments keep on changing time or entry point or new routes are added to old ones.
Check your mobile phone plan
If you are going for longer duration then check the call and data plans for roaming. You may have a great plan for the home circle but it can empty your pocket while traveling. Check for the best call and data plan before traveling and opt accordingly. If traveling internationally then sometimes you can buy a sim card from the airport, which will be cheaper then, your home mobile plan. Do some research and decide accordingly. I bought a sim card from Bangkok airport when I traveled there last year.
Choosing a hotel
Don’t get carried away by the glammy photographs you see on the website of a hotel. Those pictures were clicked by professional or may be old or far from reality. Always checked the photographs posted by people on sites like TripAdvisor.com and Oyster.com. Scan the photographs and reviews properly, always look for the people with more reviews. If any of your friend or family visited the destination you have planned then ask for their opinion. These days many Facebook groups are active and you can always ask other travelers about a place. Personal experiences are more genuine.
Waiting in line to buy tickets
Instead of standing in long queues to buy entry tickets, book advance tickets online. Most of the monuments have an advance booking system. Booking in advance will save your precious time at the destination.
Inform your Credit Card Bank
If you are traveling abroad then always inform your credit card’s bank about your travel plan. In case of a stolen card or any other dispute, it will be easier to settle with the bank at a later stage. Better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t make an over-ambitious itinerary
I always plan my day when I travel but I don’t stuff too many places in a day or make a minute-by-minute plan. If you have planned too many places then you may have to rush between places and you won’t enjoy the place. There was be traffic jams or some roadblocks or any other reason for the delay. Always keep some free time in case things don’t go as per plan or to relax in between.
Use technology with directions from a local
Always download an offline map from Google in case mobile data is not working while you are traveling. If you are confused locating a place with the help of map because road closed or there was no proper marking or due to some issue. Don’t hesitate and ask locals for directions instead of getting lost and wasting time.
Forgetting the budget and running out of money
Always make a budget before traveling and keep every day’s funds in one separate pouch or pocket of the bag. In this way, you can keep track of your everyday expenses. When I travel with friends, we give a fixed amount of money to one person who pays for everything during the day and by end of the day we note down all expenses. This practice gives us an idea of how much we spent during the day. Don’t indulge in something on impulse, which you may regret later, think twice before spending on an expensive thing or activity that was not in your original plan.
Not backing up pictures and losing them
If you are traveling for long durations then carry a laptop with you and try to back up pictures every day or another day. Also if you are using DSLR camera then it’s always a good idea to download. If I travel for long duration then I also carry a hard disk also to backup. If you are going on a short trip then download as soon as you return and make a back up as soon as possible. You can also save photographs in your cloud account during the travel. Keep in mind that you will not only loose pictures but also precious memories.
Exchange local currency at the Airport
In India, you can exchange INR into dollars or euros or other currencies from the bank before traveling. If you are traveling to Southeast Asia or some other smaller countries then you need local currency for use. Withdraw money from ATM’s at the airport. You will get the best exchange rate from ATM in comparison to the small shops at airport or markets.
If you are traveling in your home country then your existing medical insurance is sufficient to handle any medical emergency. But when you are traveling abroad then definitely buy comprehensive travel insurance for medical, travel delay and theft. In absence of travel insurance if you get in trouble then you may have to shell out a lot of money from your pocket that can disturb your finances. If you have travel insurance then it will take care of your important requirements. It is not a good idea to save some money by not buying insurance.
Make copies of important documents
Always save your important travel documents. Keep a printed copy of your ticket and hotel booking even if you have it in your email account. While traveling international make photocopies of your passport and visa, carry these with you in the bag. Also, keep a digital copy of these documents in your email account. If god forbids you to lose your passport then these will help you to get a set of new documents.
Arriving at the wrong airport or train station
These days due to heavy traffic different airlines operate from different airports. Always double-check the airport ticket before traveling because if you reach the wrong airport then you may miss your flight. Same goes for Indian Railways, different trains depart from a different station in a city. Delhi has more than half a dozen-railway stations, always recheck the name of railway station before traveling.
Don’t tempt pickpockets with flashy items
It is advisable not to wear too many gold or diamond items while traveling. If you are carrying some expensive gadgets with you then don’t carry those all the time with you, keep them in safe at the hotel before going out. Flashing expensive items or jewelry will make you easy target for pickpocketers.
Being culturally insensitive and Dress properly
Different countries have a different way of treating things. When you travel to a new place then it is better to do some research before going. You are required to cover shoulders and knees in religious places across Asia. You have to cover the head if you are visiting Sikh temples like Golden Temple in Amritsar. Some places prohibit photography, respect that. Also, consider what kind of clothing people wear in a country you are visiting, don’t wear same clothes but if people cover themselves then you also do the same.
Traveling with the wrong company
If you are traveling with friends, always travel with people who have similar interest. Traveling with wrong people can ruin your trip. If you are booking a trip with a new company then check their past record for the destination you are visiting. They may be good for some small local destination but if they don’t have experience and knowledge about the place then it can spoil your trip. I made a mistake and travel with a company to Cambodia who had no previous experience for that destination, they gave the wrong estimate of time and organized it very badly.
Never eat near a major tourist places
Don’t rush to the nearest restaurants close to a monument for lunch or dinner. They may look attractive but usually, these places are expensive as compared to other places in the city. Moreover, their food quality may not be at par because these places target the tourist crowd that comes once and they don’t target repeat customers. Move few blocks away from an attraction and try to eat at a place where local people eating. The food at these places is better than touristy places in terms of quality and pricing.
Traveler’s checks are outdated
The traveler’s checks are not useful these days, it is a waste of time encashing them during travel. In today’s digital age carry credit cards and withdraw from ATM’s but always check for the minimum transaction charges with your bank before traveling. If you are not comfortable using your credit card or want a back up then get a travel card from your bank before traveling.
Leave your comfort zone
It doesn’t mean you go crazy and do strange things. It means you can visit some offbeat places instead of regular touristy places. Walk around, interact with locals and learn new things about the place. It will give you a better understanding of a place and culture. Definitely, don’t go to secluded places and use your common sense while deciding. Read tips for traveling in India.
Don’t let a mistake ruin your trip
While visiting a place you come across something which is much below your expectations or maybe the place is closed or you can’t visit it. Don’t fret over and spoiled the day cribbing about it. Move on and use the remaining time in a good way.
Check the official tourism’s website and local tourist office
The official tourism boards have information about festivals and activities in that area. They have economical packages available for site seeing. Also, the local tourism offices can guide you better information as the people working there have no personal interest and not going to get any cut from your booking.
These were some basic travel mistakes and tips to avoid them. Also read other travel mistakes you should avoid while traveling.