Traveling 101 – Miscellaneous Tips

Exchange Rates

Sometimes when you’re traveling, you’ll walk by a restaurant and see that a spaghetti dish is 310 of their local currency and you think “wow, is that the most expensive plate of spaghetti, or is it actually affordable??” Then you see that it’s only 3 dollars/pounds/euros and your heart starts to slow back down. There’s a quick and easy to use website that has 167 currencies on there, so there’s a good chance that you’ll find the currency you’re looking for. 

TIP 1: Before traveling out of country, look into the credit card(s) you’ll be using on your trip. If you have to pay for international transaction fees, you could be in for a big surprise when you see your credit card statement later. On a 6 month trip I took, I noticed that I paid $200 extra, just in transaction fees. Your local bank may have a card you can get without transaction fees, or look online for the best option for you, such as not having an annual fee.  

TIP 2: When traveling overseas and using a credit card, they’ll ask if you want to pay in your own currency or theirs. Always say their currency, because if not, you’ll be charged 1-5% extra to pay for the currency exchange. Plus it’s better to see the exact same amount on the receipt/bill, as you saw on the display or the menu. If something is €35.50, but then you’re paying $55, without thinking about what that actually means, you’ll later wonder how your trip became so expensive. Save that exchange-rate money for actual experiences, instead of credit card bills. 

Adapters

If you’re new to the world of traveling, you may not have even thought about how plugs are different in other countries. With how much we all rely on technology these days, making sure you have an adapter with you is a must. If not, you may go to plug in your square 3-prong phone plug, and realize that you need something with a round 2-prong plug. There are smaller adapters that are great for one-stop trips, meaning they can only plug into the country/countries for that trip (say just for Canada and the U.S.). But for your next trip, maybe to South America, you’ll need to buy another adapter, and then another for Great Britain. These days though, it’s really easy to get a multi-functional adapter, that covers all of the plug types in one adapter. They naturally cost a little more than the single style, but they are worth it. You can buy them at your local electronics store, luggage store, or on Amazon.

TIP 1: Try to find an adapter that isn’t hollow on the front, meaning that you’ll need to put your phone or computer plug deeper into the adapter, before they are connected. I bought one of those recently, and then realized that my plugs were bigger than the hole was, so my plug didn’t even fit into it. So look for ones that are flat on the front, as you can see in the picture below of the white adapters. 

TIP 2: Look at how many things you’ll be realistically plugging in or charging at the same time, and buy that many adapters. That may sound a little extreme, but it will save you some frustration later. Imagine that you’ll only have an hour to recharge your phone, as well as your GoPro or Tablet, and then realize that only one can be charged at a time. This would be a good case of buying the multi-country adapter, plus a small one-county adapter, to save a little space in your bag.        

Food

As you read that, you may think, why is this being mentioned? But just because you might have access to food 7 days a week where you live, doesn’t mean that it’ll be the same wherever you’re going. If you arrive on a Sunday in some European countries, such as Germany, Montenegro, Norway and parts of France, and head to a local bakery or supermarket, you’ll be disappointed to see that they aren’t open. Or let’s say that you’re on a 9-hour flight, where the food was so small, that you didn’t get full. For both of these reasons, it’s good to pack some snacks for the flight and the first 2 days. Things like protein bars, nuts, muesli, and crackers are great ideas, as they can last longer at room temperature than things like fresh bread, cheese and yogurt. If you do pack things like bread, yogurt and even leftovers from a home-cooked meal, eat these first, and save the protein bar for after the flight. Do stay away from overly salty foods, like chips, some nuts or bagged food, as you’ll be uncomfortable on that long fight from fluid retention.   

TIP: You might be surprised to learn that most food is allowed through security at airports. Something like soup of course won’t be, due to the liquid in it. But things like sandwiches, home-cooked food, hummus, cut up veggies, cereal, cold cut meats, pizza and even baby food are allowed through security. One category to be careful on though are things that are creamy and can be classified as a liquid, such as dressings, sauces, jams, syrups, and even peanut butter. If you bring them, they need to be less than 3.4oz (100ml) or they will be thrown out.  

Liquid Rules For Planes

As just mentioned, each liquid item must be less than 3.4 oz (100ml) and they all have to fit into a 1 quart/liter size resealable plastic bag. Put this last in your carry-on bag, as you’ll want to have this bag easily accessible when you get to security. 

TIP 1: A few things to think about that might be on the tricky side, but are allowed when done right, are ice packs, coconut oil and a water bottle. If the ice packs are still frozen when you go through security, such as to keep some of your food cold, they are allowed through without any problems. 

TIP 2: Coconut oil is a go-to for me, when I’m flying and/or in dry climates, as a face/body moisturizer. You might not have heard of that before, but if it’s a cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, you can use it in your hair, face, and/or skin, and it’s incredibly moisturizing. Most people don’t have any reaction to it, but do try it before you pack it. Again, as long as it’s in a solid state, you can take more than the allowed amount, and you don’t have to put it into your liquid bag, which means you can pack another item or two in its place.  

TIP 3: Lastly, it can get very dry while flying the friendly skies. So bring a water bottle with you, which is empty through security, but then fill it up afterwards. More and more airports are providing water fountains and even purified water, so that you can fill up your bottle after security and then take it on the flight with you.        

Passport/Visas

While a passport may be an obvious thing to have when traveling to another country, a visa may not be. Sometimes there are countries that almost all nationalities need a visa for, such as China and Australia, but others only require a visa from certain countries. So make sure and check before you travel, as sometimes you can’t even get onto the airplane, if you don’t have the correct visa. Other visas, like in Vietnam, you can actually apply for when you arrive there in a Vietnamese airport. 

TIP: While Europe is the main place that draws travelers back time after time, starting in 2021, several countries including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, most of South America and several other countries will need an electronic visa (ETIAS) before they can travel to Europe. You’ll apply for the visa online, it’ll take about 20 minutes to fill out, cost around $10USD, and the visa will be valid for 3 years.   

Traveling Insurance: As with any insurance, it’s a just-in-case option. Sometimes your flight will get cancelled, your bag will get damaged, or you’ll get really sick while you’re traveling, but your medical insurance only works in your country, not where you are, etc. Travel insurance can be bought for an affordable price, which will last only as long as you want it. An easy-to-use website, that’s sometimes offered when you book your flight, is Allianz . You type in where you’re going, the dates you need the insurance for, your age, where you’re from, as well as what you think the cost of your trip will be, and they’ll give you an instant quote, with a few options. One plan is for more domestic and international travel, near big cities. A second option is for family trips, cruises and big tours. The third option is for resort vacationing and remote destinations.  

Safety While Traveling

As a solo traveler, I do everything possible to blend in and not stand out as a tourist. But this is good advice for any traveler, regardless of age or gender. Here are a few tips to help with this. 

TIP 1: Dress like a local: While many countries see a lot of tourists from all over the world, clothes are an easy way to see where you’re from, and how easy of a target you might be. While fanny packs might be an easy way to keep your phone, documents, etc on you, they make you a target, and are actually quite easy to remove in a crowd. Wear a small backpack or a bag over one shoulder, with both having the ability to be worn on the front of your body in a crowded situation. Girls, don’t wear skimpy clothes, especially when going to more traditional cultures. How you’re treated at home with those same clothes, might be the very thing that gets you into big trouble in another country. Guys, choose t-shirts that aren’t printed, especially with guns on it, drug references, and/or offensive pictures. You might find these accepted in your country, but highly offensive when traveling. If possible, research how locals dress and pack similar clothes to help you blend in.

TIP 2: Your Phone. As much as possible, don’t be glued to your phone in your new environment, even when needing to use Google Maps to find that street that seems to be hiding. What I’ll do, is use a doorway or even walk into a pharmacy or hotel for a few minutes to see where I need to go next. As much as possible, don’t walk with your phone in your hand, as that’s easy for someone to grab and run off with. Don’t put it on your table, when at a restaurant or cafe, as again, that’s too easy for someone to walk by and take it, when you’re looking in the opposite direction. This is one item these days that nobody wants stolen, so as much as possible, keep it in the front pocket of your pants (not the back, as that’s too easy to take), in a zipped up pocket of your jacket, or a zipped compartment in your purse/bag. 

Meeting Locals 

Two great ways to meet local people when traveling, is through a website called Meetup and through the app Couchsurfing , with both being free. 

Couchsurfing can be used as a website to find local events, but there’s also a cool function that only works with the app. Once you download the free app, there’s an option called “Hangouts.” You turn it on, and it’ll show you people that are nearby that want to hang out. You can see what they are doing (interested in an art museum, going to a concert, hanging out in a park, want to have a coffee and chat, etc) and who else is interested in going. You write them to find out the details and then meet up with them. Most of the time, it’s international people, that are just wanting to explore the city, try something new, and meet people from other cultures. I’ve used this both internationally, as well as in my own town, and the people are always really nice and open. 

Meetup is a website, where you can find local people who like to do the same things that you do. Do you want to go on a hike or find a local event, then just join the group and show up. You may think, oh, I’m not sure I’m that brave, but most of the people that come to meetup groups are also alone and not feeling that brave. I’ve used it several times in other countries, and people are always so interested to see a foreigner in their group. As I mentioned in my Melbourne article, I found a girls group that went to see the movie Casablanca on a rooftop and that was such a fun experience.  

Burnt Out: One last thing to mention is the idea of trying to do everything possible on this trip, that you quickly become burnt out, frustrated, and kind of turned off to the idea of traveling. The best advice I can give you is to plan 1-2 main things each day that you’re there. If you plan more than that, there’s a good chance you aren’t thinking of how long it’ll take you to get there, there might be a long line for tickets, it might be crowded inside, it might rain, the tour may be cancelled during that month, etc. It’s fine to have a few back-up plans, but keep them as just that, back-up plans. You never know when you might meet someone on a tour or in your hotel that invites you to join them on a really cool activity. Flexibility is key with traveling. It’s much better to enjoy what you did see, than come home so exhausted that you secretly wish you hadn’t gone.  

2 Replies to “Traveling 101 – Miscellaneous Tips”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *