Ultimate Travel Guide for Beginners
Take in the sights, try the local cuisine, enjoy the nightlife, be adventurous, speak the language, relax on the beach…traveling is a fun escape from school or your day job to do whatever you want! However, a lot of work must be done before the fun can begin. Here is some advice to help make organising your next trip a breeze!
‘The world is a book
and those who do not travel read only a page.’
Unless you're on the run you probably aren't packing up to leave tonight. Maybe dealing with rent first will be the difference between a single bed and a double bed. Maybe meeting your essay deadline will mean you have to plan to go a week later. Maybe it's better to book after payday!
Don’t forget to ensure that your passport is valid until your return.
‘There are no foreign lands.
It is the traveler only who is foreign.’
~Robert Louis Stevenson
The big question: where on this grand Earth do you want to go?
The Everywhere option on Skyscanner is great if you’re up for going, well, anywhere, but a good tip is to have at least two reasons why you are choosing that country.
Maybe the beaches are calling you, you want to see a World Heritage Site with your own eyes, or you want to know what authentic Spanish churros taste like.
Capital cities will be more crowded, modern and touristy than surrounding cities, however, they are more likely to have signs and menus in a language you understand.
Smaller or surrounding cities will have more of a local feel but might be less accommodating to tourists.
‘The man who goes alone can start today;
but he who travels with another
must wait till that other is ready.’
~Henry David Thoreau
Your travel partner can make or break your trip.
When traveling with others it’s important to remember that you will have to make compromises in order to keep the peace and to ensure that you both get what you want out of the trip.
On the plus side, you will have a companion to make memories with, someone to split costs with, someone to help you back to the hotel when you drink too much, and someone to take your pictures for Instagram. Countries like South Korea have a food-sharing culture and so are very accommodating to couples and groups.
[Warning: I am a biased solo traveler.]
So, I've had some pretty shitty friends.
I started to travel solo because I felt that people would come and go but I will never leave me.
You have the freedom to go wherever you please at whatever time you feel like it. If you get bored of something you can leave, if you want to spend hours somewhere, you can. You gain confidence and language skills in social situations every time you ask someone to take a picture or for directions. I've been to Catalonia, Japan, South Korea, Portugal, Italy and Hungary by myself and met people who helped to make those trips unforgettable.
‘A great way to learn about your country is to leave it.’
Whether you go by plane, train, boat or car, remember that you are paying for time. For example, a 20-hour flight with 2 transfers might cost pennies, but for that little bit more you could get a flight with 1 transfer that will arrive in 10 hours. The 10 hours saved can be spent in bed or in your destination.
Remember that the journey starts from home and ends at your accommodation. If you want to book an early train from London to Paris but you live thirty minutes outside of London, you'll have to check how early the trains or buses start running in the morning. Once you arrive, you might be tempted to get a €15 taxi to your accommodation but Google Maps might inform you that the Number 4 bus will only cost €3.
‘When you're traveling,
you are what you are right there and then.
People don't have your past to hold against you.
No yesterdays on the road.’
~William Least Heat Moon
Seasons will affect your experience and certainly the cost of your trip.
Of course it's cheap to travel in that month - it's cold!
Of course it's expensive to travel in that week - it's Christmas!
‘I'm in love with cities I've never been to
and people I've never met.’
Maybe you have the funds to get a hotel room with a sauna and a breakfast buffet, or perhaps you and your backpack wouldn't mind sleeping in a six-person hostel room. I love Hostel World‘s search engine.
The location of the accommodation is just as important. If you want to sleep well then steer clear of public transport routes. If you’re an irresponsible drunk then you want to stay as close to the the bars as possible to make for a shorter and safer journey back.
When I go to France, I want the Eiffel Tower so close that it's practically in my coffee.
‘There's no way I was born to pay bills and die.’
Money decides whether or not you can travel and actually enjoy yourself.
If the exchange rate doesn't bother you then just head to your local Currency Exchange, bank, travel agent or website.
I recommend having local currency before you arrive. However, if you prefer the convenience of exchanging at the airport, or using your bank card, it's important to inform your bank (in person or online) to avoid your card being blocked.
I also suggest knowing at least 2 banks you can withdraw money from while abroad. I thought that 7-Eleven would be fine when I went to South Korea since it worked fine in Japan, but my NatWest card only worked at Woori Bank 우리.
‘When preparing to travel,
lay out all your clothes and all your money.
They take half the clothes
and twice the money.’
It’s essential to pack according to the weather.
Just because you’re going during your summer holiday doesn’t mean that it’s summer in Australia or Argentina! Maybe it’s rainy season in Japan, or England is miraculously experiencing its first heat wave since 1989.
In terms of baggage, I brought a large suitcase, a mini suitcase and a handbag when I first moved to Japan in 2015. As for my shorter trips, I took the mini suitcase to South Korea, a large handbag to Portugal and Italy, and a backpack to Hungary. Learn to minimize your belongings in order to move freely and quickly. The only time that I regretted not having check-in luggage was when I wanted to return with several bottles of wine from Italy, and half the skincare from innisfree in Seoul!
Here are 20+ tips for packing light!
‘Only it seems to me
that once in your life before you die
you ought to see a country
where they don't talk in English
and don't even want to.’
It's not necessary to read an English-German dictionary front to back on a train to Munich, but taking note of a few phrases will help you to communicate with the locals and enrich your experience. Even if you say something wrong, the harmless chuckles from the local people should make you feel like saying it again and again until you say it right!
If you're a foodie like me, 'it's delicious!' is the first thing you'll want to say, 'how much?' will help you shoppers out there, and 'I'm from ~ ' will help those open to having a little chat with the locals. Sometimes body language can replace the words you don’t know. A bow can go a long way in Japan, and a smile is a universal greeting.
Here’s how I’m learning Spanish or my trip to Sevilla!
‘When you travel,
remember that a foreign country
is not designed to make you comfortable.
It is designed to make
its own people comfortable.’
It is essential to do some research to avoid culture shock and also to avoid offending people. You don't have to like the unwritten rules and social norms but there's no need to riot in the streets. Do your homework to see if it is considered distasteful to show your legs or cleavage or shoulders. Showing respect to the customs and culture will be appreciated while showing ignorance might encourage the locals to view tourists and expats in a negative light.
Having an idea of the demographic will help prepare you for your trip. For example, you can brace yourself to be stared at as a half Black, half Asian person if you know that over 95% of the population is White European! Fear of standing out shouldn’t stop you from traveling; just smile and give the locals a reason to welcome what they're not used to.
‘Because in the end,
you won't remember the time
you spent working in the office
or mowing your lawn.
Climb that g*ddamn mountain.’
It is up to you how you want to document your travels and safeguard your memories.
Perhaps you prefer digital photos over a tangible photo album. Maybe you would rather collect receipts and entrance tickets for a scrap book, pick up a magnet for your mother's fridge, or bring a bottle of Portuguese Port home. Maybe you have a blog or a YouTube channel so that you can share your travels with the world!
Just remember to enjoy the moment. A camera can’t capture the feeling of the sun on your face or the view from that g*ddamn mountain!
‘If you reject the food, ignore the customs,
fear the religion and avoid the people,
you might better stay home.’
This is a list full of things you want to do, see, eat, and drink.
Though you may take ideas from other sources, you should not feel pressured to do something just because it is one of the top five things that you must do in that country. If you don't drink alcohol then you won't care about how great Belgian beer is. Maybe you did try it and you actually prefer German beer! Gasp!
The only one who should care is you.
I listed my New York Bucket-list here!
See more inspiring travel quotations at adventureinyou.com.