I read a fantastic post recently titled “No, it’s not your opinion. You’re just wrong“, and it’s often tempting to scream this when given travel advice from those with a horrible misconception about anything related to travel!!
And you know exactly the people and advice I’m talking about. It’s the auntie who thinks that you’ll leave for your trip abroad and wind up kidnapped, murdered or raped. Or the grandmother who lectures that you should never touch food from a roadside stand. Mine told me I shouldn’t travel to Africa as it was likely I would return home with Aids!!
It’s the cheap backpacker who says not to bother buying bottled water because tap water is fine (the same guy who shows up 4kg lighter after having gone incognito for three days) or the drunk uncle who advises you’ll end up starring in the sequel to “Taken” or “Hostel”. Though granted, Liam Neeson can rescue me any day!
Sure, the majority of people probably mean well when they’re telling you this stuff, and they’re probably genuinely attempting to help, but the fact is they just aren’t! And to quote my new favorite article, it’s not even their opinion, most of the time they’re just wrong!
Sure, travel means different things to different people, and people travel in many different ways. And therefore because of this, travel advice is usually subjective. Meaning collect it, though if something sounds dubious or just completely wrong, feel free not to use it!
The following is a list of common travel advice you shouldn’t be listening to – the worst travel tips of 2015! Follow these tips at your peril!
Women Should Never Travel Alone
This is possibly one of the most overstated, over debated and most nauseating statements in travel. Horrible things happen in any country including that of your home; they happen to both women and men, and the best piece of advice for those worried about solo female travel is to make sure you’re traveling with common sense, be aware of your surroundings, trust your gut instinct, and don’t take any risks you wouldn’t take at home.
Sure, solo travel through some countries can prove to be a greater challenge for women than it is for men, and certain destinations do require extra safety precautions especially when traveling alone. But that doesn’t mean that women can’t or shouldn’t get out there. The world in general is a very safe place, and in reality no one ever really travels alone. You make friends and meet people along the way.
Don’t Go To (Insert Place Here), it’s Dangerous, You Will Get Kidnapped/Killed/Raped/Beheaded/Die Horribly
The second most nauseating statement in travel. Though a close contender for the first. If I had a dollar for every-time this had tumbled like word vomit out of the mouth of an extended family member or friend I would be sitting pretty in a luxury apartment on a cruise ship for the rest of my life. Like this woman. I should start a bad travel advice donation jar.
A few relatives even took it upon themselves before I embarked on my first trip to phone us and read the riot act to my mother and father for being irresponsible parents in letting their 18 year old travel alone. Seriously.
If your best advice is that we should stay at home for fear of being kidnapped/killed/raped/beheaded/die horribly, my advice to you would be perhaps you should never leave your house.
Take the Overnight Bus
Taking an overnight bus is an idea you can file under “seemed like a fantastic idea at the time”, when in reality it just outright sucks. Far more exciting in theory, the idea is that you’ll make it from one place to the other while saving on a night’s accommodation. Win-win right!! You couldn’t be more wrong.
Overnight bus travel has been described as a “nightmare on wheels” and this couldn’t be more spot on. It’s uncomfortable. You may think you’re going to sleep through the trip and wake up refreshed and ready to start the day in your new destination in the morning, though after barely getting any sleep, the first thing you do when arriving at your new accommodation is beg for an early check-in to get into the room. And your bright idea of making the most out of the next day is ruined with an afternoon nap which ends up wasting the day away.
After draping our sleep deprived body’s over the lobby furniture in the Amsterdam Swiss Hotel, the morning staff somehow made our room available at 6am. Though the majority of the time you’re going to be stuck in your destination early in the morning without any hope of check-in until the afternoon. “Eight hours to kill wandering around in a sleep-deprived stupor before you’re even allowed to check in?” Fun.
Never eat the street food
The world as you know it will never be the same. If you eat street food while overseas you’ll contract food poisoning and die. This has been described as the “worst piece of travel advice in the history of forever”, and once again, we agree!
Let’s be honest – street food is far safer than many people would lead you to believe, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll spend your entire vacation huddled over a toilet just because you’ve made the bold choice to venture outside the doors of a Western restaurant and dig into the fry pans sizzling on the street. Sure, there are many countries where you should practice heightened precautions when choosing your vendor, though open air stalls have the advantage over traditional restaurants of being able to watch your food as it is prepared, and locals won’t be eating at places that make them sick.
Street food is the tastiest, cheapest and easiest way to get a taste for local cuisine, and is generally the most direct route to forming a sense of a country’s culture. It’s an inexpensive way to eat, and will present you with foreign flavors which will blow your mind. If you’re still uncertain, look for a place which is busy where there is a high turnover (means food won’t have a chance to fester), where one person is handling the money and another is cooking the food, and travel with a small hand sanitizer to use before you touch your food.
Carry Travellers Checks
No, don’t. In fact, do they even make those any more?! Travellers checks are incredibly expensive and now that we’re living in 2015 they are super difficult to redeem. Most banks aren’t even willing to cash them anymore. Trust us, you can see the New York attractions without them!
International ATM networks now are now the most convenient way to access your cash while abroad, so make sure you’re covered for emergencies with a few back-up cards. Having a hidden stash of cash in a preferred currency is also a good idea.
Split everything up into various pockets across different bags, and only carry your main credit cards and 1-2 days worth of cash with you in your wallet at any one time. If something gets misplaced, lost or stolen, you then have emergency funds and haven’t lost your whole stash of cash.
Buy a Selfie Stick
Please don’t. Anyone who tells you to buy a selfie stick cannot be trusted. And anyone who uses one, well, they have questionable judgement. Let’s skip the fact that you look ridiculous and everyone is laughing at you on the street. It’s fairly safe to say that common sense is effectively dead, and as such the use of selfie sticks is becoming a safety hazard across the globe. A growing number of landmarks, attractions, and even whole destinations, are beginning to ban their use.
You piss people off when you attempt to use them in large crowds, cause massive offence when using them at holy sites, and these sticks have a way of highlighting the inner idiot in people.
People using them unsafely on Disneyland rides mean they’re now banned in every park, and a growing number of people seem to decide it’s a good idea to pose for close up selfies with wildlife, turning their backs on wild bears and other unpredictable animals in the wild. Well, one couple found themselves gored by Rhinos in 2013 for getting too close for a better shot. This is why we can’t have nice things.
There’s No Way I’m Flying out of the Country with All of These Terrorist Threats. I’m Staying Right Here in the US of A
Rolling my eyes. Recently, more than 60 people have been killed across three continents, during separate attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait. Tourists were among the wounded in the Kenya mall massacre of 2014, and in the last 12 months the world has seen attacks in Belgium, Australia and the United States.
Yes, global terrorism is a fact, though staying “right here in the US of A” isn’t a foolproof plan for avoiding a terrorist attack. Because we’re living in 2015 and terrorism is happening EVERYWHERE. You know what you do? You travel anyway. You should not let extremist activities stop you from doing what you do.
Because it’s not travel which is dangerous. It’s life. And generally the world is a relatively safe place. Just make sure terrorism coverage is included in your insurance policy and this is the best thing you can do to keep yourself safe.
Wait Until the Kids are Older Before You Take Them Anywhere
I mean, they won’t remember it anyway right? Why spend all that money.
First of all, kids can learn all kinds of things from traveling, even if they aren’t old enough to remember. Traveling with children can also lead to the most rewarding travel experiences, and it often teaches them more about the world than they will learn from a formal education.
And while you may think it’s a daunting concept, the reality is that parents are out there traveling with their kids on a daily basis – some even opting to travel with their kids full time, homeschooling them on the road. In fact, this one family travels full time with nine!
Related: The Cutest Traveling Kids of 2014
“Why go to a Foreign Country when you can Visit the Disney Replica Instead? It’s Safer.”
I refuse to dignify this with a response.
Book the Hotel When You Get There
Says the traveler who spends all day wandering the streets searching for the last bed available in Rome, with a 20kg pack weighing down on their back during which time you’ve already checked in, caught a free walking tour of the city, grabbed some tasty street food and perhaps even had a nap.
I’m all for being flexible with travel plans, though this I could never bring myself to do.
Do it While You’re Young
Granted, this is fantastic advice. You should absolutely do it while you’re young, able and have the chance. The flaw with this advice, however, is that it suggests that travelling is infinitely harder once you’re older, and infinitely limits your opportunity once you start getting up there in age.
So while you should absolutely be living for today, and jumping on that opportunity to travel if you are in fact young, don’t think that you’ve missed your opportunity to travel just because you’ll never again be 22.
Carry Your Passport With You at all Times
This is fairly horrible advice, because you shouldn’t be carrying your passport at all times. Granted, certain countries (like Thailand) do actually require foreign tourists to carry their passports at all times, so check if this is the case, though an all important document which facilitates your international travel, if you lose this while abroad you’re fairly screwed. So it’s important to know when to carry it and when to leave it behind – and not to automatically carry it with you at all times.
Obviously, you’re going to want to carry your passport with you on transit days – you’ll need it for when you are flying or taking ground transportation across any international borders. But when you’re traveling locally you should leave it at the hotel in a secure location like a safe. An exception would be if you are staying in a hostel or hotel without a safe where it is at more risk of being stolen in a shared room.
In all other cases, travel with a photocopy instead of the actual document. And store digital copies in your email too. If your passport gets lost or stolen, with copies you can generally make do.
Don’t Trust Anyone
Travel will teach you that kindness exists in the world, and that kindness is the real fuel that drives humanity. Travel will renew your faith in the bonds that connect people, restore your faith in humanity and teach you that strangers are often generous, kind and helpful.
Experienced travelers will tell you that they’re often the target for a stranger’s generosity and unrequited love. Trust your gut instinct when relying on the trust of a stranger, as always, safety here comes down in large part to common sense, though if you travel abroad with the attitude that no-one is trustworthy, you’re in for a very lonely trip.
Pack Clothes for Every Season
Hell no! Bring versatile clothing. Whoever gives you the advice that traveling with more clothing will save you doing laundry has obviously never traveled.
For a start, doing laundry abroad is pretty straightforward, and it usually only costs $1 or two. Or you can learn to hand-wash. Also, the more clothes you cram in your bag the heavier it is, and the more trouble you’ll face when it comes to long overland trips and airline excess luggage fees. Take it from the girl who wore 5kg of clothes onto a flight from Prague to Milan to avoid paying EasyJet overweight bag penalties. There’s a video.
You Need a Lot of Money to Travel
See “How to Travel Cheap. The Ultimate Money Hacking Guide For International Travel“. Because this statement is a lie.
Travel Without Insurance
Likewise with the overnight bus, anyone who gives you this advice is a horrible human being. And you should absolutely send them your $50,000 bill should you find yourself needing an airlift out of the Amazon.
Travel insurance is one of those things that you never want to understand the value of but, if you have to, you don’t wand to regret having brushed off its importance.
We interviewed a frequent adventure traveler who has found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time…5 times…having been caught up in coups, wars, political crisis, demonstrations and violence in several countries, as well a woman who was fire twirling in Thailand when she set herself alight (my sister. She was pregnant at the time which made the situation far less amusing than it could have been). One traveler lost his vision on a river cruise of the Rhine, and another found herself receiving stitches after an Asian air-conditioning unit decided to attack.
So make sure you get proper and extensive coverage. When things go wrong you don’t want to have to worry about payment or about not getting adequate treatment because your insurance didn’t cover you for this.
Bear in mind that hospital bills, even in developing countries can be outrageous and put you into serious debt. Though sometimes, depending on the country you travel to, traveling without insurance may not even be a choice.
Pro Tip: If you haven’t yet purchased international travel health insurance, obviously make sure you do. We go through Timothy Jennings at Individual Health for insurance with #GeoBlue – a worldwide insurer who offer the most complete set of benefits and services in the industry, and make their best attempt to arrange direct payment no matter which medical provider you see.
For more information on insurance with GeoBlue contact Tim Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org or click for a free quote.
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Photo credits: Feature by elPadawan. Pinterest images by Jean-François Gornet & Mapping Megan. Overnight bus by Harsha K R & Jonathan Tellier. Street food by Austronesian Expeditions & Hansel and Regrettal. Selfies by elPadawan & Kyle MacDonald. Travel with kids by Travel With Bender. Tourists in London by Garry Knight. Passport photos by Chris Ford & Mike. Travel cheap by Images Money.