We've been travelling for just over six months now and in that time we've been to many different places and experienced different cultures. Here's our top travel tips gained from our own experiences…
1. Travelling is not like it is on Instagram
Ah Instagram, with its plentiful photos of beautiful places and beautiful people. Of course both these things do exist but it doesn't show the reality of the eight hour train ride or the five hour coach journey from hell to get there. It also doesn't show you the people pestering you to buy things or the rubbish that covers the beach or surrounds the waterfall.
We use Instagram, we post photos to it and use it to get inspiration for places to visit but we take it all with common sense. The highlight reel of professional travellers rarely matches reality. That isn't to say there aren't amazing places to visit, but often they're not quite as blue, or green or whatever as the pictures would have you believe. If you're going somewhere solely because you saw it look amazing on Instagram then chances are you're going to be disappointed. If you're going somewhere because you want to and you saw it look amazing on Instagram then great, you'll probably love it (but not the journey to get there).
2. Expect to be delayed
This is particularly true in South East Asia, where a two hour journey can easily see you arrive five hours after you left. Book each leg of your journey with an allowance for turning up late. When we have a flight to catch we aim to arrive at least an hour before check in even opens. This has led to many boring hours wasted in airports, but we're yet to miss a flight or spend a stressful journey hoping we don't miss our flight.
If you're travelling a long distance over land and need to use more than one bus/train/car then definitely don't believe the advertised arrival times when booking your onward travel. Instead give yourself an hour, or two, or more between each leg of your journey. You might have to spend that time waiting but better that than missing it completely and being stuck somewhere or having to pay again for a later time!
While travelling to Lombok from Gili Air we were left waiting at a minivan 'office' of over two hours with no explanation. This waiting time was more than the journey was meant to take!
3. You (probably) can’t do everything
You've made it to an amazing new city or deserted island and you want to do everything. Slow down, chances are you probably don't have the time or the money to do everything you want to do in every place you visit. You're FOMO might be strong but it's okay, decide on the key things you want to do and enjoy them!
4. Get a scooter license
If you're visiting Asia and you don't have a scooter license; get one. If you live in England it's not that difficult or expensive and will prevent you from invalidating your expensive travel insurance (you have got travel insurance haven't you?). The fact that 'everyone else doesn't have a license' doesn't mean you shouldn't. We've seen some truly crazy driving on the road in South East Asia and I would definitely not want my first experience of driving a scooter to be here!
5. Expect downtime and lots of it
This ties in with our first point about Instagram, travelling isn't all sandy beaches and stunning scenery. You've got to get there first and it normally takes a long time. We've spent many boring hours on long flights, train and bus journeys. We've spent yet more boring hours waiting for those journeys. Get good and dealing with or avoiding boredom.
Kindles (or your e-reader of choice), playing cards and some good headphones are all key tools in holding off boredom.
6. Sometimes you want downtime
You can only visit so many temples or top tourist spots before you've had enough of being a tourist for a little while. You'd think you'd want to soak it all up all the time but trust us, sometimes you want to sit down and do nothing. We've spent plenty of time sat watching Netflix or choosing to read instead of going out to visit yet another attraction. It seems counter-intuitive to go to all that time and effort of getting somewhere just to stay in and watch The Crown on Netflix but having some downtime is a good thing.
7. Work out how to pay for things
For us this meant checking out our credit and debit cards to see how well they'd fair abroad, not very well was the general consensus. So we bought a Caxton Card each and use that to take out cash and pay on card in shops. I resisted using them for ages, thinking they were too good to be true and that there must be a catch, but for our use there wasn't. The only thing to note is that you'll probably be charged by the ATM provider when withdrawing cash abroad.
We use my credit card to book most flights and big things we book ahead of time but always make sure we have enough money to pay it off each time and never actually use the credit bit of it. Just using it for the benefit of free non-Sterling purchases.
8. Hello and thank you go a long way
A smile and 'hello' in the local language nearly always gains a positive response. You don't have to master the language of each country you visit but we've learnt 'hello', 'sorry' and 'thank you' as an absolute minimum. You're almost guaranteed to say it wrong but try anyway, if nothing else you'll get a laugh. People have never not appreciated us trying, even if they then go on to reply in near perfect English anyway.
9. Keep a diary, even if you're not a diary person
Chances are you don't go travelling long term very often and you want to remember the trip for a while, if not the rest of your life. You're probably going to do more things than any normal person can remember and we really recommend keeping a diary or some sort. Even if that's just bullet points on your phone or a proper hand written journal, whatever.
10. Relax, the person that you are finding annoying probably isn’t trying to annoy you
You're three hours into an eleven hour flight and the woman behind you keeps knocking your seat or you're on a minivan and the guy next to you is the BFG and taking up all of your leg room. Calm down, breathe. They probably aren't trying to annoy you, so try not to let them. Nikki put that thought into words a while ago and I repeat it to myself when I've been in situations like those above. It almost instantly takes away most of my annoyance.
These things aren't ground breaking but we've found that being aware of these things makes travelling a little easier and more enjoyable for us. Have you got your own tips to share? Let us know in the comments!