Friday, 12 August 2011

Top Five Travel Tips

Now I know there are hundreds of websites out there offering their top tips for travelling but everyones is different. For example I hate technology for me a camera and an ipod wasn't really important. SHOCK! HORROR! Yes I know. I do actually own a camera. I was given it for a birthday and it was left in it's box for about a year before I ever used it and even then I took about 7 photos per country. I dislike photos without people in them, however now I have had to concede to pictures of landscape coz well when you are travelling alone there is no-one to take a picture of or to take a picture of you.

These are just ideas that I have been thinking of for a while now feel free to disagree. They include tips for living abroad (as I did in Germany) as well as just travelling. I've tried to leave out the obvious (so many people have written bring a travel towel it is UNREAL).

1. Prepaid Credit Card
I must say when choosing how to spend money abroad I turned to my best mate Martin. He is the bomb. When going to Germany I used the Caxton FX Eurocard before opening my German bank account which gives a generous rate and doesn't charge you for taking out money at any ATM (unless there is some explicit sign as I've often heard Thailand has. Sluggy got stung using her German Sparkasse card at the HBF (train station) 7€ per transaction. I never got charged with Caxton) or for buying things. I could also use it in any country that used the Euro and got good rates in countries that didn't like the Czech Rep. I also found their customer service impeccable. My friend Nich used it the whole time she was in Italy and never opened a bank account. She did have problems in Barcelona though when the money didn't go on for a whole day and she was left with no money. I suggest just load in advance. It also helped out when Sparkasse chose to swallow my card 3 times and without it I would have been left without money. It also doesn't charge you for booking Ryanair flights (which I booked a lot of) which is £5 per way. Definitely worth it even for the Ryanair savings. Another option is the Fairfx card. Very similar my friend Sluggy had it, it also does the Ryanair savings, has a slightly better rate, and lets you load less money but you do get charged a percentage at the ATM so just watch how many withdrawals you make. Caxton also has a Global Traveller and a USA Traveller card (the Global one I am using now and loving). I know this tip is boring but definitely get involved.

2. Helpx
This is more for travelling than living abroad. But I 100% recommend Helpx. (Sluggy recommended this one to me) It is basically a scheme where you pay 18€ for 2 years and then you can contact and be contacted by hosts in countries all over the world. You work normally 4-5 hours per day in exchange for food and accommodation. I personally like the homestays where you live with a stranger as I feel this is more personal and you meet more of the people of the country you are actually visiting. However, there are loads of options such as farms and hostels to choose from. These are more safe as well as you know it's an established thing and they won't cancel last minute or anything. There is good and bad with helpx -
The Bad
-Being kicked out of your house for no reason.
-Looking after 7 children and not having a lot of time to leave the house.
-My friend Sluggy stayed with a couple where she had to stay in a tent with the other helpers and the man believed crazy things such as that wifi gives you cancer and that we are being controlled by the man behind the curtain.
The Good
-Yvonne in Launceston was incredible such an amazing and interesting person with so many stories to tell. A lovely host I was never bored and she was always thinking of things for me to do. I also met Sabina, Chibo and Rachel from Taiwan, Japan and China respectively who I am keeping in touch with. Who knows maybe I'll see them again on more international adventures.
-Lynne and James in Hobart who treated me like one of the family were warm and kind, cooked some amazing food and rescued me when I got lost a 10 minute walk from the house.
-Pip in Sydney. This is the host I'm with now I've been here a week and a half and I have left the house twice. This is me being lazy as I'm going to see my auntie and uncle soon and want to do things with them. But it shows how much I love being here. Pip is so amazing she is so forthcoming with food and drink always encouraging me to have more and more and she asks no work in return (I have set up some language learning software for her and I occasionally clean the kitchen but this is on my insistence not hers. I need to work) The family is friendly and open and again always seems to have foreigners here (mainly German) too. It's a really great atmosphere. The German girl offered for me to come into the city with her and go about with her friends but I declined. (I really am just lazy)

3. Kindle
When I was coming back from my 9 months in Germany I had 10kg in books. This meant that as I could not risk my suitcase weight limit I had to carry it on my back. the 20 min walk from Victoria Underground to Victoria Bus Station was NOT fun I thought my hand was going to fall off. As someone who is constantly reading 3 books at the same time (Effi Briest, A Doll's House, Sherlock Holmes currently) and who is also travelling constantly I need an alternative. I even read all my coursebooks on there. I also recommend the 3G version. My relationship with my Kindles internet is very love/hate. A lot of places don't have Wifi (particularly Backpackers) or they charge you a lot for it (one place $8 an hour) and so it is nice just to check in on Facebook and e-mails (just not hotmail) and see your friends. Also when you are in the middle of nowhere and don't know where you are going Google maps can be very handy. I have heard you can do all this stuff on a smart phone, but I have also heard it can be expensive where as with the kindle it's all included.

4. Pack Less Than You Think
When I was packing to come out here I thought about all the clothes and did and did not wear day to day and  tried to pack appropriately. Despite this there is STILL clothes I haven't worn and I did this packing only 15kg. Go minature as well. Bringing your laptop? Why not swap it for a netbook. Sleeping bag? I recommend this one. Which shrinks to the size of your head. It's tiny and perfect for hostels, airports and cold nights. (I would say that you should buy something sturdier if you are camping you'll regret picking something cheap when you think you are freezing to death.) I've also got a travel hair dryer (pink with kittens my mum knows me well) and roll up shoes. As well as of course the travel towels.

5. Sack the Suitcase
It may seem obvious but ditch the suitcase and buy a hike bag (preferably a front loading backpack so that you don't have to unpack everything everytime you want something) a suitcase may pack more but you can fit in a similar amount if you tube roll everything. And you will be thanking me when your hands are killing you after dragging it about everywhere. Also if you forget things CONSTANTLY like me you will be happy to have all your possessions on your back. I'll never go back to the suitcase again, backpacks are the way forward. When I move to another country I will be taking the backpack again.

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