Traveling is easier than it has ever been before. Within few hours you can be in another country, within half a day in another continent. While physical travel is fast and easy, sometimes it takes time for our minds to travel from one place to the next. Half a day does not always provide enough time to get completely adjusted into something very different. So take charge of your travels, avoid common mistakes, and keep these tips in mind when traveling and sightseeing!
1. Match your travel mood with your travel destination
Simple, but important nonetheless. How are you looking to spend your trip? Shopping and laying by the pool in a fancy hotel, or trekking off the beaten track? Before you go, check your destination to see what there is to do. You don't want to find yourself on an island asking for a taxi to take you to a party, only to realize that the entire island pretty much goes to sleep at 9pm.
2. Research your way into success
Travel books can get outdated quite fast, and tend to have only a limited selection of all that is available. So go online and do a bit of research. Read latest articles and check out the newest hot spots. Throw a few insightful questions into social media, someone is bound to know someone else who has been roaming around in your travel destination. You will get insider tips you won't find in travel guides!
3. Choose companionship wisely
Are you looking to travel by yourself, or with someone? If you are planning a trip with someone, it's worth to discuss the behind-the-scenes practicalities of life before jetting off. How much time are you looking to spend alone? What is your idea of a fun day? How active you want to get? How much of your personal space you want to share? Basically, how are you before your morning coffee? Make sure you pick someone who is on the same frequency as you.
Sometimes opposites attract also. If you are more shy or introvert, it can be beneficial to pick a travel buddy who is more outgoing. You'll get to places and meet people you perhaps would not on your own. Just make sure you know what you are expecting from each other.
4. Check the weather before you go
Tropical islands are not always full of sunshine, and big cities are not always accessible. Before choosing a travel destination, it's good to do some research about the weather as well. Most tropical locations have rainy seasons or wet seasons, and while there are no guarantees, this may mean that your sunny week can turn into rain and mud if you pick the wrong season. As the seasons can vary within one country, be specific in your research.
You don't want to stand in Hong Kong celebrating the new year in your beach wear, freezing, because you assumed Hong Kong was always warm. Or sitting in your lovely Beach Cottage watching the rain for the fifth day in a row.
5. Leave room for the unexpected
Don't plan everything before hand, as this will just complicate your holiday experience. There will always be some surprises along the way, and you want to be able to move around them. You may want to stay longer in some places, or leave others sooner than you originally planned. If you have every single night booked in advance, it only takes one setback, one cancelled flight, and you are in more stress than you want to be during your holiday. So take it easy! If you don't want to leave without having booked anything in advance, just reserve the first few nights, until you can go around exploring yourself.
6. Respect goes a long way
Respecting the local culture may come as a given, but since cultures differ so tremendously, we may not always even know we are crossing some local lines. Although many of the bigger, more touristic places have adapted to a more "western" approach, most places maintain their own, original culture, which can be completely different from what we are used to.
To start with, it' worth it to familiarize yourself with local ways of greetings. Raising a hand for a hello may be a vulgar signal, and trying to shake someone's hand may bring both of you in an awkward situation if it's not part of the local tradition.
When discussing with locals, in some cultures it's very hard for people to admit they don't know something. You might hear yes, yes, without that necessarily meaning that the person even understood you.
When you finally land on those famous landmarks and take out your camera, just pause again before you start shooting like a paparazzi. Especially if you want to photograph locals, you might ask if this is allowed. In some cultures people think that having their picture taken means that the photographer steals their soul. So proceed with caution when looking through your lens.
7. Do as locals do
In any country the best sights are usually not those where the tourist buses go. The best places are those that are not yet mentioned in travel guides, they are places where the locals go to hang out, or remote spots where you will find no one else.
Also the best prices can be found where the life gets more local. Especially in Asia there is often a lot of room to haggle over prices of transportation or other services offered. Assume if someone comes and offers a service to you, the price will be adjusted to tourists.
Doing as locals also means that you adjust yourself to the local dress code. Most foreign countries are slightly more conservative when it comes to dressing, so you might want to keep an eye out for how the locals dress themselves. If you are not sure, cover up more, or ask someone if it is allowed to show shoulders and knees. If you want to sunbathe topless, check first, no matter how remote the beach.
8. Relax and enjoy
Last, but not least, when you leave your home country, leave your expectations behind as well. Try to have an open mind, as the more we expect things to go a certain way, the less flexible we tend to be. Life hardly ever goes as we plan or expect, so go with the flow and enjoy what unfolds.