Like anything in life, it takes years of practice to be ‘good at travelling’. In the beginning, we didn’t know all the tricks and expert tips to help us travel cheaper, better and longer. Now, after more than fifteen years of travelling the world, we’ve perfected all these skills and we’d like to share our best travel tips with you.
Whether you’re planning to travel for two weeks, a month or even a year, our best travel tips from the road should help you to be one step ahead of the game. If you stick by the below tips, your travels should be more affordable, easier and more enjoyable.
1) Get creative when booking your flights
With many different flight comparison websites out there and inconsistent pricing between each one, the approach to thrifty flight booking is at times exhausting. After many years, we’ve worked out how to beat them at their own game.
You’ve just got to think outside the box, be flexible and book separate legs of a journey rather than requesting a price for one through-fare to your destination.
For example: If you’re searching for a flight from Melbourne to London, perhaps break it down and first search one flight from Melbourne to Singapore (search for cheap flights with a budget airline such as Air Asia or Scoot Airlines). Then search for a separate flight from Singapore to London with different airlines using the comparison websites listed below. It’s all about staying one step ahead of the big guys.
We book all of our flights on one website
The website we always use and recommend is Expedia. We love that you can search for accommodation, car hire and activities at the same time. They have a huge range of products to offer and the best thing, they are rarely beaten on price.
Budget airlines can sometimes be the best option available too, so don’t forget about them! You may not get in-flight service and movies, but who cares. Take some food with you and have your laptop fully charged and you’ll be fine.
NOTE: Low-cost airlines aren’t always included in the comparison websites, so do your research first to find the cheapest fares.
Related Article – How to Find and Book the Cheapest Flights Everywhere
2) ALWAYS ask the price before you agree to do anything
We see it happening more and more these days in countries all over the world. Taxi drivers absurdly ripping off vulnerable tourists, touts tricking you into paying for a tour (which ends up being just a sales pitch of visiting different stores around a city, where you’ll get the hard sell from the salespeople there, of which he receives a commission for) or ordering a meal or a drink in a place that doesn’t have prices visible and will literally floor you once you’re shown the bill afterwards.
Unfortunately, there are countries around the world with cunning people that look upon tourists as walking dollar signs. They see you coming and often they know exactly how to con you out of your money.
Trust us on this one, even if you’re a naturally shy person or don’t want to offend – Always ask the price before you accept anything. This practice actually helps the rest of your fellow travellers, in the long run, to keep prices as they should be.
Learn to negotiate and agree on the price of the service you’re accepting beforehand. It’s important to clarify the finer details also, such as price is based on per person or total and if it includes one way or return ride.
Related Article – How to avoid the most common tourist scams in China
3) Learn some of the local languages – it will only enrich your experience
We travel to explore new countries, eat different food, see amazing sights and meet new people. When you’re visiting a new country, you can’t just assume that the people there will be able to understand you. Why should they? You’re in their home country, so you can’t expect them to speak English, for example. Don’t get annoyed if you’re having trouble communicating with them if you haven’t bothered to at least learn some of their languages.
This doesn’t mean that you should sign up for a comprehensive Spanish course if you intend to travel to Mexico for two weeks, but you should at least try to learn some basic language before you go.
There are so many free phone apps that can help you with this, the most popular ones being Duolingo & Babbel.
Considering the amount of time we spend on our phones these days, we recommend you download one of these apps. Try and spend at least ten minutes each day learning some of the lingo. It’s a much better use of your time than flicking through your Instagram feed for an hour.
We can guarantee you that the language skills you learn by investing that small amount of time each day will enrich your life and your travels.
Learn the basics
Try and learn the basic language such as ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ”thank you”, how much is it’ and ‘where is the bathroom’. We try to learn numbers so we can calculate the cost of taxis, buses etc and also how to say all the food menu items too, because who wants to eat badly on holidays? Not us!
We used google translate in Taiwan to communicate with locals to buy bus tickets at the station.
While we’re talking about phone apps, download Google Translate. Then download the language offline pack which will be spoken in the country you’ll be visiting. There are some great features you can use offline that will help you communicate with locals.
We love the feature where you can face your camera over some foreign language and it translates it into English for us. This makes our grocery shopping and dining experiences in each country much easier.
4) Purchase good Travel Insurance
Some people have the attitude that nothing will happen to them. They’re of the mindset that if they don’t partake in extreme activities on vacation and they’re careful, they’ll be ok.
Here’s the thing though…accidents and unwanted incidents happen all the time. From our personal experience and from the countless terrible stories we’ve heard from travellers over the years, we strongly recommend that you invest in travel insurance.
Getting covered with a good travel insurance policy is one of the smartest decisions you will make – trust us.
Yes, it can feel like you’re spending some of your hard-earned travel dollars on something you may never physically use, (even we find making the initial purchase hard to do) but the peace of mind and benefits are worth it. The cost of emergency surgery or medical evacuation overseas could put you in debt for the rest of your life if you’re not covered.
World Nomads is the travel insurance company that we’ve used to travel to 100+ countries over the past decade. We wouldn’t consider being covered by any other company now.
Use the box below to get a quick quote for your next trip.
5) Slow down
Before we embarked on this trip to visit every country in the world, we travelled much slower. If you have the time to travel slower, you’ll gain so many more valuable experiences and memories. This will be better for your budget too. You’ll see that if you travel slower, you can negotiate better deals when booking accommodation and save on transport costs.
If you’re long-term travellers like us, you’ll appreciate slowing down to take a breath and get a few things organised. Tasks like booking onward accommodation, arranging visas, booking flights or onward transport take time. If you’re constantly moving and trying to manage all of the above whilst rushing around each destination to see the highlights, you’re likely to burn out.
The answer to avoiding this is to slow down.
We’d recommend getting up early to go sightseeing, hang at the beach or just walk around a new city to take it all in, and then keep your afternoons free. Use this time to relax in a cafe with a good book or get some rest back at your accommodation.
By staying in a place longer, also gives you a chance to try different cafes and restaurants, find some hidden spots that only locals may know about and enable you to immerse yourself more in the culture.
Related Article – 7 Tips: How to find the best food when you’re travelling
6) Get a VPN
With our lifestyle, we’re in a different country every other week, so it’s important that you have a VPN to protect yourself and your important data from being hacked.
When you hook up to and browse wifi on unprotected networks, it’s quite easy nowadays for online hackers to monitor what you’re doing. It takes just a few minutes of you entering your passwords to your online banking or purchasing a flight ticket online by entering your credit card details, then all your sensitive information can be collected and abused.
The only way to feel safe about money matters online is to have a VPN turned on. This creates a secure connection and a safe space to do whatever you need to do securely online.
Some countries such as China and Iran will block access to various websites and social media platforms. Our friends in Iran all have a VPN on their phones so they can access Facebook and certain websites that their government bans.
By having previously installed a VPN on your phone or computer, you can get around these restrictions. Make sure you’re one step ahead of the game and sign up with a good VPN provider today. We use NordVPN and love this product.
More reasons why VPN’s are amazing
In addition to the above, having a VPN is also useful for countries that have geo-restrictions or geo-blocks. This is when a certain website or content providers only allow gaining access to their websites available in specific countries. With a VPN, you simply trick the website into thinking your location is different from where you actually are.
Having a VPN on at all times will save you money too. It’s incredible how different the price is for an item to be purchased in Australia, yet by changing the location to the USA, prices seem to drop considerably. Sign up with NordVPN and get connected today.
7) Get a debit/credit card that has zero international transaction and ATM fees.
This used to be a thing that you just couldn’t avoid and it drove us insane. Years ago, all banks would charge you a fee for using an international ATM machine or by making a purchase in a foreign currency.
The rate was around 3% fee for a currency conversion charged by your bank for purchases made internationally. If you made a withdraw for any amount of cash using a foreign ATM machine, you would be charged between $5 – 10 (depending on which bank’s ATM you used). It doesn’t sound so much, yet when you’re having to make multiple withdrawals and purchases each week, it quickly adds up and really eats into your travel budget, especially if you’re a long term traveller.
We applied in Australia for a debit/credit card with ING Direct, and it was the best thing we ever did! We’ve saved so much money on avoiding foreign transaction fees all ATM fees internationally and we want all travellers to have this same feeling of winning! Check out our article below which explains how to sign up. We guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Related Article – The best debit/credit card to travel for Australians
8) Exchange or withdraw money on the road
Family and friends are often curious as to how we constantly deal with using different currencies as we travel. It’s 2019, so long gone are the days when you exchanged your hard-earned money at home for foreign currency to go and travel. The rates from banks are and always have been terrible.
Don’t do this, instead, we recommend that you wait until you arrive in the country and then withdraw money at an ATM. There is bound to be one at the airport arrivals area.
Remember that international debit card we recommended you apply for above? This card will be the best investment you ever made and you should use it every time, in every destination. You won’t pay any transaction or ATM fees, it’s a no-brainer.
To be honest, even if you don’t have one of these recommended debit cards we speak of, still use your other debit card to withdraw cash at the ATM rather than changing money at the airport. You will still come out on top with getting a better exchange rate.
Another Tip: We always travel with some hard currency such as USD and EUR for those times when things don’t go to plan. Occasionally, our debit card might be rejected at that particular ATM or we’ve forgotten to transfer more funds to our travel bank account, so we’re declined.
When this happens, we’re always prepared. We simply exchange a small amount of cash at the airport (enough to pay to get to our hotel/accommodation using local transport or taxi) and away we go. Once we’ve arrived at our hotel, we’ll check online that our bank account has sufficient funds. If it does, we’ll take a walk to find a different ATM to withdraw the cash we need.
9) Keep multiple copies of your passport, travel insurance & important documents
Make a bunch of photocopies of your passport page and keep them in a few different spots in your large backpack/suitcase and your smaller daypack. We’d recommend you keep a few copies handy of your insurance policy and for travel in some countries, your yellow fever certificate too.
Take photos of these important documents and email them to yourself, your partner or your family member too. We like to upload them to dropbox so we can access them from anywhere in the world.
It’s a good idea to place them in an easy to find folder on your iPhone and computer too.
10) Charge your electronics whenever possible
In this day and age, most of us have at least two or three forms of electronics (iPhone, computer, camera, Go-pro, kindle, Ipad, power-banks to name a few) that we use on the road to make travel easier and to capture memories at the same time.
It’s a little heartbreaking when you run out of camera battery on an amazing day trip or your iPhone dies and the details of how to get back to your accommodation is stored on it. Whenever possible, charge your electronics to avoid disappointment. We always charge our electronics overnight, many travellers use a travel powerboard to charge many things at one time.
A popular choice is the USB Charger – with 4 USB ports to charge electronics or a travel power-board that has 4 AC outlets and 2 USB ports to charge additional gadgets.
We recommend you get a USB Solar power bank too. This allows you to charge your smaller electronics during the day when you don’t have access to a power outlet, particularly handy if you’re on a long bus or train journey.
11) Eat the local food
You’re travelling to discover a new culture, new surroundings and learn something new, right? Make sure you try the local food too. It’s the best chance you will get to interact with locals, try new flavours and possibly have one of the best travel experiences of your life.
Local food can be found on the streets, in food markets, from small family-owned eateries or even in your hotel restaurant. From our experience, the best food in every country is always the local dishes.
We love to eat when we travel…but you probably already know that…
We love to eat, so we like to research where we should go to find the best food in a new destination. We’ll read blogs, watch videos and read social media posts before we arrive, then just pin the locations on our offline maps.
(We use an app called Maps. Me to navigate our way around most new countries. Just download the maps when you have an internet connection, and once you arrive, it works offline).
We also love to join food tours or even cooking classes when we travel. We recommend Get Your Guide and Viator for the best deals on tours.
Try the local food when you travel.
12) Handwash your clothes on the road
This will really save you loads of time and money. In some parts of the world such as West/Central Africa or Central Asia, a washing machine is rarely an option, so you gotta do it yourself. Alternatively, you can find a local that may be willing to hand wash it for you for a price, but don’t be surprised if you’re missing a few items when you get it back simply because of it blowing away in the field where it was laid to dry in the sun.
Of course, if you are travelling in countries where laundry service or self-service is available for a small fee, then use it.
Hostels are a great option to get a load of laundry done at a good price. We sometimes visit hostels (even if we’re not staying in them) and just ask the reception if it’s ok to use their laundry facilities. Most often than not, it’s no problem and you can hang out there whilst you wait.
One of the reasons we book Airbnb accommodation around the world is to have access to a washing machine. Use our discount code to receive $38 off your first Airbnb stay.
Fact: Have you ever noticed that hotels charge absurd prices to launder your clothes? They generally charge per piece, which makes it a very expensive bag of laundry. We’re long-term travellers and now we’re experts at hand washing our clothes on the road.
Travel clotheslines are ideal
We pack a travel clothesline in our carry-on backpacks. We’ve found it much easier to just wash what we wore that day when we shower each night and hang it in our room. If we don’t do it daily, we do it every few days. If you get into this habit, you’ll find that your bag is much easier to pack if you’re not lugging around dirty laundry.
We usually carry around a small bag of washing powder, which is easily found in most countries. If we run out and can’t find it, any bar of soap will do the trick. Recently we’ve discovered the Scrubba Portable Laundry Bag and it’s made our travelling lives much easier!
13) Pack a few sets of earplugs and a sleep mask
One of the handiest, cheapest things you’ll have in your bags, earplugs. We’d recommend keeping a pair in your large backpack and another in your smaller backpack.
Earplugs will be your saviour when you’re on that loud overnight bus journey, a long flight or for those times when the guy in the next room or tent is snoring like a chainsaw. The sleep mask is great to use on flights and for those rooms that lack decent curtains on those bright mornings.
14) Use a filter water bottle
It disappoints us that in countries where tap water is entirely safe to drink (Australia and New Zealand, most of Europe, North America, and some parts of Africa, Asia and South America), people still buy countless plastic bottles of water.
Not only is this harmful to the environment, but it’s also unnecessary. We recommend bringing along a filtered water bottle. It will literally save you hundreds of dollars and time trying to find water as you go, not to mention you’re doing your bit to help reduce plastic and be a more responsible traveller.
15) Buy a local sim card for your phone
Nowadays, we take it for granted to be connected to the internet at all times. Many of us have data included as part of our phone contract plans in our home countries.
TIP: Before you arrive in a new country, go to the ‘Settings’ tab, then ‘mobile’ and TURN OFF the ‘mobile data’. Ensure that in ‘Mobile data options’ the international roaming has also been turned off.
Purchase a local sim card on arrival in a new destination
Unless your phone plan has free international roaming (highly unlikely), as soon as you turn your phone on in a new country, you’re going to start unknowingly paying for data roaming fees. If this has ever happened to you before, it sucks. These fees rack up very quickly and can be very high.
We use the internet for everything on the road
From booking flights and accommodation on the go, to navigate around cities, being connected is important for what we do. We also use it to research good cafes or coffee places and to keep tabs on our social media pages and website too.
In some countries around the world, WIFI is non-existent, expensive to purchase or slow. The easiest way to avoid all that is to get a local SIM card upon arrival to stay connected. They’re generally inexpensive and a sim card with 1GB of data will usually cost around $5 – 10. We think this is a smart investment, even if it’s for the sole purpose of staying connected should an emergency arise or for peace of mind.
You can apply for a sim card within minutes when you arrive at the airport. Alternatively, if you’re travelling overland in countries, locals sell them on the side of the street. You will generally need a passport or a colour copy of your ID to get set up, but it’s all quite easy to do.
NOTE: Your phone must be unlocked for you to use local sim cards.
16) Keep everything important in your daypack or bag
When you’re on the road, keep all your important things in your daypack or bag and never take your eyes off it. Important documents such as your passport, credit cards, money, cameras, laptop, hard drives and phones should always be carried on your person.
Depending on what type of accommodation you are staying in (hotel, hostel, guesthouse or even a tent) will depend on what you do with these important items when you are in one place. If you’re staying in a hotel with a safe, use it. If you’re staying in a tent, it’s probably better to keep these things on your when you head out to explore. Either way, use your common sense to ensure your most important items are kept as secure as possible.
Related Article – Tips to stay safe when you travel
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