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Looking forward to an upcoming vacation is almost guaranteed. Mistakes while travelling are another guarantee, unfortunately. Whether you’ve travelled for years, or it’s your first time abroad, mistakes are inevitable, but a lot of them can be avoided. Common mistakes while travelling can be costly, frustrating and downright troublesome.
I’ve made mistakes, you’ll make mistakes and I’m sure someone you, or I know have made some of these mistakes as well. Travelling can be stressful enough as it is and you definitely don’t need any unnecessary snags during your adventure to turn a good time into a bad time.
I’ve outlined a few common mistakes travellers make and how to avoid them the next time you decide to travel.
Read more: Tips For Travelling Within Europe
Not Getting Travel Insurance
This should be a no brainer for everyone when travelling. No matter where I go, whether it’s a day trip hiking in The U.S., or two weeks in Europe, I NEVER travel without travel insurance. I’m fortunate that my work covers me for travel (to a certain extent), but I still buy extra from my bank just to be safe. My philosophy is, if I’m leaving the country in which I live in, I will ALWAYS make sure I’m covered. No matter what! Having a piece of mind knowing that I’ll be covered if I break my arm is better than not being covered and breaking my bank account. Got it? Good!
Read more: Top Mistakes First Time Solo Travellers Make
Not Educating Yourself About Local Customs
Save yourself an embarrassing, or slightly offensive moment by researching the local customs where you are headed. Most churches around the world require women to cover their shoulders and knees and men to cover their knees out of respect. In places like Thailand, one must never enter a temple with shoes on their feet, or point the bottoms of their feet toward a Buddha figure. In India, there are places of worship that may require you to cover your head if you’re a woman. Doing a bit of research regarding locals customs around the world won’t only make you a more respectful traveller, but it’ll also provide you with experiencing moments just as locals would do.
Not Engaging With Locals
Nobody knows the hot spots in town, or a hidden gem quite like the locals. When travelling abroad, I’ll always strike up a conversation with someone in a deli, clothing shop, or a bus driver to get their insights on the place that I’m visiting. Is there a cool and unique restaurant in town? Is there a neat neighbouring city to visit on a day trip? I want to know that, so engaging with the locals will help me gain some insight as to where to find the sweet spots around town, or learn something new about the city and country that I may not find in the guidebook. Don’t be afraid to talk to the people who know their country, city, town, or village the best.
Read more: What Solo Travel Has Taught Me
Only Eating Near Tourist Attractions
Restaurants near tourist attractions won’t only be jam packed, but the costs will be inflated to prices well over what they should be. Anytime I’ve eaten at a spot near a famous landmark, the food was pricey and too be honest, not that great. Even if you walk a few blocks away from the tourist hotspots, you’ll likely stumble across a hidden gem that you won’t find on the top ten lists in a guide book. You won’t normally find locals dining near the main tourist traps either and for good reason, they know where the good places with less people and better prices are. Don’t be afraid to talk to some locals when you’re out around town and ask them what spot they recommend. Some places that seem empty with people, often serve some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, so don’t be fooled by the amount of customers lining up, or dining inside. Another great place to enjoy local eats? Street vendors. Support the locals and indulge in some of their creations.
Not Informing Your Bank Of Your Travels
I can’t begin to tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard about people’s cards being declined overseas, or bank cards that have been frozen during their travels. It’s enough to cause a slight panic attack especially when you’re trying to pay for a train ticket and your card won’t work and there’s ten minutes until departure. This can all be avoided by simply giving your bank a quick call to mention that you’ll be travelling to such and such a country during such and such dates, so when they see your card being charged in Guatemala, they won’t freak out and freeze your accounts. Most banks nowadays say that they don’t need any heads up, but that’s bullshit…My VISA card got frozen this year while I was in India, but my debit card worked. It ended up causing such an issue that I couldn’t take out money from any ATM using my VISA card and had to borrow money from a friend. I couldn’t even contact the bank because they want to speak to me in person over the phone, but I was on the other side of the world, so that wasn’t an option. So, lesson learned, always call your bank to inform them of your travels, even if they say they don’t need to know. You’ll be glad you did when you aren’t stuck having to wash dishes, or mop the floors in an pub somewhere because you couldn’t pay.
Not Bringing Cash
Even though we live in a digital age with credit cards, paying with our phones and every other modern way, I still always prefer to bring enough cash to get me by for small purchases. Paying for a coffee, or a small snack with cash is less of a hassle in case your card ever does get compromised overseas and will save you the hassle and embarrassment of being faced with a declined card. A lot of smaller stores accept cash only as well, so it’s always best to be prepared.
Not Checking VISA Requirements
This is a crucial mistake that more than enough people make, unfortunately. If you are travelling abroad, always make sure to check if your country requires a VISA to visit another country. For example, when I travelled to India, I had to apply for an E-Tourist VISA online and make sure to provide that piece of paper to immigration upon entering India. Some countries will allow you to get a VISA upon arrival, but in my opinion, it’s always safer to get it in advance to save you the hassle of potentially being turned away. There were two travellers from France in front of me in the Jaipur airport and their VISA arrival dates were incorrect and they were turned away. It was incredibly hard to watch because they were crying SO much. Do yourself a favour, if you are a Canadian citizen, you can always check here to verify if you need a VISA before entering another country.
Scheduling Too Much
You’re supposed to be on vacation, not on the Amazing Race. I know that you want to see as much as possible and do all the cool things a country has to offer while you’re travelling there, but you need to pace yourself, or you will risk major traveller burnout. Before you get to your destination, researching major points of interest to you and make a schedule that best suits your travel style. If you want to see everything before the crowds get out of control, embrace getting up early and hit the ground running, but if you’re a more laid back type of traveller, then only schedule a few things to see during your stay. Depending on the length of your stay, make sure to give yourself some days to just enjoy your surroundings and casually see the sights.
Read more: How To Create The Perfect Travel Itinerary
Not Travelling Outside Of The Major Cities
Whenever I go somewhere new, I try to venture off to the less discovered smaller towns for day trips, or to stay a full day to soak in the culture without the large tourist crowds. Do a bit of research into surrounding villages and cities and head to those for a look into the less travelled areas of a country. One of my favourite Austrian towns I visited was Steyr. It had such an old medieval look to it, boasted great views of the surrounding area on top of a large hill, a pink castle with zero tourists, had very friendly locals and virtually empty streets even during the peak time of day, which made it seem as though I had the entire town to myself. Do yourself a favour and after visiting the major cities, go see some of the lesser known ones too.
Read more: A City Guide To Steyr, Austria
This is one of the major mistakes that literally everyone makes at some point in their travels. I’ve done it, you’ve done it and my grandma definitely does it. Overpacking is our brain’s way of telling us that we need to bring every single item from home in order to feel comfortable. I still bring a checked bag almost every time I travel, but only fill it about half because if I want to shop while overseas, at least I’ll have room to bring back stuff. I travelled with a carry-on only to India for two full weeks and I managed, so try it next time you travel. It’ll save you the hassle of waiting to see if your bags made it through the flight as well.
Booking Flights With Short Connections
Save yourself the stress and anxiety and book a flight with at least more than an hour connection time if your flight is not direct. My first time travelling solo was an absolute mess because I had such a short connection (35 minutes) and I definitely missed it. Most of the time if you are connecting, you’ll need to go through security again and we all know how long those lines can be. It was a great learning experience for me and now I know better than to do that ever again.
Not Keeping Your Valuables Safe
Now, you don’t need to get yourself a fanny pack, or a money belt, but when travelling, make sure you keep your guard up and your valuables close to you. I like to travel with a cross body bag, so that if anyone tries to grab it from me (luckily I haven’t experienced that), they will have a harder time trying to rip me off then if I just had a purse in my hand, or over one shoulder. It also frees up my hands for carrying, or grabbing for other items, all while not putting me in a vulnerable position trying to hold onto my bag as well.
Read more: How To Stay Safe As A Solo Traveller
When I’m travelling, I like to have a drink, or two with a meal, or enjoy a beer on its own while people watching, but I’ll never get blitzed out of my mind, especially while travelling solo. One reason is, I don’t like getting smashed and it’s just not a smart thing to do especially in a country where you don’t know anyone, the area, or don’t speak the language. If you do feel like partying hard and if you’re travelling with a group, or a friend, maybe take turns looking after each other to avoid a sticky situation abroad.
Getting Angry With Locals In Another Country
I don’t care who you are, or where you are…you should always show respect for the locals in a country that you are visiting. You may get aggravated due to the language barrier, but you have to remember that you are in their country. Yes, you will see things that make you uneasy, or that seem totally outrageous to you, but you must remember that each country will have different customs and traditions from your own. If you get frustrated with a local, please try not to yell at them, or get angry (unless absolutely necessary, of course). Practicing patience and tolerance will not only help you enjoy your travels much more, but you will provide locals with a positive outlook towards tourists as well.
Expecting Everything To Go Right
I can almost guarantee that nobody ever has perfect travel days 100% of the time. There are some days that you will miss a flight, you will miss a train, you will get off at the wrong stop, your ferry will be cancelled, or your hotel just happened to lose your booking that you placed on hold over three months prior to your trip. You can’t always expect everything to be sunshine and rainbows while travelling, but experiencing these types of downfalls make you a more seasoned traveller and you’ll gain some wisdom for your next trip. Don’t let the little things get you down. Trial and error are a huge part of travelling. Yes, they suck at the time they are occurring, but everything always aligns over time.
Mishaps while travelling are completely normal and even seasoned travellers encounter them, but that’s the hidden beauty of actually making mistakes. It makes you a much wiser traveller in the end and it true that you learn from your mistakes, so keep that in mind the next time one of you guys end up making a travel boo-boo.
Have you guys made any of the mistakes above? If so, how did you manage to deal with it? Let me know in the comments below. xo