The Travelers Guidebook – My Best Travel Tips, Rules, Etiquette, and Common Sense For Life on the Road

Anyone who’s spent a good amount of time traveling will have their own list of ‘best practices’ while on the road.  If you’re in that category you may already do some things on this list but at the least it’ll be a good refresher for you.  And who knows, you may learn something new too. If you haven’t done much traveling, or much traveling in unfamiliar places, these recommendations could make your travels more enjoyable…not to mention less stressful!  Here’s a list of my Best Travel Tips, Rules, Etiquette, and Common Sense for Life on the Road.  Enjoy!  (note: I don’t cover tips for everything in this post, hotels are one example.  If I don’t use it regularly I don’t feel I should give advice so their not included.)

Hostels

  • Don’t make (too much) noise after 11:00/11:30 pm or before 8:00/8:30 am in a hostel dorm room.  It’s just a matter of respect for other travelers in the room.  On the flip side, if others in your room break the rule at 3:00 am, it’s perfectly acceptable to do the same to them at 7:00 am.  Turnabout is fair play!
  • Always wash, dry, and put away any communal dishes you use – This is not your mother’s house.
  • Before putting food in a communal kitchen look for the sign that states when they clean out the refrigerator.  You may need to put your name on your food to make sure it doesn’t get thrown away.  Unfortunately, I learned this one the hard way!
  • Don’t eat other people’s food – Again, not your mother’s house.
  • If you need to catch a bus early in the morning, pack the night before so you’ll make as little noise as possible at 5:00 am.

Train/Bus/Subway

  • On a train, if you’re sitting in a seat with a table, don’t put your bags on it.  People reserve those seats so they can work, not so you have a counter for your man purse.
  • On a bus/subway give your seat to the elderly woman standing nearby.  She is someone’s grandma! (This is a good rule of thumb anywhere there is an old lady and no empty seats)

Taxis

  • In over four months of traveling I’ve only used a taxi twice…because they’re normally more expensive than the bus or subway and much more expensive than walking!  That said, one thing to remember when hiring a taxi (especially in a place you are unfamiliar or where there is a language barrier) is to agree on a price to get to your location before getting in the taxi.  In some parts of the world taxi drivers are notorious for charging foreign travelers exorbitant amounts, in part because they can get away with it when they have an uninformed patron.  The person working the desk at your hotel/hostel should know a reasonable amount for a taxi to get you to your desired location.  If the driver won’t agree to the right price, walk away and try the next taxi.

Air Travel

  • Shop around!  There are so many online tools now that make it easy to find good value for your domestic and international flights.  Currently I use Matrix – ITA Software by Google and Skyscanner to begin all my flight searches.
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your flight options use Seat Guru to help pick the right seat for you.  It’s very easy to use.  Just put in the flight information and it will bring up a seating diagram with information showing amenities, exit row locations, ‘best’ seat choices, leg room, etc.

Safety

  • Listen to your sixth sense.  We’ve all been there…You feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and have a funny feeling when walking in a dark alley, or you can tell the people across the room are looking at you.  Don’t ignore this sixth sense of self preservation, embrace it.  If you feel uncomfortable in a situation…change the situation.  Leave the dark alley, duck into a well lit store to see if the people are following you.  Follow your instincts.
  • The best tip I can give is to travel with minimal valuables (jewelry, excess amounts of cash, expensive watches, etc.).  For what you do travel with, keep these two tips in mind: Don’t show off wealth and know where your valuables are. Keep them locked in the hotel room safe, or the hostel locker, or on your person in a secure money belt.  If you look like you’re rich, you’re more likely to be targeted by thieves and pickpockets.  If you don’t have anything on you while walking Las Ramblas in Barcelona or riding the metro in Paris (both notorious for pickpockets) you won’t lose anything.

Packing

  • It’s ‘Location, Location, Location’ in Real Estate but in terms of smart travel packing it should be ‘Light, Light, Light!!’  MORE stuff means MORE weight to lug around, MORE hassle, MORE time packing, unpacking, and repacking, MORE things to wash when you get home, MORE things to keep track of, MORE baggage fees, and MORE things to carry with you your whole trip!  I recently met a solo traveler, Jana, on her first backpacking adventure who initially packed seven pairs of shoes for an eight week trip!  Needless to say she regretted bringing that many and was down to 4 pair going into her eighth week (that’s still too many).  We agreed her packing style was completely opposite of mine.  Form vs. Function!
  • An old travelers saying: ‘take half as much stuff and twice as much money as you think you need’.  I agree with the first part.

General

  • Be nice!  Not all travelers are nice and is seems those are a generally jerks in day to day life are also jerks while traveling.  As a traveler you will run into issues and a large portion of the people you encounter work in the tourism economy.  They are used to dealing with issues.  If you’re nice they’ll most likely go out of their way to help you.

2 thoughts on “The Travelers Guidebook – My Best Travel Tips, Rules, Etiquette, and Common Sense For Life on the Road”

  1. Good tips to follow, Jake. I would suggest learning phrases in the host language such as “Hello”, “Thank you” and the ever popular, “Excuse me sir/miss, do you speak (understand) English?”

    1. Good tip John! I’ve learned to ask people if they understand English. Sometimes they seem to be more receptive to start a dialog with you that way because they will most likely ‘understand’ more then they speak and may be self-conscious about their English speaking abilities. It has been a good ice breaker for me…and then I always say their English is good. Brings a smile to their face!

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