There is a list of tips, tricks and hacks for every eventuality when travelling, but what if you really want just the bare essentials to help you make the right decisions so you don’t put yourself in harm’s way or fall foul to the pitfalls only locals know about?
We think our ten commandments of travel are the list of things to keep firmly in mind, you can then find specific lists to guide you through your own unique travel needs.
Water - First and foremost is to remember that water in many countries is not like ours and may not be safe to drink. Now that’s obvious, but what a lot of people fail to remember is that this means you should also avoid all local produce that may have been washed in tap water such as salad leaves, fruit or even cold seafood. Bottled water is usually readily available and very cheap the world over, so consider using it not only for drinking but also to clean your teeth instead of using the local water where you may end up ingesting some water borne problems too.
Food - This brings us to the second commandment, safely eating out. Keep in mind what we mentioned about food washed in tap water, but also avoid local delicacies that may contain water that has not been boiled. A great example here is Pani Puri which is served on every street corner in India but contains tamarind water. Street food is often frowned upon when travelling but it usually offers terrific value and unlike many of the restaurants where the kitchen is out of sight, you can see how the food is being handled, prepared and served and if you eat where there are crowds of locals and / or the food is cooked in front of you, in a deep fryer or over hot coals you can usually expect the risk of food poisoning to be very low.
Moderation - If you have ever travelled to distant lands previously you will certainly understand that our number 3 tip is often quoted but seldom followed…..Don’t eat and drink to excess! There are so many new and exciting tastes and sensations to experience when you are in a foreign land that it is exceedingly difficult to maintain the will power and only eat and drink quantities that won’t make you ill; and especially to avoid or limit your exposure to things your body is not used to or that can leave you with mood swings, feeling nauseous tired or disoriented - spices, alcohol and excess sugar, among others are common traps.
Medications - Number 4 is all about medications. If you need prescription medications on a regular basis, try to take sufficient for the duration of your travels, and even though you should try to avoid purchasing local equivalents of your medicines in case there are slight differences, it is wise to bring along a copy of the prescription so you can get emergency supplies or replacements if you find your self running short for any reason. The prescription may also be handy if you are going through customs or security at borders and they need evidence that the drugs you are carrying are for your personal use and for your medicinal needs.
First Aid - In at 5 is our suggestion for a small basic first aid kit which can also prove invaluable if only for the ability to apply a band aid to blistered feet as you are bound to walk miles and miles in brand new shoes if you are in a strange town; antiseptic cream for an insect bite as your new, fresh blood will be especially attractive to every insect from Transylvania to Timbuctoo or a painkiller for your aching back from the rickety bus ride to the hotel or through ignoring number 3 (excess consumption of alcohol!)
Street Smart - Try to be Street Smart where ever you go by getting informed any way you can. Every city in every country has good and bad areas where it is either nice to sit and relax, or you have to run for your life! Ask locals or hotel staff to give you pointers or simply try looking on the internet. If you have a smart phone we like to use the Yelp app to guide us to great restaurants, cafes or other local attractions, but no matter where you go and who you are with, being a tourist will make you conspicuous and therefore a target for scammers, pick pockets or unsavoury types, so keep large amounts of cash secure and out of sight at all times, and try to spread your cash, cards or travellers cheques between, bags and pockets or perhaps even with your travel companions.
Jet Lag - Jet lag can be the ruin of any holiday and seldom considered, it can also disrupt your sleep patterns when you return, even if there are just a few hours’ time difference between home and your destination. There a few simple things you can do to minimise the effects and get into the swing of things wherever you find yourself.
Firstly it is important to stay awake as long as possible in the day light hours you are trying to get acclimatised to, and this means staying awake until what would be your normal bed time using the local clocks. Personally I find this difficult if I have been awake and travelling for a good 30 or 40 hours and have arrived early morning local time, so in this instance I allow myself just a couple of hours sleep to get me through the day, being really strict and making myself rise at the time I set the alarm to sound and then staying awake until my usual bed time.
It is wise to try to eat meals at the usual times you normally would and if you take any medication, to get into the new time zone straight away (unless your doctor advises otherwise) and again to avoid excesses of everything especially alcohol.
I usually find following these simple steps helps me sleep like a baby and I wake on day two ready to embrace whatever the day has in store! Happy Days!
Pack Light - Our 8th tip is to pack light. Sounds simple enough but we all know how easy it is to think we will surely need the kitchen sink while trekking in the Himalayas, only to find it unused at the bottom of our bag when we return; It is for this very reason I do my best to get down to the bare essentials and continuously remind myself that while I am away I will be tempted to buy souvenirs, clothes and gifts for friends or relatives in every town or market place, and even when I am convinced there couldn’t possibly be anywhere to buy anything… as sure as ‘eggs is eggs’ there will be someone selling something even on the side of the road at 2000ft!
An inexpensive little gadget available in travel accessory and luggage stores everywhere is portable scales for weighing your bags. Do yourself a favour and invest in a set. Make sure you take them with you and I promise you will save its value time and time again in excess luggage charges and strained backs from carrying lead like luggage around the world.
Valuables - The security of valuables is always at the forefront of our minds when we travel, and whether we are taking an expensive watch, ring, camera, smartphone, computer or anything else of value that can be carried, the best advice you can heed is to never pack it into your checked luggage. Instead keep it safely by your side in your carry-on luggage, hand bag or body pouch.
Travel Documents - Saving the best for last is to be sure to keep a backup of your travel documents. Passports, visas, tickets, travellers cheques, driving licences or identity cards can all be replaced if lost, but instead of waiting, stranded in a foreign city, for up to 30 days, you can take copies to the local embassy or consulate and they will be easily able to supply temporary or replacement documents in a fraction of the time. We recommend scanning important documents and storing in a cloud storage facility such as the free service we offer all our customers at www.easytravelvault.com
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