I am not Rick Steves, but in my many years of travel, I’ve learned a thing or two about things to look out for when traveling. In fact, this past summer I explored Europe with one friend and had a safe, amazing time. Whether you’re a new traveler or a proud frequent flyer, it’s important to be aware of the things to look out for when traveling, especially if you are going to a country where you don’t speak the language. But with these tips as your guide, you’ll be ready for anywhere in no time!
We’ve all heard it said that experience is the best teacher and when it comes to travel, I couldn’t agree more. Having aimlessly wandered the streets of Paris and Brussels at 2 a.m., I learned the importance of confirming that last Metro or Underground to your destination. Setting a time frame under the guidance of the last means of transportation back to your hotel tops the list of things to look out for when traveling. It can be confusing and disorienting in an unfamiliar city, so check with public transportation employees to find out when that last one leaves, and it may just save you a 2-mile walk at 1 a.m.
No matter where you travel, make sure to have the local taxi number! I assumed, from my visits to New York City, that if I wanted a taxi all I needed to do was snap my fingers and the road would be filled with yellow. But in Monaco, where it is illegal to flag down a taxi, or Burlington, VT, where taxis don’t just sit idly, having a number to call can make all the difference and save from breaking-in your shoes any further. You may never use the number but having it on hand can help alleviate anxiety in case you need to use it.
3. Bathroom Fees
Most European countries require fees to use the restroom. When traveling, it’s important to take this into consideration and plan accordingly. Some places request only a donation; others demand at least €0.50-1.00. It may not see like a lot, but if you stop to use (and pay) for the bathroom three times a day, then you will not have as much money to buy those Matryoshka dolls you had your eye on. Budgeting for bathroom expenses or taking advantage of the restrooms in your hotel can not only help you save money in the long-run but also free up your time to explore the Louvre.
Pickpockets are more common than you may think and their preys - unsuspecting tourists. One way to by-step the missing-wallet part of your vacation is an over-the-shoulder purse, which allows you not only to hold onto your belongings but also keep them in sight. If you’ve rented a loft or apartment, then consider taking reusable bags to the market to get groceries because it creates the idea that you are a native. In highly populated areas such as Las Ramblas in Barcelona take extra precaution to keep your bag in your line of vision.
5. Tourist Traps
As amazing as dinner with a perfect view of Niagara Falls sounds, prices may be more than they are worth. Check travel guides such as TripAdvisor to get a sense of reasonably priced restaurants. Also, beware vendors in hot spots who prey on tourists. Don’t assume that the immediate gift shops are all there are. Prices further from main tourist attractions will be more affordable and you might just stumble upon a hidden jewel rather than some of the flashy junk that can be found nearby.
6. Exchange Rates
When traveling, it’s important to pay attention to the rise and fall of exchange rates. Before a big trip, keep track of what the going rate for conversion is. If there is a decrease, go to a bank or other currency exchange location to get the most of your money. Also, don’t take every price for what it is. 20Kč (Czech crowns) is currently the equivalent to $1 whereas Euros and Pounds are more expensive on the conversion scale. It’s important to remember these exchanges when buying souvenirs because it helps judge whether or not the item is fairly priced.
7. Pay-as-You-Go Cell Phones
Cell phone companies are willing to let your use your data and phone in foreign countries but for a fee. If you are traveling for a long time, the cost can start to add up. You might consider getting a pay-as-you-go cell phone. When I was in Europe this summer, I took one of these phones with me and I only paid the direct minutes I was using. It is more cost effective but requires research in both the phones and their uses and the policies used by your current provider.
Travel can enrich your life through the sights, people, and food you experience, which is why I think it’s taking into consideration these tips can help you make the most of your travels. These are my go-to things to look out for when traveling because they provide a reality check in the midst of that "I’m going to Argentina!" excitement. What other things do you keep in mind?