Now that you have hit the road, begins the real journey of experiences. The experience of visiting new landscapes, new people, new terrains, new cuisines, new situations and many more new things, all of which cannot be put into words. You are all geared up and the feeling of new experiences gives you a new high altogether.
Spending a long period of time on the road, travelling and hopping from one place to another, has its own share of things to keep in mind and also some preparations beforehand. You do not want something that you have missed, to bother you while you are on the road, which you could you planned about earlier. Some of these aspects are so simple and basic yet have a direct impact on your journey.
We have prepared some easy tips and tricks to make your journey on the road hassle free. You would rather not ignore these tips, unless you would want to trouble yourself carrying a heavy bag or suffering from a bad stomach while travelling. So go through this section to ensure you have followed these tips to experience and enjoy a hassle free RTW trip.
This is a bit more before you hit the road, but it will impact your life on the road… PACK LIGHT! You’ll do laundry more often than you would expect. Compression sacks are useful to fit more in your bag if you need, but because they compress, they may add more weight. If you're not sure about it, you probably don't need it. And if you do end up needing it, you can probably buy it.
Check not only the main airline baggage allowances, but also for overland travel as buses and trains may not allow as much weight or require smaller baggage size.
Never bring more than two bags with you. If you can't comfortably carry it, it will become a burden you wish you didn't have.
Bring clothes you’re happy to abandon on the road and replace. Research weather, Bring layers. Bring a hat for sun and cold. It's worth buying underlayers that wick away sweat. And make sure the stuff you have is comfortable. You may be tempted to bring one nice outfit which is fine, but no more than that… you'll never wear it. Don't pack clothes that require ironing or dry cleaning.
Comfy shoes that are broken in are important. In fact, never take something you haven't worn before. You don't want to get on the road and discover it's really uncomfortable!
Don't bring anything you'd be devastated to lose. Whether it's because you're emotionally attached or simply can't afford to replace it, you don't want to bring it.
YOUR CARRY ON
Never pack your prescription medications, or any essentials you can't live without for a few days in your checked luggage. It's a good idea to have a toothbrush and deodorant handy in your carry on to freshen up when you land. It's also always worth bringing a spare set of clothes in your carry on as well, just in case your luggage goes missing you at least have one clean outfit to change into while it gets sorted out.
HANDY THINGS TO BRING/THINGS YOU WON'T NEED
Sewing kit but not an extensive one – just needles and thread (and possibly a spare button or two) or at the very least a needle (dental floss can be used as thread) will come in very handy when you're wearing your clothes day in and day out
Mosquito nets – these can be a bit up for debate. Some people take them and don't use them while others swear by them. If you're going to places with malaria or if you tend to get lots of mosquito bites or bad reactions to bites, it may be worth bringing them. A lot of accommodations in areas with mosquito-borne diseases will have mosquito nets built in. This is worth checking when you're booking accommodations if you want to avoid bringing a mosquito net. It's also worth doing your research into the type of nets that would be most practical for you.
Sleeping bags/Sleeping bag liners – unless you're camping, don't bring a sleeping bag. Many hostels won't allow you to use them as they can sometimes bring bed bugs from one place to another. Pretty much any accommodations you book, including overnight sleeper trains, will provide bedding. That said, you can get silk sleeping bag liners with bed bug/mosquito repellent built into them which could be an extra layer of comfort if you do worry about mosquito bites and bed bugs. It's also just a light cover for hot nights where you just want a sheet around you.
Laundry stuff – If you plan to handwash your clothes while you travel to either save some money or save your clothes, there are options here: paper soap, or liquid detergents are all available at travel stores while you could also just bring a sealable sandwich bag full of powdered detergent. Some clothes pegs, a laundry line, and a universal sink plug will also come in handy if this is your plan. Just bear in mind that it can be cheap and easy to have your laundry done in some parts of the world so check where you're travelling before you decide to lug around loads of extra stuff.
Cooking and food – It can be a good idea to travel with some old plastic food containers, leftover from the last chinese takeaway or wherever you may get them. They can be versatile storage containers, dishes, places to save your leftovers. If you plan to stay in hostels and to save money by cooking your own meals, it's sometimes good to bring a small bottle of oil and a few herbs if you like to add some flavour. Often shared kitchens in hostels might have some of these items, so again it might be adding weight to your bag that's unneccesary. Also bear in mind that in areas like Thailand, it's hard to find hostels with kitchens and is often cheaper to eat out.
Sealable Sandwich Bags in many sizes – good to keep your wallet, phone and passport dry on Songkran in Thailand but also to put liquids in while flying, in your carry on but also in your checked luggage – in case of leaks, for food leftovers or homemade sandwich lunches, to put a wet swimsuit in until you can dry it out, a lightweight jewellery bag and many other creative uses.
Carry tissues or toilet paper with you and on you (possibly in a sealable sandwich bag) when you're travelling. You never know when you may end up in a bathroom that doesn't provide tp. In certain parts of the world it is a rarity to find toilet paper. Wet wipes can also be handy for those travel days where you might not have a shower but they will make you feel somewhat clean and refreshed.
A sarong or a scarf can be the most versatile item of clothing you bring – it can be a beach towel to lay on, a bed sheet, an eye mask, a housecoat, a curtain, a bag to carry stuff around in, a skirt or dress or even, in an emergency, a bandage.
Again, it depends where you're going, but if you're going somewhere where you can drink the water, a water bottle is a handy thing to have to save money. A water bladder will roll up to nothing when it's empty and can carry quite a lot of water, possibly more than you will need and could end up quite heavy, but if you got a smaller one it might be the more lightweight option in the long run. If you're travelling somewhere where you can't drink the water, don't waste weight and space on water bottles as you will be buying them anyway.
A Pack of cards – a boredom killer but also can help communicate with others and break down barriers on the road.
Be sure to check which vaccinations or immunizations you may need before you travel, not only based on what diseases you may be susceptible to get in the countries where you're travelling but also based on entry requirements to those countries. Quite often if you've been travelling in countries where Yellow Fever is an issue, other countries you visit will require you to have a certificate as proof you've had the Yellow Fever vaccination. Bear in mind that some require several shots over several weeks so don't leave this until the last minute. Check with the embassies of the countries you will be visiting before you travel to protect yourself.
You may discover in this process that some diseases don't have vaccines. Malaria is an example of a mosquito-borne disease that you can't protect against with a shot, but you can get anti-malarial tablets. There are many different kinds of anti-malarials and none full protect you from getting malaria. If you are travelling to an area affected by malaria, speak to your doctor about which options are best for you.
There are many other insect-borne diseases and their bites can also cause itchy welts or bigger allergic reactions. There are steps you can take to prevent insect bites. Get insect repellants with DEET. Spray ons get the most coverage and always put it on after you've applied your sunscreen. See our comments above regarding the benefits of mosquito nets and mosquito/bed bug repellent sleeping bag liners. Air conditioning also tends to keep mosquitoes away. If possible, wear clothing that covers your skin; hats, shirts with long sleeves, and pulling your socks up over the bottoms of long pants will keep insects away from your skin. You can also apply insect repellants to clothing and shoes for extra protection.
In the case of ticks, again making sure skin is not exposed will help prevent ticks from getting at you. In areas/seasons where ticks are around, if you're doing activities outdoors, inspect yourself for ticks at the end of the day. You'll spot them more easily if your clothing is lighter in colour.
Speak to your pharmacist if you tend to get motion sickness as you can get some medications for this if you are concerned it might be a problem for you. Some people also have success with wrist bands like 'Sea-bands'. If you're not good on airplanes, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about what they might be able to give you to help you to sleep through the flight or ease your anxieties.
If there are any medications you take regularly, you should bring enough of these with you to last the trip and a bit extra, in case you lose some or get caught away longer than expected. Keep it on you in your carry-on when you fly and make sure it is in the pharmacy packaging and that you have a copy of the prescription if you can. In fact, any pills or medication, whether it is prescription or not, should be in its original packaging. Unlabelled pills or medicine might cause problems for you at border crossings or going through airport security.
If your medication can't be provided for the entirety of your journey because it will expire or needs to be refrigerated, arrange to have it shipped to a location where you will be able to receive them.
At some point in a long trip, most traveller's will face traveller's diarrhoea. There are steps you can take to try to avoid this, though even these sometimes aren't enough if you have a sensitive stomach and are trying out lots of different food options (which you should!).
- Avoid uncooked vegetables.
- Eat fruits with peels, which you have peeled.
- Drink bottled water. If you must have tap water, boil it first and use water purification tablets
- Ask for drinks with no ice.
- No unpasteurized dairy or cheese.
- Avoid street foods unless you are sure about the hygiene around the cart/stall.
- Wash your hands often with soap or an antibacterial hand gel.
- Try to eat cooked foods only and eat them while they're still hot.
- Keep your mouth shut in the shower (some people even go as far as to tape their mouths shut so water doesn't get in!)
If you find yourself in this uncomfortable position, be sure to hydrate and rest. If it persists for more than a few days, it's probably wise to seek medical advice so you can be treated with antibiotics if necessary. Imodium or other antimotility agents will provide some relief of the symptoms if you have to take a long journey or know you won't be near a toilet, but they aren't a treatment for the actual problem and should be used only as directed on the pack.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY
It is easy to forget to take care of yourself when you're out of a routine but it is important not to let this happen. For some, they eat more bad foods than they would normally, some drink more and others don't get enough sleep. Be sure to listen to your body and give it what it needs. There is nothing worse than getting run-down and sick when you're far from home and if you're travelling for a lengthy period of time, this can easily happen.
It's easy to burn the candle at both ends when you're travelling: you get up early to catch a beautiful sunrise but stay out late drinking with your new hostel buddies. Add to this long travel days, jet lag, staying in a loud dorm room and the emotional exhaustion you might encounter in some places, you need to let your body rest.
To avoid the worst of jet lag, get your body synced to the local time as soon as possible. Push to stay up until your normal bedtime in the new time zone when you first arrive and it will help.
Get ear plugs so the noises of the hostel dorm room or the busy street outside your hotel or even possibly the loud crickets and birds in a remote camp don't keep you from sleeping.
Bring sunscreen and wear it. Reapply often. Get clothes with SPF ratings if you burn easily. Remember that snow or water can reflect the sun and cause burns and that even if it's cloudy you can get burnt.
If you're travelling to central or eastern Africa, it may be harder to find sunscreen so try large pharmacies, airports and tourist shops and stock up.
Drink lots of water.
Take are of your feet. Bring shoes that you've broken in and that are comfortable. If you get blisters, deal with them immediately. Even if you're just going to a European city, the cobblestones can be rougher on your feet than you might think and your thongs might not be the best choice of footwear!
We don't want to sound like your mum but be careful and use protection In the world of sex, you run many risks, not only of getting the wrong girl pregnant, but also to your health, from the police and from those dodgy people who take advantage and scam unsuspecting tourists. In some countries, prostitution and sex tourism can be a large part of the tourist money that comes in and as a result, getting STDs or AIDS can be a very real possibility. And in many countries there are strict laws and punishments that come along with these businesses and many of them can also be quite sketchy. Inform yourself of these laws if you intend to participate in these activities and be careful with those you get involved in. If something doesn't feel right, it may be a scam and remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. Even sex with the girl in the dorm could be a bad idea so just be sure to be careful and always use protection. And if you are hoping to get lucky, bring some condoms just in case you aren't able to easily find them wherever you may be.
TRAVEL FIRST AID KIT
Bring a travel first aid kit with you which has at the very least some painkillers (even if they're only used for hangovers), some plasters for small cuts, some antimotility agents (anti-diarrhoea) for traveller's diarrhoea and some antihistamines in case of allergic reactions or insect bites.
EAT HEALTHY AND EXERCISE
We're about to sound like your mum again, but remember to eat your fruits and vegetables. A long trip is very different to a short holiday where you do nothing but indulge. It's important to try new things and to treat yourself but also try to keep a fairly balanced diet which gets you all the vitamins your body needs to keep your immune system strong on germ filled planes and hostels and to keep you strong for the fun things you'd like to do. You'll likely do a lot of walking so will get some exercise through that but it never hurts to find a travel work out routine (there are plenty online) to keep yourself in shape.
Always be aware of your surroundings and what's going on around you and use common sense. If something doesn't feel right, go with your gut. It's also a good idea to have a quick look on Trip Advisor or other travel forums to see what the current scams are in the areas you'll be travelling to before landing. Being informed is often the best defence against these things. But don't let it ruin your trip and don't let yourself become paranoid or you'll never relax and enjoy yourself.
Money, money, money… You need it but you don't want to carry too much on you: always a dilemma. Don't carry too much on your person. If you did end up in a dodgy situation, the less you have to lose, the better. Also remember that most countries have fairly easy access to ATMs so you should be able to get more if you need it. If you did lose all your cards in some way or your card stops working, it's good to have at least $100USD on you or a currency that will be accepted in most places you'll be travelling. Stash this cash in a few different places, hide it in your shoes, the hidden pockets in your bag, or your dirty laundry bag.
Another idea is to bring a 'dummy wallet'. Have a few cards in it that are old or that can be lost. Keep a small amount of the local currency in it so it feels real. It's also nice to have when buying a round of beers at the pub or paying cash for a meal so you don't have to draw attention to your ugly money belt. And if you do get mugged, you can calmly hand it over, knowing you won't be up the proverbial creek without any money.
If you aren't concerned about these things and decide to just travel with a normal wallet with your life in it, don't keep it in your back pocket. Pick pockets are pretty skilled at what they do and they exist everywhere in the world.
If you are travelling with any items that have worth, be sure if you ever leave them in a hotel room or hostel to lock them up or at the very least hide them. Some people also say to be wary of safes in hotel rooms that are not secure to the walls. Most of the time they'll be fine, but for the one time you stay at the wrong place, you might as well not flaunt it.
USEFUL TRAVEL APPS AND TECHNOLOGY
Having an internet ready device will save you the hassle, costs and risks of internet cafes. Whether you simply make sure your smart phone is unlocked prior to travelling or bring a laptop or tablet, it's easy these days to bring your own device and connect to wifi in hotels, hostels or even in the local McDonald's or Starbucks which can be found in most countries. This can be incredibly handy to have if you need to sort out banking or to book or check reservations or research your next stop. If you have a tablet, it can also double as a e-reader which is extra handy.
If you do bring a laptop or tablet, make sure you have things backed up and that your passwords and security is up to date. It might be worth clearing any remembered passwords for bank access, etc, in the event it was stolen. Also back up any photos or documents from your laptop to an external hard drive. If the laptop got stolen, you wouldn't permanently lose everything on it.
Also be sure to bring enough universal plugs to charge everything you need to charge. If you have a phone, tablet/laptop, and camera and you find you need to charge the phone and camera each night cause you end up using them so much, be sure to have at least two adaptors so you can charge these at the same time.
Small charging devices are pretty affordable now and it's worth bringing one of these as well. If you are using a smartphone with local sim cards to help get around or simply take that many photos and are taking long train journeys or travelling in some way where you might not have easy access to power, it's nice to be able to charge the devices a few times in your bag with these devices.
If you do bring a tablet or an e-reader, consider buying your guidebooks in e-book form so you don't have a heavy guide book or several to lug around. If you don't have this as an option, you can still avoid lugging the books around by either photocopying or ripping out only the pages you want. And then these can be disposed of as you go.
In most countries, it's fairly easy to get local SIM cards for not too expensive. Often they will have tourist cards that you can get at the airport. Try to do your research before you go and it's a handy way to keep in touch with your travel partners, have access to google maps so you don't get lost or the cabby doesn't take you for a ride and to make calls locally to book tours, transport or accommodations.
HANDY APPS ON THE ROAD
Pocket Earth – download maps for areas you need and GPS will work. You can also load maps in Google Maps when you’re in Wifi and then they’ll save until you’re out but Pocket Earth is a bit better in case you forget to do it the night before or whatever. We also found it handy when we were in taxis to check you were going the right way, etc.
Trip Advisor – We used this for everything! If you have limited time, it’s worth researching tours and stuff before you get places. Good place to find accommodations but check the balance of reviews as anyone can post anything. Also use it to check for things to look out for in areas. We would read warnings about scams and stuff before we got places and felt prepared to deal with things like the different taxi scams and that kind of stuff.
ADDITIONAL TIPS (SOME OBVIOUS)
TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES, BUT….
Don't be overly self-conscious about looking like a tourist – you are one – so take lots of photos. Don't forget to also step back, away from the camera, and enjoy the view. Take the time to actually take it all in. It's also wise to regularly clear off your camera and, if possible, to upload to some sort of cloud storage. Also when it comes to taking pictures, be respectful. If it feels like you shouldn't be photographing something, don't.
Take copies/scans of all your important documents and leave a copy with a loved one back home but also somewhere you can access digitally in the event of an emergency, like in a cloud storage. Passports, visas, travel documents, as well as health care cards/insurance documents, ID, etc, are all worth having access to.
At the very minimum, try to learn 'please', 'thank you' and 'sorry' in the local language. Locals will usually appreciate the effort, even if you don't get it quite right!
Everytime you leave a hotel room, make it a habit to do a sweep of the hotel room to make sure you've not left anything behind. Look under beds, double check the bathroom, etc. In fact, anytime you leave anywhere, always look back to make sure you haven't left anything behind. Airplanes, cafes, park benches are all good places to put something down and forget it.
WAKE UP EARLY
If you want to avoid crowds or the heat of the day, get up early and catch the morning sun. You'll not only avoid other tourists, but also often the scammers and touts that prey on them.
You may be on a budget, but it's important to treat yourself every once in a while. Splurge on a nice restaurant, go to the spa or book a nice hotel for a few nights.