Holidays. Yay. Finally a break from studies, a break from work and a break from all the life’s responsibilities.
Then, out of the blue, something goes wrong and your holiday gets ruined.
If there is one thing in common throughout all my trips, it’s that things are going to go wrong, and it’s always when you least expected it to. However, the second thing I have learned from my experiences, is that you can always try to avoid and minimise the chance for the misfortunes to happen.
Before you go
Plan. You don’t necessary have to know exactly where you are staying at and what you want to do, however at least research on how to get from place to place, which route to take, where to get tickets and approximately how much they are. There are often many options for transport so look into one that will suit you the most. Look into its route, travel times, cost and when you should book (if booking is required) to avoid missing out on bus tickets and train seats when they get full.
Planning can also save you time and effort on your trips, especially in countries where there may be cultural and language barriers.
Check, and double check. Ensure you have all your travel documents, that you meet visa requirements of your destination and your passport is up to date (has at least 6 months validity from the date of your return). If your country provides a traveller registration service, use it so that the government can contact you should a crisis or emergency arise.
Most airlines has online check-in facilities so find out when you can start to check-in and try to take your first opportunity to do so. Although for an international flight you would still need to line up and get your documents checked and check in your bags, it means that you at least has the seats booked in and you can join the *usually* shorter ‘Bag Drop’ queue.
Packing light not only make your trips easier, it is actually a way to reduce the impact from things going wrong. My advice is to pack only what you really need (and not what you think you’ll need) and avoid bringing valuable items.
What I do when I travel is that I pack old things, such as clothing that was probably going to be donated anyway. I leave my ‘high-tech’ mobile phone at home and bring an old one that no one will think twice about stealing, and leave all the unnecessary credit cards and jewellery at home.
And I know this sounds paranoid, but I also wear a plain and less expensive ring instead of my ‘real’ wedding ring. Things often go wrong when you try to draw too much attention to yourself.
Getting there, getting around
Another reason why packing light helps is that you won’t have so much to carry on you when you are on the road. You are the most vulnerable when you are struggling with big heavy suitcases that you would need to lug up and down the stairs and struggle across uneven surfaces when crossing roads. I prefer backpacks as luggage instead of suitcases because it leaves my two hands free and allowing better body movement.
Don’t show me the money
That’s the thing. Most of us are nice people, but somehow when money is involved, it turns some of us into cunning, money hungry beasts. It’s like that when locals see tourists coming, especially tourists that look like they have a stash to spend.
So, when I travel, I bring absolute minimum cash on myself so that if I do lose this money, it’s not all that I own. Avoid large notes, and carry around bunches of smaller denominations. This way, you can always give close to exact change, and not have to ‘show off’ a large sum of money to those around you.
I also have a ‘travel’ wallet. It’s a simple zip purse with a wrist band without the fancy zips and pockets. I have it around my wrist when I am out and about, with only the money I need for the day and grip it in my hands.
Yes, the fact that I have money in my hands is ‘out in the open’ but I have my logic behind this method – it is easier for someone to slit a hole in your bag to steal its contents and it is easier for a drive-by burglar to grab your shoulder bags and run; but it is a lot harder to grab something out of my hands and take off with it without having to undo it from my wrists as well.
As for that stomach bug…
Bali Belly, Delhi Belly – call it whatever belly you want, it’s always that stomach bug that keeps you in bed when you should be out there sightseeing and enjoying the holiday.
Well, we have a prevention for that too. It’s nothing fancy, and in fact, it’s one of those successful oh-so-bad-for-you American export that we all love to hate – the Coca Cola.
It is our secret weapon to avoid that stomach bug when we really want to try out some local flavours.
You shouldn’t be surprised. Coca-cola has been known for being best cleaning product capable of dissolving coins. So it’s no surprise that drinking it while eating does actually kill the bugs and line your stomach full of chemicals that germs can’t penetrate!
Another one of our advice is that you should always try to eat locally. In a way, it is actually safer than eating Westernised food, when you are in countries around South East Asia or South America, for example.
Once again, there’s method behind this madness. While we do get a little suspicious of many ‘local’ foods, think about the fact that their people are also human, and if they eat the same food, why should it stop you from giving it a go?
Another thing is that Western styled food is often half cooked, in the sense that we generally like salads, and hate a well-done steak (because, it would then taste tough, and lose its juiciness). However, that’s where all the bacteria are harvested, in semi cooked food. Generally in the Western society, it is ok because we have strict food standards that most restaurants have to adhere to, but in areas where meat may have been left out doors for long hours, it is always the local practice to cook everything thoroughly through.
If you have ever eaten fried chicken with rice in the back alleyways of any South East Asian country, you’ll know what I mean. The chicken is often fried to almost burnt! (Although funnily enough, still taste so much better than KCF)
Soups are good choices too. The concept of making a good soup, especially in Asian countries, is to simmer the content for hours and hours. The idea is to ensure that the flavours of each of the ingredients are immersed into the soup, but the effect is that it is also the best way to get rid of the germs and bacteria that may be present.
What are some of your advices for me and fellow travellers on how to avoid things from going wrong? Care to share?