Are you someone looking to travel?
Are you on a limited budget?
Are you unsure of how to get started?
Let me share with you some things that may help.
The thought of traveling is exciting, but for many people it is scary. It’s crossing the bridge (or ocean) to the unknown. You never know what to expect or how you will react to different cultures or parts of the world. So here’s a little advice.
Just do it.
There will always be a reason not to go, but there a hundred more reasons why you should. Experiencing new cultures, people, food, ideas, religions and everything else that traveling entails will expand your mind, open your heart, and inspire you in ways you didn’t even know were possible.
For me, I have never been able to stay in one place. I’ve always dreamed of the wonders that the world holds that I have yet to see (but I will). So, I finally bought my passport, bought my plane ticket and left. And I have already been to four different countries this year.
If you’re new to traveling or ready to begin, here are a few tips and tricks I have learned over this past year to help you get to where you’re going and what to do once you arrive.
Flights are expensive, especially for college students living off of a part-time paycheck and ramen noodles. SO, I have found a way to go around expensive flights. Of course it still costs a pretty penny, but there are ways to pay half the cost!
- Check International Airports first (NYC, Miami, LAX, Dallas, Atlanta). Flights are cheapest from these airports.
- Be flexible with which airport you decide to leave out of. I have found that finding a flight from a large, international airport like the ones named above + a flight to that airport is almost half the cost of buying just one flight. For example : Arkansas to Rome costs ~ $1,500 (depending on times, dates, airlines and amount of time purchased in advance etc.) Arkansas to NYC costs ~ $300 + NYC to Rome costs ~ $500 (equaling ~ $800) . That is a little over half of the cost I would pay for a direct flights to Rome, Italy.
- Shop for your flight. I cannot express enough how important it is to look at more than one site, airport, airline, date etc. One day can mean hundreds of dollars in differences. Use sites like CheapOair.com to compare dates. CheapOair has a chart that gives prices leaving a week earlier and a week later than the dates you originally entered. Maybe leaving one day earlier than expected means you just saved two hundred dollars.
Hotel vs. Hostel
Everyone has a different taste or preference in what they would like to sleep in. For solo travelers or people traveling without children, I highly recommend staying in a hostel. These can be as cheap at eight dollars per night. EIGHT DOLLARS vs. EIGHTY+ DOLLARS. How can you argue with that? If you are unfamiliar with what a hostel is, it usually means you are sleeping 8-12 people per room, (it’s not as bad as it sounds I swear) on twin-sized bunk-beds. I even slept in a hammock, outside, next to ocean once for five dollars (pictured above). They typically have activities for their guests like swimming pools, bars, dance parties etc. But, if you are there to explore, you will probably only be in the room to shower and sleep. So it’s perfect. If you are more of the hotel kind of person, that’s completely fine! There are plenty of reasonably-priced hotels for all budgets. However, you may need to transport a little further to downtown or another popular destination. Hotels are usually more pricey the closer you are to the tourist areas.
If you are anything like me, you are not very familiar with public transportation. Growing up in Arkansas, the closest thing I ever came to public transportation was riding the bus to elementary school. The best advice I can give you at the moment on transportation would be to get familiar with how the transportation works in your intended destination.
- Walking is a very common use of transportation in a lot of countries, especially in the big cities. Some people walk everywhere. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be aware of any areas you shouldn’t go. Although you may want to avoid touristic areas, you should also try to stay close to people whether it be tourists or locals. Don’t find yourself alone on a empty street at night.
- Taxis can be exciting or scary. Or both. Make sure to ask locals or research the local taxi system and if there are any taxi services you should avoid. For example: In Costa Rica, all of the certified taxi’s are red and marked with a yellow triangle – except for the orange airport taxis. Any other car posing as a taxi should be avoided for safety reasons.
- Buses have become my friend. They are cheap and usually pretty reliable depending on which country you’re in. They usually have the same routes and scheduled times so it is best for you to find out about both of those things. It may take a few minutes longer than a taxi, but if you’re on a budget then you will wait a little longer to save a few bucks.
- Trains/Subways are still an adventure I have yet to tackle. I used an underground rail-system in Rome that was managed by buying a ticket to enter, however, I didn’t get the chance to fully understand the ins and outs of it all. I did notice that it is important to know which destination you are trying to go to and what destinations come before it. They announced at every stop which destination was next, but it is best to be prepared, especially if you do not speak the language.
- Uber will be your best friend. Just be sure it is legal in the country you are using it in before you decide to call the driver.
If there is anything I wish I would have done before I went to Rome it is research what I was about to experience.
- Know the landmarks. Read what they look like, where they are found, and what their history is. There were so many incredible things in Italy that I had no idea what they were, when they were built or what their significance was. I will not make that mistake again.
- Know the norms! Be sure to find out if there are any surprising social norms before you arrive. For example: When someone greets you in Italy, it is usually followed by two ‘cheek kisses’ (this is not a literal kiss but someone who is unaware of this tradition may think so). You never know what to expect from another culture so it is important to understand how their society works before you become offended or offend someone else.
- Safety is extremely important no matter where you are. Researching your destination could help you avoid areas with high crime rate and violence.
Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for. Hell, what we are always waiting for.
- Don’t go to touristic restaurants. Don’t go to touristic restaurants. Don’t go to touristic restaurants. Well, you can, but you will definitely pay for it. Touristic restaurants are very pricey and for obvious reasons. I would recommend walking/driving/riding the extra ten minutes to a place outside of the tourist district to get a reasonably priced meal. Find out where the locals like to eat and go there. It will be in your budget and more delicious knowing you didn’t break the bank with that handmade pizza.
- Take risks. When I say take risks I don’t mean eat shellfish if you have a shellfish allergy. What I mean is, try something you had never had before. Go beyond what you are used to and do a little experimenting. Find out what the popular dish is and indulge in it. Find out who serves the best ice cream. Ask what is the best local beer. Try as many things as you can. It’s okay if you don’t like something. At least you tried it! Maybe it will even inspire your cooking style at home.
Everyone is going to have a different experience, a different perspective and maybe even a smarter or more efficient way of doing things. However, I have found the the journey is the best part of the adventure to your destination and that there is always room to learn. I am still relatively new at traveling, so it is a learn-as-I-go process as well. I am not a professional traveler (yet), so I can very much relate to the fear, anxiety and excitement of traveling. I can also relate to being completely lost in a city that I know nothing about, taking a wrong bus home and even wearing the wrong shoes as I waddle down the streets of Rome. I’m sure I will continue making these mistakes and I hope that I will be able to guide some of you with what I will learn from them.
Happy travels and I hope these tips helped!
– Jordan –