Hello guys and girls and welcome to my top 10 travel tips to consider before planning your trip. Whilst these tips are intended to be useful, they are also intended to be funny and are purely based on my personal experiences, so don't read too much into it. Please enjoy...
First thing on the list is a pretty obvious one and before you go travelling everyone always wonders how much money they actually need to bring. I would say it is pretty simple, how ever much money you think is enough, bring more! If you're not going to bring more then work whilst you are out there because trust me, no matter how much you budget you will run out! There is always the next thing you want to do, the next drink at the bar (big reason for budgets going wrong), the next thing you see in the market that takes your fancy and always someone who scams you and makes you believe you're getting a great deal, when you're really not. And of course you get those people who say you don't need a lot of money to travel, (all high as a kite...) it is possible to travel without a lot of money yes, but if you're wanting to do a lot of adventurous activities like skydiving and bungee jumping etc... the reality is they are expensive! And a lot of the time they don't allow you to bring a camera so capturing the experience on video/photo is an added cost.
This next one became a little bit of a pet hate of mine and my friends. From Brisbane to Cairns we no longer had a camper van and so we decided to use the popular Greyhound bus travel routes. There are numerous kinds of these companies who offer long bus journeys to get from A to B and in Australia they are LONG! We once had a 14 hour overnight bus journey. Picture this; cramped seats, a bus full to maximum capacity, no air con so you just sit there sweating like a pig, so much so that you start to leave an imprint on the seat... and sleep is out of the question thanks to the uncomfortable seating position and the endless drone of the engine. In short it is a nightmare from start to finish. Another example of this was in Malaysia where we had a similar distance to travel by bus. The journey was made twice as long by having to stop at every border crossing, get out, drag your stupidly heavy rucksack out into the unbearable humidity and wait in the biggest queues you have ever seen in your life, with everyone fighting for the smallest inch of space. It is honestly one of the most idiotic scenes I've ever seen, why people feel the urge to push and shove to gain literally an INCH is beyond me, yet it just seems to be in our nature. We ended up waiting in this queue for about 3 hours, meanwhile our other, very smug friend had already landed at the next destination as he had chosen to pay an extra £30 for a 1 hour flight over a 12 hour bus journey... My advice following that journey would be that if you have a little spare change, don't hesitate to spend it on a flight rather than a bus journey as it is possible to get some very cheap flights, particularly over in Asia. The one small glimmer of praise for buses in Malaysia, is that they are by far in a way the best buses I've ever been on, as they have comfy seats and lots of leg room, who knows why, when most people in that country are on average very small. I would still however, given the chance, have taken the flight over the bus as 12 hours on any form of transport is just not fun.
This is a big one! And one I will definitely be aware of next time I go travelling. If you are packing for a trip right now, turn your bag upside down, tip it all out and remove at least half of what you've packed! This may sound a bit extreme to some of you, but I promise you, whatever you think you'll wear, "oh this will look good, I definitely need these, 3 pairs of trousers or 4?" Forget it you just won't. You end up wearing the same outfit over and over again, now this may apply more to the boys, I appreciate that, but honestly especially if you're going somewhere hot, all you need is 2 pairs of shorts and a couple of T-shirts, 1 pair of trousers max! Trust me when I say that you get fed up of trying to find new clothes in the depths of that stupidly big rucksack, where it is impossible to ever find the thing you're looking for, so you always have to tip everything out. So what do you do? You end up wearing whatever is at the top of the bag, which 99% of the time is the stuff you wore yesterday, the sooner you accept that, the better. Make use of the hostel washing machines thats all I'm saying. Plus the less clothes you pack, the less weight you lug around in the blistering heat, the less sweaty and repulsive you get, the less disgusting it is when you have to sit next to someone you don't know and the more space you have in your bag to put all those new clothes you want to buy for ridiculously cheap prices, WIN WIN.
Nowadays there are so many apps out there that claim to make it easy to book hostels on your travels, namely the likes of Booking.com and Hostelworld. Honestly I used Hostelworld a lot and for the most part it was a very good app and very easy to use. The reason why these apps have become so essential is because, if you're going to your classic 'gap year' destinations, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand etc... you'll find that everyone else has had the same idea as you and it's no longer possible to just rock up at a hostel and expect them to have a room available. This is something we learnt when we tried to get a hostel in Queenstown. Now Queenstown is a pretty small place and so when we went and looked on all the apps for available space, there was no space at all! Every single hostel was fully booked, we couldn't quite believe this and just thought the whole thing was a bit stupid, but every single hostel really was fully booked, so we ended up having to buy a tent and camp for 2 weeks. Now this might not sound like such a bad thing, but some of us couldn't find anywhere that were selling cheap roll mats or sleeping bags and we simply didn't have the money to splash out on a nice RAB sleeping bag. So 2 of my fiends ended up sleeping with no sleeping bag and no roll mat for 2 weeks and it got COLD during the night in Queenstown. I on the other hand had smugly managed to find a blow up air mattress and a sleeping bag that had been thrown away, so I was pretty well off, much to the hatred of my friends.. of course I refused to share, it was not my fault that they were all incompetent. So the moral of this story is, where you can, book your hostels well in advance to guarantee yourself a bed.
Sadly this is not the main issue with apps such as Hostelworld. This tended to happen a lot more in Asia, but essentially don't believe all that you see on the app. The pictures and descriptions are often fake! This happened to us a couple of times in Thailand, most notably in Phuket, where we were under the impression that we had booked a very nice hostel near the beach. We were in fact taken into a back alley, to a building that looked like it was barely holding itself up with crumbling brick walls and corrugated iron roofs. There was no air con, much to our surprise as we had been promised 'powerful air con 24/7 in every room' that is if you could call them rooms, more like miniature cells built into the wall itself. All that separated the 2 sides of the room was a narrow corridor no wider than a metre and with 16 people in each room, that got pretty hard to move around in, get in and out of bed etc.. and the beds, well you'd have been better off on the floor lets just say that. The sight of a cockroach crawling around became a normality and waking up stuck to your mattress because of the sheer volume of sweat didn't come as a surprise. So yeah all I'm going to say is don't believe all you see and hear on the apps and prepare for the worst, you may also be pleasantly surprised... who knows.
5) Be prepared to fall out:
This one applies to anyone travelling with a group of friends, at some point you're going to fall out, spending that much time together is bound to set you off over the smallest most insignificant things. In Sydney my friend and I fell out and practically didn't talk to each other for a week. Sometimes it's good to just have space to go off and do your own thing. Another example of this is one of the most childish stories you'll hear for a while. We were in a hostel in Cairns, I was in a bit of a grump that day and one of my mates decided it would be a good idea to try and aggravate me by threatening to pour coke over my bed. Feeling in the mood for a fight I decided to challenge him and gave him the old "if you do that, you'll get it back twice as bad..." He promptly proceeded to pour coke all over my pillow. I then responded by emptying the bottle over his sheets. At this point things started to escalate... (real manly fight this.. 'oh no I won't hit you i'll just pour coke on your bed') The toothpaste was then brought out, followed by shaving foam and to top it off, our weekly supply of washing powder was emptied all over each others beds and into our bags, covering our clothes. Can I just remind you that this was two 19 year old guys genuinely getting into a heated fight... and using the likes of coke and washing powder rather than fists, manliest thing you've heard all day right. We did however make up the next day as guys always do. So be prepared to fall out, it's going to happen but the sooner you make up, the better.
6) Alcohol consumption:
Go nuts, drink as much as you want, just be prepared to deal with the stories that come the following morning. I've got a couple of examples of this and I probably can't mention all of them on here but here's a couple. So one time, (this one time, at band camp...) we were downstairs drinking in the bar, if you're ever in Airlie beach, be sure to check out the Global Backpackers hostel and bar, it's a cracking night with live music, karaoke nights and genuinely just a great atmosphere. Anyway this one night one of my friends had 1 beer too many (only 1 beer in the first place...). To start with, rather than open the gate and walk out into the street, he appeared to think it was locked and attempted to climb over it for no apparent reason, bear in mind this was around an 8 foot high gate. That same night he later ditched me and one other mate to go out by himself... blatantly chasing after a girl, anyway we didn't hear from him for the rest of the night, only to wake up and still not find him. At about 3pm the next day we hear a knock on the bedroom door, we open it to see this disheveled figure in nothing but his boxers and holding a duvet. It turns out he'd had no luck with the girl and tried to come home, but had ended up in the hostel next door, I have no idea how. He'd then been kicked out and apparently not been given time to grab his clothes so had been made to walk through the whole of Arlie beach with nothing but his boxers and a duvet. Oh it turns out he also managed to loose his phone and his wallet that night, never to be seen again. Now this seemed to become a bit of a recurring theme as this same friend managed to loose his replacement phone and wallet on another separate occasion, having to pay for this friend for the next week was not fun! He also seemed to have a weird obsession with coming back from a night out and pissing on the floor of the room... The first time he did it, we all came back and went to bed, we were not alone in our room, there were 3 others, a boy and 2 girls. About half an hour into my sleep, I'm woken up by this almighty crash and groan and look over to see that my mate has fallen out of the top bunk and crashed to the floor. He then proceeded to get up, walk over to the other side of the room where the others were sleeping and to my horror, started to piss all over the floor and the other boys bag. When I shouted at him to stop he merely looked back in a happy, confused fashion and laughed before carrying on. What was even nicer was that he left it for me and my friends to clear up, no surprise the 2 girls left the next day... and for some reason the other boy wasn't bothered by the incident in the slightest, little bit odd if you ask me... This wasn't the only time this happened either and this friend experienced many other situations, some worse than this that should not be spoken about. So if you're going to drink, be ready for the stories and mates, be sure to tell everyone about it in the morning because where's the fun if its not spread.
7) Bali Police:
Be prepared to be pulled over and fined on the spot for no apparent reason at all! If you are on a moped in Bali and find yourself the only tourist in a crowd of locals passing a police spot, you're stuffed. They will pick you out, give you the old wave signalling you to come over and proceed to make up a bunch of bullshit about something you definitely weren't doing. Sorry guys and girls but thats just the way it is, you're going to get fined. Your best hope is to surround yourself with tourists and give a sudden burst of acceleration past them and you might just be ok. As a group of 5, over the course of a week we must have been fined about 5,000,000 Rupiah, which contributed about £200 to the policeman's pocket.
On a different note, I would seriously recommend going to Bali, it's a fantastic country and we had a lot of fun, you can hire a villa on Air B&B for ridiculously low prices and the locals are all so friendly. I will definitely be going back.
If you're going travelling and thinking that you're going to stay in pretty good shape, you might want to lower your expectations... In places like Australia and New Zealand, all of the hostels come equipped with a kitchen to cook and store all of your fresh food, so it's very possible to stay healthy here. The problem however, starts when you venture into Asia, at least with all of the hostels we stayed in, there were no cooking facilities and so you'd end up spending your life in fast food restaurants, especially if you're travelling with people who have no interest in trying the local food. The amount of Doritos we went through was sickening! You could come back to our room at night to find that we had troughed through a large pack of crisps and dip like the pigs we were. It was either that or we'd see you at the local burger joint. When you are really low on money though, big shout out to 7/11 toasties, these things will save your life and we quite literally lived off them for a month in Thailand.
9) Ear Plugs:
I honestly can't recommend these enough, if you can't sleep with music in, then they are 100% worth it. I can't tell you how many times I lay awake in the early hours of the morning, listening to the oaf in the bed next door snoring the whole hostel down. Snoring for some reason is something that really really annoys me, I used to lay there thinking about how I'd punch the culprit so hard I'd knock that horrible nasal, piggy snore right back down their throat. Snoring is not the only thing you'll have to put up with listening too in hostels either... so ear plugs are a real must on my list.
10) Visiting Temples:
Finally we reach number 10 on the list. Now this one is of course down to personal preference, but based on my experiences it's like this... Every time you search the top 10 attractions to do and see in a specific place in Asia, visiting a temple comes up. By the way don't go by these lists of top 10 attractions, the best thing to do is to always ask the locals, you get a far greater experience by doing it this way. Anyway these lists always have a temple, now of course I'd recommend going and seeing 1 or 2 but stop after that, a temple is a temple... A lot of the time they are very similar and there isn't actually a lot you can do other than look, and don't get me wrong they are beautiful, but in the eyes of a young person this beauty lasts all of 5 minutes before you get bored. So in my opinion cut down on the temple visits, there are better experiences to be had, unless you're really into that thing of course.
And that concludes my Top 10 travel tips this time around, I hope you enjoyed it, please don't take anything I've said too seriously, this is purely based on my experiences and is intended as a bit of fun too, some of the more serious points though, I would definitely recommend listening too.
1) Don't go to a polo game to watch polo, no one watches it, they just drink.
2) Don't withhold a banana from a monkey in the monkey temple, they are vicious buggers and they will bite you as I found out.
3) Don't go to Bangkok during Songkran and expect to not get soaked! If driving in a Tuk Tuk and stopped at traffic lights...BEWARE!
4) Don't let Tuk Tuk drivers try and take you anywhere other than the destination you asked for, unless you want to get conned into buying a cheap suit...
5) Don't try and stroke a tiger in the tiger temple on the face, A) they're fucking massive and intimidating and B) you'll end up like Scott Baldwin...
6) If you're a big guy like myself and are riding an elephant, have some sympathy for the poor animal, what did it ever do to you...
Thats all, cheers until next time!