•October 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment
The trick with traveling independently is quite simple – light luggage. Keep your gear down to a carry on size and not more than 10kg (22lbs) and suddenly you have the freedom to walk away from the over charging taxi driver, the ability to take the bus not the hire car, to walk 3 or 4 flights of stairs in a budget hotel.
Independent travel is all about freedom – so why do so many people wander the world with over-sized bags – even the backpackers bury themselves under 70litre packs – and there is no way you need that much stuff! If you want to shop – leave it to the end and buy another bag to put it all in.
Photo:nhanusek via flickr.com
I think over packing is basically a symptom of fear and uncertainty - certainly some people’s need to be ready for any medical emergency is a direct reflection of this – and the profit margin.
A minimum of clothes means that you will dress basically the same everyday but so what? It seems a better option than carrying a week’s worth of dirty washing around the sights of Europe surely? The downside – well you do end up having to do a bit of hand washing every night and I do carry a pegless travel clothesline with me.
•October 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment
Yesterday I talked about independent travel and its advantages of it. But where do you start? Guide books? Internet? Today we really have information overload, the trick is finding the useful stuff.
First off ever since Thomas Cook put out his his first guidebook along with inventing the package tourism industry – based on trains in his day – guide books have created the tourist ghettos we love to hate these days. Lonely Planet says Koh Phi Phi is the most beautiful, undiscovered beach in all of Thailand – guess what – yup Koh Phi Phi is trashed with far too many visitors and little infra structure to support them (I mean rubbish collect and sewerage – not 5 star hotels).
Ko Phi Phi, Thailand Photo: Shadow or Light via flickr.com
But guidebooks take a long time to get to market – probably nearly 2 years from research to publishing. And in that time a lot changes – often its a matter of doing the opposite – Phi Phi is trashed – head on out – the locals have probably tied up as the tourists started staying away – now you have a nice place and fewer visitors!
I town is written up as not worth stopping at – stop there – you will probably be surprised. Also recognize the writers bias – if the writer is obsessed with nature and hates cities -and you’re the opposite the guide is probably not going to help very much
Independent travel is about taking the best from guidebooks and overlooking the rest. Guidebooks are useful – for high level initial trip planning – but not for the details – for the stuff like where am I going to stay – well that is best made up on the spot when you can actually see the room you are considering renting!
•October 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment
Sorry – its been a while since I posted – I will try harder. The trouble with travel is that sometimes I am planning or doing a trip and I am really into talking and writing about travel – and sometimes – well I am stuck working and I really don’t want to know about my favourite drug that I have withdrawal symptoms from !
Donkey Cars waiting for tourists, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Anyway this is the start of several posts – which I’m sub-titling – independent travel. You know the type you do without booking it all with your agent before you leave home. Don’t get me wrong – I do do tours: I like hop-on-hop-off type tours for orientation in a large city I don’t know. I like tours on boats so I can dive or snorkel. I will sometimes engage a guide in a place like Angkor Wat so we can go where we want and get the low down and the transport provided.
I’m not anti-tour – but I AM anti the herd mentality of some tourists – it used to parodied as – “oh its Wednesday it must be Rome” but be restricted to older people who could afford package tours.
But more and more in countries like Thailand and Asia – I see the local entrepreneurs putting on “special tourist” buses which might even be cheaper than the already insanely cheap local buses – so that they can make money on the hotels, food and tours along the way. And then the tourists can’t work out why the country is so in your face sell, sell, sell. In fact in Vietnam it was the oder tourists who were travelling independently – and the backpackers who were quite literally being herded from one hostel ghetto to the next – just because they didn’t have the initiative to get off the Lonely Planet trail and do some real travelling.
So what does being an independent tourist involve. Well call me simple – but involves being informed and thinking for yourself. If the guidebooks says XYZ is the THE place to stay – you can be guranteed that it is over run with tourist hoards, over priced and poor value for money by the time you see the book, because of the thousands who have already acted on that very recommendation.
I often get off a bus and go with a hotel tout in Asia – the best ones are when they are working directly for the hotel – often the only thing wrong with the hotel is that its new or for some reason got missed from the guidebook. This generally means you pay the same or less than the popular place, but get a much cleaner, quieter and generally more pleasant stay.
•October 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment
I recently wrote about saving money on a long trip but one of the most important things to do is to avoid taking too much stuff with you. The lighter you can travel the more money you will save – let me explain!
If you take a large case – you won’t want to carry it far. I don’t care if its the latest beautifully designed backpack or roll-along – if thing weights 20kg – you will take a cab -guaranteed. You will find it hard to get it on and off public transport – thru turnstiles and in general it will be a pain the back and the arm. In Vietnam the standard transfer is by scooter – you on the back the bag between the driver’s legs – would your luggage fit on a scooter with a tiny 40kg diver? If not downsize.
Everyone over packs on their first trip – I remember seriously considering a ball dress on my first trip – seriously Fortunately a more experienced friend talked me out of that. I do generally carry a dres up out fit though – just because I am staying at hostel or cheap hotel doesn’t mean that I don’t want to go to a local ball or casino – Seriously!
So what size bag should you take? I say 25-30 litres – carry on size. I used to carry on my bag – but can’t anymore because of liquid restriction. In addition I have a fold away day bag – which I now carry on – and a small purse which will carry my camera and guide book. I have travelled for up to 6 months at a time and yes my clothing takes a battering, falls to pieces and I get bored with wearing the same thing every day – but its not hard to do – and the benefits are enormous.
Its so quick to get out of a hotel room when you don’t have much stuff to pack. Its so easy to keep a bag safe when you carry it on board th bus not have to check it. Its easier to deal with taxis when you can take your bag with you, inside the cab not have it in the boot.Save your back and and save money on your next trip – and take very little with you!
•September 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Its the time of the year in Australia where many of the travel companies start with their advertising for cheap airfares and other deals for backpackers on their way to Europe for a gap year . Ignoring the information on student work visas though – most of it will suit the older traveller who is looking for a good deal.
Getting a cheap airfare deal in the early part of the year should be easy - Europeans are leaving for the southern hemisphere in droves to avoid their winter. So the plans fly 1/2 empty on the way back to Europe – and those are the cheap tickets.
Youth hostels no longer have age restrictions – except in southern Germany so yes you can stay in the them and yes they will save you an enormous amount of money particularly in Western Europe and the UK.
Hiring a car gets cheaper with age – thank goodness – its still not cheap but long term leasing arrangements in Europe can be a good deal if you are a small group. Its also a lot less time wasting than buying and selling a vehicle.
The best way though to save money on a long trip is to travel more slowly. Fast travel eats your cash – well fast! Slow down – take slower forms of transport – walk or cycle – and you will not only see more of the country but you will save a huge amount of money. Short-term, traditional tourists pay a lot for convenience because time is money for them. But if you are travelling for a long time than fast travel will burn you out – and and burn your budget.
Slow down – the more closely to living as a local you can manage the cheaper it will be. Many locals in Asia eat at the street stalls rather than cooking at home – that’s why they are so cheap. If you leave the air-conditioned, English-menu tourist restaraunts and join the locals you will find great food, ambience and very cheap prices!
Take a local bus or train rather than a hire car and experience life at the ground level. The only thing you lose by saving money on long-term travel is time – but that’s the whole point isn’t it?