Even the most experienced travellers make mistakes when travelling. If you want your first big overseas trip to be memorable for the right reasons by avoiding the most common rookie mistakes all travelers do keep reading. I hope you will be able to learn from some of the mistakes I’ve done in the past.
1. Not checking the passport requirements
Most of the rookie travellers think that having a valid passport is enough for travelling abroad. Although, that is true in most of the cases, there are some exceptions. Some countries, including China and Russia, have regulations that require your passport to be valid at least 6 months after the date of your return flight. Also, there are more than 20 countries in Europe that have the same rule for 3 months. And if your passport is still valid, but expiring within this time window, you might unnecessarily complicate your trip.
2. Trying to book everything
This happens with most solo travellers that go abroad for the first time. They want to book every part of their trip: every hostel, every meal, every transfer… It sounds good in practice, but after you start your trips you see that you have to sacrifice a lot of your flexibility. I would only book the big things and make myself as flexible as possible. The journey is unpredictable and you should leave enough buffer time.
3. Being afraid of locals
First time travellers are usually easy to spot. They don’t really interact with locals, closely guarding their possessions, with suspicious faces. It’s hard to distinguish the friendly locals from the scammers. The vast majority of locals aren’t out to get you. And if you have the positive approach, you’ll end up making a lot of new friends. Read about 13 common scams in Southeast Asia.
4. Connecting flights schedule
This one can be a real nuisance. You can’t find a direct flight and you have to find a connecting flight, but there’s not enough buffer time between the two. You end up missing the flight, or sweating really hard, and almost missing the flight. The latter happened to me, despite already being a seasoned traveller.
5. Cheaper airport?
Big cities will have multiple airports sometimes. One of those airports will be the main one, that charges higher fees from airlines and has a bit more expensive flights compared to the ones at the other airport. Well, what if I tell you that the first airport is probably better connected to the city, which is the case most of the time? Never book your flight ticket depending on the flight fare only. Research the transport options as well. The price for the two can actually end up being the same. You might spend all the money that you saved on the flight ticket for paying a cab to your hotel, when you could have used the much cheaper public transport at the other airport, for example.
6. Exchanging money at the airport
I’ve seen a lot of people exchanging large amounts of money at the airport. That’s a terrible idea. Needless to say, everything including money exchange is more expensive at the airports and you’re practically getting ripped off. If you don’t have cash, try exchanging a small amount that should cover only the transportation to your hotel and withdraw from the ATM later.
7. Booking everything through a travel agent
It’s certainly not easy to plan an entire trip on your own, and it’s understandable that you want to feel safe in a foreign country by hiring a travel agent. I almost never use travel agents and that saves me a ton of money by looking after everything by myself.
8. Not planning where to do your Laundry
I know this sounds a bit odd, but trust me it’s important to plan this properly. If you’re taking a long trip or you’re backpacking through a whole region, you will need to do your laundry at least a couple of times. That’s why you should make a rough estimate and plan where and when should you do your laundry. You might end up in a hotel that doesn’t do laundry and all of your clothes are dirty. In some cities, doing your laundry can be really expensive. Even worse, you might end up having to wait a couple of days if you leave your clothes. The last one happened to me in Kolkata and that postponed my entire trip.
9. Packing too many things
Most rookie travellers pack too many things and end up not wearing most of them. You don’t need your first aid kit, three pairs of shoes, 5 pairs of pants etc. My rule of thumb regarding this is:
Always take ½ of the clothes you think you need and x2 of the money you think you need. And that brings me to my next point:
10. Underestimating the travel costs
Keep this in your mind: everything is going to cost more than you think it will. Starting from the flight tickets and their added costs, through commuting within the cities to the few extra beers you had that night in the bar. I noticed that I almost always spend double than what I initially planned to spend.
11. Not calling your bank
This is one of my worst rookie mistakes. When you go abroad and you don’t tell your bank, they might end up blocking your card because they find it peculiar that the transactions are coming from the other side of the world. That’s what happened to me in Cambodia. My luggage was exceeding the weight limit and I had to pay around $15 extra. My card got blocked at that exact time and I ended up missing the flight because well, I wasn’t willing to leave my stuff in Cambodia. Which leads me to:
12. Buying too many souvenirs
I know you want to buy something for your family friends and relatives, especially if it’s your first time abroad. But this increases the weight of your luggage and decreases your mobility. It can also cause you unwanted nuisances like I mentioned in the previous point. Plus, if you’re trying to cram too many things in your luggage some of them might break during the trip.
13. Eating the food that you’re used to
Most rookies are afraid of getting food poisoning so they eat the things that they eat at home, like pizzas, burgers or pasta. There are two reasons not to do this. The first one is that if this country has an exotic cuisine, burgers and pizzas aren’t part of their culture. Therefore, they are not used to making them, people don’t eat them that much, and the ingredients which they are using might not be fresh.
The local vendors that sell local food, on the other hand, have been preparing the local food with ages. They know how to do that and the ingredients will be fresh most of the time. So, it’s actually more likely to get a food poisoning from a local restaurant that’s making western dishes than a local restaurant. To add on that, the real taste of a foreign land comes through the stomach.
14. Sticking to the guidebook too much
Don’t get me wrong, the guidebook can be helpful at times. But, the fact that the guidebook is filled with all the tourist spots, doesn’t mean that you will have the complete experience. There are so many amazing places filled with locals instead of tourists, so many amazing local dishes which aren’t mentioned there… You shouldn’t visit a country just to see its landmarks. Go out, speak with the locals, eat local food and get an idea of how things work over there. You’ll be surprised how much you can actually learn just by doing those things.
15. Trying to see everything
I know, it’s your first time visiting this country. Maybe you will never get the chance to visit again in your lifetime, so it’s normal that you want to see everything. Even if you think you’re fit and can walk all day and cover everything, this is slowly exhausting you. And that’s awful if you’re travelling for a longer time. And, when you’re tired, you don’t get to enjoy your trip. I know you won’t admit that even I was doing that as a rookie. But that’s true.
Instead of trying to see everything in a couple of days, slow down and get to know the country. This will increase your desire for a lifetime of similar adventures.
16. Hyping things up too much
There are some amazing photoshopped pictures online. These pictures can give you an unreal image of a place and boost your expectations to a level that’s too high. And only after visiting that place you realize that the place doesn’t really look like the pictures and you get disappointed. And a lot of inexperienced travellers are hyped up when visiting a place for the first time, only to get disappointed after they visit.