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17 rookie travel mistakes all travelers do

17 rookie travel mistakes all travelers do

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Even the most experienced travelers make mistakes when traveling. If you want your first big overseas trip to be memorable for the right reasons by avoiding the most common rookie travel 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

passport luggage

Most of the rookie travelers think that having a valid passport is enough for traveling 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 travelers 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 my trip as flexible as possible. The journey is unpredictable and you should leave enough buffer time.

3. Being afraid of locals

First time travelers 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 a positive approach, you’ll end up making a lot of new friends. If you want to distinguish genuine locals from scammers, check out my article about the most common scams in Southeast Asia and in Europe.

4. Connecting flights schedule mistakes

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 traveler. If you have to do this, it’s important to have proper insurance that will have your back when things go south. In six years of traveling, my go-to choice is always World Nomads.

5. The cheaper airport mistake

Big cities will have multiple airports sometimes. One of those airports will be the main one, which charges higher fees from airlines and has a bit more expensive flights compared to the ones at the other airport. However, more often than not, the main airport is better connected to the city. Never book your flight ticket depending on the flight fare only. Make sure to research all the transportation options as well. The price of 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.

airport mistakes

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 exchange the rest of your money in the city after you get to your hotel.

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 few 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.

laundry

9. Packing too many things

One of the most common rookie travel mistakes is packing too many things and ending 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. Not knowing prohibited and restricted items on a plane

When traveling to countries which have strict Islamic laws, it is important not to bring any obvious form of sex toys with you as they are considered illegal. You may end up being interrogated with the immigration office and they will most likely confiscate your item.

11. Underestimating the travel costs

dealing with long distance relationship

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. Throughout the years, I noticed that I almost always spend double than what I initially planned to spend.

12. Not calling your bank

This is one of my worst rookie travel 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.

13. 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 as 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.

14. 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.

eating when traveling

The local vendors that sell local food, on the other hand, have been preparing the local food for 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 to that, the real taste of a foreign land comes through the stomach.

15. 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 and local dishes not mentioned in these guides and 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.

16. 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 traveling for a longer time. When you’re tired, you don’t get to enjoy your trip.

bohey dulang

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.

17. 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. A lot of inexperienced travelers are hyped up when visiting a place for the first time, only to get disappointed after they visit.

Helpful travel resources for rookie travelers

Saving on flights is one of the most important things for people who travel a lot. One great way to save on flights is Air France’s Discover the World at a low price program. I warmly recommend it.

Forgetting about travel insurance is one of the worse rookie travel mistakes. Go to World Nomads for the best travel insurance deals on the market.

For great accommodation deals, use this Booking special offer and get up to 15% off on all accommodation bookings around the world.

Did you ever find yourself making some of these rookie travel mistakes? Share your experience in the comments!

common travel mistakes
rookie travel mistakes

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Atul Arya

Thursday 21st of May 2020

I had been to London in Feb this year. To explore the city in the real and cost effective way, on my last day in the city, I bought Oyster Card for travel. I paid 15 pounds to one shopkeeper, and she suggested that when I leave the city, I may get the refund of whatever money is left in it. She did not know that I was due to return the same day. So, I made a travel of approximately 4 pounds, and in the afternoon, when I was leaving the city, went to the lady and asked the refund. She told me to contact Euston station, from where I had to catch a train to Birmingham. Here I was told that the Oyster card must be used at least for 48 hours, only then the refund can be claimed. Since I was returning that very day, so I had to take the card with me as a souvenir. I hope next time when I go to London, I shall be able to use the balance amount. So it is good to read a lot about the local rules and regulations.

Passport Symphony

Friday 5th of June 2020

Thank you for sharing your experience, Atul. I'm sure a lot of readers will find it useful. Indeed, reading about local rules, regulations, and FAQs about similar cards for budget travelers are a must. A lot of travelers lose money this way by not knowing how to properly use cards and other resources that are supposed to save money. Yes, they can help you save but only if you use them properly.

Alexander Popkov

Thursday 13th of December 2018

Heh, a couple of mistakes on my side are: being a little careless about political tensions, I am Russian and was refused entry to Ukraine and sent back and another one is removing travel photos before they got copied to the remote drive

Passport Symphony

Saturday 15th of December 2018

I've been there but from the other side :) I got deported from Russia. Mistakes are okay as long as we learn from them, I suppose.

Epepa Travel Blog

Thursday 6th of December 2018

With this booking of everything, especially accommodation is true. I try not to do it, but sometimes I can not stop myself and I book a place because I can not imagine to come somewhere late and still look for a place to stay. However, I noticed that when we go without a booking we are able to find a better and cheaper accommodation.

Passport Symphony

Friday 7th of December 2018

I'm glad you realized that. Booking in advance is always more comfortable but like the article stated, most of the time, that's a more expensive alternative.

Kellee @ LifeAdventurers

Wednesday 5th of December 2018

I loved reading this list! I know many people who do these mistakes. I'm guilty of them too sometimes. I mean, after a long haul flight, I do crave familiar fast food and I'm not ashamed to admit that either. Seems to help me recover and I have a little mission to eat that particular item in all countries I can. However, after that, it's local snacks all the way. I also used to be concerned about talking with locals, just the whole don't talk to strangers thing when growing up, but actually, I've started to do that more.

Passport Symphony

Thursday 6th of December 2018

Aren't we all (guilty), Kellee? But it's important to identify these mistakes and work to improve them :)

Shreya Saha

Wednesday 5th of December 2018

I so agree with you even I did many of these mistakes. I also booked so many stuff early and got freaked with flexibility when I reached the place. I always plan to see everything when I go to a place, but gradually I learnt to be flexible and let few places go. I can always see them again next time.

Dorothy

Saturday 2nd of May 2020

Thanks for creating awareness. Iam guilty of almost all the mentioned mistakes and it can be overwhelming especially when you are connecting flight

Passport Symphony

Thursday 6th of December 2018

We all occasionally do at least some of these but it's true one will become a lot more flexible with time.

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