Travel Tips

World Travel Blog

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Here are some travel tips which I have learned during my travels. I show the main ones straight away and then go into greater detail further on.

Most Important:

  • Go -  you will definitely enjoy it and learn from it

  • Smile and be polite always.  (though women should be cautious about smiling in some countries)

  • Drink a lot of liquids, particularly water.

  • Do as the locals do.

  • Travel light.

  • Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs.

  • Take care of your health. Have full Health Insurance

  • Have savings and have your finances organised - with internet access to accounts and ATM/credit cards

  • Check entry requirements for anywhere you want to go - visas etc.

 Some other important points:

  • Guard your passport and credit card with your life. Keep photocopies, scan them and store them electronically. Remember the numbers and the expiry date.

  • Be patient. Be assertive and confident, without being arrogant. Make eye contact with people but do not stare. Women may be better off  avoid eye contact in some regions.

  • Learn a little of the local language -hello, please and thank you, if nothing else.

  • For water, better not to drink from tap in many countries, though it is fine to do in many too. Drink bottled (check the seal) or carry some sort of purification system with you. Drink little or no alcohol, particularly during the day.

  • Always have a towel and sarong with you. Latter particularly multi-functional - to keep warm, as a blanket, as a towel, a pillow, for lying on the beach, for wrapping things in etc. A scarf can be multi-functional too.

  • Dress modestly. In general, wear long trousers or skirts and long sleeved shirts.

  • Arrive at unfamiliar airports, bus stations, trains stations well ahead of departure. Some can be enormous and it can take time to find your plane, bus or train. The earlier you get to a station, often the better seat you will get. On buses, I recommend sitting as far to the front as possible. On all forms of transport in warm countries, try to figure out where sun will be for most of your journey and sit on opposite side.

  • Try to depart and particularly arrive in daylight. Try not to arrive late in the evening. Try to arrive before 20.00 anywhere. Be aware that transport scheduled to arrive late in the evening can be delayed and if this happens, you may arrive in a strange city after midnight with no public transport available.

  • Try not to travel at weekends, particularly Friday afternoon and evening and Sunday afternoon and evening.  Saturday all day and Sunday morning can be good times to travel though.

  • Local public transport services can often have a much reduced or no service after about 19.00-20.00. Also, there can be a much reduced service at weekends, particularly on Sunday.

  • Wash (and dry) yourself frequently and thoroughly. Keep hair short.

  • Assume nothing. Check.

  • Expect to be surprised or even shocked by what you see outside of your home country. Remember that people can be surprised or shocked by your behaviour, even though you think it is completely normal or acceptable.

  • If somebody is armed, legally or illegally, do what they tell you to do. Ask questions afterwards. Possibly protest but do what they say.

  • As a driver, cyclist or pedestrian, you should obey the rules of the road (of the country you are in) but do not expect others to obey them. In fact, in many countries, you will be a lot safer by assuming that people will completely disregard the rules of the road. Always look all around you and be particularly aware of lunatic motorcyclists and even cyclists. Don't assume you will be safe on the footpath or anywhere for that matter.

  • Obey the laws of the country you are in. You cannot know them all but your guidebook will highlight important differences eg beer drinking being forbidden.

  • Be flexible in your plans, leave yourself time, expect delays. Remember Murphy's Law and its variants. Remember also that the Spanish have a question: How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

  • Swim where locals are swimming, Dive cautiously where they are diving.

  • Try not to rush around trying to see everything.

  • In general, if you are not a white, European or North American looking male, do not be surprised if you are not treated with the fullest of respect in many places. This may be wrong but that is the way it can tend to be, in my experience. It also helps if you are married (women can be better off wearing a wedding ring, real or fake) and have children.


These are the most important though perhaps the most important advice is that printed in large friendly letters on the front cover of the Hitchhiker�s Guide to the Galaxy:

Don't Panic!

Some of these tips I have learned from my Guidebooks (mainly Lonely Planet, Footprint, Guide du Routard, Guide Michelin Vert). Some I have learned myself, sometimes but not often, the hard way. I sometimes forget them myself and sometimes don't heed, even if I do remember them, so it is useful to write them down. If anybody has any others, please add them in a comment. Some of them may not apply if you are going for two weeks in Benidorm. Some may seem strange, even very strange or extreme, if you do not travel much. However, the less developed and stable the region you are visiting, the further off the beaten track and the longer you are going for, the more relevant some or all of them may be. What is great about travelling is what is normal in one country or region is not at all normal in another. I love where I live in Dublin but if everywhere was like that, the world would be very boring.

I sometimes get alarmed when I read things like these but in all my travels, I have rarely heard of any of my fellow travellers being the subject of major harm. The worst I have heard is one guy who had a gun pulled on him and his camera robbed. Anything worse is very rare, except in the most dangerous places like Iraq, Afghanistan, parts of Colombia etc. You can expect to get sick, to be robbed of a mobile phone or whatever, to get lost etc. None of these are that serious though at the time you may not think so. Malaria is probably the most serious risk to your health that you are liable to be exposed in normal travelling and you should be careful not to catch it and have it dealt with, quickly, if caught.

Nothing is without risk and all you can do is know the risk, and try to avoid or to minimise it. There is a lot of detail in what is beneath but if you are going to be travelling for some months, it is worth it to think about these things. It sounds like a lot of hard work but they should all be things you have at the back of your mind and do as naturally and effortlessly as breathing - well perhaps not quite but you get the idea.


  • Your health is the most important thing. No matter how rich you are, you will not be able to travel or will not enjoy it, if you are not healthy.

  • That is why, I highlight the need to have full health insurance. How much you pay and how much cover you get will probably depend on your country of origin and country of destination. Contact health insurers in your country of origin.

  • Remember, if you are an EU citizen travelling within the EU, you should apply for, and keep on you at all times, a European Health Insurance Card. This applies in a few other European countries too e.g. Switzerland. See here. This site is not very good but provides basic info and links to sites in all Member States. In Ireland, it is

  • In warm countries, keep out of direct sunlight some or all of the time. Always wear a hat, sunglasses, suncream. Absolutely essential by the sea, in the desert, at altitude and in snow. Keep sunbathing in swimsuit to a minimum. Little or no alcohol in the sun but drink even more water. Lightweight, lightcoloured cotton clothes - light full length clothes can be much better than t-shirt and shorts. See below for further clothing tips. Also maybe take off sunglasses when talking to people.

  • Detailed health advice should be in your guidebook. Read and understand it carefully.

  • Apart from what I have written elsewhere in this entry, I underline that you should keep yourself covered to protect from sun, mosquitoes, cuts, unwanted admirers and any other pests.

  • Malaria is another obvious risk in many places. Your guidebooks will have advice for where you are going. I feel prevention is the best cure and apart from what your guidebook says, I underline the advisability and the simplicity of keeping yourself covered - as little bare skin as possible. Also, if there is a fan in your room, keep it on. Apparently, mosquitoes do not like the breeze it creates.

  • You will probably get diarrhoea during your travels. Apart from anything else, your body is being exposed to germs and organisms that may not exist in your country. Let it run if you will pardon the pun - the body is trying to get rid of whatever caused it. If it has not stopped after two days, or if there is any blood, seek medical advice. Rehydrate.

  • If you are a blood donor, have your donor card which shows your blood type with you always. If it is your choice, you should also carry an organ donor card with you always.

  • Be extremely carefully about who you exchange any bodily fluids whatsoever with. I can never be 100 percent sure but I like to try and be at least 90% if not 95% sure.

  • To cope with altitude, try to go up and down gradually. Acclimatise gradually - no heavy exertion on first day at altitude but do walk around. Try to sleep at a lower altitude than the highest altitude reached that day. Increase liquid intake but reduce or avoid alcohol consumption. If you are feeling the effects, go down immediately.

  • I recommend having a small first aid kit with you. I also recommend that you do a basic first aid course or more advanced if you want. However, do not play the hero. Call for professional medical help, if need be. You may do more harm than good if you try helping somebody beyond the limits of your (probably basic) knowledge. As well as this, you may be sued by somebody if you do  them harm in this case.

    General points

    Take only photographs, leave only footprints. This means you should have no environmental impact on your travel destination. You should leave it exactly as you found it. Throw no litter. Leave those lovely flowers, seashells, animals etc. where they are. Do not feed the monkeys or any other animal, no matter how cute. In my view, you should think twice before renting and using SUV's and things like Quadbikes, motorbikes, jetskis etc, While they can be great fun, it is worthwhile thinking about their environmental impact, particularly if thousands of tourists using them. I have doubts about white water rafting also from this point of view.

    Guard your passport and credit card with your life. Keep photocopies, scan them and store them electronically. Remember the numbers and the expiry date. Make sure passport is valid. Many countries require at least six months� validity left after your proposed date of departure from that country. Make sure you know the up to date visa requirements for the country you intend to visit. The amount of time you are allowed stay in a country varies so make sure what you have been granted. Procedures for extensions vary so again make sure you know the up to date requirements. The only reliable source is the country�s embassy or immigration office - do not rely completely on what you read in the guidebooks, on the Internet (other than official sites) or what your hear in the pub.

  • Remember too that if you want to work in any country outside your own, you may need a work visa/permit. Some countries can take this very seriously and you could find yourself in a lot of trouble if caught working without the required documentation.

  • As much as possible, never let your passport out of your sight. Never give it to anybody who claims to be an official unless you are in a border post, a police station or official building. If the latter, there should be a flag, a permanent looking official name on the building (not something like Tourist Passport Control on a bit of A4 Paper), often a picture of the King, President, whatever on the wall. Possibly lots of people sitting around looking bored and doing not very much. If asked for it on the street even by somebody in uniform, give them a photocopy and if they insist, show them but do not give them your passport. Insist on going to a police station on foot or in a marked police car.Â

  • Remember that in most countries, it is obligatory to carry officially issued photo ID with you at all times. If you do not have it, you can get into trouble. Irish and UK citizens have a problem as the only satisfactory ID we have are our passports. For citizens of most countries, official ID card will do so there is no need to carry your passport with you. At the very least, have a photocopy of your ID or passport with you always.

  • Irish Passports have a page to be filled in with the contact details of someone to contact in case of emergency and also a space for your blood group and organ donation wishes. I am not sure about Passports for other countries but if they are there, you should fill in all these details.

  • Try to look as conventional as possible at passport control and custom control. Be even more polite and respectful. These guys have the ability to make life very awkward for you if they take a dislike to you for whatever reason, so do not give them any reason. Take off your sunglasses, hat etc.  Do not attempt to take photos. One thing they are looking for is evidence of sufficient funds so try not to look too poor and downbeat. Many countries tend to insist that you have a ticket out of the country.

    You may have a valid passport and other documents such as visa but that does not automatically mean you can get into the country. If refused, you may have the right of appeal but the process could take some time.

    In some countries, you may find it difficult to get in if you have a stamp or visa for another country. For example, some Arab countries and Iran will not let you in if you have an Israeli stamp. If entering the United States, I would expect a tough time if I had a Cuban or Iranian stamp in my passport.

    Border officials are also in general not renowned for their sense of humour so do not make any jokes of the like 'My name is Osama Bin Laden' or 'Only some AK-47's' when asked what is in your luggage.

    Be very prudent if you want to take photos at a border post or anywhere near a border. Some, perhaps many, countries take a very dim view of this and may start shooting back and I don't mean photos. This would be very rare but you could get yourself in a lot of trouble.

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to go through passport control and customs. Do not presume it will take 5 minutes and have onward transportation booked on that basis.

  • If you are entitled to one, get a Passport of a developed country (OECD Member).Â

 Best to have a Passport, if you are entitled to one, of a small, developed country that nobody hates - Ireland being a perfect example.     Irish citizens are entitled to one. To be a citizen of Ireland, certain complicated criteria must apply but many people other than those living in the island of Ireland, are entitled to Irish citizenship, particularly many people living in the UK and the US - if one or more of their parents or even grandparents was an Irish Citizen. See


  • By the way, if you intend to visit Ireland, please remember that you may need a visa. Note also that Ireland (and the UK) are not in the Schengen area so even if you have a visa for the Schengen area, this is not valid for Ireland or the UK. You may need a separate visa for each of these countries.


  • Travel light. Essentials are passport and credit card and other bank card. Some clothes but not many. A light raincoat and jacket always. Swiss army knife very useful, though not in cabin baggage obviously. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes. Sandals and flip-flops useful. Wetwipes and a roll of toilet paper. Dental floss can be used as string. Light cotton clothes which you can wear in layers. Jeans too heavy and slow to dry after washing or after rain. In cold, good ski jacket with wind protection, a good scarf, a woollen hat and gloves. Thick socks. A small first aid kit. Whatever medicine you feel you need.

  • You may want to take a netbook, tablet and/or smartphone with you. I bring tablet and smartphone now. Very useful. I turn off data roaming on smartphone to avoid huge bills and use free wifi where available - most places I stay in have it and lots of cafes, pubs, restaurants have it too, particularly in touristy/backpacker areas. In Ireland now, nearly all buses and trains have free wifi and this is becoming the case in other places too. Some airlines now offer wifi - sometimes at a charge, sometimes free.

  • Be suspicious but not paranoid. At times, you just have to trust people and rely on your judgement. Be aware of your surroundings and who is around. Try to always keep bag(s) with valuables close to you, in sight and with at least one strap around your arm or hand. Do not carry much cash but always have some local currency and some US dollars in cash. Keep some US dollars separately. The best way to get money now is to have an internationally accepted ATM card (more than one). You can use this as you do at home. Before departure, check with your bank that your card will work worldwide and if not, ask for one that does. Safer and a lot less hassle than travellers cheques and the best exchange rates too. Do not let your credit card out of sight. I recommend not using it to pay in restaurants and particularly not in pubs and nightclubs etc.

  • When asking prices, check that it is the price in local currency. Some places in some countries often quote prices in US dollars (or euros) so check.

  • If travelling alone, be very careful who you say that too. If it is your first time out of your home country, or first time in a country or big city, also be very careful who you say that to. I am surprised by the number of people on this site that make it very clear that they will be travelling alone, travelling abroad for the first time etc. Always say you have friends in the place you are in or are expecting them to arrive tomorrow, for example.

  • Do not tell people where you are staying- name of hotel. It can be helpful to pretend to have a partner, boyfriend, girlfriend; husband who has been delayed but will join you soon. You may want to wear a wedding ring (a fake one, if needed). If you want,show a picture of a Arnie lookalike as your boyfriend to discourage unwanted admirers. Mention that he is a black belt Karate expert. In fact, mention casually in the conversation that you yourself are are a Karate expert, even if you are not.

  • As I said, do not be paranoid but be careful. In my experience, most people are friendly and helpful. Sometimes maybe just a little too curious. People's attitude to you often depends on your attitude to them. If you are open, friendly and confident in your attitude, people will in general react well.

    Remember though that a paranoid is just someone who is in full possession of the facts.

  • Carry a mobile phone with you always. . Text home everyday and let them know your plans. In many cases, even though you may not be able to make ordinary calls because your home provider does not have an agreement with the country you are in, you may well be able to make an emergency call. If you are staying long in any region or country, it can be worthwhile to buy a SIM card or even a cheap phone with SIM card for that country. You will need a SIM free phone. If your phone is locked to your operator, you should be able to find someone in the local market, internet cafe who will unlock it for a fee.

  • I actually now very strongly recommend a smartphone. You can get them for about 100-150 euro and if travelling for a long time particularly, I think it can be a false economy not to have one. If meeting members of Travbuddy and Couchsurfing, a smartphone with WhatsApp and Viber is a godsend both for you and eg your CS host.

  • If you feel insecure in any situation, take out your mobile phone and tell people you are ringing the police, your friends who are around the corner, your hotel, your embassy or whatever and try to do so. Even if you do know who to call or what the number is, pretend to be calling them.

  • If going for a hike in the mountains, let somebody know where you are going and what time you expect to be back at.

  • Carry photos of your country and your family and friends with you. Show them to people. Carry some coins from your country but do not show bank notes.

  • If arranging to meet someone you do not know or do not know well, arrange to meet in a public place with lots of people around, preferably in daylight or if not in a well lit place. I like to meet in the lobby of a big busy well known hotel. If invited to go somewhere else, back to someone's house for example, be sure you are comfortable with this. Let somebody know where you are going. Find out the address and text it home. Ask if you can bring a friend, even if you don't intend to. This should not be a problem.

  • It can get very lonely when travelling on your own for a long time but that does not mean you should not be cautious about who you befriend. Ask people you meet about their family and friends. Ask to see photos of these, if you want. Ask their names. Ask what the person does, where they live, what do they do, what are their hobbies. Be casual about it - don't make it like an interrogation. However, most of the answers should come straight out without hesitation. Be sensitive though - some people do not have any family for example, but they should have friends. Be prepared to answer their questions too.

  • If you are becoming friendly, you will probably want to take a photograph of each other. While some, if not most, people can be camera shy, if somebody really does not let you take a photograph of them in this situation, be very suspicious and find another friend.

  • Maybe exchange Facebook or Couchsurfing profile details with each other and become 'friends'.

If you are interested, keep in regular contact on that site or other social media sites.

  • Show them some photo ID, though probably not your passport, if you want, and laugh at your photo and see if they produce photo ID so that you can laugh at their photo. It should be their photo and the name should match the name they have given you. I  have  heard of a girl who met somebody very charmng in Spain who called himself Jose and claimed to be Spanish. His name was not Jose and he was not Spanish. You can guess the rest.

  • A lot, if not most travellers, are keeping some kind of blog. Give them the address of yours and they should give you theirs. Go and have a look at it if you can before you meet them again and see what you think. Of course, the blog could be a complete invention, but if it rings true, it probably is true.

  • Do not carry anything for a friend through airport security, customs, across borders etc unless you are absolutely sure about that friend and about what you are carrying. Alarm bells should go off in your head if somebody you have met casually asks you to do this, no matter how friendly or nice they may seem. I would possibly be inclined to report any such request to the police or official authorities. Though, in some countries, it may be best to avoid any contact with such authorities.


  • If you feel uncomfortable with someone or a situation, do not hesitate to make a scene, lots of noise and attract attention from people. Tell somebody loudly to go away. If somewhere there is nobody around, go (or at least try to go) somewhere busier. If possible, go into a cafe, restaurant or hotel. It is unlikely you will be seriously bothered in such a place. Call the police or get somebody to call the police, if need be.

  • Do not organise, and certainly do not pay, for an excursion with someone on the street. Try to go to the office, there should be one. Documentation in relation to the tour should have an address on it and a landline telephone number, not just a mobile phone number. Get a receipt for any payment made. This should indicate clearly and fully what the excursion involves.

  • Always have a book and MP3 player/smartphone with you. Delays are going to happen. However, remember that all these can isolate you from your surroundings and from people. They also attract thieves. That iPad your uncle bought you represents a month's wages in many countries.

  • Books, MP3 players are also good to bury yourself in to escape the attention of persistent salesmen, beggars, unwanted admirers etc.

  • Wash yourself often, plenty of showers. In warm countries, take two or three showers a day at least. Wash clothes often. If you do not want or cannot do it yourself, ask the place you are staying in can they do it. Most do at varying prices - but is usually not that dear. Otherwise, there is usually a laundry around where you can do it yourself or have it done for you.

  • Public toilets can be in short supply. Good places to go are McDonald's (God bless them), hotels or pubs and cafes. Walk in confidently and look as if you know where you are going. The toilets are usually down to the right, otherwise they are down to the left. It is polite though to consume something, however cheap or small, if you do use the toilets. If you don't feel like doing so at the time, go back later and have a drink or meal there.

  • Swim where the locals swim. Dive where the locals dive but be very careful. Be aware of local currents and riptides. Do not swim far out from the shoreline, once the water is deep enough, you can swim parallel to the shore. If caught in a strong current or riptide, do not attempt to swim against it. No matter how strong a swimmer you are, you will just exhaust yourself. Try to swim across it or let it take you to somewhere safe or from you can just float and call for help. Do not swim if a red flag is flying. Obey lifeguards. Do not dive unless you are perfectly sure what you are diving into, be aware of outgoing tides, hidden rocks, sharks or whatever. Do not swim if nobody is around. Do not swim if nobody else is swimming - at least ask locally what the conditions are. I have been on fabulous beaches in Queensland with fantastic weather but nobody was swimming. This is because there were sharks, crocodiles and perhaps most dangerous of all, deadly or at least horribly painful jellyfish.

  • Eat where the locals go. If a place is busy with locals, it means they serve local food and is usually cheap but good. In general, I try to avoid places with menus in English. Even if menu is in English, often only the dearest dishes will be listed. Things like the cheap daily special are rarely written in English. McDonalds can be useful sometimes but try to be a bit more adventurous. To deal with language problems, if you see something  other people eating that you like the look of, just point to it and say please. Worked well for me in Japan, Korea and China. In Europe, particularly Germany, good cheap places to eat are Turkish kebab sellers, often to be found in the streets around train stations. Much better than McDonald's and the like. If weather suitable, buy stuff to make a sandwich or a prepared sandwich and some fruit, cheese etc and make a picnic in a park. In France, if you ask nicely, you can often eat your picnic in a cafe or bar, provided you buy a drink there. In most countries, eating at midday is usually cheaper, sometimes much cheaper than in the evening. So it is probably better to eat your main meal then and just have a snack in the evening. In Ireland for example,  a good pub lunch at midday is probably the best, most substantial and cheapest food you can get without blowing your budget.

  • Drink what the locals drink. It will usually be the best and certainly the cheapest. For example, in France and Italy, drink wine. In Belgium, drink beer. Drink the local wine or beer. Imported beers and international brands such as Heineken, Carlsberg Budweiser etc. are often much more expensive than, and in many cases, not nearly as good as, the local stuff.

  • Attitudes to beggars differ. My own view is that you should not give money to beggars, particularly child beggars. If you want to help, give money to a recognised charity or do some volunteer work with such a body. Give food rather than money. If you do want to give money to beggars, keep a supply of small change separately for this purpose - do not take out your wallet, purse or whatever.

  • Bargain in markets. Start to walk away and the price often drops immediately. Don't be  mean though, don't argue over a difference which equates to a few cents. Sellers in markets and on the street can be persistent. Guys on the beach can be a particular pest - you are more or less captive as you have installed yourself comfortably. Be polite as always but firm. If you do not want anything, do not wave sellers off with a dismissive wave. Look them in the eye, smile and say no thank you. Pretend you speak Finnish, Irish etc. Walk on. If they persist, say sorry, you have no money. Walk on. If they persist continually, then is the time to ignore them. Put on your sunglasses, walk on or read your book peacefully if on the beach or a park bench, put back on your headphones. They will go away and find an easier target.

  • Do not examine goods offered or do not bargain if you have not the slightest intention of buying them.

  • If somebody offers you drugs on the street, ignore them completely and walk on. Unless of course you want to buy but remember they could be police trying to trap you and there is no guarantee as to what you are buying.

  • I have mixed feelings about tourist offices. While some, if not all, are helpful, they tend in general to be focussed on high spending travellers who want to stay in good hotels and go on expensive tours or have things organised for them. They can be good sources for basic info and maps. In fact, the map you get from the tourist office should be enough together with the ones in your guidebook. There is no need to buy a map unless you intend to stay long or go off the beaten path or do a lot of driving around.

  • In some countries, not all outside the 'developed' world, it seems that anybody can stick a sign over the door saying 'Tourist Information Office' or even 'Official Tourist Information Office'. They can be helpful but are probably working on commission but may well be trying to steer you to the more expensive options.

  • In tourist offices, if you are on a budget, it is no harm to say you are on a budget. Some do then give advice on cheaper options.

  • Try not to look too much like a tourist. Difficult at times, impossible if you are European looking like me, in Asian and African countries. Helps to speak local language. Be discreet with camera, maps, guidebooks etc. Look as if you know where you are going and what you are doing, even if you don't. Locals usually know and recognise tourists. However, try to blend in. Dress modestly. Again full length trousers, skirts, shirts can be better. In warm weather, it is tempting to wear the bare minimum but this identifies you straight away as a tourist and can also cause offence or misunderstanding.

  • Any of the following may tend to identity you as a tourist and increase the possibility of your being ripped off, and usually much less likely, robbed or worse: T-Shirt, baseball cap, shorts, backpacks, Guidebooks  iPads, sunglasses, inability or unwillingness to attempt to speak any local language, asking where the nearest Starbucks, McDonald's or Irish Bar is, heading straight towards the Hard Rock Cafe, Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays or the like.

  • As regards T-shirts and baseball caps, any of the following increase the impression of a rookie tourist: T-shirt of your favourite or any football, baseball, or any other sports team, advertising Guinness or other beer, souvenir t-Shirts or caps (I love 'name of country'), Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts.

  • Leave jewellery at home. If you really, really must have it with you, avoid wearing it as much as possible. Though you may want to wear a wedding ring - see above.

  • If you want to visit an Irish pub, come to Ireland. While some abroad can be good they are not the same and it is difficult to get a good pint of Guinness outside of Ireland - like some wines, it does not travel well. Also, beer and drinks in Irish pubs outside of Ireland tend to be dearer than in local places. On the other hand, they can be good places to meet fellow travellers or sometimes locals and sometimes to hear good Irish music.

  • Language

    Learn a little of the local language - hello, please, thank you, if nothing else. .'May I?' 'Excuse Me', 'Sorry', 'Yes' and 'No' also. How much? very useful - they will write down the price. If not native English speaker, learn to speak English well. In Latin America, almost impossible to survive unless you speak at least a little Spanish (or Portuguese in Brazil). Spanish can be useful north of the Rio Grande too. In Germany and Central European countries, German useful if not essential though it is if you go off the beaten track. French essential in French-speaking countries. Mandarin Chinese essential throughout China and if you can, Cantonese in the South. I was surprised by how little English is spoken in Japan, even in Tokyo so it is useful to learn basic phrases at least in Japanese if going there.

  • The more you are travelling on a budget and the more you want to visit places off the beaten track, the more essential it is to speak the local language.

  • In my experience, it is in French and Spanish speaking countries that sometimes the greatest difficulties will be because you will be expected to speak those languages. In many cases, people do not or will not speak English. Reluctance to speak English may well be increased by your addressing people in English. Many people who think the French are rude or do not like France, are those who have made no attempt at all to speak or understand French.

  • In China and other countries, people usually do not speak English and there can be great difficulties, but they do not necessarily expect you to speak Chinese or whatever.

  • But wherever you are, it is polite and will be well seen to attempt to speak the language, no matter how badly.

  • It is useful to know the name of the city and country you are in and the name of the city or country you are going, in the language of where you are and where you are going. It is also useful to know to name of the country you are from in the language of the country you are in. While many names remain the same or keep a recognisable form in many languages, this is not always the case. - Ireland has many variations, mostly recognisable but do you know that Meiguo is the United States in Chinese, Zhong guo is China in the same language. Japan is Nihon in Japanese. India is Bharat in Hindi. Niemcy is Germany in Polish and many Slavic languages. Firenze is Florence in Italian. Genf is Geneva in German. Antwerp is Antwerpen in Dutch, Anvers in French, Amberes in Spanish. These are just examples of the confusion that can exist.

  • If travelling in China or Japan, you should familiarise yourself with the Chinese characters for the name of the city you are in and the one you want to go to. These should be clearly indicated in your guidebooks. When you buy a train ticket, check the Chinese characters for the relevant cities with those shown in your guidebook. Check them out on your smartphone and keep a photo of them there.

  • If a guidebook does not show names of places in relevant countries in relevant Chinese characters, Cyrillic alphabet, Arabic script or whatever, do not buy it.

  • Have the name of the address you want to go written down in the local script. Do not presume people will recognise the name as you pronounce it or written down in the Latin Alphabet. Have the telephone number of where you want to go and ring this, or get your taxi driver etc. to ring it to get directions as to how to get there.

  • With your smartphone, take a photo of your accommodation from the outside and the surrounding area so you can recognise it or show to people to ask them how to get there.

  • In any event, do not assume anywhere, particularly in non-English speaking European countries, that people speak English or, even if they do, that they (fully) understand you or that you have (fully) understood what they have said. If necessary, repeat and or write down.

  • Apart from being polite to try to speak the local language, you stick out like a sore thumb as a dumb tourist if you do not try to speak any of the local language. Try to read a local newspaper or magazine in the local language. Carry one around with you - again it makes you look less like a dumb tourist. Try to look at the local television and listen to the radio.

  • On the other hand, do not presume that people do not understand what you are saying in English or any other language you may speak, so do not be making smart or critical comments. Of course, the risk of being understood is less if you speak Irish, Finnish, Basque etc. but English, Spanish, French, German can be widely understood.

  • Do not assume that the information on an English language version of a website is fully correct or has been updated. Sites in countries where the following languages are spoken often do not have the most up to date information in English: French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese. Also I suspect Chinese, Japanese and Russian sites, though I have no alternative but to look at the English version, if it exists. Polish sites also. On the other hand, English versions of airline websites are often the most reliable though not always, especially for sites which are originally in the languages I have already mentioned.

  • Of course, cynics would say that you should not necessarily trust anything you see on the Internet, no matter what language it is written in.


  • I do like Lonely Planet guides but feel they have become somewhat a victim of their own success. I prefer Footprint Guides which I find excellent in general particularly for accommodation recommendations in all price categories; including the budget end. For detailed information, particularly for 'cultural destinations' and extremely clear maps, I highly recommend Michelin Green Guides - in English and/or French - sometimes other languages. The Guide du Routard and Petit Fute guides in French are pretty good too, though the French in them is often too colloquial and slangy for me. In German, I really like the Baedeker guides.

  • In general though, a complaint I often have about guidebooks is that they tend to guide you towards places and activities (museums, castles, white water rafting, whatever) which involve spending money, sometimes a lot of money. They tend not to be so good on telling you where you can go for a nice walk, in town or in the countryside, and other such activities which you can do for free.

  • Another complaint I have about guidebooks is that even the latest editions have pages and pages about airline offices (telephone nos. and addresses), bank addresses and their opening times (who cares, the ATM's are usually, but not always, open 24 hours), travellers' cheques and where to cash them, where to buy photographic film, poste restante facilities etc, etc.

  • Internet resources such as can often have more up to date info but the quality of the articles tends to vary a lot.

  Air travel

  • On long flights, move around the plane and stretch. Switch your watch to time at destination immediately on takeoff. On arrival, stay awake and preferably in daylight until normal bedtime in destination. Drink even more liquids, particularly water and limit alcohol consumption. Sleep on the plane, especially if a night journey.

  • Go for a walk, even a short one, before and after the flight and after other long journeys. If possible, go for a swim, sauna, jacuzzi.

  • I find the best fares are often on the airline's own websites. I find sites such as or often are good for seeing who flies where but often the prices they quote are not as cheap as on the relevant airline's website. Another way of finding this is to Google the airport of your desired departure and see which airline flies from there to your destination. Airport sites also usually show the most up to date and reliable information as to how to get to and from the airport and often how much it should cost.

  •  There  is another reason I prefer to book on an airline's website. The airline is then responsible for the reservation. If I make a reservation with an agent or a website not belonging the airline, I cannot be sure that the airline will honour the reservation or will take responsibility if any goes wrong - they can say you do not have  a contract with them.


  • Do not assume that budget airlines such as Ryanair are always the cheapest. Check all airlines eg for Ireland, Aer Lingus, British Airways, Lufthansa can be just as cheap as Ryanair.


  •  Always make sure from which airport you are departing and arriving. Many cities have more than one and many can be located quite a distance from the relevant city. Make sure you know the three letter code e:g CDG, LHR, DUB, JFK of the airport you want. Make sure you are getting the bus, train, taxi to that airport and not to another one also called Paris, London or whatever.

  • I have no particular recommendations for airlines. Most flights I have taken have been fine but nothing special, one way or the other. For long haul, some people rave about Singapore Airlines and from my limited experience with them, I can concur.

  • For to/from Ireland, I still prefer Aer Lingus over Ryanair. As I said, do not presume Ryanair are cheaper.

  • This is a useful website for seeing passengers' views on airlines:

  • As many airlines now offer one way fares, you can mix and match airlines and airports. Eg you could fly Heathrow to Dublin with Aer Lingus, tour around Ireland and end up in Cork and then fly Cork to Wroclaw with Ryanair.


  • For best seats on planes and other useful information on airlines, see also to Travbuddy moderator Kramerdude for drawing my attention to this).

  • If travelling to visit London, unless there is a substantial price difference or you are spending more than five days, I highly recommend flying into London Heathrow LHR. Apart from London City to which you are unlikely to get a cheap fare, LHR is by far the closest to London and has the best and cheapest transport links to London city centre.

  • Try to check in online. Many airlines now allow to check in on your smartphone so need for a boarding pass at all.

  • Try to travel with hand luggage only but pay attention to the stupid liquid rules..

  • If you must check in baggage, take off all old airline luggage labels before you get to the check in desk. Make sure there are no loose straps. No zips open. Make sure you get the luggage tag for your checked in luggage. Keep this tag, at least until you get your bag back at destinaton. Probably better to keep it for some days after, in case you notice your bag has been damaged or something has gone missing. The tag should be stuck to the back of your boarding card or sometimes your passport. Make sure that the tag shows your baggage checked through to your destination. If transferring through another airport, your luggage should be checked through to your final destination. Check that this is the case with the attendant. For example, I am flying to Mumbai from Dublin via London Heathrow. The tag should show BOM via LHR. However, even when checked through to final destination, you may first have to collect the bag yourself at first transfer airport, clear it through Customs and then put it another luggage belt. For example, I flew from Dublin to San Diego through Los Angeles. My luggage was checked through but I still had to collect it in LAX, go through US Customs and then put it on another luggage belt. Check what you have to do with the attendant. The attendant should securely attach the big tag to your baggage. If possible, make sure they do.

  • Check the boarding gate shown on your boarding and head towards that boarding gate. Check displays along the way to see if the gate has not changed. This can happen often and sometimes at the last minute. When you get to the gate, check that it is your flight that is shown there and sit there. Be there at the time stated on the boarding pass. You may be Ok getting there some minutes later, but the airline may not be under any obligation to take you if you are not there at the time stated. If waiting a long time, check that the display is still showing your flight. If it is not, check the displays showing all flights. All of these changes should be announced but this is not always the case in my experience.

  • I recommend heading towards your gate first and then going back and browse the shops, have a coffee or do whatever dawdling you want, once you have discovered where your gate is and how far away it is. In many airports, you may have to walk a long, long way to the gate.

  • If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation. If you flight involves an airport in the EU, your entitlements should be clearly indicated to you by your airline. You can contact your national aviation regulatory authority - see list here:

  • If transferring, I suggest leaving at least an hour and a half, or even two hours between your connecting flights. Even if you rush and make the connecting flight, your luggage may well not and God knows when you will see it again.

  • Take anything of value and things you will need or want during the journey or on arrival in your cabin bag. Everything else can go in checked-in baggage. I used to keep some toiletries in cabin baggage but with the stupid security regulations, this may no longer e possible. Note that the tops of things like toothpaste, shampoo bottles may burst open in checked in baggage. This has happened to me a few times. I believe it is due to the pressure changes. Seal any such items or wrap each in their own plastic bag.

  • See below under luggage for some points concerning flying and luggage.

    Check the times of your flights. Check close to the departure date that the times have not changed. You should be able to do this on the relevant airline's website. The airline should contact you in the event of a change but do not assume they will and make sure they confirm by email, do not rely on a time change you are informed off over the phone. Times quoted are in my experience local time at relevant airport. Check the time and the date shown. This should be stated, usually 'All times local' is written on the ticket or booking confirmation.

  • The booking confirmation may therefore show you arriving at the arrival airport at a time before you leave the departure airport. For example, I left Auckland at 12.30 on 3 July and arrived in Honolulu at 22.30 the day before ie on 2 July.

  • Times should be shown in the 24 hour clock format but this may not be the case, particularly for flights involving airports in North America.

Rail Travel

  • Best to avoid air travel altogether and travel by train. City centre to city centre travel and no queueing, no security checks, no baggage weight restrictions, no confiscating of your bottle of water. It can be much more environmentally friendly too. In some areas, I think you would be crazy to travel any other way - in many parts of Europe, in Japan, in China and India. Not usually such a viable option in the Americas, North, Central or South, though do not rule it out altogether particularly in the US and Canada. A great site for advice on rail travel and links to other sites is See for timetables for nearly all trains in Europe and of course for details of train travel in Germany, one of the best railway systems in the world

  • Some general points for rail travel in Continental Europe are that:

    - stations are usually quoted in the language of the country they are in, not in English and not in the language of the country the train is departing from. For example, Vienna is Wien, Florence is Firenze, Prague is Praha.

    - Printed departure timetables on the walls are printed on a yellow background, arrival timetables on a white background.

    - First class carriages have a yellow line along the top of the carriage as well as a big 1 on the carriage door or beside it.

    - Seat reservations are generally not necessary but useful if travelling at peak times. Reservations are obligatory on many high speed trains eg the TGV. If travelling at night, it is often well worth paying the supplement for a couchette. Note that in some countries (Germany for example), you can often pull down the seats opposite each other so as to form a sort of couchette. This is relying on the compartment not being full.

    - If you have a seat or couchette reservation, check the carriage number and the seat number. Trains can be very long so platforms often have a diagram showing your train and its carriages. You should note where your carriage will stop on the platform and wait there. If in doubt about which carriage you are in but are sure it is the correct train, get on the train and sort yourself out.

- remember that trains can be split along their journey. Thus a train leaving Paris could have two sets of carriages which will split in Lyon. One set will then head towards Venice and one set head towards Rome. Make sure you in the right set. The destination and main stops en route should be written or displayed electronically beside the carriage door and also inside the carriage. If you have reserved, you should be assigned to the correct carriage.

- remember the train may not arrive on the platform that is shown on the timetable or even on the main departure board in the station. Also if you are told that the train you want will arrive on Platform 3, do not presume that the first train that arrives on Platform 3 is your train.

  • There can be changes of platform right up to the last minute. These are usually announced but often not in English. Delays are usually announced but again don't bet on announcements in English. If a lot of people on the platform you are waiting on suddenly starts groaning or more importantly heading elsewhere, ask people what is happening if you have not understood the announcement. The indicator on the platform should have a display with the time and destination of the next train arriving on the platform and this is usually the most accurate. As noted above, the train carriages should have the destination and main stops displayed on the side. If in doubt, ask. If you can, ask the conductor, if not, other passengers. If pretty sure, get on the train. It will not wait for you to make up your mind.

    - If you do not have a reservation, check that the seat you sit yourself comfortably down in is not reserved by somebody. This should be clearly indicated on the seat or in the case of a compartment, on the door of the compartment there should be a diagram showing which seats are reserved. Window seats are often reserved.

    - For times of trains throughout Europe, I find very useful. It is German and English and other languages too. If travelling for long though, it could be well worthwhile buying the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable.

    - As well as a ticket, railpass, some trains require payment of a supplement, reservation fee or other charges. Check before you board the train. High speed trains and EuroCity and many InterCity and other express trains require such payments. Check in the station before you board the train or be prepared to pay up on the train and perhaps pay a fine.

  • If in a compartment, it is best to lock the door particularly at night. At night, close the curtains on the windows and doors. You may wish to close the curtains on the door during the day also for greater privacy.

  • Remember too that some cities have more than one railway station. Check which one you want.

    Bus Travel

  • In some places, this can be the best way to get around. While not nearly as comfortable as a train, it can be fine, and it is usually cheaper and goes to places that trains do not go to. In the Americas, it is often the only cheap way to travel. In South America, particularly Brazil, Argentina, Chile and to some extent Peru, it is extremely well organised and comfortable and great value for money. Much of the tips here apply to South and Central America. You can often reserve in advance but unfortunately often you can only do this in the bus station, which tend in general to be a long way from the centre of town.

  • I recommend getting to the bus station early. You can then relax and have a cup of tea or whatever. If you do not have a seat reservation, get on the bus as soon as possible to get a seat you prefer (or sometimes to get any seat). I recommend sittıng towards the front to have a better view, for security and to be as far from the toilets as possible.


  • Make sure you get on the right bus. This sounds obvious but some bus stations can be huge with loads of buses. There may well be a few buses going to where you want to go, run by different companies. People are in general very helpful and will point you in the right direction.

  • As with air travel, carry all your valuables with you and put your main case in the hold. In many cases, it will be labelled and you will be given a stub. Keep this and hand it to the luggage guy when your collecting your luggage when you arrive.

  • The more luxurious services as well as being more comfortable and faster often have on board toilet. Even if not, there are usually regular pit stops en route.

  • At a pit stop, the driver may announce how long you will be there. If he does not, ask him. You can ask other passengers but it is best not to rely on them. Ask and confirm with the driver. If going for something to eat, go and get something to eat straight away. If you hang around, everybody else on the bus will be there in the queue before you.

  • Do not leave anything you want to see again in the bus during a pit stop.

  • Be back at the bus at the time you should be, or preferably a few minutes before. Make sure to recognise your driver and fellow passengers. If you see the driver still eating, you probably have time but at times, drivers can be changed. You should make a note of the registration number of your bus when you get off to make sure you get back on the same one. This sounds overdoing it but there can be a lot of them around the place and they can all look the same.

  • Car travel

    If there are a few of you, it can well worthwhile bringing a car with you or renting one. In any event, try to have an inconspicuous car, one that is common in the country you are in. Leave nothing in the car. Be careful about where you park it - parking may be prohibited, restricted, or subject to payment. Check with the locals. Parking supervisors love catching and fining dumb tourists, Best not to drive in cities. Park it somewhere and walk or use public transport.

    Be familiar with the rules of the road in the country you are in. They vary. For example, in Belgium there is the dreaded priorite a droite. This means if you are travelling along a main road, somebody coming out of a litle side road has the right of way and may pull out straight out in front of you. If the situation is different, this will be indicated. This is only one example of how things may differ. Again it is up to you to know the situation. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Significant differences will probably be highlighted in your guidebooks.

  • The main difference is on what side of the road to drive. In most countries, this is the right (at least in theory). UK and former British colonies such as Ireland, Australia drive on the left. Japan also drives on the left. It may be useful to put a reminder sticker on the windscreen if you are driving on a side of the road different to your normal side. Quite a number of accidents happen in Ireland by people starting out from their hotel in the morning and driving on the right side, which is the wrong side here.

  • If you have an accident, in many countries it may be better to try to sort the thing out between yourself and the other party. Involving the police or other officials may only greatly complicate your life - the other party may well be anxious not to involve the police either.

  • If you hire a car, try to make sure that it does not look like a hire car - car rental stickers etc. Hire cars are a prime target for thieves.

  • To really see places, the best way is to walk or to cycle. Trams are very good too. Buses also but I find bus systems usually much harder to work out and much more subject to delays. If in a city, it can be worthwhile just buying a one day ticket and wander around on the public transport. Metros are usually much faster and reliable but as they are mostly underground, you don't get to see much. On the other hand, visiting some cities such as London or Tokyo without using the metro would be missing an essential part of those cities.

  • Whatever form of travel you choose, try to travel at off-peak times. Friday evenings, Sunday evenings, Monday mornings should be avoided if possible. Also holiday, long weekends etc. Avoid public transport systems at peak times. They are crowded, uncomfortable and a paradise for pickpockets etc. at very busy times.

  • Not alone will fares be cheaper at off-peak times but airplanes, buses, trains etc will be much quieter at off-peak times and you will have much more room and comfort. Be flexible in your plans. If it is expensive to go the weekend you plan to go, check is it cheaper the weekend before or the weekend after, for example. Leave flexibility in your plans. Do not expect to be able to fly out of Peruvian jungle to Cusco, fly on to Lima and then fly home all in one day. In theory, it is possible but....

  • Try not to rush around trying to see everything. I am middle-aged and have lived most of my life and travelled a lot in Ireland. I have still not seen it all and it is years since I have been to some of its sights, even its highlights. You will not see all of Europe or even all of the best of Europe in two weeks. I recommend spending at least two or three nights in any destination. Perhaps a bit longer if you really like it, a bit shorter if you don't (or it is too expensive).


  • Unless you're familiar with the town, ask the price of a journey before getting into a taxi. Ask at your hotel or ask locals, how much the fare should be. Negotiate. If the driver says it will depend on the meter, ask how much it normally is to your desired destination. If using the meter rate, make sure driver resets the meter when you start the journey and that it is at the correct rate. You can ask the normal price also at your hotel and, if you want, get them to order you one, though this may be dearer than taking one on the street though it can be safer.

    Taxis can be cheaper than you might think and often work out nearly as cheap and certainly much more convenient than relying on public transport, particularly if you do not know your way around. Normally you pay for the taxi no matter how many of you there are - though three or at most four is all any reliable taxi driver will take. Before you get in, check that the price quoted is for the group and not per person.

    I highly recommend taking one to your hotel if your budget allows it when you arrive in a strange city by bus or train. On the other hand, from airports, taxis are usually expensive even in cheap countries and are notorious for ripping off foreigners. Unless you can get one at a reasonable fare, try taking the public transport to the city centre and then taking a taxi to your hotel.

    If need be, insist that the taxi driver takes you where you want to go - not to a hotel belonging to his friend for example.

    When you get to the destination, get out of the taxi, get all your luggage (the driver should help you take it out of the boot etc) and then pay the driver, and tip him if he has helped you with the luggage. I wouldn't tip if he hasn't. It is a good idea to have small change  - do not try to pay a one dollar fare with a hundred dollar note.

    In some countries, taxis can be shared with strangers. If you are the first passenger, you can usually refuse to take any more passengers.  If you are getting into a taxi with other people in it, have a quick look at them. In  general though, I recommend not getting into any taxi if there is anybody else in it other than the driver.

  • Boat travel

    We are all flying around the world, and not really travelling at all. If you are not in a hurry, boat travel can be a very viable and pleasant option in many cases. Ferries can now be very comfortable and there is a sense of adventure in travelling by boat. Sea ferries, riverboats, lake ferries can all be very agreeable and in some cases, by far the best way of travel. Who has not dreamed of cruising down the Nile?


  • In general, I would say not necessary to book in advance. In Europe, good places to look for cheap accommodation are around railway stations but be careful what you choose as the areas are often not the nicest, quietest or safest (particularly for women). Do not assume that hostels are cheaper than hotels, particularly if travelling as two or more. A room for two to four people in a hotel can work out just as cheap as a hostel and in my experience, facilities and comfort levels are often much better. That said, hostels can often be a good place to meet fellow travellers. It is often worthwhile to  negotiate the price of the room, especially if you are  staying more than one night, you can get a worthwhile reduction. Also, in many cities and resorts, at least in Europe, it can be worthwhile for a group of two or more to rent an apartment for some nights. You can then cook for yourselves which can be cheaper than eating out and often have a decent sitting room with TV etc.

  • A lot of people are now using couchsurfing. See This can be a great way of meeting locals and getting an insight into the local culture. Of course, you need to be careful but I've had nothing but great experiences with it.

  • You can also try which is a bit like couchsurfing but involves payment.

  • Booking ahead is useful if you are travelling at peak times or arriving late in the evening (and take account of possible travel delays). If you do want to book ahead, try phoning the hotel/hostel and see what their best rates are. Good sites for booking accommodation are and Also I prefer as you usually do not have to pay a binding deposit and can cancel without penalty usually up to the day of arrival. However, always check the terms and conditions of your booking before you press the confirm button. I suggest booking for one night and then if you like the place, you can stay longer. can be good for short term apartment rentals. If travelling in France, try for shortterm apartment rentals. Also, if you want, if you know the name of a hotel/hostel you want to stay in, you can go to its website (if you don t know if it has one, try googling it) and check rates on their site. The major problem for me with web bookings is that you cannot negotiate and often you are making a binding reservation. Also try and for booking the hotels of those hotel groups.

  • Try to see a room before you pay for accommodation. Can often be well worth extra, particularly for two or more people, to have ensuite facilities. Once a place is clean and quiet, it's fine in my view. Anything else is great but I am not going to spend the rest of my life there so not worth possibly spending hours looking for somewhere if where I am fills these criteria.

  • Even if on a tight budget, try to stay in a  decent place at least once a week.

  • I also recommend that if you are heading off for months, to reserve and spend the first two or three days, in somewhere really decent. You may want to this for the last couple of days also. This may not be so expensive in many countries. If there are two or three of you to share the cost, it should not be too expensive anywhere, unless you are a really tight budget. However, if you are on that tight a budget, I feel you need to ask yourself - can I really afford this, am I really going to enjoy it?

I and many travellers tend to stay in the city centre, often of a big, busy city. Unfortunately, these tend to be expensive places to stay. It can be worthwhile seeking somewhere nice outside of the city centre but with good train, metro, tram connections to it. For example, for a short first visit to Dublin, I do recommend staying in the city centre. However for a second or third visit, I would recommend staying in a Bed & Breakfast (B& B) anywhere along the DART train line - with Howth possibly the best.

  • In any event, in Ireland and UK, Bed and Breakfasts (B&B) often the best option.

  • Wherever I stay, I prefer not to stay on the ground floor (or lower). Ground floor rooms tend to be darker, noisier and easier to burgle. I personally prefer to stay on the highest floor possible, though this can be a problem if there is no lift. Upper rooms tend to be brighter, are usually quieter and can have nice view.

    Differences in laws, customs, cultures etc.

  • Expect to be surprised or even shocked by what you see outside of your home country. If you really do not like it; leave or do not go back. Do not go around telling everyone how things are much better in your country because blah, blah, blah. Remember also that people can be surprised or shocked by your behaviour. I eat pork. This is abhorrent to hundreds of millions of Muslims and Jews. I eat beef. This is shocking and incomprehensible to hundreds of millions of Hindus. I drink beer. This is a sin in the eyes of many people. It is illegal in some places and may be severely published..

  • No matter what cultural differences there may be, some things are shocking and intolerable. Physical or psychological mistreatment of a human being is always wrong. In my view, physical mistreatment of an animal is also always wrong.

    Of course,  you can and sometimes should express your opinion but do so in a diplomatic, non-offensive manner. Though again you cannot do this in some countries. Freedom of expression does not exist everywhere. See below about obeying the law.

    In any event, be careful when expressing your opinion, particularly on political or religious matters. On the other hand, how can you have a good, heated row without discussing these subjects?

    In many countries, the Head of State (King, Queen, President, Dear Leader etc.) is venerated. Denigration, even in a joking manner, may be severely punished. As the head of state appears on currency, this should be treated with respect also. Some visitors to Thailand have met difficulties because they have used banknotes in a disrespectful manner, walked on them for example.

    Whatever you may think, and it is wrong in my opinion, but unfortunately women are second class citizens in many countries to varying levels of degree. If you are a woman, you can expect not to be treated with the same respect as men. If you are not prepared to accept this, you should not go to these countries. A woman on her own is regarded as very strange in many countries. In particular, there are many places where a woman entering a cafe, bar or restaurant on her own would be viewed with suspicion, disapproval or worse. Again, you guidebooks should have information on this.

  • Unfortunately too, it is not just women who are discriminated against. In general, I feel respect shown towards you, at least to your face, increases if you are 1.White 2..European or North American looking 3.Male. It helps to be tall too, though not too tall. I fill all three criteria, and am averagely tall for a European. This situation suits me therefore, however wrong it may be. In many countries, the older you are, the more respected you will be. This is getting more and more to suit me, however right or wrong it is.

  • It also helps if you are married and have children, even if they are not with you. In many countries, it is widely expected that somebody of my age or even a lot younger would be in this situation and in some places, it is regarded as bizarre if you are not. I am not and have on occasion 'invented' wife and family.

  • You should be aware though that, while respect may be shown to your face, white people are sometimes,perhaps with justification, resented and treated with suspicion in view of the history of colonialism and the military power exerted by European and American countries. These undercurrents are often there and sometimes they can become more open and manifest.

  • Even in countries where youth is venerated, young people are more likely to be seen as potential victims of scams, rip-offs, teasing etc. Doctors, teachers, engineers tend to be generally widely respected so if you are one of these, you may want to let people know. Academic qualifications can be held in huge regard in some countries. I work for the Irish government normally and saying you work for the Government can attract a lot of respect in many countries - at times bordering on fear or awe.

    Even if you fulfil all the criteria, you can be the subject of great curiosity in many countries. Unfortunately and wrongly, anybody else, especially black people probably, can be subject, throughout many regions, to varying levels of discrimination, prejudice, misunderstanding and even greater curiosity bordering on astonishment.

  • Blonde women are often the centre of attention and curiosity, wanted and unwanted, in many countries. If unwanted, it may help to cover your hair, keep it short or even to dye it.

Obey the laws of the country you are in, whether or not you agree with them. Drinking alcoholic drinks even beer is illegal in some countries and therefore you should not consume it there. Some countries have strict rules as regards women's dress.Â

Ignorance of the law is no excuse anywhere. Your guidebooks should have information on the legal situation and point out significant legal provisions which might not apply in your home country but do where you are. While you should obey the law, do not necessarily assume that other people, including officials, will.

Some laws are of course unjust or just stupid. In general, you should still obey them. If you want to, you can join or organise a campaign for their reform but you are not going to get them changed on your week's holiday.

You should remember also that some of your behaviour which you may consider perfectly normal may well be legal, may well be accepted or tolerated, can still be offensive, even shocking and alienate people. Immodest dress, drinking beer or other alcoholic drinks are examples of such. Looking at somebody in puzzlement because they do not understand what you are saying in English may also constitute such behaviour and do not be surprised if you are treated rudely in return. This is especially the case if you repeat yourself loudly in English.

It is probably best to avoid drugs altogether, but this is a personal choice. Many countries severely punish even the smallest possession of narcotics, up to lifetime imprisonment or even the death penalty. Apart from this, do not be surprised if you come out of your high and those nice guys you shared a joint with in the pub have disappeared off with your wallet etc. Or that you are now looking forward to being a mother.

No harm to know the contact details of your embassy in the country you are in. If you are staying long, you could contact them and let them know you are there, though not necessary if you are in a normal, developed country. Do not expect any great help from them though except in very serious circumstances. They will not swing into action if your iPad is stolen. They will expect you to obey the laws of the country you are in. If you go them with a scenario such as the one I have described above, they will probably be diplomatic enough not to laugh in front of your face.

Many smaller countries, e.g. Ireland do not have an embassy or any diplomatic representation in many countries. In that case, you will have to contact the nearest embassy. Remember though that if you are an EU citizen, you are entitled to help from the embassy of a Member State other than your own. I doubt if there is any country in the world where the UK, France and Germany, or at least one of the three, do not have an embassy. One or more of these three countries will also often have a consulate in many cities which are not capital cities.

Bribery is endemic is some countries. Try to avoid it. Do not assume that you can bribe, even in the most corrupt countries. Do not suggest giving a bribe. Ask for example if there is any way things can be done or hurried up, or can you pay an on the spot fee or penalty. See what the response is. You will rarely be asked directly for a bribe. It may be suggested that you give a 'present', make a donation to a certain club etc.

If you can, be patient. One brave Australian guy I met had a problem crossing a border in Central America. The situation was clear that he was not going to get his papers back unless he gave a 'present'. He just said 'I don't care, I'll stay here'. He got his papers back without having paid anything.

Customs and body language are often the same throughout the world but significant differences can exist. Your guidebooks should have detailed information for where you are. Some general points I would say that you may not think of are :

  • In many countries, people are reluctant to say No. This is particularly but not exclusively the case in Asia. Somebody will say yes and possibly something will happen. If they say 'It is difficult' probably nothing will happen. If they say 'It is very difficult', it is highly unlikely that anything will happen.

    Even when you hear 'Yes', it is not necessarily meaning 'Yes, it will happen' or 'Yes, I will do it'. It can mean something like 'Yes, I am listening', 'Yes, I understand but I am not necessarily going to do anything about it'.

  • Try to ask questions such as 'Can you show me the way to San Jose?' rather than 'Is this the way to San Jose?' or worse 'This is the way to San Jose, isn't it?'. The inclination if you ask questions such as the last two, is that people will just nod and say yes. Be aware too that many people are reluctant to say 'I don't know'. This can be out of politeness - they want to be helpful. They will point you in whatever direction they think best, even if they have not a clue.

  • You should avoid pointing at people

  • Do not touch people on the head

  • Do not point your feet towards anybody e.g if sitting on the floor.. This can be considered very offensive.

  • Be aware of in which countries you can touch people. Customs vary. In Brazil, it would considered strange not to embrace people or clap them on the back, or kiss members of the opposite sex on the cheeks. In Japan, people could be appalled by any of these actions.

  • I have emphasised elsewhere the wisdom of dressing modestly and keeping yourself covered. You cannot lose by doing this. Both men and particularly women should be aware that immodest dress (and interpretations of what is modest can vary greatly) can, where legal, cause offence or can be misinterpreted and attract unwanted attention. It can be illegal and possibly severely punished. Again, your guidebook should have advice for where you are. In general, outside of certain parts of Europe, nudist or even female topless bathing is a no-no. Once again, see what the locals are doing as regards dress codes.

  • Kissing and Public Displays of Affection are often disapproved of, again particularly but not exclusively, in Asian countries. If you are homosexual, be particularly aware of the situation where you are or you could find yourself in deep trouble. What goes in San Francisco will not be seen in the same light in Saudi Arabia.

  • If unsure, do not shake a local's hand unless they offer their hand first

  • Always use your right hand to shake hands, give things to people etc. In some Asian countries (eg Japan), it is polite to use both hands.

  • Tipping customs vary between countries. In the US, it is essential to tip, in Japan it can be regarded as an insult if you tip. Your guidebook should advise you. I tend towards the Japanese view. By tipping, you are saying I am a superior person and you are here to serve me and here's a couple of dollars for you, because I know you are poor. If tipping is normal, I still think it should only be in the case of when somebody has gone out of their way - not for just normal service. Do not tip if a service charge is shown on the bill, especially if this is on top of the price shown on the menu.

  • In some countries, US notably, the price shown on menus, hotel prices and sometimes on everything eg items in the supermarket, books, sweets, is not the price you pay. You pay a higher price (of course) - tax is added to the price shown.

When to go

This of course depends on where you want to go and what your idea of a good time is  but in general I recommend Spring or Autumn. Summer I would avoid if possible  - too crowded, too expensive and in many cases, too hot. Winter too cold and days very short. On the other hand, winter can be a good time to see how people really live and a good time for cultural events in cities eg film festivals, theatre events, musical performances etc.

  • For tropical destinations, it is important to take account for when the rainy season is. Your guidebook should tell you. While it is nearly always warm in these destinations, it is not always sunny with blue skies. There can be a lot of rain. I mean real rain, not the stuff we complain about in Ireland. While it is rare for it to rain all day, there are often very heavy downpours particularly in the afternoon. It may be impossible for you to leave your hotel. Entire cities can grind to a halt and there can be floods everywhere. So check in your guidebook when this sort of weather may be expected.

    Where to go

  • Depends on your taste. I still prefer Ireland to anywhere. Europe in general remains way ahead of other destinations, all things considered. In Europe, France probably represents the best of what both Northern and Southern Europe have to offer. Paris, London and Prague are must see cities. Slovenia is good small representation of Europe but for nice coastline, you have to visit neighbouring Croatia.

  • Outside of Europe, of cities, I recommend Vancouver, Hong Kong, New York, Lijiang (China), Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo. Outside of Europe, Japan and  Brazil remain my favourite countries which is surprising as  it is hard to think of two countries more dissimilar from each other. United States is a must see. China is a must see, particularly at this stage in its development. Great Barrier Reef remains the highlight of my travels. Cape Canaveral is also up there. Dolomite Alps in Northern Italy has fantastic scenery.

  • By the way, Japan is not as expensive a destination as it reputed to be. It is definitely not a budget backbacker's destination either, but then nor is Ireland.

I have another blog specifically about my favourite places in my home continent: Europe. See:

Also a blog specifically about my home country, Ireland. See:


  • As regards equipment, very much a personal choice. I recommend however buying a camera that uses rechargeable AA batteries and SD memory cards. I will not buy a camera which does not. AA batteries can be bought anywhere. Always ask politely if you can take pictures of people. Do not stick your camera in people's faces.

  • Always back up your photos as you go along. In many towns, you can get your card backed up onto CD or DVD. You can then post the CD to family or friends at home. You can also upload them as you go along to a photosharing sight like This allows you to back them up and also allows your family and friends to see them. You can also back them up in an internet cafe to a portable hard disk drive. I  Of course, you may have your laptop with you and you can back up unto this.


  • Again, very much a personal choice. I prefer a small rucksack and a suitcase on wheels. I also have a small daypack which I can put inside the rucksack. I keep nothing of great value in the suitcase. I put a strap around the suitcase to help ensure that nothing falls out and also to easily identify it, particularly on airport carousels. Always make sure that the bag you pick up eg at airport carousels is your bag. Many look the same. Have a quick check that you bag has not been damaged.

  • While impractical to check all your belongings before you leave the baggage reclaim area, you may wish to check that anything of value or important to you is still in your luggage and is undamaged.

  • I have mixed feelings about locking luggage. In some ways, it is more secure. On the other hand, when I see a backpack with one part of it locked, I reckon that is where the valuables are and that is where I would rip open with my knife, if I were a thief. I also have doubts about having neck pouches or waistbelts. Again, when I see these, I say to myself that is where the loot is and, if I were a thief, that is what I would go for.

    While you may want to look fashionable with your luggage, and there is nothing wrong with that, I do not recommend buying very expensive stuff. It attracts thieves and may well be lost in transit somewhere. Best not to have brand new luggage either. Something that has been a bit bashed around a bit makes you look more like an experienced traveller.

Surround fragile items with your clothes.

Have plenty of plastic bags. Useful for keeping clean clothes separate from dirty clothes, for keeping stuff dry and for keeping dry stuff separate from wet stuff.

  • Label all of your luggage and all items of value with your name, email address and mobile phone number. Better to label on the inside rather than displaying all your details to all the world on the outside. Outside labels can fall off anyway.

  • Budget

    Last but not least, how much money do you need? How long is a piece of string? I recommend around at least €1000 per person per month - €2000 euro a month at least in Western countries. It all depends on where you are going, how long for, how many of you to are to share accommodation costs, what style of travel you like etc. You can do it cheaper if more than one travelling together and go to cheap countries. I don't think you can do it for less than €500 per person per month. Maybe you can if you really skimp but there are false economies. If you do no eat well and stay in very basic accommodation all the time you are running a high risk or getting run down, sick or worse.

  • Of course, you can work along your way but see above about possible need for work visa/permit. One good opportunity, particularly if you are a native English speaker, is to work as an English language teacher. Just google TEFL for more info.

  • See sites such as, and  for some work exchange programmes.

  • It is essential to have health insurance. If you feel you cannot afford it, I would not say do not go, but you should ask yourself - is it worth running the risk? Remember too that no matter how healthy you are when leaving, you will be exposed to experiences and places outside your norm, you are at risk of having a traffic accident anywhere (increased risk, greatly increased risk in some countries) and will probably be doing things that you may not normally do at home - bungee jumping, paragliding, eat strange foods, sleep with strange people or whatever.

  • Your main costs are going to be accommodation, food and transport. For me, accommodation is the biggest cost, by far I would say as I often travel on my own and in most places, you pay for the room not per person. Transport costs can also mount up if you are not careful. Budget for things like tours, visiting museums, attending concerts, national park entrance fees, paying for parachute jumps, white water rafting etc. These can often mount up alarmingly.

  • Take into account the unexpected. For example, f you miss a plane, you may well have to pay for a flight at short notice which can be expensive.

  • Apart from health insurance which is essential, I have mixed feelings about paying for any other insurance. Yes, stuff can be lost, stolen - in fact it safe to assume that something will. However, insurance will not pay the replacement cost, they will make deductions for how old the stuff is etc. You have to file police reports etc and go through al sorts of paperwork. On balance, perhaps it is worth paying for but at times I have severe doubts.

 Another couple of very useful websites for travelling are for up to date exchange rates (do not rely on what is shown in guidebooks) and for the correct time where you are and where you are going. Do not rely on guidebooks which say for example that Los Angeles is eight hours behind London. This is usually the case but not always. Remember too that many countries have a number of timezones.

I also enjoy and find very useful and as sources of information for where I'm going, or dreaming of going.


These are some of the most useful websites I use on my travels:

For meeting and exchanging info with fellow travellers:

For general info about destinations:

For RTW Tickets, there is a specific article on wikitravel: French)

For currency conversion:

To know the time anywhere in the world:

For rail travel in Europe and the world, includes links to national railways in countries in Europe and the world:

The German Federal railsite is very good as it provides a timetable for all trains in Europe. Just enter your start and arrival points and the desired date and time of travel (works in English, German and a number of other languages):

For mapping, GPS and navigation (works in many languages): � mePage.htm

For air travel to and from Ireland and in Europe:

For free language learning software:

Not necessarily useful but certainly cool:

While you're in the air, MySkyStatus sends altitude, location, departure and arrival updates automatically to your Facebook and Twitter pages.

Enjoy the trip....



kayguarnay says:
This is such a great entry! Thank you!
Posted on: Jan 17, 2016
patrick80 says:
Good article. Very informative. Thanks.
Posted on: Apr 12, 2015
cimtech says:
Good info, thanks for sharing !
Posted on: Nov 14, 2014
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