Back in 2000, I went to Thailand for five weeks. The number of mishaps we’ve had hasn’t stopped us from falling in love with travel. As a traveler, I made a whole lot of mistakes, from getting misplaced on Swiss Rail to airlifting myself from the Amazon. Over the past 21 years, we have traveled the world, so our best travel tips are a compilation of everything we have learned.
Our adventures include cycling across Africa and driving to Mongolia in a car. Over the past two decades, we have traveled to 115 countries independently, with groups, on guided tours, and for business.
When we can all hit the road again, are you ready to make the most of your travels? Find out what to do in 2022!
How To Save Money While Traveling
1. Don’t let yourself get into debt
You can use this tip while traveling as one of the most important ones. When you decide to go on vacation, don’t spend more than you can afford. Traveling the world for a lifetime will only make you regret it if you come back home with a mountain of debt.
You can still have fun in your backyard if you cannot afford to travel abroad. We explored our domestic province of Ontario, Canada lots whilst Dave and I dreamed of journeying the world. We were inspired to try new things after spending weekends in nature. You can travel the world by exploring your backyard and home and saving money. Through adventures close to home, we accumulated a lot of money, and within a year, we were traveling the globe.
2. Travel insurance is a good idea regardless of the destination
This is the best travel tip we can think of. Whenever you travel, it is important to have travel insurance. Travel insurance is not just for going off the beaten path. Accidents happen everywhere. A few years ago, Dave broke his back while we were on a luxury cruise. An air ambulance and hospital bills would have cost us nearly $100,000 without travel insurance. Travel insurance is a must-have.
3. Engage local guides
The local economy benefits directly when you hire local guides. By doing so, you cut out the middleman. Also, hiring locals can save you money. You’re paying the middleman, the tour operator, and rent for an expensive office if you book tours online or overseas. When booking locally, you will be paying the operator directly. It’s also a great way to meet new people and get to know the local culture. Their hospitality has not only allowed us to stay in their homes but also provided us with richer travel experiences.
4. Dollar bills in small denominations
Although we are Canadians, we always carry a few hundred dollars in small bills when we arrive at our hotel or for the taxi ride from the airport. In Africa, the Caribbean, South America, or Europe, travelers can use US dollars anywhere. Keep a small amount of cash on hand at all times as well – USD is the most widely accepted currency worldwide.
5. Make use of free walking tours
A free walking tour is always one of the first things we do when we visit a new city. This allows us to get acquainted with the area. After traveling around the world for a few years, we discovered this travel tip. We love walking tours, so these are great! A free walking tour is usually better than a tour booked online in advance. Local guides lead the tours, and you pay only what you feel comfortable paying at the end of the tour. Typically, we suggest $10 per person.
6. Take advantage of the City Pass
A city pass is recommended when visiting any city. Bundling attractions with a pass can save you money. We highly recommend getting a City Pass if you will be spending a few days in a city and want to see all the main tourist attractions. Public transportation is accessible, and you can skip the lines at popular tourist attractions. For USA and Canada, we choose CityPass, and for Europe, we choose Leisure Pass.
7. Choose your tours wisely
This is a very important travel tip that we made a lot of mistakes in our early years of travel, and that is why we want to share it. Be careful when selecting tour companies. Make sure you ask questions.
Be careful to avoid captivity-raised dolphins, elephant rides, and chasing wildlife. Everywhere we looked in Chiang Mai, elephant sanctuaries claimed to exist. Tourists could ride elephants and there was no sanctuary, based on what we learned when we asked questions.
Do not hesitate to speak up if your guide is unethical or negatively affecting the environment, wildlife, or culture while you are on tour. Tourists often expect guides to pick up turtles or chase dolphins for tips or to make them happy.
8. Know the culture and customs of the area
Learning about the culture and customs of a new destination is one of the best travel tips. Consider doing some research before you travel so that you know how the locals dress and what their manners are. As you blend in, you will feel more comfortable, and you will save yourself some embarrassment by doing something wrong.
9. Challenge yourself to do something you’ve never done before
You can do things spontaneously while traveling that you wouldn’t dream about doing at home. By stepping outside our comfort zones, our lives become more interesting and exciting. Making a big change is just a matter of taking that first step. Travel can inspire you to take on new hobbies like for e.g. cooking food in kitchen appliances in Pakistan and seeing your life through different eyes. So go for it! Face your fears head-on.
10. A smile can make a world of difference
When you first meet someone, a smile can break the ice and it can prove very helpful in tough situations. An unexpected awkward moment can be eased by smiling, and it breaks the tension with the people you meet along the way. It is often the case that you will only have a smile in common with someone off the beaten path.
Even when we negotiate at the market, we smile. A smile gets us better deals. A smile gets us closer to the locals. A smile gets us better service, and a smile makes us more likely to make new friends.