Vagabond Travel Tips

Vagabond Travel Tips: A Travel 101 Refresher

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It has taken me awhile to shake the rust off my long-dormant travel skills. Here are five basic travel tips that I’ve relearned during my first month in Thailand.

Get organized — not just your backpack, but your person as well. I wear shorts with a lot of pockets and spent the first week or more getting frustrated because I couldn’t find item X when I needed it. Choose a spot for each thing and get in the habit of returning it to that spot when you’re done.

Also, look through your pack and make sure things that you’ll need quickly are accessible. Your rain jacket and backpack cover will be a lot more useful if they’re in the top pocket of your pack where you can reach them.

Horde your small change
— all of those coins may be a hassle, but you’ll be glad you have them when you want to buy a 10 baht bottle of water from a street stall. Most street vendors don’t have the cash on hand to break a 100 baht note, let alone a 500. Tuk tuk and taxi drivers can be real sticklers for exact change as well, so hold onto those coins and small bills.

Bonus tip: 7-11′s are a great place to break 500 and 1,000 baht notes — they have plenty change on hand and rarely grumble about big bills.

That taxi driver who’s been sitting outside your hotel all day isn’t doing so because he can’t find fares elsewhere.

Avoid taxis near tourist spots — that guy who’s been sitting outside your hotel all day isn’t doing so because he can’t find fares elsewhere. He’s out to make a high-profit run by ripping off an unsuspecting tourist, quoting them a high price and refusing to use the meter. I like to walk out to the main road and catch a taxi off the street — make sure they’ll use the meter and you’re good to go.

Always get the price upfront — this is one of the golden rules of travel, but I see people all the time who are hit with an inflated charge after the service has been rendered. I had a couple of Thai henna artists who tried to give me a temporary tattoo. I had to stop them from rolling up my sleeve and when I asked “how much?” they repeatedly replied “very good price, no problem!”

After I insisted, they finally quoted me 500 baht — which I haggled down to 200. I didn’t mind paying that for the experience and a chance to talk tattoos with a few locals. I met an Australian man the following day who’d been caught by the same guys and was sporting a large tribal design on his arm — they took him for 2,000 baht. I doubt his wife will ever let him live it down.

Most special deals have fine print that they don’t bother actually printing, so always ask first.

Ask the price for everything — I stopped for a 50 baht happy hour beer at a restaurant in Pattaya, thinking I’d save 20 baht off the going price. When I got the check, I found that the bottle of water I had asked for cost me 35 baht, instead of the usual 15 or 20. Happy hours that offer two drinks for the price of one may not apply to all drinks and they won’t tell you upfront. Most special deals like this have similar fine print that they don’t bother actually printing, so always ask first.

What other basic travel tips would you suggest? Let’s hear ‘em!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris - The Aussie Nomad April 5, 2010 at 7:49 am

Good tips mate and i really like the idea of getting the price up front. It’s so easy to get ripped off at the end of the trip otherwise.
.-= Chris – The Aussie Nomad´s last blog ..Another Reason to Wander a City =-.

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Mike at Irie Bean April 6, 2010 at 2:56 am

As a veteran of jungle hiking (while in the service of our country) and many a harrowing Mad Minute in the Nam – I can vouch for the practice of organizing all your gear into some organized system for finding things in a hurry. Like your ammo! HaHa!

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wes April 6, 2010 at 4:23 am

heh, yeah I can see it being *very* handy in that situation. I’m rarely looking for anything more urgent than a lighter or my room key…

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JB May 14, 2010 at 8:58 am

Another tip for taxis is to ask the hotel/hostel where you are staying what are typical rates so you know what range to bargain around.

Regarding currencies, in some countries cashing large bills is extremely difficult at mom-and-pop stores and restaurants, so always try to have smaller denominations and use your larger denomination bills in touristy areas or places used to accepting them (like grocery stores).
.-= JB´s last blog ..My First Lengthy Travel – Why, Where and What I Brought =-.

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