Handy Advice for a Lady Traveller
Some of the gapyear.com girls were asked what it's like travelling as a female. They had a lot to say on the subject and gave their hints and tips. If you're female and about to go travelling on your own, then read this fantastic Q+A guide. It's packed full of information and it's not one to miss.
- Make sure you check for insects and little creatures before crouching to pee in the jungle.
- Take a bigger memory card or more rolls of film then you plan to use so there is no need to skimp on taking pictures.
- Invest in earplugs - they will be a lifesaver for blocking out crying babies, snoring, and buzzing mozzies.
- As well as buying the relevant Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to your destination(s) find a travelogue by someone who has been there and read it just before you leave. - i.e. Bill Bryson for Australia, or Matthew Paris for Peru.
- When you've arrived, get lost on purpose - travelling is about adventure and discovery.
- Check the expiry date of your credit card before leaving. Seems simple enough, but I was stupid and forgot only to realise it had expired two days after I left home. Luckily I was due home in two days and had taken enough cash/traveller's cheques with me. Not worth the hassle!
Keep a diary. It is so easy to forget the amazing things you done and it also fills in long journeys.
- Use gaffer tape. Wonderful stuff. Put over the top of suncream/shampoos etc whilst travelling - I have never had a leakage so far. Also handy for breakages and preventing blisters.
- Pack Lightly. Been said before and I will say it again. Just imagine carrying your rucksack on a two mile walk to the bus station in 40 degree heat - you will wish then you hadn't bought ten T-shirts when you only wear two!
- Moisturise! Bit girly but well worth it to keep your fantastic tan around longer than a week upon returning home. Plus there should be no embarrassing flaky skin and air con won't wither your skin to the appearance of a prune!
- Do not underestimate the importance of chocolate.
- Ditto toilet paper.
- Always wear a sports bra when travelling by chicken bus (even the guys).
- Just because they're official, doesn't mean they're not corrupt. In fact, it probably increases the likelihood.
- One credit card is not enough.
- Pack as light as you can, you will acquire stuff on your travels.
- Do what you enjoy, not what other people tell you or think you should do. If you don't like a place, leave. Life is too short.
- Trust your instincts always (and don't get totally drunk/off your face, as then they don't work!).
- Don't follow your guidebook too religiously, it's not the Bible.
- Spend the extra money if it means doing something amazing. Worry about paying your debts off later!
- First and foremost, people, you are never too old to travel so ditch the excuses and get on with it! I'm 26 and still in the planning stage of my gap year (at this point you all say, '26? But that's not old!').
- This should be an obvious one (but just in case, for the numbskulls amongst us); no matter where you are, have respect for the local culture and environment, and avoid sullying the backpacker's reputation. Applies even when pissed!
- I know there are many advocates of the 'dump the guidebook' approach; well I'm not one of them. Your guidebook IS the Bible! Well, maybe not, but at least do some research to avoid any surprises /disappointment and help you get your head around what goes on in the rest of the world.
- Get off the beaten track; try to see something other than that which is tailored-for-tourist-eyes (but only if you can do this safely...).
- Pack and then reduce your luggage by half. Then repeat exercise until you have removed hair curlers, pot of Marmite, and any other random 'just in case' items - you can always buy/wash stuff when you get there...
- A camera is the most precious equipment when travelling.
- Wherever you go, go with a smile and a positive attitude, that way you will meet a lot more people and make a lot more friends.
- Don't take anything that is sentimental or of great value, you will end up losing it.
- When going to a new place, organise the first 36 to 48 hours before hand, you don't want to be wandering around a strange place at night, looking for accommodation.
- Have Fun!!!!!
- Take a pillow case and sleeping bag liner when staying in hostels. Sometimes the provided bed linen can look a little bit worse for wear...
- Never listen when people you meet on your travels say 'don't bother going there because it's crap'. People view places with different eyes - check it out for yourself and gather your own opinions.
- Be confident on planes - don't let your neighbour hog the armrest.
- And clean your teeth when you're flying - there's nothing worse than sitting next to someone with bad breath on a 13 hour flight. Phewee!
- Don't put a light bulb in your back pocket...
- Always take a book!
- Make the effort to speak the language - it gives you a real insight into the culture.
- Don't be afraid to be alone.
- Think outside the box and poo-poo the hoardes - use your gap to do something worthwhile, something that YOU really want to do.
- Did I mention you should take a book?
- Choose your travelling partner carefully - even your best mate might have different views on how to travel.
- Smile - and don't be afraid to ask people if you can tag along.
- Keep a diary (you will never remember all those little things you did).
- Don't over-plan your trip, leave yourself a little lee way- you never know what might come up.
- Travelling is about taking risks but don't be an easy target - use common sense.
- Get insurance, but make sure they cover snowboarding, as when you look in the small print you tend to be only covered for about 17 days.
- Try and learn some of the language while your there, the locals will treat you much more favourably.
- Make sure you have accommodation and work before you go, there's about 20 people waiting to jump in your grave.
- Get mountain insurance from the tourist office, you might be covered to get your broken leg fixed but how the hell are you gonna pay the £800 to get you airlifted off the mountain. Check!
- Do not take a bar job that finishes at 3 in the morning and also take a chamber-maiding job that starts at 6, believe me it doesn't work!
- Pack half as much as you need to. Not only will you accumulate more stuff on the move, you don't even wear half of the clothes anyway!
- Don't take too many guidebooks as there will be a danger of over planning and also they are bloody heavy!
- Put sun tan lotion on your feet and ears as it's frigging painful if you don't.
- Tie a coloured ribbon around your rucksack so as to identify which bag is yours, as many look very similar.
- Enjoy yourself! Life is too short, seize every opportunity and see as much as you can.
- Make sure you have adequate insurance for when you're away.
- Keep some money in both your daybag and your backpack just in case.
- Learn the local lingo (even if you're just visiting the States, ie. don't ask for fags!)
- Take an alarm clock. You never know when you need to rely on it!
- Keep a journal. Stick in tickets, maps, leaflets, anything really. If travelling with friends you've made, get everyone to write a goodbye note in your journal at the end.
- Put things in mini bags: easy to find in rucksack and makes life much simpler!
- Get recommendations for hostels so you don't end up staying somewhere yuck! I always ask where people have stayed that was good and have a check list of good or bad hostels I can pass on to others and for my own info.
- Keep a travel diary and get people you meet along the way to write in it, great to look over to remind you of what you have done!
- Keep an eye on what you are spending. I have a cash book so I know exactly what I have to spend and what I have spent! I restrict myself to a certain amount of money a week and have certain days I cash my traveller's cheques. This is so I won't run out and have to come home early - also find out where you can exchange traveller's cheques commission free as there are places!
- Have lots of fun!
- Always carry your camera and some water and nibbles in case you stumble upon somewhere fantastic and stay out all day.
- Talk to everyone, travellers and locals have loads of good advice.
- Whilst keeping to your budget, don't get too mean with your money as you might regret missing out when you get home.
- Stay safe, don't go off the beaten track alone and keep your wits about you.
- Take the rough with the smooth, keep smiling and remember why you're there!
- Choose the right travel partner.
- ALWAYS take mini free stuff when available.
- Don't take anything expensive unless you know a martial art.
- Record more than one tape for your Walkman.
- Make sure you know how to read a map.
- A great way to save money on accommodation when InterRailing: sleep on long-distance trains. That way you can get on a train in the north of Italy in the evening, sleep on the train and get off in the south in the morning. There's no reason why you can't just go up and down every night and never pay for hostels... (A modification on this point: even if you've got an InterRail ticket there are some trains on which you'll have to pay a subsidy. Check before you get on...).
- If you're going to a country where western clothes aren't the norm, get a couple of sets of local-style clothes made for you when you get there. Chances are they'll be affordable and gorgeous, and you'll know that they're suitable for the local climate and local standards of acceptable dress.
- Be impulsive. Jump off trains in interesting-looking places. Go on trips that sound tacky, bizarre or boring. Chat with grannies and school kids. Drink Tibetan tea with salt and butter.
- Be safe, too. Get to your accommodation before dark. Be assertive if you're getting hassled - in this situation, never worry that you're being rude. Don't be too stingy - pay for things that matter (doctors, safe forms of transport, bottled water). Take a personal attack alarm.
- Keep a diary. Even if you're not the Bridget Jones type, it's worth it. One day you'll be working nine-to-five and wearing pinstripes and you'll be glad that you did...
- Never have any valuable items on show.
- Don't wear expensive jewellery: it's too tempting.
- If you have a shoulder bag/purse carry under clothes
- If you're staying somewhere for any length of time look around you and wear what others are wearing to take attention away from you and also so as not to offend.
- Always have a false wedding ring with you: it always comes in handy.
- Smile. It looks nicer, and people will want to talk to you more.
- You can never have too many pairs of pants.
- Take loads of pictures. The more you take the better chance that you'll get some stunning ones, and every one will be a memory. (But make sure you always ask before pointing it in people's faces!).
- Get out and do everything you can afford to do that you even slightly wanted to do. That'll avoid you leaving somewhere thinking 'I wish I had...'
- Have fun, do crazy things, enjoy yourself - it should be some of the best times of your life.
Moneybelt, moneybelt, moneybelt! - keep all your valuables and important documents in it and wear it at all times!
- And just in case, photocopy your documents and passport (just the page with your photo on, of course) and keep in a separate place. It will make it a great deal easier to sort out, should you lose anything.
- As soon as you arrive in a new country, buy a pot of locally-produced yogurt and get it down your neck. Your stomach will then build up tolerance to the local bacteria, therefore avoiding the dreaded Delhi belly!
- Plastic bags. Don't suffer the wrath of a burst sun-cream bottle in the middle of a backpack, like me. Especially nifty are those sealable, keep-your-lunch-fresh ones that your mum's bound to have - also great for keeping papers, camera films etc clean.
- A wondrous invention by Lifeventure, a dinky bottle of travel wash that can safely yet effectively be used on hair, face, body, clothes, and even fruit and veg.
- If you need to call your bank or credit card company you can reverse the charges.
- Doing the hip belt up tightly on your backpack will make it feel lighter.
- If you arrive in the airport and the tourist info is shut, the car rental agencies usually have free guidebooks and maps to hand out.
- Memorising your passport number saves a lot of hassle when filling out the numerous immigration forms and hostel guestbooks. Also handy if you lose it!
- Cut your toenails. There is no excuse for ignoring foot hygiene, and other travellers will thank you.
- Take earplugs, EVERYWHERE.
- Keep warm by remembering your sleeping bag.
- Don't forget your day pack.
- Take a map of the place you're going to.
- Keep an open mind of the place you are going to - who knows what you may see!
- Don't leave packing 'til the last minute.
- Do not remove anything from your passport - it turns out tatty bits of paper are very important!
- Phone the airline to check your tickets are correct.
- Never wash a red sarong with white clothes.
- Wear flip flops in hostel showers - don't catch unwanted ailments!
- Don't plan too much: talk to other travellers about places to visit and just go with the flow.
- Try and learn a few words in the native tongue, its amazing how much friendlier people become after you say hello in their language.
- If a deal sound's too good to be true then it is!
- Whilst in Asia always take toilet roll everywhere with you.
- Take a tuk-tuk once for the experience then don't bother, they're just too much hassle and taxis are the same price anyway.
- Never trust a stranger, whether in your own country or elsewhere - but do try and discern when someone is genuinely trying to help you out of a tight spot. Basically, keep a hand on your bag, and don't put yourself in any awkward situations.
- Take film cases for decanting shower gel/shampoo, etc. into - also for plugging sink plugholes - yeah, that old chestnut!
- Have a few black bin liners shoved in amongst your kit. They can be invaluable.
- Pack light-medium (not medium or worse, heavy!) for interrailing - laundrettes abound in Europe, and your hostel will probably have an affordable washing machine/dryer. Don't pack very many shoes!
- I heard that if you put a can of coke/beer inside a wet sock and suspend it from your tent/a tree, it will cool your beverage, regardless of the hot climate?!
- Travel towels are a disaster! They seem to smell (a lot) after one use so it may be that the space sacrifice made by bringing a proper towel is well worth it.
- If you're staying somewhere a few nights it's amazing what bargaining power you have when negotiating rates - often just asking will save you a few $ a night.
- If travelling on Australia's East coast GET A VIP card. I didn't and have regretted it ever since, you don't save a lot at once but it really adds up.