Travel Tips and Advice

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Are you not glad I have suffered misfortunes, bad service, insects and other hazards? Now I know what to do and what not to do, how to do it and where to do it, and on this page I want to tell you all about it.


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Yay Travel

Packing Without Stress

Packing a suitcase need not be stressful. First and foremost, make sure you do it well in advance unless you are an experienced traveller, in which case you can do it the day before a flight. Second, invest in a small hand luggage scale. It does not weigh much and can travel in your case. When you are ready for your next flight, simply take it out and check if your luggage is underweight. It will remove the stress of wondering whether you will have problems at check in. Third, it is not always how much you pack but how you pack it.


Generally, it is best to neatly fold shirts and put these in the case first. The long and short pants come on top of these. The idea is that you now have space around the sides of the case. You can put underwear and socks in the inside pouch of the suitcase lid or push them down on the one side of the case. Now put in your toiletries bag so that it fits snuggly. If you have food (nothing that violates health and disease control laws, please) put this along the sides as well. You might find that you need to take your toiletries bag out first to fit in the food, and this is okay. Do not panic – that is the sure way not to get things in. You might even wish to put some of your food items, such as flat packets of soup or tuna, between two items of clothing as these packets are flat and will not make a huge difference to trying to close your suitcase. Pack the bulkier items in the spaces once you have removed the flatter items, if that was necessary.


Put fragile items in between layers of shirts, pants and towels. The towels, by the way, should usually be the last item to go at the top of a packed suitcase. You might also want to use the outer pouches at the top of a suitcase to pack additional items. Try, however, not to use these as they provide extra temptation to thieves. You might want to keep smaller items there that you do not really mind losing, but still, try not to use those pouches.


During your trip, if you enjoy shopping, do yourself a favour and take a items to the local post office once in a while. Using overpriced courier companies is usually not necessary or advisable. Let the post office send things home for you. You may, of course, have to pay import duties but that is minor in comparison to the peace of mind you will have knowing you can close your suitcase and that is not hugely overweight. Then you can go shopping again and take your next box of goodies to the post office. If you are concerned about the post office in a particular country, you might want to insure your items. Sometimes insurance puts off would-be thieves, possibly, I suspect because an internal investigation might be launched to track down the crook owing to the expenses incurred by that post office.


When packing, remember to use every little space. Do not leave large spaces around items unless you have very little in your suitcase. Also, you might want to take items that do not fit in your case and put them in your hand luggage. Please do not exceed the hand luggage size and weight limits. Those limits are in place to protect your safety, except perhaps with some airlines that want to charge you for every little thing they can.


Once you get used to it, packing suitcases should not take long, and it certainly should not be stressful. Why would you want any kind of stress on holiday? Relax and take simple, timeous measures to have a relaxing break. Enjoy.

Category: Packing

6 Sep 2011 | 06:02 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel

Posted by:
Yay Travel

Do You Know What You're Eating?

If you are travelling to a country where the culture is very different from yours and if you want to order a bowl of soup at a restaurant, check with them how big it is first. In some countries, if you order two bowls of soup for two people, they will bring you just that: two huge bowls, each holding enough soup for at least three people. Also check what is in that chicken soup before ordering it - some places put chicken feet, beaks and other parts of the chicken in the bowl. Are you sure you want that fish maw soup?


It is also useful to learn the names of certain types of foods before you go because something things might not be to your taste. You might not, for example, like to try morcilla (blood sausage) or thit cho (dog).


Also be careful when eating vegetables. In most countries this is fine but in some countries the vegetables can be tinged with human waste. You might also find yourself really struggling as a vegetarian. Most countries in the world have a very strong meat eating culture, so it might be best to go self-catering. Even then, trying to understand the foreign language labels on packets and tins can be challenging. Also be careful about ordering vegetarian dishes in restaurants. In the Far East, a lot of restaurants are proud of their "vegetarian" dishes and market these relentlessly. However, they seem to think that "vegetarian" means anything accompanied by vegetables. You might therefore end up with beef, chicken or pork and vegetables on your plate.

Category: Food

26 Aug 2011 | 11:05 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel

Posted by:
Yay Travel

Stay Out of the Bad Areas

While some people escaped from a soap opera (lots of drama) and overreact to things, some people are telling the truth when they tell you a particular place is dangerous. Do your research before visiting a country or city. First check if you should even go there. If there are parts of a country or city that are safe, then stick to them.


Do not assume you are big and strong or that a beautiful forest is serene and void of people. There are always criminals bigger and stronger than you, lurking in unexpected places, and who might be a lot more ruthless than the criminals you are used to at home.


Stay in the safe areas, which are not necessarily the touristy areas, and be careful what times of the day or night you are in an area. Some areas are fine by day but terrible by night. 

Category: Safety

26 Aug 2011 | 10:45 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel

Posted by:
Yay Travel

Keep Your Cash and Passport Safe

It astounds me how often I see people walking around a foreign country with fashionable bags and handbags. I am sure these bags are wonderful and really impressive at home but when on holiday in a foreign country, they make easy targets for thieves. I suppose I am more aware of this than most people because I live in a very high crime country.


In terms of handbags, make sure that you have zips inside zips inside zips, puches inside pouches, inside pouches. Put your passports, cash, travellers cheques and so forth in the innermost pouches. Even if someone does somehow manage to get their hand into your handbag, it will take them a lot of time and effort, by which time you will be able to physically attack them, to get into the innermost part of the handbag. It is preferable to have a hanbad that you can lock with a luggage lock. You are in a foreign country and want to enjoy your holiday, not make a fashion statement, unless you know that country is very safe, even from pickpockets.


When walking down the street, remember that some people, such as criminals in Rio de Janeiro, will simply cut the straps of your handbag, leaving you with the straps, while they run away with your most important possessions while on holiday. Ensure therefore that your handbag's straps are as thick and strong as possible. Also wrap your straps around your arm so that they are not as easy to cut without you noticing. Also try to carry your handbag in such a manner that it is in front of you at all times. It is difficult to see what someone is trying to do to your handbag from behind or from the side.


Never leave your passport, cash, travellers' cheques, credit cards or anything of the sort in your hotel room even if you have a room safe. It is easy to open one of those. I know - I had to ask the hotel to assist me to open. It took them a few seconds. While there are very few people who are able to open room safes without the combination, it is still possible that you could end up with a dishonest employee that abuses their privileged access and the trust placed in them.



Category: Safety

26 Aug 2011 | 10:33 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel

Posted by:
Yay Travel

Don't Get Stuck Without Money

You're going on holiday and you're looking forward to it. You think you're covered with your travellers' cheques, ATM card or whatever else you have. You get to the other side and horror: they don't accept your travellers' cheques, your ATM card was swallowed by the machine, no one wants to take your credit card and now the hotel wants payment and that does not include meals.


To avoid this kind of situation, it is advisable to take several forms of money with you. First, take cash, preferably USD. For some odd reason, a lot of countries do not as yet accept the Euro. The reason you want to take USD with you is that it is often quite easy to change into local currency almost anywhere. Use it as an emergency back up. That is really what it is for. If you have any other foreign currency from a previous trip that might be quite widely used in a specific region, take that with you too. For example, if you have Hong Kong dollars, you would be able to change them all over the Far East. If you are desperate to use cash, you might want to change your foreign notes first before changing the USD.


Then take with you as well a credit card, preferably Visa. The advert is correct: Visa is accepted more than any other credit card. There are some countries, like the Philippines, where Mastercard seems to be more widely accepted. However, you will usually be safest using Visa. If you think that I am simply advertising for Visa, which I am not (unless they would really like to give me loads of money for being nice to them), I challenge you to travel through Africa using a credit card other than Visa. Do the same in the Far East. We'll talk afterwards.


It is a good idea in some countries to take travellers' cheques. The advantage of travellers' cheques is that they are reasonably secure. If they are stolen, they cannot be cashed with ease and you can have them replaced while you are abroad. For some reason, however, they are becoming less popular. You can still use them extensively in a number of Far Eastern countries. Again, in the Philippines, you will struggle - in Manila, you will be able to change them if you know exactly where to go but you will have a lot of difficulty changing them outside Manila. You will also need to know exactly where to change them in Rio de Janeiro. It is easier in Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires to cash these. Before buying travellers cheques, do your research to find out how easy or difficult it is to change them in a particular country and make sure you know the exact addresses of places where you can change these. I would recommend American Express travellers' cheques as these are more widely accepted around the world than some other travellers' cheques. A lot of banks and money changers refuse to change any other type of travellers' cheque. (Hint to American Express: Visa is going to give me lots of money for saying nice things about them, so you are going to give me lots of money too - okay, I lie but it was worth a try).


Finally, take an ATM card or prepaid card with you that you can use to draw money from any ATM in the country you are travelling to. Speak to your bank about how you could get a card that you can use abroad.


When you arrive at your destination, it might be an idea to get some local currency immediately, especially if you are arriving over a weekend or on a public holiday. Unfortunately, this probably means paying higher rates at an airport but rather be safe than sorry.

Category: Money Issues

26 Aug 2011 | 10:18 AM | Posted by: Yay Travel