Tips for safe traveling on a budget for youths
WHEN I was an intern at a mangrove park near Kota Kinabalu years ago, we received many foreign visitors coming to admire our nature.
One particular visitor made an impression on me till today. She was a young Swedish woman in her 20s with soft, curly, strawberry blonde hair, and she was travelling alone. I was told she was on her Borneo tour and had just finished backpacking through Sarawak when she arrived at the park.
Get this: she even went down to Kapit looking for any locals to take her in for a stay at the longhouse. Sadly, she did not manage to find anybody willing to take her in. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that she was a lone young woman travelling to an exotic place completely unfamiliar to her.
It’s nothing new for us to see ‘ang moh’ backpackers, but if the ‘ang moh’ can do it, why can’t we?
Even if most of us enjoy the thought of hopping on a plane and being whisked away to another country, money becomes the major constraint.
When you ask young working Malaysians why they don’t travel often, most answers would be “No money”, “Boh lui”, “Tiada duit”. Is traveling something that is only for the rich?
Here are some useful tips to travel on a budget and still coming back safely in one piece with tonnes of memories.
1. Research, research, research
There are tonnes of websites and blogs online providing tourism information. Ask your families, friends and colleagues that have been to the places you are going to visit.
Travel blogs are good sites to surf for research. They come with useful traveling tips and stories from experienced travellers.
Travel review websites also offer a helpful directory of hotels, places and eateries along with reviews to help you to where to stay, things to do and what to eat in a city that you intend to visit.
2. Book early
The early bird catches the worm so buy your airlines tickets and book your hotel early for bargains.
Watch out for special promotions. Some travellers have even bought their tickets a year earlier and started saving for their trips from when they book it.
3. Plan your itinerary
Every second is precious when you are on vacation. Sign up for a tour if you are in doubt about planning traveling by yourself. The downside is that organised tours are more expensive but at least you will be in good hands.
Or you can be bold. Do your own research and plan your itinerary from the moment you arrive at the airport to the day you leave, leaving enough of a window to reach the airport on time for your departing flight.
List down the places you want to visit. Save photos of the places you want to visit on your smartphone if you are in doubt.
Don’t forget to have a backup plan for your plan.
4. Don’t sleep the whole day away!
When you sign up for a full-on cultural experience, the place you are staying at is just a place to crash at night and have a shower.
If you are daring enough you can try ‘couchsurfing’. Couchsurfing.org is a website that offers its users hospitality exchange and social networking services.
When you sign up, you can look for a host that willing to take you in for a night, for free!
If not, budget accommodation and backpacking lodge are other options.
5. Stay out of trouble
“Don’t be the asshole in the airport-security line.” That is Anthony Bourdain’s number one tip to avoid travel hell.
As vulgar as it sounds, Bourdain is right, spend a little bit time to read the laws and regulations in the countries you are visiting.
Just because you are used to throwing rubbish out your car window in Malaysia and don’t get into trouble does not mean you can do the same thing in countries like Singapore and Hong Kong which have very strict ‘no-litter’ laws.
Save important numbers on your phone just in case of emergency. You should have the number of the place you are staying in your contacts list along with emergency numbers to the police, hospital, and Malaysia embassy’s hotline.
6. Stay connected
It is crucial to stay connected with family and friends at home especially when you are traveling far from your own home country.
There are lots of free mobile apps and text-messaging services, allowing you to stay in touch. The beauty of it is you can use it to make great value calls to mobiles and landlines across the world, send SMS text messages and to forward calls.
For countries like China that do not allow social-messaging services for travellers, there’s QQ or WeChat.
If you are visiting a well-connected city such as Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo then your traveling life is just made easy. Wifi is available in most parts of the cities thus updating your whereabouts to your loved ones back home is one click away.
Our local mobile service providers also provide have roaming plans when you travel outside Malaysia, although these can incur very steep bills.
7. Blend in
To have the full travelling experience, eat what the locals eat, do what the locals do.
Sometimes the good thing to pretend that you are local is so that those who prey on tourists won’t take advantage of you.
Nuraini Putri Suhaili, a frequent traveller from Bintulu shared that she once pretended to be an Indonesian when she was in Bali just to avoid the expensive snorkelling fee. It helped because they are charging USD for tourists there and she walked away with bargain by paying in Rupiah instead.
8. Shoo away sickness!
The last thing you want is to be sick during your long awaited holiday. Drink lots of fluids and be mindful of where you eat and what you drink.
It’s always helpful to be equipped with a first-aid kit which includes basic dressing and medication.
It is best to have your prescription document when you are traveling with medication. Check the customs and immigrations regulations before you travel.
9. Dress up right!
Who doesn’t want to look good in your photo posing in front of the Taj Mahal?
The trick is to dress up right. For ladies, keep a shawl in your handbag, it might come in handy when visiting religious places such as churches and mosques.
Take note of a few countries that have strict dress codes and abide by them. An example is Saudi Arabia where there is a ban on bare skin and cross dressing.
Another reason to be aware of the dress code is to avoid being turned away when you are just about to enter. St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, for instance, strictly enforces the following dress code: no shorts or bare shoulders for both men and women, and no miniskirts.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must when you are traveling. Pick a durable pair that will not strain your feet after hours of walking.
When you sign up for a package tour, the tour agency sometimes will arrange formal dinners for the tour members. Be prepared by packing a formal outfit.
10. Have fun and takes heaps of photos!
Lastly, have fun!
Have fun even when it is raining and you are supposed to be outdoor sightseeing. Have fun even when your tour agency messed up your travel itinerary. Have fun even when you become a victim of snatch theft in a foreign country. (Hopefully that does not happen). The point of traveling is to loosen up and enjoy every moment of it.
Plus, every moment can be a picture-perfect moment. Don’t forget to make your friends and family jealous by posting it on social networking sites!
St. Augustine once said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
When are we going to read more than one page?