Oh, if I only knew then what I knew now...here's a couple tips I've picked up on my way that may help you on yours:
Beware what you read on the Internet (no irony here, nope, none). Trust your instinct - it's amazing how loud it becomes before getting into a cab held together with elastics. It's not about the quickest way from A to B, it's about how not to get lost Every day, try and experience something new. Oh, and nothing makes you appreciate life more than when you risk it. When walking uphill, especially at altitude, walk SLOWLY! You'll save your breath and energy and still reach the top. Save the traveling days for when you don't have the squirts! Buy a cheap stick before hiking the Inca Trail, it will become your best friend. Book exchanges: Usually two for one or one for one plus a small fee. Hard to find good books, so prepare to read lots of airport material, mystery romances. Don't put your daypack in the storage above your head on night buses, Keep it by your feet. I also tie a shoelace connecting my bag and leg, in case I nod off and someone tries to lift it. Get rid of the small change when you leave a country. Buy anything, because as soon as you cross the border, the change is worthless and heavy and cannot be exchanged. Always keep an emergency stash of cash somewhere in your backpack. Sometimes you'll find yourself in a town without a bank, and unable to cash travelers cheques. LCD headlamps have become really popular, but every time I put mine on I feel like a bloody miner in a coal mine, especially late at night in a youth hostel when I'm trying to read my book.
If you staying at a guesthouse in India, SE Asia, South America etc, calm your paranoia by using your own door lock. Just don't lose the key.
Floss. Sounds kinda silly I know, but travelers fall prey to gum disease because of their naturally weird diet and the stress of travel itself.
When a guide tells you to bring a complete change of clothes, bring a pair of shoes or sandals too.
If a stranger approaches you on the street, chances are they want to sell you something, or rip you off. Unless you've got the time or inclination for either, firmly move on. Buy your history books (if you're into researching countries or regions) from Amazon's Used section. It will save money, and also the time spent going to 5 bookshops looking for something they don't have. (Central American history, it seems, is not a big seller).
For more tips from Robin, visit his website: www.moderngonzo.com
Travelling around the world has taught me the rules of the road: what to pack, what to wear and how to survive on the cheap. For those planning an extended backpacking adventure, here are a few things you need to know before you go:
• Research travel insurance, immunization shots and tourist visa requirements.
• To keep track of your finances from anywhere, sign up for online banking.
• Carry various forms of payment: bank cards, credit cards, U.S. and localcurrency.
• Pack lightweight clothing that doesn’t wrinkle or show dirt.
• I like to travel with older clothes, so I can donate them and buy new ones as I go.
• If you’re addicted to certain brands, stock up before you go. Everything else you can get overseas.
• Bring a headlamp, perfect for those all-too-frequent power outages.
• A retractable clothes-line to hang up freshly washed socks and underwear.
• A calculator helps to convert currency and avoid rip-offs at borders.
• Don’t forget plug adapters, a quick-dry towel and an alarm clock for early morning flights.
• If you’re buying a new backpack, get one with “panel loading.” It opens like a suitcase and is more accessible than a hiking backpack.
• Lonely Planet is the best guidebook series. It’s usually less expensive if you buy it abroad.
• Don’t reserve all your accommodations in advance. Book the first night, then just go with the flow.
• Organize tours locally. It’s cheaper.
• If you’re visiting during low season, ask your hostel for a discount.
On the road
• Double check when your tourist visa expires. Don’t overstay your welcome.
• When asking for directions, check with a few different people. If everyonesays the same thing, then go with that.
• Expect different perceptions of distance. If they say “It’s just near,” it usually means it’s too far to walk.
• Carry small bills, for both safety and convenience.
• Take an overnight train. It slashes travel time and saves on a night’s accommodation.
• Schedule flights so they arrive in the morning or afternoon, not at night. It’s safer.
• If you want to buy souvenirs but can’t carry them, hit the post office. Sea mail takes a few months but is the cheapest way.
• If you want to meet and mingle with fellow travellers, hang out at a localhostel.
• Ask trust-worthy locals what the going rate is for food or taxi rides. You’ll be less likely to get ripped off if you’re well informed.
• Embrace the fact that you will get ripped off. It’s a learning curve.
• Read local newspapers for information about what’s going on in the city.
• Carry toilet paper and anti-bacterial lotion with you everywhere.
• Don’t live by the guide book. Explore, go off-the-beaten-track and ask fellow travellers for advice.
• You can’t be a hard-core tourist all the time. Take days off to kick back and enjoy.
For more of Julia's travel tips, check out her website.