I read a fantastic post recently. It was entitled, “No, It's Not Your Opinion, You're Just Wrong.” It's often tempting to scream this when you’re given travel advice by people who have horrible misconceptions about anything related to travel.
You know exactly the people and advice I'm talking about. It's the grandmother who lectures that you should never touch food from a roadside stand. Or it’s the cheap backpacker who says not to bother buying bottled water because tap water is fine. (This is the same guy who shows up 10 pounds lighter after having gone incognito for three days.) It’s the drunk uncle who advises that you'll end up starring in the sequel to “Taken” or “Hostel.” Though, granted, Liam Neeson can rescue me any day.
Sure, the majority of people probably mean well while they're telling you this stuff, and they're probably genuinely attempting to help. But the fact is, they just aren't. To quote my new favorite article, it's not even their opinion. Most of the time, they're just wrong.
The following is a list of common travel advice you shouldn't be listening to. These are the worst travel tips of 2016. Follow these tips at your peril:
1. Women should never travel alone.
This is possibly one of the most overstated, over-debated and most nauseating statements in travel. Horrible things happen in every country, including your home. They happen to both women and men, and the best piece of advice for those worried about solo female travel is make sure you're traveling with common sense. Be aware of your surroundings, trust your gut instincts and don't take any risks you wouldn't take at home.
Sure, solo travel through some countries can prove to be a greater challenge for women than for men, and certain destinations do require extra safety precautions, especially when traveling alone. But that doesn't mean women can't or shouldn't get out there.
The world in general is a very safe place, and in reality, no one ever really travels alone. You make friends and meet people along the way.
2. Don't go to (insert place here). It's dangerous.
This is the second most nauseating statement in travel, although it’s also a close contender for the first. If I had a dollar for every time this has tumbled like word vomit out of the mouth of an extended family member or friend, I would be sitting pretty in a luxury apartment on a cruise ship for the rest of my life (like this woman). I should start a bad travel advice donation jar.
A few relatives even took it upon themselves — before I embarked on my first trip — to phone me and read the riot act to my mother and father about them being irresponsible parents by letting their 18-year-old travel alone. Seriously.
If your best advice is that we should stay at home for fear of being kidnapped, killed, raped, beheaded or dying horribly, my advice to you would be to perhaps never leave your house.
3. Take the overnight bus.
Taking an overnight bus is something you can file under “seemed like a fantastic idea at the time.” But in reality, it just outright sucks. It’s far more exciting in theory. The idea is you'll make it from one place to another while saving on a night's accommodation.
Win, win right? You couldn't be more wrong.
Overnight bus travel has been described as a “nightmare on wheels,” and this couldn't be more spot on. It's uncomfortable.
You may think you're going to sleep through the trip and wake up refreshed and ready to start the day in your new destination in the morning. However, after barely getting any sleep, the first thing you’ll do when you arrive at your new accommodation is beg for an early check-in to get into the room. Your bright idea of making the most out of the next day is ruined, as you’ll just end up taking an afternoon nap that will waste the day away.
After we draped our sleep-deprived bodies over the lobby furniture in the Amsterdam Swiss Hotel, the morning staff somehow made our room available at 6 am. However, the majority of the time, you're going to be stuck in your destination early in the morning, without any hope of a check-in until the afternoon.
Eight hours to kill while wandering around in a sleep-deprived stupor, before you're even allowed to check in? Fun.
4. Never eat the street food.
The world as you know it will never be the same. If you eat street food while you’re overseas, you'll contact food poisoning and die. This has been described as the “worst piece of travel advice in the history of forever.” I agree.
Let's be honest: Street food is far safer than many people would like you to believe. It's highly unlikely you'll spend your entire vacation huddled over a toilet just because you made the bold choice to venture outside the doors of a western restaurant and dig into the frying pans sizzling on the street.
Sure, there are many countries where you should practice heightened precautions when you choose your vendor. However, open air stalls have an advantage over traditional restaurants, as you’re able to watch your food as it’s being prepared. Locals won't be eating at places that make them sick.
Street food is the tastiest, cheapest and easiest way to get a taste for local cuisine, and it is generally the most direct route toward forming a sense of a country's culture.
It's an inexpensive way to eat, and it will present you with foreign flavors that will blow your mind. If you're still uncertain, look for a place that is busy. There is a high turnover here, which means the food won't have a chance to fester.
One person will be handling the money, and another will be cooking the food. Travel with a small hand sanitizer to use before you touch your food.
5. Carry travelers checks.
No, don't. In fact, do they even make those anymore?
Travelers checks are incredibly expensive, and now that we're living in 2016, they are super difficult to redeem. Most banks aren't even willing to cash them anymore.
International ATM networks are now the most convenient ways to access your cash while abroad, so make sure you're covered for emergencies with a few back-up cards. Having a hidden stash of cash in a preferred currency is also a good idea.
Split everything up into various pockets across different bags. Only carry your main credit cards and one or two days’ worth of cash with you in your wallet at any given time. If something gets misplaced, lost or stolen, you will then have emergency funds because you haven't lost your whole stash of cash.
6. Don’t fly to a place with a lot of terrorist threats.
I’m rolling my eyes. Recently, more than 60 people have been killed across three continents during separate attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait. Tourists were among the wounded in the Kenya mall massacre of 2014, and in the last 12 months, the world has seen attacks in Belgium, Australia and the United States.
Yes, global terrorism is a fact. However, staying “right here in the US of A” isn't a foolproof plan for avoiding a terrorist attack. We're living in 2016, and terrorism is happening everywhere.
Do you know what you do? You travel anyway. You should not let extremist activities stop you from doing what you do.
It isn’t travel that’s dangerous. It's life. Generally, the world is a relatively safe place. Just make sure terrorism coverage is included in your insurance policy. This is the best thing you can do to keep yourself safe.
7. Wait until the kids are older before you take them anywhere.
I mean, they won't remember it anyway, right? Why spend all that money?
First of all, kids can learn all kinds of things from traveling, even if they aren't old enough to remember. Traveling with children can also lead to the most rewarding travel experiences. It often teaches them more about the world than they can learn from a formal education.
While you may think it's a daunting concept, the reality is, parents are out there traveling with their kids on a daily basis. Some even opt to travel with their kids full-time, while homeschooling them on the road. In fact, this one family travels full-time with nine.
8. Why go to a foreign country when you can visit the Disney replica instead? It's safer.
I refuse to dignify this with a response.
9. Book the hotel when you get there.
This traveler spends all day wandering the streets, searching for the last bed available in Rome, with a 40-pound pack weighing down his or her back. In that time, you've already checked in, caught a free walking tour of the city, grabbed some tasty street food and perhaps even had a nap.
I'm all for being flexible with travel plans, but I could never bring myself to do this.
10. Do it while you're young.
Granted, this is fantastic advice. You should absolutely do it while you're young, able and have the chance to. The flaw with this advice, however, is it suggests that traveling is infinitely harder once you're older, and infinitely limits your opportunity once you start getting up there in age.
So, while you should absolutely be living for today and jumping on the opportunity to travel if you are, in fact, young, don't think you've missed your opportunity to travel just because you'll never be 22 again.
11. Don't trust anyone.
Travel will teach you that kindness exists in the world. Kindness is the real fuel that drives humanity.
Travel will renew your faith in the bonds that connect people. It will restore your faith in humanity and teach you that strangers are often generous, kind and helpful.
Experienced travelers will tell you they’ve often been targets for strangers’ generosity and unrequited love. Trust your gut instinct when you rely on the trust of a stranger.
As always, safety here comes down to common sense. However, if you travel abroad with the attitude that nobody is trustworthy, you're in for a very lonely trip.
12. Pack clothes for every season.
Hell, no. Bring versatile clothing. The person who gives you the advice that traveling with more clothing will save you from doing laundry has obviously never traveled.
For starters, doing laundry abroad is pretty straightforward, and it usually only costs a dollar or two. You can learn to hand wash your belongings.
Also, the more clothes you cram in your bag, the heavier it is, and the more trouble you'll face when it comes to long overland trips and excess luggage fees. Take it from the girl who wore 10 pounds of clothing onto a flight from Prague to Milan in order to avoid paying EasyJet overweight bag penalties.
13. You need a lot of money to travel.
See “How To Travel Cheap: The Ultimate Money Hacking Guide For International Travel.” Because saying you need a lot of money to travel is a lie.
14. Travel without insurance.
Anyone who gives you this advice is a horrible human being. You should absolutely send him or her your $50,000 bill, should you find yourself needing an airlift out of the Amazon.
Travel insurance is one of those things you never want to understand the value of. But if you have to use it, you don't want to regret having brushed off its importance.
We interviewed a frequent adventure traveler who found herself in the wrong places at the wrong five times. She’s been caught up in coups, wars, political crises, demonstrations and violence in several countries. One traveler lost his vision on a river cruise on the Rhine, and another found herself receiving stitches after an Asian air-conditioning unit decided to attack.
So, make sure you get proper and extensive coverage. When things go wrong, you don't want to have to worry about payment or not getting adequate treatment because your insurance didn't cover you for it.
Bear in mind that hospital bills can be outrageous (even in developing countries), and could put you in serious debt. But sometimes, depending on the country you travel to, traveling without insurance may be a choice.
This article was originally published on Mapping Megan.
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