After a week spent in Guyana, a new country for me, I made plenty first time mistakes. When you are returning to countries you have previously visited, you know the routine and are comfortable with how the place works. With new countries it is different and you scour the web for information. These travel tips are universal to follow whichever country you decide to visit.
1. Reserve a hotel or hostel in the city of arrival
It is good to have a home when you arrive for the first day or two. Find a suitable hostel or hotel and reserve it for the first couple of days. Ideally, you can find one that has a shuttle to the airport, which solves dilemma #2. I booked Alajuela Backpackers in San José and this place was perfect. They run a shuttle to the airport and the bus station into downtown is a half block away.
2. Plan a way to get from the airport into the city
Airports are always a good half hour or more from every city, so they provide an immediate test to any traveler’s aptitude for mobility. The Lonely Planet is a great source for figuring this out. A taxi is the easiest solution, but also the easiest way of getting ripped off. Upon arrival in Bangkok, you are swarmed by hordes of ride offers for 1,000 baht. If you walk through this crowd and go up the stairs to the taxi ramp, a taxi will take you into town for 300-500 baht.
3. Exchange money
I find the best way to exchange money is through an ATM. Often times they have one at the airport, but this is not always the case. If not, have your taxi take you to one on the way to where you are staying. Another good idea is to bring a chunk of U.S. dollars in small denominations of one and five dollar bills.
When I went to Southeast Asia, I brought $400.00 of one dollar and five dollar bills. Many countries prefer the use of American dollars, so right away you are getting the best exchange. If not, you can always exchange the money for the local currency.
4. Make a laid back itinerary for the first day or two
Some travelers are gung ho and want to hit the ground running. Depending on where you have arrived from, this may not be a good idea. When I arrived in Guyana, I left my place for O’Hare at 4 p.m. and then did not arrive in Georgetown until 10:30 a.m: needless to say, I was exhausted. I took a nap, woke up, and took a leisurely walk around the city to get my bearings straight.
If you over extend yourself, you run the risk of wearing out and when you do this there is a greater possibility of getting sick. Rest is your immune system’s best friend. Who wants to be ill on vacation in a foreign country?
5. Get a cell phone or SIM card for the country right away
Having a cell phone is vital wherever you are and getting one is rather easy. You can purchase a phone in the country and sell it back when you leave, you can get a SIM card, or you can just rent a phone and a plan while you are there. Ask your hotel or tour operators for help on this one as arrangements differ from country to country. Lonely Planet and other guide books need to update their guides to include this arrangement in every country.
The goal of Traveling Ted is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips on where and how to go. If you liked this post then enter your email in the box to get email notifications for each new entry. Daily travel photos are excluded from your email in order to not flood you with posts. There is no spam and email information will not be shared. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).
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All good tips. I agree with these. However, I do prefer public transportation rather than a taxi to the cities. I realize this may not be as effective in some countries but I find it to be a little cheaper overall.
The laid back itinerary is great – if you have time. On my first day in Ireland, I just walked everywhere. I didn’t do anything but familiarize myself with the city. And with jet lag, if you can be outside that will definitely help.
Jeremy Branham recently posted..A walk in the rain through Dublin Castle
I agree Jeremy. If you can get to your location cheaper via public transportation instead of a taxi, then it gives you a boost of confidence that you can figure out how to get around.
6. Find the best deal on beer specials because one will probably need some after the traveling getting there.
Robb714 recently posted..Snakes
I think this needs to be number 1 Robb.
Great tips, Ted! I especially love the one about booking a place for the first few days. Such good advice!
The World Wanderer recently posted..The Columns of Egypt: Photo Essay.
Always good to have a home base when you arrive for a day or two at least.
Great tips…I have no shame in arriving to a city and then taking a nap. And I tend to take the same approach…a leisurely stroll around the city just to get a feel for things..
I have no shame about taking naps period. It would be cool to start a travel blog called travel naps. That maybe my next project.
Excellent travel tips to stow away…thanks…
Charles Higgins recently posted..Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas named world’s best hotel to pick up single ladies
Great tips, Ted. #2 gets us every time. We’re usually so excited to be in a place that we forget to book accommodation in advance (or at all). Oops.
Tawny of Captain and Clark recently posted..We want to Go with Oh to Paris!
I find that it saves a lot of walking around once you get to a place. On the other hand, it is more adventurous just to arrive.
I’ll be keeping all of these in mind when I head to Colombia in a few weeks! I’m interested to see how difficult it will be to get a cab into the city at 10pm on New Years Eve. Good planning, me!
Britany recently posted..Calling All Passionate People!!!
I am sure you won’t have too many problems especially at that time. No one wants rides at 10pm, so as long as you get through customs before midnight, you will find a ride. Enjoy Colombia.
Awesome tips, Ted. I agree with all of them, though I am guilty of violating tip #4. I’m one of those that likes to hit the ground running and rest later on.
Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..Girlfriends Weekend in Chicago
Nothing wrong with that. Everyone has their own travel style.
Good tips, especially knowing how to get to your hotel from the airport. Seems like a no-brainer to put this on your list, but I know it doesn’t always happen that way… Having a good idea where to go saves you time and lots of stress.
As far as #4, it may not always work for me, especially on shorter trips. But the idea behind it is good. After all, traveling is not about getting exhausted.
Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo of the Week: Tendillas Square in Córdoba, Spain
Nice thing about shorter trips is the journey is not so crazy. Many places take a day of grueling travel to get to and for me, I find it is best to start slow.
Great tips Ted! Always look to plan the first little bit, rides, accommodations, things to see, then once somewhere and more comfortable start ad hoc’ing things. 🙂
Aaron recently posted..Michigan: The World’s Largest Christmas Store.
Yes, once you are comfortable, it is easier to become more adventurous.
Ted, all great advice and stuff I subscribe to. Finding my way in from the airport is definitely very important. In Munich, I could have paid 5 times in a taxi when there was a Lufthansa bus that dropped me off at the main train station blocks from my hotel. Same from Charles de Gaulle airport into Paris. Saves beaucoup of money!
Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted..Getting Up High in Sydney- The Amazing Bridge Climb
I had every intention of finding the bus, but I took a cab instead in Guyana. Next time I will follow my own tip.
I have made the mistake of your #2 before. Arrived to Rome without transport, took the train to city center, and what should have been a 10 euro taxi to the hotel cost 50 euros since I was so jet lagged I didnt see the scam the cabbie pulled.
Now I prebook & prepay airport transportation before leaving home!
Adam Sommer recently posted..Kansas City, MO: Science of Rock ‘n’ Roll
I wrote this after I arrived in Guyana, and I made the same mistake. I took the $25.00 taxi instead of finding the cheap route. Next time I am doing the cheap way whatever country that might be.
I think that it has happened to all of us, taxi drivers taking advantage of you when your in no fit state. Pre book is the way to do it!
Pre book or do some research for other options.