We asked the Couchsurfing Community what the best piece of Travel Advice they have ever received is. These are their answers…
By far the most commented piece of advice was Pack Light! And we agree, it is great advice. Nothing is worse than having a heavy pack that you have to lug around and not even wearing half the things you brought. One wise Couchsurfer said, “When you think you have packed ONLY the strict minimum, cut it by half!” When it comes to clothing, whatever you forget you can probably get for relatively cheap on the road and unless you are going camping/trekking most gear is probably ultimately unnecessary.
Talk to Locals
The second most commented advice was, “talk to locals!” And we could not agree more. Many of the best memories you make will not be the things you see but the people you meet. “Turn your maps off and ask strangers for directions, for you might end up chatting and walking together towards the same destination.” A simple smile may lead to a great conversation and some incredible recommendations. Even if they end up being a traveler, you may have just found a friend to check-out a touristic site with or someone to grab lunch with.
One of my favorite pieces of travel advice is, when looking for restaurants, choose somewhere that is packed with locals – that’s where the good, affordable, food is. Is this 100% true? No. But it has led to some pretty incredible meals in places that I could not even tell you the name of!
This is one that I apply to my day-to-day life but is especially important when traveling. It cannot be expected that everywhere accepts credit cards, and once you get outside of heavily touristed areas, cash is often king. I always try to make sure I have enough cash to carry me through a couple days (ATMs may also be in short supply!) and then use my card whenever possible. Conversely, if you’re traveling through a country where credit cards are the norm (like the USA) you may need to check that places accept cash since more and more places only accept ‘non-cash’ payment. A Couchsurfer made the great point of, “Never exchange currency at an airport!” and it is true. They often have the worst exchange rates and if you can get into town without cash, you can probably find better rates.
Learn a bit of the Language
No one expects you to become fluent in Korean or Hungarian for your two-week trip, but the locals will appreciate you making an effort and it will be a great conversation starter as they correct your pronunciation or try to teach you new words and phrases. Hearing you try to speak their language may even put them at ease in speaking their second (or third, or fourth) language!
Buy a Local SIM Card
Another common suggestion was to buy a local SIM card so you have a phone (and data!) in whatever country you’re traveling in. If you’re crossing borders often, or just want to be off the grid, this may not be for you – but many phone companies offer short-term plans for travelers and this may eliminate some unnecessary headaches on the road!
It is a good idea to download a map for a place before you go – especially if you won’t have data on your phone. Maps.me and maps.google.com are both great options with offline options and may be life-savers. Although if you somehow forget to do this, don’t forget the advice given above, “ask strangers for directions, for you might end up chatting and walking together towards the same destination.“
“Be brave so you can discover the world, and be kind; surprising things are waiting for you!”
“Be curious but smart…”
“Be flexible. Do not plan too much, stay open to opportunities.”
The Transderm-Scop Patch
The most specific piece of advice we received was regarding nausea and motion sickness. A Couchsurfer advised, “wear a Transderm-Scop patch on your cruise. $47 saved my entire vacation. I would have had 5 days worth of pukey motion sickness.” This is great advice if you are prone to motion sickness or have a long boat ride ahead of you. Even the least-nausea-prone of us has been on ferry in choppy waters and felt our head spinning and wishing we had some remedy. According to WebMD the Transderm-Scop Patch is the real deal and may be worth having in your pack just in case!
From the Community
“Come with high expectations for your experiences and it will motivate and inspire you to make these experiences! Overcome your inhibitions and face your fears! Try to trust as much as possible!”
“Do things that are outside of your comfort zone when traveling! Thats how some experiences can change you from the inside forever.”
“It’s never too late in life to travel, you don’t have to be young!”
“Don’t invest time too much in planning, just hit the road and go with the flow!”
We received MANY comments simply stating, “travel alone!” which is great advice if it is something you are comfortable doing (and maybe even if it is something you are uncomfortable doing…) but
@prekoel said, “once in a lifetime, travel somewhere only with your mum :)” and that made me smile. So with that, go forth and explore!