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18 Travel Tips for the University Voyager

July 24, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

 To travel is to see the world, to explore and to learn. Yet with all that it has to offer, travelling is also full of pitfalls, even to the veterans of veterans.  A tiny mistake – a lousy lodge, upsetting eatery, getting stuck in avoidable traffic – your trip may be ruined. After extensive research and some lessons learnt by personal experiences of mine, I present to you a few travelling tips:



1. Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can be costly, and when you’re a student travelling on a budget, paying for insurance probably won’t even cross your mind. However, it’s probably one of the most important things of travelling. Why? Most plans cover medical expenses to baggage loss to travel accidents such as natural disasters and local riots. I suggest buying from a third-party insurer instead of partners of travel agencies, as they are usually planned in favour of the agencies than yourself. In order to minimize costs, look for whole-year packages or student plans, or just talk to your insurer – chances are, you’ll get a really juicy discount.


2. Research!

Yes, travelling is about discovery, but you do need some expectations and background knowledge about that place you’re going to visit. Just look up your destination on Google – even Wikipedia will do – and have a brief idea on your destination’s basic geography, culture, laws and transportation. You may want to wander, but you probably won’t want to get lost.


3. Keep a Copy of your Travel Docs

I cannot stress how important it is to keep a copy of your travel docs, and by that I don’t just mean your passports and visas. Always keep a copy of your air tickets and hotel documents. You can do so by either making physical copies or just snapping a photo of them and keeping them in your phone. I’d also suggest giving a trusted friend/family member a copy – the backup would be helpful if just in case something happens.


4. Pack Smart

ROLL YOUR CLOTHES. Seriously, if you have limited luggage space or plan to bring quite a few items from your destination back home, roll your clothes. This is what all the travel experts will tell you. Also, remember that you actually don’t need as much stuff as you think you do. If you’re not planning to visit swanky, fancy places or restaurants, a pair of yoga pants and a few tshirts or tunics together with a comfy pair of sandals or espadrilles are good enough. Even if you really plan on going to somewhere that requires formalwear, bring a light summer dress (I prefer a black maxi) and pair it with a few bold accessories. Keep your travel items versatile.


5. Internet Access

Unless you’re planning to do a digital detox, having access to the Internet will make travelling much easier. Especially so when you plan to put your smartphone into the whole travelling equation – I suggest downloading phone applications such as local weather observatories and restaurant/location apps such as Yelp! Buy a prepaid local SIM card with internet data, or rent a personal WiFi for places that don’t allow you to buy prepaid cards, such as Japan.


6. Check the Weather

A week or so prior your trip, just spare a few minutes to look up the weather of your designated destination to prevent avoidable icky situations. You can also plan your itinerary according to the weather, avoiding outdoor places on rainy days and bringing the right clothes for the right weather.



7. Cheap Flights

Many websites and airline companies offer discounted airfares, such as the Cathay Pacific FanFares. Note, however, that these discounts usually “spontaneous” and offers usually just last during a limited time. I’d suggest following these airline companies on social media platforms or subscribing to their sites. Note also, however, that these cheap flights usually don’t provide in-air meals or only very limited refreshments. Mileages are also usually excluded from frequent flyer programs.


8. Frequent Flyers: Add up the extras

If you tend to travel a lot, or if you’re studying abroad and tend to fly home often, join the club and add up your mileages. Adding up mileages can save you bucks – with enough miles, you can get a free upgrade or even a free (usually short-haul) ticket! Different airline companies have different programs, but keep an eye out on airline partners – you can save mileages from airlines that are partners, e.g. Star Alliance, Marco Polo Club, AsiaMiles, etc. Also, if you have a credit card, see if you can connect it with your club.


9. Hydration makes a world of difference

Planes are one of the driest places one can ever be on, that’s why hydration is key. Drink lots of water or juice, and avoid alcohol, as they dehydrate you (unless it’s champagne!) Also keep your skin hydrated by putting on lotion regularly. Staying hydrated keeps your body healthy and prevents you from looking like a wreck when you land. Really.



10. Ax the middleman

It’s common sense – if you want to cut the costs, rule out the middleman, i.e. travel agencies. I’d suggest booking directly with an airline or a hotel. Only bring the middleman back into the equation if his deals are better than the direct ones, especially when there’s a good package. Try Expedia and


11. Join the Club

If you’re planning to stay at hotels (especially chained ones), before you plan your next trip, make a list of all the hotels you stayed at and look them up and see if they belong to the same group or are partners. Join the loyalty program and enjoy all the freebies the hotels can’t help to shower you with. These include extra amenities, complimentary breakfasts and refreshments, business lounge access and free Internet! Plus the staff will be extra nice and helpful, which is always a bonus.


12. Other lodgings

If you’re tired of hotels and want an alternate experience and perspective, try staying at a youth/traveller’s lodge or rent a room/apartment. It will save you bucks and especially if you’re staying at a lodge, you’ll get to interact a lot more with fellow globetrotters from all around the world, and through that I guarantee an even more rewarding trip, and even (lifelong) friends and travel companions! You’ll also save a lot of money too.


13. Yelp!

Hungry, thirsty and exhausted? Yelp! Well, not literally. What I mean is that you should fully utilize your very smart phone and download the widely-used site and restaurant review app to look for restaurants and eateries – even local clinics! Just make sure that your destination is covered by Yelp! Read through the reviews and shared photos, and decide on what you want.


14. Eat where the locals eat

Re: Yelp! – if you’re too lazy to check online, look for eateries that are packed and popular with the locals. You can’t go wrong this way.



15. Skip the Taxi

Taxi fares tend to be quite high around the world, and even if you’re in SE Asia where you can haggle with your chauffeur, because you’re a tourist, 6 chances in 10 you’ll get ripped off, really. Taxis are also not a good idea for cities that have crazy traffic, especially during rush hour. Therefore, do as the locals do, and fully utilize your destination’s public transportation other than taxis, such as metros and buses. I personally prefer metro transport because I find it generally the less confusing. Bus routes and arrival times can be hard to grasp, but I think it’s still worth a try – just for the experience.


16. Google maps

From my experience, I find Google maps the ultimate traveller’s best friend. It’s easy to use and extremely helpful, highlighting local vicinities and spots. If you have limited or no portable internet access, do your research in your hotel or any place with wifi, screenshot the directions and look through your camera roll when you go around.



17. Follow a friend

I said earlier that Google Maps is the ultimate traveller’s best friend. I guess I’m slightly wrong. A friend really is the traveller’s best friend, especially if that friend is a local or has stayed in that area long enough to know about all the cool places around town. This way, you’ll see the place from an insider’s perspective, and of course enjoy a great deal of bonding time!


18. Traveller reviews

If you don’t know anyone staying at your designated destination, worry not. Just go online and look at reviews and blog posts. Try and look at both the good and bad reviews. Get a brief idea of what you should expect, and learn from other people’s lessons. I also like to follow some local bloggers and their social media sites such as their tumblr and instagram. I look through their posts for (local-ish) outfit inspirations and to get a general idea of what the place is like. It’s a lot of fun!