Editor and Managing Director of Wanderlust travel magazine, Lyn Hughes, has spent years of her life criss-crossing the globe to get the best travel features on Earth. Here, she gives us her top tips for surviving the headaches and heartbreaks of modern long-haul travel.
1. LEARN THE LINGO
Even if you’re rubbish at languages, learn how to say ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (keep them written down in a pocket if necessary). Learn a few key words (rather than phrases) too. And, if all else fails, a smile goes a long way.
2. SECURE YOUR VALUABLES
Keep essential documents, credit and debit cards and most of your cash in a money belt under your clothes, or in a secure internal pocket. Leave small stashes of money scattered in clothes and baggage. Make copies or scans of documents – for your passport, this should be your ID page and relevant visa pages (if your passport is lost or stolen it will make it easier to get a replacement!) Email them to yourself, as well as leaving copies with someone at home.
3. AVOID JET LAG
Get into a new time zone even before you arrive. As soon as you get onto a long-haul flight, set your watch to the time in your final destination. Start thinking in that time zone. If you arrive in the daytime, make sure you have some gentle exercise, and stay awake until a ‘sensible’ time.
4. LOOK AFTER YOUR HEALTH
Eat a range of fresh vegetables and fruit, but only if you know it has been safely prepared. As the travellers’ mantra has it: if you can’t peel it, cook it or boil it – forget it. Buffets can harbour germs and bugs; freshly cooked food is always a safer bet. Keep well-hydrated. Take sachets of rehydration salts, throat lozenges, soluble paracetamol and plasters with you. And keep them in your daypack.
5. PACK SMARTLY
It’s amazing how much you can fit into a travel bag. Keep your clothing crease-free – by either rolling your clothes up (lay them flat, fold and roll), or by using packing folders. Stuff any shoes with your socks; it keeps them wrinkle-free too, while making the most of your space. Keep a spare folder or bag for your dirty clothes.
6. PRE-ARRANGE AN AIRPORT TRANSFER
It’s too easy to get ripped off if you don’t know how to get into town, how much a taxi should cost, or where to change money at a fair rate. Plus, you’re at your most vulnerable and open to robbery within the first few hours of arrival. If you haven’t arranged a transfer, do at least make sure you arrive in daylight and with a plan.
7. LESS IS MORE
Keeping weight and bulk to a minimum is liberating, so be ruthless. Choose clothing that’s lightweight, coordinated and packable – fleeces, down jackets, base layers. Chances are you’ll be able to wash your clothes as you go, so pick items that dry quickly. And remember that you can buy most essentials wherever you are around the world.
8. IF IN A MALARIA ZONE, AVOID BITES
Malaria is potentially fatal. Since no antimalarial tablet is 100% effective, and mosquitoes also carry other diseases including dengue fever and chikungunya, it is important to avoid bites. Be particularly careful in the evening when mosquitoes hunt; wear long clothes and socks, as well as using an effective insect repellent.
9. MAKE YOUR GEAR MULTI-TASK
You’ll save valuable weight and space in your luggage if you can get one piece of clothing or kit to serve several purposes. For example, choose a lightweight dress or shirt that will do for walking safaris AND the ambassador’s ball. Sticking to colours that coordinate will help keep your outfits versatile.
10. KEEP A NOTEBOOK, DIARY OR BLOG
You’ll be so glad you did ten years later! It’s amazing how much we forget from a trip, whether the names of the people we meet, that great little rooftop bar, or the gem of a village you want to return to one day. So always take notes as you go along.
11. TAKE LOCAL ADVICE
Guidebooks, websites and Wanderlust magazine can be great for providing ideas and basic practical information, but there’s nothing like getting the local lowdown to check the best restaurants, the parts of town to avoid after dark and the safest bus company. And if you have a guide, listen to them, whether they’re telling you what not to eat or how to avoid being eaten. Take time to find your feet by hanging out in a café, just peoplewatching can often help you to ‘acclimatise’.
12. EXPERIENCES ARE MORE MEMORABLE THAN SIGHTS
You’ll learn more about a place by doing a cookery class, joining a guided walk, or volunteering with a charity than by gazing at endless temples. You are more likely to meet some interesting people too, whether locals or likeminded fellow travellers. So immerse yourself in a destination, read the local paper, hire a local guide, or tap into a social network.
Long-haul survival guide by Lyn Hughes.