Veselin Peev - 28/11/2019

Travel writers always talk about what to do when you travel. It’s all must-see attractions and things to do. Go here, do this, see that, act this way.

But what about all the things you shouldn’t do on the road?

There are plenty of travel mistakes travelers make that lead to wasted money, lost time, and missed opportunities. It’s easy to say what to do, but we sometimes to forget to mention the don’ts.

A lot of the old conventional travel wisdom (using traveler’s checks or booking early) is out of date in an increasingly digital and connected world. I believe that by not telling travelers “Hey, don’t do this anymore” we keep a lot of myths going strong. We insiders know the tricks, but unless we tell the general public, they won’t!

If you avoid these common mistakes, you’ll be traveling cheaper, smarter, and longer.

1. DON’T eat near a major tourist site

The food near any major attraction is going to be double the price and half the flavor of what you’ll find elsewhere. When restaurants know people aren’t coming back, they don’t have to worry about consistent quality. And anyways, what do tourists know about quality local food, right? They just arrived. It’s all amazing to them, and many are happy to return home talking about how they ate “amazing” pizza in front of the Colosseum. Restaurants lack the incentive to be top-notch.

However, local, nontouristy restaurants must be high quality or else locals will stop going there. These places can’t get by serving slop. Instead of eating in a tourist trap, walk at least five blocks away from one. The further away you are, the more local, cheaper, and tastier the food will be. Avoid restaurants with glossy menus in multiple languages. That’s a sure sign of a tourist trap.

2. DON’T exchange money at the airport
You’ll get the worst exchange rates if you do. You’re better off lighting your money on fire. To get the best rates, use an ATM or credit card. This is will be as close to the interbank rate as you can get and ensures that you are not getting ripped off.

Never exchange cash unless you absolutely have to (and there are times when you have to). If you do need to exchange money, try to do so at a bank downtown where you’ll get better rates and fewer fees. But stick to plastic as much as possible.

3. DON’T bring traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks are checks issued by banks for a predetermined value that allow the bearer to exchange the check for cash anywhere in the world. In the time before widespread ATM and credit card acceptance, it was the best way for travelers to have access to money without carrying a lot of cash. They are absolutely useless these days, with few banks willing to accept them and offering little protection if they are lost or stolen. There’s no need to use them anymore.

4. DON’T use a bank card with fees
Get a bank and credit card that has no foreign transaction fees so you can avoid ATM fees and other surcharges.

5. DON’T look at only US-based search engines
All search engines have blind spots, no matter where they are in the world, but by limiting your searching to only the large search engines, you are reducing the chance you’ll find a deal. Many sites don’t feature smaller budget airlines or seasonal carriers.

6. DON’T skip travel insurance

It may seem like a ridiculous added expense, but travel is about the unknown, and you never know what can happen on the road. You can break a leg, lose a camera, pop an eardrum scuba diving, or have to leave a country because of a natural disaster. Travel insurance protects you when you are overseas and shouldn’t be avoided — it’s the smart thing to get. It is there to protect you from both medical and non-medical emergencies.

7. DON’T rule out hostels
Most people think hostels have smelly, unclean, bedbug-ridden facilities that are aimed at poor college students. It’s a common stereotype perpetuated on TV and in movies over the years. 
While hostels used to be that way, nowadays, most hostels are cleaner than most hotels.They offer a variety of amenities, from pool tables to movie rooms, Xboxes, free computers, and laundry facilities, as well as organized tours, day trips, free Wi-Fi, and small private dorm rooms perfect for families, couples, or seniors who want affordable accommodation and a travel community without the hotel cost.

The modern hostel is not just for cheap backpackers but also for those looking to be involved in a community. They are hubs for like-minded, travel-loving individuals.

8. DON’T avoid hospitality networks

Hospitality networks let travelers stay with locals for free and also swap stories and participate in cross-cultural exchange.

9. DON’T take taxis

Taxis are where budgets go to die — they are always overpriced. Skip them. The only time these are worth using is if you are splitting the fare among many people or need to get somewhere super late at night. Use public transportation as much as possible.

10. DON’T be penny wise but pound foolish

As they say, time is money and, since travelers tend to have more time than money, they save money at the expense of time. However, your time is worth something. It may save you $2 by walking instead of taking the bus, but if it takes you an extra hour to get to where you are going, is that really worth it? You may be able to save $30 by taking a flight with two connections, but is the savings worth it when you know you’re going to be miserable and arrive tired?

Budget travel is not a race to the bottom. It’s about being smart with both your money and time. Avoid wasting time as much as you avoid wasting money.

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