The Big trip
The Big Trip
Travelling long term is the dream of many people. All the wonderful exotic places out there, the cultures and the foods all waiting to be explored. Obviously it is a lot of fun and I love it. I have been travelling over 3 years now, & it is amazing, but its not all fun all the time. There can be hard times along with the good. Always moving around and seeing the world is great and i will never take it for granted but with that comes, many sleepless nights, illness, heat, language barriers, strange rashes, banks blocking cards, constantly evaluating a strangers help. Any problem that would be small at home could magnified on the road.
It can be hard at times, be there's no place i would rather be.
It is easy for some to think it is like a big giant holiday, but it isn't. If you want to travel around, you need to do just that. Long uncomfortable buses, filled with more elbows than people, trains akin to factory Chicken coops, your bowels might be a ticking time bomb. You share a room with 10 people, go weeks without a hot shower! You will be tired, dirty, confused, and feel horrible at times, added to this long journeys, carrying heavy bags, getting lost etc it can be stressful and not fun.
Travelling long term is living on the road, and dealing with all of life's problems, on the road
Feel free to ask a question in the Forums or on Twitter
Need some inspiration?
Have a look through some Countries
Travelling alone can be great. Do what you want, where you want, when you want! If your are worried about being alone all of the time, don't be. If anything, people who travel alone end up meeting more people than couples or friends do. People find it much easier to talk to one person than a few, and often end up travelling together for a while too.
Travelling as a couple
Prepare to get to know each other very well indeed! if you have been only together a short while, remember you will be together 24/7. Eating,sleeping, pooping, travelling, tired, stinking and hairy! You will find out all about each other, from weird habits to explosive bowel movements. You will be living together, sickness and in health, through the good times and the bad.
Hostels vary a lot from country to country, both in price and quality.
Hostels throughout Asia have been fantastic, catering for all sorts of budgets and travel styles.They were clean, safe and many had free WiFi. Most had food to order and communal hang out areas to talk and meet fellow travelers.
I felt hostels in Australia generally a bit of a poor experience, apart from being super expensive, they lacked charm and personality. Many are filled with full time residents who are either working or drinking. So sometimes it can be hard to meet fellow travelers. They did have decent kitchens to make your own food though.
I usually book ahead if arriving late in a new city, nothing worse than being lost, dragging your bag around. Before you arrive Its a good idea to email the hostel you are going to and asking them, How much a Tuk Tuk or taxi should be to their place, so you avoid being scammed.
Better yet, some hostels offer free pickups from train stations, airports etc.
Do keep an eye out for freebies, some hostels offer free breakfast, wifi, tea & coffee, pick ups or transfers etc.
Hostelworld & Hostelbookers are great sites for booking and checking reviews before you arrive
and Agoda for hotels
General getting around
Take all ground transport options in poorer countries with large a pinch of salt, a sense of adventure, and the 'its an experience' attitude. Allow for flexible timings, routes, and comfort levels!
You may arrive 4 hours late, shared your seat with 3 other people, a crate of chickens and ten elbows, but relax and go with the flow. yes they said it was a 'Tourist vip bus with aircon' and now you are sitting in 45 degree sauna with deck chairs down the aisles and paint holding the whole thing together! ,but relax enjoy travelling as a local, these are things you will remember and what your trip is about.
Buses, night buses & Night Trains
You will definitely end up traveling mostly by bus, whether you wanted to or not. They are usually extremely cheap and tickets can be purchased with minimum planning. Buses vary a lot from country to country. In comfort, quality, price and speed.
In more developed countries like Thailand & Malaysia, buses are modern, clean, comfortable and generally enjoyable, Where as in India, Nepal or Cambodia, buses are generally older, slower, cramped and take ages, often picking up extra people along the way. On long bus trips drivers often stop for meal and rest breaks, giving you a chance too pee, stretch your legs and eat some local delicacies in the middle of no where
Night buses or Sleeper Buses are very common throughout Asia and many large Countries around the world. They are buses designed to travel long distances overnight, either fitted with beds, or reclining chairs so you can sleep. There should be a couple of drivers hanging around up the front to switch over during the trip. The style and layout of the sleeper buses do vary a lot from bus makes and models, and from country to country. The bus can be either a single deck or double decker. In China & India the buses had Beds on them and curtains, but most buses in South East Asia
had reclining chairs. In Thailand & Malaysia there are VIP night buses which cost a bit more, but because there are less seats in them so you get more space.
Generally the idea is, you travel overnight, save money on accommodation, wake up refreshed and wonderful and head of sight seeing. Realistically, you wont sleep great, the bus will probably stop a lot as people get on and off, lights will go on and off, people will hit you with bags walking past, your head will hit off the window etc. There might be a Bollywood classic blaring away at 3am. There will be toilet stops, food stops and general bumping and bouncing around. However they are not all bad and are often the best and most reasonable way to get around especially in South East Asia. Bring headphones & water. Often for some reason bus drivers like to recreate Arctic conditions on the bus and have the Air- Con on full blast the entire way, so have something to keep you covered up handy. Not a problem in poorer countries where you will be praying for a slight wisp of aircon!
Similar idea to a night bus, but far far far more comfortable, reliable and enjoyable. Definitely my preference in night travel. You will usually have to book ahead to get tickets, especially if you want to travel by a specific class. This is a notorious problem in China and India during holidays and any festivities. Tickets will be sold out weeks before and you will be on a night bus! so if you have a strict time frame and know what dates you are travelling definitely book trains in advance. The trains usually have similar classes where available.
1st a 2 bed private compartment, Toilet on each carriage or not far.
2nd 4 beds, Unless you are given the side Which has 2 berths, one above the other.
3rd has 6 Beds.
Or then there is often hard sleeper(sleeper class) or hard seats available which are MUCH cheaper but often resemble a cargo train, transporting piles of Humans around the place. Often hot, uncomfortable, jammed with loads of people. We traveled by hard seats in China, didn't get any sleep, but we did meet many friendly people.
On the Chinese trains there was taps at the end of each carriage for adding hot water to your pot noodles! :D
Use your money wisely, dont carry big piles of it around with you. Do have a backup supply of some US dollars. just incase your bank messes around and your cards are blocked. DO tell your bank and card company that you will be travelling. Tell them where and for how long. In my case I have no idea for how long and i will be going everywhere! they just said keep them updated,( i was locked out of my internet banking, then cards blocked, as i was 'making irregular transactions'.) Dollars will be exchanged everywhere and are handy to have. Dont exchange money with people on the street, they will con you, do try have an idea of currency exchange rates. It can be hard, emerging from a long overnight bus into a new country and trying to grasp how much things should be, i.e tuk tuks etc. Use you phone to keep track of currency conversions
Yes guide books are helpful, yes they have glossy pictures, little maps and recommendations. All to often people are putting these books, books of other peoples experiences up on a giant dictating pedestals. Putting of even going to countries unless they have the current guide book.
The Lonely Packer
I must do as the almighty lonely planet commands, i will do the walking tour and see all said sights in the recommended timeframe. I will eat at the recommended cafe and sleep at said guesthouse..
i will not dare venture to a sight not visible in the almighty text...
By all means do have a guide book, but use it as a guide. Dont be afraid to venture off the pages written, have your own trip, stop somewhere unwritten. Pick up local maps, talk to locals, even just discover a place for yourself. It will be more memorable, and because you made the effort, will mean more to you.
Australia's East coast and South-East Asia are the only known places where leeches live on land, usually in wet or moist forests. Most other places leeches are found are paddling in rivers and floating around ponds. To get hold of you the land based leeches will suck on to the ground, a small bush or whatever, and 'stand' straight up awaiting an innocent victim to brush off them. They will latch on immediatley and travel head over heel, almost cart wheeling until they find some exposed skin to suck on. When they latch onto skin, their bite is pretty painless. Once they are full, they will drop off. You might not even notice until you feel the blood dripping! Leeches produce an anticoagulant to help them feed, this stops the blood hardening and scabbing over so you may keep bleeding for some time afterwards!
To help prevent getting bitten in the first place, if you find yourself in a leech invested suck zone
tuck your trousers into your socks, and T-shirt into your pants
Use some insect repellent on any exposed skin or wherever. Leeches will travel up to your neck from your feet so beware! Also if you have an allergy to insect bites take this into consideration and take the necessary precautions
Removal of the leech:
The most active time for these little vampires is Dawn and sunset. They love hanging around water and can carry some nasty diseases. Avoid getting bitten is the first step. Wearing long sleeves and trousers is great but not ideal in the tropics! Some thin or tight fitting clothes can be bitten through also, which isnt great. There are some manufacturers putting a repellent coating on there clothes to help with this. So for exposed skin, use a good repellent, there are some good natural ones using Citronella which are very good, or you can use the very chemically DEET based repellents. which are very efffective. Dont spray Deet around any cheap plastics, plastic clothing, hand bags shoes etc, as the chemical can corrode the plastic and make it liquidy and sticky! Not great when it leaks inside your Backpack!!
Most Hostels and Beach Bungalows will have Mosquito nets above the beds. This big net drapes over and around the bed to stop you getting eaten at night. They can bite you through it if you are right up against it, so be careful. Weigh it down at the sides with a bottle of water.
Mosquito's hate aircon, and if you have a fan, aim this at your bed and they wont come near you. They will just blow away.
There are many Brands of Anti Malarial drugs, and also different types of Malaria, so if you are wanting to take these as prophylaxis make sure your Doc is giving the right kind for the right strain for where you are going. DO try them at home before you go. Last thing you want is a giant allergic reaction or huge side affects while you are in the middle of nowhere!! and be left looking for alternative tablets.