Thursday, March 11, 2010

3 Avoidable Mistakes I Made On My RTW Travels

3 Avoidable Mistakes I Made On My RTW Travels

Michael from The Mobile Lawyer nominated me to write about '3 Avoidable Mistakes I Made' on my round the world trip and what I learned from them.

What would I change about my round the world trip?

Honestly not much, but I did make a few mistakes that if I had the time machine to go back and fix, I would.

Mind you none of these are deal breakers and would jump on the plane to Hawaii all over again. Would avoiding these things have made my trip a little less stressful and save me some money? Absolutely.

Too many options can be a bad thing
I got used to booking tickets at the last minute in London. It was such a great jumping off point with trains from central London to both Heathrow and Gatwick airports that I reveled in the possibilities. Where should I go today? Athens? Paris? Amsterdam? Istanbul?

The bevy of options meant that I often booked last minute and didn't always get the best deals. I paid more than I should have for flights. Hostels were inexpensive and abundant already so I never worried about finding a place to put my head at night. Planning that far in advance might have killed the spontaneity of the adventure but my wallet would have had a few more euros in it.

This is not just for planes. Eurostar was running a deal London to Paris for about $60US round trip when the usual price was significantly more than that. But you had to book at least 14 days in advance.

**Lesson 1: Get your tickets as far in advance as you possibly can. Or make a decision as quickly as possible and stick to it. It will work out!**

Thai tuk-tuk drivers and other scammers
There are all kinds of scams and semi-scams. By semi-scams I mean people are not outright robbing you, but they put you in situations where you normally would not spend money.

"I need to get a gas card. I take you to good shop, OK. You need suits?"

"You have girlfriend? Let me take you place with nice pretty stones."

The Thai tuk-tuk drivers pulled that number so much that I created a video about it.

China has the young women who invite you into art galleries and pressure you into buying paintings or invite you to lunch and then leave you with a huge bill.

In Morocco, someone invited me to have his friend's shop...which happened to sell jewelry and other baubles. Hmmmm...what do we think is going to happen here? The hard sell, that's what.

In Barcelona and Rome, people engage you in conversation, act confused, feign a medical condition or play pretend football (soccer) with you to distract you. Meantime someone else is lifting your wallet or cutting open your pursue.

**Lesson 2: Research scams in the area you're going to visit. Better yet, start talking to current visitors about what to avoid as soon as you arrive. The locals may not want to tell you, not to be malicious, but feeling it is impolite to talk badly about their countrymen and women.**

One Way Tickets are a No No
Flying from Bangkok to Hong Kong, I changed my scheduled a number of times. Since I didn't know when I was going to leave Hong Kong, I didn't bother print out a new itinerary.

When I got to my Thai Air flight check-in at the airport in Bangkok, I got the 4th degree in questioning...

Where are you going?

How long will you be in Hong Kong? - I'm in Bangkok still!

This went on for a good 20 minutes, with me explaining I didn't have an itinerary and them wanting one showing I was going to leave Thailand at some point.

Then I learned you better have a departure ticket from anywhere you go in the world. I'm sure some countries are more lenient than others but Thai Air was not going to let me get on the flight to Hong Kong.

Illegal immigration is probably the prime reason. Too many people come with a one way ticket, overstay their visa and then they disappear into the populace. Bangkok is the air traffic hub for Southeast Asia, so many countries probably draw their line in the stand there before they land in their countries.

The Thai Air counter employees were extremely polite, but they were not going to let me on the flight. I had to run through the airport, use an expensive Internet cafe and then print the itinerary. Sucks yes, but it had to be done.

**Lesson 3: Have a departure ticket for any place you're visiting and have the latest itinerary printed before you go to the airport/bus terminal/seaport/border crossing.**

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