Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Travelling Tips from a Humble Hobo

I know I'm just a 25 year old punk ass kid in most people's eyes, but perhaps the one saving grace that I have is that I have travelled quite a bit in spite of my short time having spent walking this Earth. So, why a humble hobo? Commercialized tours? No thanks! I think my style of travelling is very no-frills, low-brow and quite penny pinching. There are many times where I spent more on the plane ticket itself than the rest of the entire trip!

"I've been to countries and cities I can't pronounce
and places around the globe that I didn't even know existed"

I happily exclude myself from listing down all the places that I've been to. This isn't a "whose-prick-is-bigger" competition to see who is more well travelled, what crazy stuff you've done and how many selfies with famous objects you have. Because frankly, most people on the internet don't give a damn.

This is a celebration for those that love travelling and for me to share some travelling tips because I always see so many facepalm moments while travelling.

Book your damn stuff in advance, or regret it. For plane tickets, at least a month, if not 2 months if you want to get a good price. For accommodations, at least 2 weeks before if you plan on getting a room at wherever you are staying. 

All the prices are online, LOOK AT IT. Use websites like Skyscanner and Kayak to search for cheap flights. Never head directly to a single airline website and book, unless you take that particular route so often that you are very familiar with it. Agoda and Trivago are great for your accommodation search. Once you have a feel of the rough prices, you can head out to other sites directly.

Change currency in Singapore. Whenever I travel, I always like to look at currency rate boards. Holy shit. The spread is 5% each way. If you change $100, you get back only $95. Changing currency overseas is a real bitch and you get a horrible rate, especially with the SGD. Just change your money here locally at one of the more competitive areas. If you are paranoid, bring a 100 USD, they will take it anywhere in the world.

Check the damn airport (and terminal). It's not a problem when countries, states and cities are Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, but it can be a problem especially for cities that have multiple airports. Prime examples? New York, London, Los Angeles. Knowing your departure terminal is also very important (arrival terminal doesn't really matter, unless you're arranging a rental) because some terminals aren't even connected to each other. Getting from one terminal to another sometimes requires a shuttle bus or public bus, and maybe even a taxi if you are in a rush.

If you can't carry it into the overhead bin yourself, check it in. As a general rule of thumb, stick pretty much everything into your check-in luggage, except like your laptop, your travel documents and a pen. Maybe an extra set of clothes if you are super paranoid about your luggage is going to go missing.

Reach the airport early. Unless you've departed from that particular city fairly often, I insist on going to the airport early. Poor watch-reading skills and general lack of planning are the lamest excuses to miss a flight. Not only does it take a while to find your check-in counter, you still have to clear immigration and security and find your boarding gate. Many airports get choked at their immigration and security checkpoints.

Learn how to use the automated self check-in machines. On many occasions, I've walked straight up to a self check-in machine, punch in my ticket number, pick my seats and ta-da, my tickets are printed on the spot. I march up to a special check-in counter for baggage drop-off, show my tickets and drop off my check-in baggage to be tagged and whisked away. Less than 5 minutes, start to end. All done while a herd of maybe 400-odd technological luddites stood in the "regular" queue watching me like I'm some bigshot VIP. Oh yeah.

Security? It's always the belt. I don't know why, but people do not seem to understand how airport security works. Discard all liquids. Stuff everything that was in your pockets into either your bag or jacket, which is going through the scanner (yes, handphone and wallet as well). TAKE OFF YOUR BELT. Walk through the gate. Be the only non-idiot that doesn't need a pat down. Grin, take your belongings and walk away like a boss.

Reach your gate early. And pee. Airports these days are huge, and sometimes getting to a specific gate requires a skytrain. Also airlines changing gates last minute is actually a lot more common than you think. In most cases, a change in gate is just a matter of walking to another number nearby. I say, get to your gate early, have a good pee, and just relax. If you fall asleep at your gate, they will wake you up and ask if its your flight.

Pick your seats well. The seats at the wings are the least rocky, but of course half your view is blocked. People with small bladders should always opt for the aisle, while people that want to sleep should grab a window seat. If you have a quick connection, try to pick an aisle seat as close as possible to the front. If you checked-in your baggage, you really shouldn't be in a rush.

Function over form. I've seen girls dressed up like they are going to some high class social event. It's just a flight and you're probably going straight to your accommodation, from which you can change into whatever you want. Keep the travelling gear simple and comfortable. When you're stuck sitting down in a plane for 6 hours, you're gonna be wishing you were in loose jeans and a t-shirt.

Know how to get to your accommodation from the airport. This takes like 5 minutes of pre-planning. Just figure out the address of your accommodation and figure out how to best get there from the airport. You'd be very surprised, but many many times there are other ways that are faster and even cheaper than taking a taxi.

There are lots of other travel tips, but I decided to just keep these to the ones airport related. I've seen and heard so many people miss their flights, it's really sad. Flights are probably the most expensive part of any trip. On my way back, I think quite a few people missed the flight because they couldn't get to the gate on time. Even with all my experience, I only reached the gate with 15 minutes to spare.

Anyway, hopefully with these tips it'll help you travel more smoothly, save more money and enjoy yourself! Anything more to add? Feel free to share!

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