Top 10 Travel Tips

Today’s post is my top ten travel tips, it is written for mariners and travellers alike and who knows it right might help you out one day, at least I hope so. I will be interested in hearing your thoughts and additions to these so please do comment at the end and who knows maybe together we can make this list grow to 100 Tips. I’m no travel guru who has been to every country and speaks every language but I’d like to think I’ve been away enough to gain a little credit to my words. I hope you find these useful or maybe even amusing…

1. Travel Light

I recently posted about what to pack, a guide mostly for sailors/trainees but  it is fairly transferable to most travellers. It’s a fairly comprehensive list of all the things you might need at sea and their quantities. However the following may feel contrary to that, but some common sense should be applied.
My advice for any type of travel that involves getting on an aeroplane be it business or pleasure is to pack light. Don’t take things that you are unlikely to use or that you can purchase at your destination. For example, if you are planning a trip to the States you don’t need to pack copious amounts of shower gels/shampoos etc. they can very easily be purchased and are often cheaper and save on that ever annoying baggage allowance.
The very last thing you want is to get to the airport and find your luggage is overweight and that you have to pay extra, quite often it’s A LOT extra and this is of particular annoyance when you can’t claim it on company expenses.
Don’t forget that what you pack is what you carry….

2. Carry on Baggage-Pants

This is another packing related tip, but I felt it deserved it’s own heading. Pack spare clothes in your hand luggage, that and a tooth brush.
Air lines nowadays have an uncanny ability to be, how do I put this? Awful… They are more often than not absolutely useless. Right now I fly from Aberdeen to Birmingham to get to and from work, twice now the airline havn’t even put the baggage on the plane, well that’s fine if I’m going home but if I’m joining a ship…. Well you can’t borrow underpants or a toothbrush now can you!? And that is in a ‘civilized’ part of the world, there are many countries that loosing you baggage can be a lot more desasterous. I once waited a week sweating it out in Asia waiting for my baggage, but at least I could wear some undies whilst I washed the others… For those thinking it can’t be that bad having a day or two of the same ones on…. Good luck with that in 100% humidity.
If you are going from somewhere hot to cold… Don’t pack your coat in your hold luggage.

3. Get Travel Insurance!!!

This should actually be number one! I can’t stress how important this is. There are hundreds of reasons to get travel insurance, the obvious ones being you get pick pocketed for your phone or wallet in Bangkok or Rio or you risk injury snowboaing the alps or base jumping the Petronus Towers in KL or climbing Everest! I know it sounds so obvious but so many people try and get away with not taking it out. It is relatively cheap and many people have it through their banks.
Last year I ran the Inca Trail in Peru, it was breathtaking and I’d recommend it to anyone and I’d certainly do it all over again. But the last day is tainted with the memory of the amount of pain I was in, a long story short and over a week in hospital after a very very near death experience I was very grateful to my insurance company that insisted I had nothing but the best treatment and a room on my own, reorganised my flights, hotels and travel expenses all for £100 excess of an £56,000 bill, I for one will not going anywhere without travel insurance.
If you have an accident on your ship and it’s your fault you need to make sure you are covered for whatever the company might not pay for.
Also, don’t forget to have your jabs/shots/inoculations and take enough prescription meds and extra pair of glasses too. Make sure you take the prescription with you as some countries don’t allow you to travel there without it. Which leads me onto tip number 4.

4. Know where you are going!

Every country has different laws and of course you need to follow them to prevent yourself being thrown in the brig. We all have the use of google or guide books; do use them to know about where you are going. For example adult movies or pictures (talking to the sailors here I think) are not permitted in Gulf countries, YES they will scan your laptop and harddrive. Also Singapore is very strict on pirate DVDs and in Brazil you can get detained for a bad smelling fart!
Check the laws before you pack and save yourself some trouble when you land and remember just because you can get it through your departure airport doesn’t me you can at your arrival one.

5.  Keep Valuables at Home

This one might seen obvious but the fact is no matter where you are accidents can happen, people do steal and you don’t want to fall victim to some bad luck and loose something you wish you hadn’t.
There are 2 pieces of jewellery a mariner can get away with and that’s a watch and a wedding band. Everything else should be left at home even if you do think you look great with diamond earrings.
I would recommend not taking your favourite designer clothes either, no one cares what you look like on a ship and you don’t want your best clobber covered in grease, oil or rust. If you are reading this and planning a holiday, do consider whether or not you need your Prada handbag or even your iPad this trip.
If you are going to be away for Christmas and your friends or family give you presents to open whilst away, it’s not rude to ask the nature of the gift, after all you have to get them through customs and if they are expensive and you loose your bag… Well, that would be ashame.
Membership cards- it’s one thing to have to call up the bank and cancel a stolen card, replacing a passport or driving licence is a real nightmare but telling Tesco or Next you need new cards is just annoying and wasn’t it embarrassing enough to sign up at your local strip club the first time?
Do you also need to take every credit/debit card you own? Stick to the essentials.


6. Don’t Joke…

Never try to crack a joke with either a border patrol officer or a French waiter. Both are humourless, bad smelling  and can make your life hell.

7. Photocopy Your Documents

Certainly not just one for the mariners, this is incredibly important but so many forget to do it.
My advice to you is not just keep photocopies with you, but also scan them and send them to your email and take a USB stick with you and use it to download them to should you need to, thus avoiding downloading them onto a random computer, don’t keep the documents on the USB for too long incase it’s lost or stolen.
The USB also doubles up for a great way to keep/transfer pictures between you and people you meet.
Also send that email to your next of kin and a set of Photocopies too. You can never be too careful and it really doesn’t take that long to do. You never know when they might need them in case of an emergency or accident.
Keep all your originals with you in your hand luggage!!!

8. Give your contact details to your family.

This is essential, and basic. I’d encourage everyone to do it not just mariners. In the following you can obviously omit ship for things like hotel, hostel, mud hut etc.
Also ensure that you give your shipping company the correct details for your next of kin in case something happens to you.
Each company will have it’s own procedure for dealing with such things, familiarise yourself with it and explain it to your family. These procedures are there for a reason. I will also take this opportunity to talk about social networking… As a rule mariners have common sense and common sense would dictate that finding out a friend or relative has died via Facebook or the like can be devastating, so we would never ever post about an accident, death or anything of that nature and you should advise neither should your friends and family.
I’d suggest you include the following details;
Personal email address and phone number.
Shipping companies HR contact details
Ship’s phone number and itinerary if you know it.
Ship’s email address.
Remember Sat phones are horrifically expensive so no mindless idle chit chat or pointless calls.

9. Take Cash

You are an idiot if you don’t take cash and a credit card. Never take less than $200.
US Dollars run the world make no mistake about it.

10. Check your passport is in date and a little on aeroplane thoughts.

This one catches more people out than you’d ever imagine, don’t fall victim to it, most countries don’t like you having less than 6 months left on your passport, don’t risk it.
I always check in with plenty of time to spare, but I am always last on the plane, its a straight run to my seat, chuck the bag up in the overhead locker and step over a person or two to get to my WINDOW SEAT, look at it like this… would you rather wake other people up to go to the loo or be the one woken up? the window seat is far more interesting than an aisle seat and you can lean on the bulkhead for a kip, lovely. I’m always last off the plane if i can help it, it’s easier to spot if you have missed something and the baggage always takes forever to get onto the arrival belt anyway… and to be fair does getting there first mean your bag wont be last off? No… so chill, how much of a rush are you really in?


Some final pointers … because there was never any chance I’d be able to narrow down 10 points, but you can consider these after thoughts rather than a valid point all of their own.
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Take a business card from your hotel, so even if you get so drunk you forget your name you can hand over a business card and get back to the hotel. If you need help you can call the hotel and they usually help more than you ever expected they might.
  • Toilet paper is not a given, take your own, take a lot!
  • Take a (4 plug) extension lead with you in your luggage. That way you only need one adaptor and and all of your electronic devices can be charged/used at the same time.
  • Don’t pack clothes that require ironing. In fact, don’t buy clothes that require ironing.
  • Don’t pack clothes or shoes you’ve never worn before. (you can thank me later)
  • The free shower caps that are in  your hotel room? they’re great for putting your spare shoes in to protect your clothes in your bag/case.

A few road going tips…

Never take a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, expecially when they say it’s going to be for free. They will take you where they want and you’ll waste a day
Always take metered taxis expecially in Asia otherwise they will overcharge you
Always negotiate in Asia and Arabic Countries. That’s the way it goes
Only take “Legal” taxi/shuttles in South America. There is the risk you’ll be robbed. My friend once had a machine gun put into the taxi window and she left with only her passport.
Always lock your backpack/bag when on South America buses (mainly night buses). Children will be sent under the seats and will take all your valuables.
I rather hope this helped.
This entry was posted on Saturday, December 8th, 2012 at 2:31 pm by The Mariner. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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Comments (6)
  1. jo says:

    got one for you buddy – the one time it is worth rushing when you get of a plane is when you have a connecting flight, no matter how much of a superstar you think you are, they will not hold the plane. An overnight stay in a domestic airport is not comfy!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Spence
    Top tip for travelling hand luggage only for short trips. Lush sell solid shampoo and deodorant. This frees up space in your liquids/gels baggie for going through airport checks.
    xx Prints Northampton

  3. Customs has got to be the biggest pain for myself. I get the worse luck when it comes to this, but in my experience, as long as you respect them, they will respect you.

  4. I do everything I can to make sure I have a carry on bag and nothing else. So when it comes to carry on bags, I try to be as conservative as I can in my travels.

    • Carry-on is the way to go Mike – I’ve had far too many things go missing in my checked bags when I’m flying. If I’m having trouble fitting everything I will just put on a few layers of jackets and stuff things into the pockets. It’s nice to not have to wait for my bags when my flights land…just stroll out the door like a local! To add to the making copies of your travel documents – make copies of EVERYTHING. Bringing a camera? Write down the serial number. I will often take a picture of everything I’m bringing with me. It helps for packing again on the return trip and also for remembering what I’ve brought in case anything gets stolen and I need to make a claim.

  5. Great advice to not only make a photocopy of your travel documents, but to also email a copy and take a copy on a USB stick. Redundancy is the key to salvation, at least when you’re stuck in a foreign country that was nice to experience for the first week….but now three weeks later while you’re waiting to get a replacement passport it would be *really* nice to leave!

    A question about the cash – where do you think the safest place to keep it is while traveling?

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