Sometimes it was other people's fault but most of the time the problems we have stumbled upon while on the road could have been avoided had we prepared better. We bring you a list of our travel mistakes so you can learn from them and use our experience to your advantage.
1 LET'S JUST GO
Imagine a destination that you have wanted to visit since forever. Have you already been there or are you still fantasising? For us, this was London. In our English classes at school, and later on - because we studied English - London was an unavoidable topic. Gradually it became obvious that we would visit it someday, it was just a matter of time when. So, prior to the trip, we already knew WHAT we wanted to see and do but we didn't consider enough HOW, WHEN and WHERE this was going to happen. In addition to that, mobile internet was extremely expensive at the time and we could only rely on the hostel wifi. Consequently, when we arrived we felt a bit lost and spent a lot of time deciding what we were going to do next or travelling from point A to B. On our first two days we didn't manage to see much and the last two days were packed.
Now that we know better, we always plan ahead with the assistance of Google maps. I check which attractions are close to each other and arrange a day around a zone or two.
2 I WANT IT ALL, AND I WANT IT NOW
When you finally arrive at a place you have been dreaming about and saving to travel to, you want to see it all, don't you? But the cruel reality is, you only have a limited amount of time at your disposal. Once again, our London trip can be used as an example. We had accumulated a bunch of booklets, guides, maps, travel advice and must-dos and top 10s, and we tried to fit it all into 4 days.
Yeah, we were really inexperienced back then. However, this one isn't one of those mistakes that has never ever happened to us since. Actually, quite the opposite - it's extremely difficult to leave out some experiences knowing we may never again have the opportunity to participate in them. But we have learned a lot along the way: hey, we've been to Ireland without seeing the Cliffs of Moher.
3 WHY DON'T WE TAKE THE LONGEST ROUTE?
How to spend the first half of a day in Ireland if your flight leaves from Dublin in the afternoon? - Well, you can go to Howth. - And when you arrive there, which trail should you take? - The longest one, of course!
We are just kidding, don't do that. Yes, you can go to Howth but by all means, don't take the purple loop trail if you don't have enough time to enjoy it. Howth is indeed beautiful and consequently, it was impossible to walk for continuous five minutes without stopping to marvel the view and taking loads of photos. When we reached the point where the trails separated, we decided to take the longest one because we wanted to get closer to a lovely lighthouse that could be seen in the distance. But this was a mistake, primarily because we had to catch our flight later that day. Apart from the lighthouse, the rest of the route didn't have that much more to offer compared to what we had already seen in the first part (we went clockwise) AND, with our time running out, it seemed endless. Realising we better hurry, we spent the last hour or even more marching as fast as we could through the grassy landscape.
4 DEAR WHEELS
It would seem you have to rent a car at least a few times before you pick up all the tricks not to pay through the nose. Prior to our trip to Romania, we didn't book a car in advance because we didn't think we could without a credit card and we had also hoped we could get a better deal in person. However, when we arrived, it turned out that there was only one office that accepted debit cards AND had a car on disposal. Consequently, their last-minute price was much higher than what was advertised online. Two years later, on our trip to Santorini, we thought we were smarter. We booked a car in advance and then found the office website where we made sure that they accepted debit cards. Unfortunately, we didn't read the fine print - they did accept debit cards but only for bookings made through them directly. In the end, the man in the office on Santorini airport allowed us to take the car for the same price but on top of that, we had to pay extra for the insurance that had already been included in our original booking.
Both of our mistakes could have been avoided had we owned a credit card. Personally, I don't see a reason why credit cards need to be imposed but I guess we'll need to get one before our next trip, even if it means cancelling it after we get back. My advice to you is to read carefully and call or send an email to the rental office if you are not sure.
5 MONEY, MONEY, MONEY...
If you're travelling to a place that uses a different currency, you will probably need the services of an exchange office or you'll want to use an ATM. In Budapest, Hungary, we found out the hard way it wasn't the best idea to enter the very first exchange office one comes across at the train station. We did leave the office with thousands of forints but a bit of math soon revealed the number wasn't quite right. A few years later, in Side, Turkey, there were almost no ATMs and we had to go to a sort of a makeshift exchange office that used credit card machines. If we wanted to withdraw an amount in euro, they would charge the card in lira and give us cash in euro (taken from an under-desk drawer). When we wanted to withdraw lira, they charged the card in euro. The conversion, fittingly, included a substantial fee.
No matter where you travel to, don't forget to check beforehand which exchange offices have a fair exchange rate or which companies to avoid.
6 EXCUSE ME, DO YOU KNOW...
There were so many occasions when complete strangers saved our day by pointing us in the right direction. But this text isn't about that. At times the information given to us by locals was so wrong that it almost ruined our stay. Either they misinterpreted our question or we misunderstood the answer or they simply didn't know the correct answer. For example, in a tourist office in an Irish town, we inquired about the timetable for buses going to Dublin the next day. They listed a few options (e.g. 5.25) but failed to mention all of them were a.m. When the bus didn't show up at 5.25 p.m. and neither did the one we thought should appear at 5.55, we asked around only to find out that the last bus for Dublin had left at 2 p.m. Similarly, in Norway we wanted to check whether the Norway in a Nutshell bus was leaving from the bus stop on the main road. The person working at the reception of our accommodation confirmed but later on, upon witnessing a dozen of them just passing by the bus stop where we stood without even stopping, we realised we had made a huge mistake and there was no more time to correct it.
Well, this one is difficult to avoid. You are bound to stumble upon misinformation or confusing tips sooner or later. As with everything, it's always a good idea to google as much as possible and to double-check everything while you're still at home.
7 LOCAL SCAMS
Imagine yourself having a relaxing massage when the therapist suddenly points out that there is something worryingly wrong with your spine and you need a specialist treatment that he can provide for an extra fee. He also hints your boyfriend has just agreed to a similar deal. Well okay then, bring it on... They are playing it smart in some of the Turkish Hamam establishments. They separate you from your group and then blackmail you with your health. Instead of relaxing, the experience turned out to be irritating and overpriced.
Before travelling to Morocco we made sure we got acquainted with possible local scams. One of the advice was not to ask locals for directions to your accommodation or wherever you had to get to. Immediately after we got off the bus in Marrakech, one of the scammers spotted us and kept insisting he can show us where our accommodation is and wouldn't stop walking along with us. On the other hand, we kept saying we didn't need his help and knew how to get there until someone accidentally revealed the name of the place where we were staying. And that was it - he immediately started to walk a few metres in front of us and every now and then signalling with his hand we should follow him. When we arrived, he stretched out his open hand waiting to be paid for his "services".
We may have fallen for some scams but luckily, thanks to common sense and getting informed during the planning phase, we managed to avoid the majority of them.
8 WHAT'S THE TIME?
This one could be very problematic and we could have missed our flight back home had we not become aware of the glitch a few days before. On the morning of our third day in Marrakech, Morocco, we arrived at the bus station wanting to buy tickets for Essaouira. We thought we arrived early enough (more than 30 minutes before the departure) and tried to buy the tickets for the 7.45 bus. When the ticket clerk told us that that bus had left, we insisted this could not be the case. And then she asked the most important question - What's the time? - 7.10, we answered. - No, it isn't, she said and pointed at the big clock on the wall behind us, where the small hand pointed at 8. At that moment we realised there was something terribly wrong. Our time was an hour late compared to Moroccan time. A Google search soon revealed what had happened (BTW Google itself also reported the wrong time). After we had landed, all of our phones automatically switched to what was supposed to be Moroccan local time. However, it turned out that the program that manages this switch wasn't updated with the change Moroccan government had made earlier that year: they put Morocco's clock on permanent Daylight Savings Time.
Our advice here would be to be extra careful. Immediately when you land, restart your phone and then compare the time on it to the real local time. You can try to find a clock or ask a local. If the times don't match, turn off the automatic time zone on your phone and set the clock to match the local time. Undo the changes and perform the same check when you get back home.
9 LOCAL HOLIDAYS
Usually, it's a positive surprise when you unexpectedly happen upon a local festivity. In most cases, it turns out to be a bonus to your experience of a place. It's still smart to check before you go since local holidays can also negatively affect your stay. For example, you could get stuck in a traffic jam at the beginning of a long weekend when everyone sets off to the seaside, or be left hungry if all the grocery stores turn out to be closed on a seemingly random Wednesday. In our case, it was a national holiday in Slovenia that spoilt our spa experience a bit. First, we had to wait for quite a long time to even be let in and therefore we didn't have that much time inside as we hoped. Secondly, the ticket price was steep, to begin with, and now even more so due to the weekend and holiday price being imposed. Finally, we had difficulty finding a place to park our car and it was also somewhat crowded inside. Fortunately, the spa is actually huge with a large number and variety of saunas so it wasn't difficult to find a tucked-away nook.
10 I WAS SURE IT WAS THERE
This one is obvious but it doesn't hurt to emphasise it because making a similar mistake could mean having to cancel your whole trip and losing money in the process.
Our first couple's getaway should have been to Germany. We had already bought the plane tickets only to realise that one of us had lost their passport. We searched everywhere but it was nowhere to be found and time was running out. In the end we didn't go so we lost the money spent on the tickets. Luckily, it was a budget price so it didn't hurt as much as it could have.
Do you need a passport or a visa to visit a specific country? If yes, do you know where it is? When does it expire? If you don't have one, how long does it take before you can obtain it? Check all those things BEFORE you buy your tickets.
There you have it - all of our blunders revealed. To err is human, as it is said. Has something similar happened to you? Or can you add something new to our list so we can also put your experience to good use? Go ahead and write it down in the comments section.