If you are already inspired by my story on ‘how I became a traveller’ and want to jump on the bandwagon, or want to know how you could go about a Travellers route, I recommend the following 5-step approach:
1. Change in Attitude: This is right above everything else simply because of the dramatic difference there will be and you will need to make as a traveller. You would need to start feel like Christopher Columbus who’s on his mission to find India. And be content even if you reach America. Savour the thrill! Needless to say but the road won’t be an easy one so prepare to rough it out. Long walks, bag-laden shoulders, nights on transport stands, staying in budget accommodation and managing within resources. To comfort you, I am not saying that travellers do all of that always and that you’ll do the same on your first voyage, but be geared up!
Be prepared to rough it out! For more interesting photos on my travel, click here.
2. Shortlist Destinations and Check for Costs: Yes, you can get adventurous by picking your bags and taking off impromptu, but in 10 years even I’ve been able to do that just once, well almost not! So, you need to pick 2-3 destinations and set a side a random cost that you would like to manage them within. Then, you should check what local or online tour operators offer on your shortlisted hotspot in terms of total costs, travel, accommodations, meals, taxes, sightseeing, visa, insurance, entry fees, exclusions and any other entity that might be applicable. This is killing two birds in one stone. One, you get to know a whole lot about the places you are planning to visit and two, the market costs. It is important to check all fine print and inclusions and arrive at the final cost. For example, there was an ad from a leading tour operator offering Thailand for just Rs 8000 (~$ 175) ex-Mumbai. It included accommodation, transfers, sight-seeing, 2 nights each in Bangkok and Pattaya and Air fare. Works? Well, it did not have airport taxes, visa, insurance, meals, only half day sightseeing, no entry fees, which eventually will work out to ~Rs 22000 (~$500). When you compare with other operators, you’ll find similar rates. Also, you’re made to believe that Thailand is just Bangkok and Pattaya!
3. Comparing with your interests, costs and days: You’ve got your base ready! The next step would be getting information about the place you’ve shortlisted. A great place to start off with would be WikiTravel; it tells you almost everything you need to know in a very easy-to-use structure. Also, if you have access to and can shell out some money, nothing beats Lonely Planet. And just in-case you’re still stuck, you always have The Lord. These would help you associate with the destination and also help single down your areas of interests. Putting all of it together, you should then be the best judge as to how many days you would need and how much you could be spending for a given place. After all, freedom and flexibility is the essence of a traveller. Don’t forget to add your travel, accommodation and other costs as mentioned earlier. Sum up and you should see that not only are you going to be saving your hard-earned money (yes, by sacrificing on a few luxuries) but you could be doing a lot more than what you would via a tour.
By doing it yourself, you are likely to get to exotic locations that tours wont cover. For more interesting photos, click here.
4. Do Good Research - Get Reviews and Information: I learnt this the hard way and therefore though it seems trivial, always do good research on the place you intend to stay and places you want to visit. After a fun-filled but hard day you don’t want to be in a room that doesn’t have water, stinking sheets, have bed-bugs and/or pathetic service to name a few. Nor do you want to plan your itinerary, a little neck-to-neck, and realise that the place you intended to visit is shut on a particular day, needs advance booking, has long queues for tickets so an e-ticket is highly recommended and so on. And you certainly don’t want to have missed out on tourist warnings be it in the form of monkey menace or fear of thugs.
5. Planning and Booking in Advance: This certainly is not a must do and is not always possible; but it always helps in extracting that extra bit on your travel. For long travels, a 3-month advance planning always helps you get reservations and better deals for train, air, bus and accommodation. You’ll easily find budget airlines and accommodation almost everywhere today and these fill up quick. There is no dearth of Web sites that’ll help find these but I do recommend cross checking with the official sites as well. For example, Air Asia offers excellent airfares on their Web site but you’ll probably not see them on a Travelocity. If you’re travelling abroad, you could need that advance planning to get visa and permits. Even for a short local travel, I do suggest a 45-day advance booking especially if it is a long weekend or holiday season.
Sure, there is a lot more to the adventure and I’ll fill that in with my next post. For now, if your travel instinct has come alive, the weekend is right round the corner.
Get going to a travel destination nearby. For more photos on my travel, click here.