Five travel tips that no-one tells you about

If the travel bug bites, it never lets go again. Every young person should see the world. By travelling, you not only broaden your horizons, but also your outlook on life. My husband and I love to see new places and experience new things. For this reason, we try to visit a new part of the world every year. Here are five travel tips that no-one tells you about:

Buy cheap airfare
Visit before deciding where to go. This website has a search function to allow you to find the cheapest tickets to whatever country. After deciding where to go, confirm which airline offers the cheapest tickets. We were surprised to see what difference one day can have on an air ticket. The cheapest options on will most probably include unknown airlines. Don’t let this put you off – read a few reviews about the airline before making your choice. We travel with Angola Airlines to Portugal in August this year. The tickets were dirt cheap and we were expecting the worst. But despite outdated programmes on the on-board entertainment system, the airline impressed us with good service, delicious food and a comfortable flight.

Restaurants: Service fees, bread and mealtimes
It’s not practice in many countries to pay tips at restaurants or hotels. We visited many European countries such as Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and Portugal where tipping is unnecessary. Find out before the time whether or not to leave a tip, as waitrons are very well paid in many countries and service fees are already included in the price. As in South Africa, waiters generally offer bread, butter and other condiments upon your arrival. But unlike South Africa, you pay for whatever you eat and drink. To prevent unexpected costs on your bill, I would advise you to save your appetite for the food that you order. Lastly, it is very important to know that mealtimes differ between countries. European restaurants have different menus for different mealtimes and kitchens are only open at certain times of the day.

Buy a SIM card
This year we decided to buy an overseas SIM card – one of the best decisions we made, as it saved us much time and trouble. Firstly, we could use Google Maps, which meant that our days of getting lost with upside-down tourist maps were a thing of the past. Google Maps also offers a function that shows you which type of transport will get you to your destination quickest and when it departs. This means that that you can quickly check if you can simply walk or should rather take the bus, tram, subway or train. Secondly, it was very time-effective to have been able to google or phone a place and enquire about the opening and closing times of certain places. This prevented us from arriving at a closed door. The function is also handy to locate restaurants and shops in your vicinity. Lastly, it is obviously nice to have access to social media to share your special moments with family and friends. We especially liked that you could buy a European SIM card with 500 minutes airtime and 3 Gb data for only R150 – a bargain if ever there was one! Another benefit is that no roaming is applied between countries within the EU, meaning that you can use the same SIM card in various countries across Europe. (Because data and airtime are very expensive in South Africa, it will be much cheaper in most other countries as here.)

In cities and towns of most developed countries, you can choose from a variety of transport options such as busses, trams, trains or subways. In developing (or poorer) countries, for example Mauritius, your transport options are limited to hiring a car or using taxi services. The fastest and most economical way to explore a city, town or island is definitely by hiring a scooter. We hired scooters in Mauritius, Portugal, Barcelona and Rome, which saved us hours of walking and time. If you bought a SIM card (as I recommend above), you will find your way easily by using Google Maps. Another benefit is that we have never been asked for an international vehicle or scooter driver’s licence to hire a scooter. All you need, is your passport and South African driver’s licence and you’re on your way!

Cash Passport card
Ask your bank for a Cash Passport card – it is easy to lose track on what and how much you spend while travelling. We like using this card rather than our check or credit cards. The card is valid for five years and you can upload up to four different currencies: the American dollar, the Australian dollar, the euro or British pound. One of the greatest benefits of this card is that you avoid changes in the exchange rate by uploading your money beforehand. You can also pay with your card for free or withdraw money from any ATM at a set fee (about R30). You can also use the Cash Passport app to see your balance and which transactions you have made, as well as to move funds between the different currencies. Lastly, it is very easy to obtain a card: simply visit your bank with your ID, passport and air ticket. If you want to use your card again during another trip, you can upload money again by contacting your bank again.

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