Travel tips flying

My Best Travel Tips After Traveling To 100 Countries

This blog post is dedicated to all my travel tips that I’ve formulated after traveling to almost 100 countries. I’ve been all over the world in all capacities so I’ve definitely learned quite a few things on my journeys. Whether it’s trekking with gorillas in the Congo, to diving with the bull sharks in Fiji, or island hopping in Greece, every trip made me a little wiser (or at least I hope).

Amorgos Chora

From basic common sense travel tips to travel hacking and travel insurance, this post will have it all. My travels will never stop so this list will constantly be growing with things I come across!

Thailand koh phangan beach

The Basics of my Travel Tips

Before we even move onto the big stuff, let’s get the small “common sense” things out of the way. These might not be common sense for everyone but I would consider them to be after all my travels.

Watch your stuff

When traveling to a new country, it’s always prudent to watch your stuff and have a general sense of your surroundings. Some countries are known to have more petty crime than others but you just need that one opportunistic moment in even the safest of countries to lose your valuables.

I haven’t had many bad experiences in my many years of travels but even I was suckered into street thief when I was traveling in Lima. While at dinner, someone came up to me to try and sell something. They pulled out a magazine in front of me to block the view of my phone. When I politely refused, they left promptly but with my phone in hand. By the time I realized it, they were long gone.

Know emergency contact numbers

Make sure to jot down basic emergency numbers in a country before visiting. These include the police, hospitals, and other basic necessities.

Be nice to everyone

Every culture is different but you might be pleasantly surprised at just how friendly some of the locals might be. I find that this is especially the case in less developed countries. It seems that having less does not mean you are less happy (up to a minimum threshold of course).

Madagascar boat fisherman
Helping the locals bring in their catch in Madagascar

Reciprocate the favor.

Put a smile on your face and be as open and friendly as you can be with the people you meet. Everyone is happier and hopefully your karma will be high!

Of course, you also need to know when to not be friendly. This is especially the case if you’re a solo female traveler. Keep your wits about you and know when it’s time to give a proper F off to people.

Avoid leafy and unwashed foods

I’m an avid eater and half the reason I travel is to eat amazing things. When I got COVID and lost my taste, I quickly descended into the black hole of Reddit reading how some people lost their taste for years. I was super depressed and wondered why life was even worth living if you could taste? Thankfully, I only lost my taste for two days!

Bangkok Street food

I’ve eaten all forms of street food all over the world. I don’t shy away from trying new things and I almost always explore a new country by trying their food. I spent an entire week in Mexico City just eating tacos, ate unfathomable amounts of street food in Bangkok, and trying as many pizzerias in Naples.

I’ve gotten food poisoning a few times because it’s just bound to happen. It’s something I just accept as part of travels and seeing the world. Why many people become divas about this, I’m just simply not bothered. My stomach has certainly strengthened over the years and I like to think of myself to have a robust stomach.

Tacos Charly mexico city
Tacos Charly Suadero tacos

These are a list of ever changing recommendations when it comes to eating while traveling:

  • Read restaurant reviews on Google Maps or TripAdvisor as a low score might mean they have bad quality food (or just bad tasting food and customer service). If all else fails, go for foods that are thoroughly cooked like open fire cooking or deep fried. These are good ways to get rid of most bugs in the food.
  • I tend to avoid eating leafy vegetables that are not cooked and fruits without skin. Stick to fruits like bananas, pinapple, dragonfruit, mango, watermelon etc.
  • Know beforehand whether a country has drinkable tap water. Often times, developing countries have questionable drinking water. This is not always the case as places like Georgia, or South Africa. Conversely, first world countries can also have non-drinkable tap water, especially on remote islands like the Cycladic islands in Greece
  • Always carry charcoal tablets with you just incase you do get food poisoning. These pills will help make the effects more bearable (but you will still suffer of course).

Don’t pack so much

Stop packing so much stuff into your suitcases. There’s no better feeling than traveling light and not having to lug around a huge suitcase when moving about.

If possible, I would try to travel without checking bags because this reduces your risk of losing luggage and potentially messing up your travels. This also allows you to take advantage of cheaper prices like skiplagging your flights which involves booking a flight with a layover but getting off at the layover city.

Uyuni salt flats 4x4
Packing up the car for our 3 day, 2 night tour to the Salt Flats!

I find that packing less is also liberating as you realize just how few clothes you need. When I lived in Bali for many months, all my clothes fit into a carry on size backpack. This is because Bali is hot year round so I largely wore shorts and tank tops. Everyone around me also dressed so casually that I didn’t wear pants for the entire duration of the stay. I packed one nice linen shirt with me for special dinners and that was it. During my stay in Bali, some of my shirts ripped but it was so easy and cheap to just buy something new locally.

Best of all, there’s laundry and fold service for about $1 per kg so my clothes were always clean!

Keep your passport at home

Leave your passports at home and do go about your day with your passport on you. There is zero benefit to having your passport on you and you’re only setting yourself for massive disappointment if you lose it or get it stolen.

Kitesurfing Paje
Watching kitesurfers in Paje

If you need the passport for a specific purpose, take it for that purpose only and drop it off promptly at home. This might be if you need to rent a scooter in some countries where they ask for the passport as a deposit (already a huge red flag). If you have mulltiple passports, always carry both on you and use the passport that you didn’t enter the country with.

There’s nothing worse than having to replace a passport abroad.

Get Travel Insurance If You’re Traveling Long Term

Embarking on a journey, whether it’s a leisurely escape or an adventurous expedition, is a plunge into the unknown. While the thrill of exploration is undeniable, it’s equally essential to recognize the potential uncertainties that lurk beneath the surface. Travel insurance is here just for that and I will touch upon a few reasons why it’s a good idea to buy some before you go on your trip.

Machu Picchu Ruins

As a seasoned traveler, I’ve learned that health emergencies can strike at the most unexpected times and places. From a sudden bout of illness in a remote village to a minor accident on the ski slopes, travel insurance provides a reassuring shield. It covers unforeseen medical expenses, ensuring that the pursuit of new horizons is not hindered by the burden of hefty hospital bills.

There are a plethora of travel insurance providers out there but I can highly recommend SafetyWing. Their travel insurance covers you in 180 countries with an expense limit of $250k. They even have a $0 deductible which means the smallest of claims will even be covered. They have 24/7 chat support which comes in really handy when you have an emergency somewhere and need questions answered.

I also find their interface to be very intuitive and attractive. In addition, they offer a comprehensive global health insurance plan to with coverage up to $1.5m for those that want something more than travel insurance. 

camel ride great pyramid of giza cairo egypt desert

The excitement of reaching your destination can quickly dissipate if you find yourself standing at the baggage carousel only to realize your luggage has taken an unplanned detour. Travel insurance steps in to alleviate the stress by providing coverage for essential items and clothing, allowing you to focus on the adventure at hand rather than worrying about the whereabouts of your belongings.

Beqa lagoon bull shark diving fiji

Being in a foreign land can be both exhilarating and disorienting. In times of crisis, having access to a reliable support system is invaluable. Travel insurance often includes 24/7 assistance services, providing a lifeline to help you navigate unfamiliar healthcare systems, language barriers, or legal matters, fostering a sense of security and support no matter where you are on the map.

Exercise and stay in shape while traveling

Traveling is an amazing experience and one of the most fun things you can do in your life. However, it’s also not a time to overdo it and completely let yourself go. If you’re traveling long term, having a poor lifestyle of constant drinking, eating poor foods, and not exercising will inevitably lead to putting on the pounds. The same can be said for those that just forget to eat proper food and start losing weight.

Ritz carlton main beach maldives

There’s nothing more important than your health. You can’t enjoy traveling if you get sick.

I always make sure to stay fit while I travel. This is a combination of eating the right foods, eating the right amounts, and exercising. This doesn’t mean I won’t indulge myself in the local specialties and drink copious amounts of wine. This just means I don’t overdo it and wherever I can, I prioritize eating certain things over others. Most importantly, it’s about changing your mindset to really think and care about what you’re doing for your body.

Open An Account With A Good Bank

Having your finances in order is an absolute must when traveling. Whether you’re traveling for a week or for a year, ensuring you have the right bank accounts and cards will make your experience much more pleasant.

One of my must haves when it comes to traveling is a bank account that charges no fees for foreign withdrawals as well as refunding all foreign ATM fees.

These are two separate points because there are many bank accounts around the world that will offer the former and charge you no fees on their end, but there are only a few bank accounts that I know that will actually refund you the ATM fees you incur from a foreign ATM.

In the US, banks like Charles Schwab will completely refund you the ATM fees as well as give you spot FX rates. In European countries, things like Monzo or Revolut are great for this. Fintechs are popping up left and right these days offering great travel services so check your local market for what’s hot.

Never accept the ATM’s conversion rate!

This is probably the worst scam you can ever come across in your travels because it’s so rampant everywhere and most people have no idea what they’re doing.

Often times, when you’re using an ATM in a foreign country, you’ll be withdrawing cash in a different currency. Once you select your desired withdrawal amount and enter your PIN code, the ATM will offer you a “conversion rate”. They will display the amount in the foreign currency, as well as the amount in your native currency (we will just use USD for this example).

For the financial newbies out there, you see your native currency and you think “oh yes that sounds good because it’s a number I’m familiar with”.

NEVER ACCEPT THE ATM’S EXCHANGE RATE!

Yes, never accept their exchange rate because it always comes with a huge margin. I’ve seen banks charge upwards of 14% per transaction for just these ridiculous ATM fees! Let’s say you’re in Europe and the current EUR to USD exchange rate is 1 to 1. That means, you the bank will now give you an exchange rate of 1 EUR to $1.14 USD! You are just giving 14% straight to the ATM!

What’s worse is if you choose to decline the ATM’s exchange rate, it’ll show a scary message that you might not be getting the best exchange rate or something else ridiculous. If you followed the steps above about getting a good bank account, then you can rest assured that your bank is always going to give you the best rate possible.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations are important especially in the post COVID world. Make sure to research the vaccinations you need before entering a country. A COVID vaccine is of course great to protect you from COVID but some countries will continue to require you be vaccinated in order to visit or apply for residence permits.

Some countries in Africa require yellow fever certificates but only if you’ve traveled to certain countries. Other diseases like Malaria are simply up to you to plan for. For example, many people feel like they need to take malaria medication before visiting South Africa but this is totally unnecessary.

devil's pool victoria falls zambia
Devil’s Pool in Zambia. I had to show my Yellow Fever certificate here.

Some vaccines can take weeks or even months to procure so make sure to research the vaccines you need before hand so you can be protected before going on your trip.

Research the travel advisories and understanding of your destination

Before you travel to a new country that you suspect might have some dangers to it, make sure to do ample research before embarking on your trip. I think the best way to do this is to join Facebook groups related to that destination or simply to ask a question in a place like Every Passport Stamp on Facebook.

Baalbek Roman Ruins
Baalbek Roman Ruins in Lebanon. Just stunning.

For example, before I traveled to Lebanon in 2021, I knew that the country was undergoing a severe economic crisis and that you needed to bring hard cash and exchange it on the black market for the best rates. I didn’t know how to actually do this but a quick question in the Every Passport Stamp group on Facebook gave me answers right away. I also asked if there was any civil unrest due to the crisis and soon learned that life goes on.

Don’t blindly trust everything the Government websites tell you

I would avoid reading too much into official Government travel advisory websites like the US Travel Advisory List. From my experience, 90% of the advisories on this list are a bit nonsense and most of it is just unnecessarily scaring people. For example, look at this ridiculous travel advisory for Germany, a country I’ve lived in for four years.

The US Government is advising people to exercise increased caution for a country that is 10x safer than their own? I’m more worried about getting shot in the US than at any point in Germany that’s for sure.

Get a no fee Visa Credit Card as well

Make sure you have a good solid credit card that is Visa or Mastercard. I am an avid fan of credit cards because in the US, we have so many cards that provide so many benefits that range from travel insurance, to free hotel stays, to just pure hard cash. I’ve written in depth about my hobby of travel hacking.

Before embarking on a trip, make sure you have at least one credit card that you can use. This isn’t just for rewards or points, but rather because sometimes you have no choice but to pay with credit card. If you’re booking a hotel or a flight, you better have a good credit card because there’s nowhere for you to pay cash. In addition, if you rent a car, you’ll want a good credit card because some cards provide free car rental insurance. On top of that, some companies won’t even rent you a car without a credit card.

Chase credit cards

Make sure you get a credit card that also has no FX fees. FX (Foreign exchange) fees can be upwards of 3% of your transaction value which means if you pay $1,000 for something, you will pay an additional $30 in fees! There are countless credit cards in the US that waive FX fees like the Chase credit card suite.

No American Express

American Express is mostly useless when traveling abroad. Outside of a few countries, AMEX is almost universally not accepted. Even within countries that accept AMEX, often times it’s the fancier restaurants and hotels that do. AMEX offers some of the best rewards and benefits in the business but sadly it is just not reliable when it comes to being a go to international travel credit card.

Learn how to drive manual cars

Without a doubt, the best thing I did when moving to Europe was learn how to drive a manual car. I had learned how to drive a manual decades ago so the learning curve was not nearly as steep as a newbie but this really saved me some serious money in Europe.

Piedmont rental car driving Italy

The cheapest and most abundant rental cars in Europe are always a manual, especially when I did trips to places like Piedmont, Italy or just about anywhere in the Greek Islands. Automatic cars are of course available but they are typically more premium cars and rent for significantly more. If nothing else, car companies know they Americans and Canadians can’t drive manual so they purposefully jack up the prices on Automatics to take advantage of this.

Puglia rental car

Learning how to drive manual is not easy so this won’t be an option for most people but if you somehow are in a position to learn Manual, definitely get that figured out before renting a car in Europe!

Travel hacking is your friend


This next section is primarily for American travelers as we simply have the best credit cards in the world as far as travel rewards go (we have lots of problems but credit card rewards is not one of them). If you’re an avid traveler like myself and like to book amazing travels for cheap (or free), then you should absolutely look into travel hacking and understanding how to churn credit card rewards.

ritz carlton maldives overwater villa drone
Staying at the Ritz Carlton Maldives for free. This is a $4,000 a night hotel!

I’ve written about this so much on my blog and in so much detail so I will keep this section short. Take a few hours to really understand the power of credit cards and how you can use them to save thousands of dollars on travel. I’ve flown business class flights all over the world and stayed in some of the nicest hotels in the world like my trip to the Ritz Carlton Maldives all for free.

The name of the game is to open credit cards to get the sign on bonus. Credit cards in the US offer the highest sign on bonuses in the world and it’s not even close. These sign on bonuses can sometimes be upwards of 100,000 points or more! After you get one bonus, you open another credit card to obtain another sign on bonus before repeating the process over again. You can earn points extremely fast; much faster than simply spending money on a credit card.

You might feel intimidated and unsure of yourself which is one of the main reasons people never start travel hacking, but perhaps this is the moment to start something new!

Buy local sim cards

In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine traveling without being connected. You might romanticize the old days of traveling off the grid and away from it all but that might all change the moment you get ripped off at the airport because you couldn’t call an Uber.

Mobile data is essential for my travels now, mainly because of Google Maps and ride hailing apps. There’s nothing more stupid than paying for roaming packages from your mobile provider back at home. For example, AT&T in the US charges something like $10 per day for roaming which is absolute insanity. If you travel in Bali for two weeks, that’s $140 in roaming fees which is insanity.

Truemove Thailand mobile Sim cards

Simply go to the local mobile shop and buy a local Telkomsel SIM card where you’ll be able to get 20GB of data for ~$5. This will more than likely be enough for your entire two week trip! You’re unlikely to need much calling time because let’s be real, who will you call in Indonesia? You’ll also need 0 text messaging because no one outside of the USA uses ancient SMS technology anymore. Just make sure your phone is unlocked.

Avoid buying SIM cards at the airport

Avoid buying SIM cards at the airport because they’ll more than likely rip you off with “tourist packages” that are simply bundling a bunch of stuff you don’t need and charging you more money.

Simply visit a mobile provider of your choice once you get into town and you’ll save so much more money. If you’re confused on where to go and didn’t do research before hand, simply ask your hotel/guesthouse/Airbnb host for the best mobile shops nearby.

Don’t over-plan your trip

I’m a big planner of my travels because I want to maximize my time. Everyone is a planner to some degree because you need to maximize how you’re going to see what you want to see in the time that you have. Since I retired early and have been able to travel so freely, I’ve learned that it’s better to do less.

Less is more.

Do not try and pack too much into your trip because I firmly believe that quality beats quantity. Sure it might impress your friends to say you went to France, Italy, and Germany on your trip. But did you really see anything if you just spent 3 days in Paris, Rome, and Munich? Sure you saw a few places, but you really just hopped around a few cities where you’re more or less doing the same thing.

Instead of jamming as many things into one trip, consider staying the whole time in a place like France where you can easily spent weeks traveling through. Instead of flying from Paris to Rome, consider going from Paris to the Provence region where the small villages and wineries really highlight what France is all about.

In addition, some things just can’t be booked properly from your computer at home. In less developed places, you’ll often need to book things when you arrive. Things like train tickets for certain itineraries have not been blessed with modern technology.

When I was trying to book my Kandy to Ella train ticket in Sri Lanka, there wasn’t any easy way to do it. Turns out, when I arrived in Kandy at my hotel, they booked it for me on the spot. The same goes for my Belgrade to Bar scenic train in the Balkans. I had to actually go to the train station the day before to book my ticket with cash. Totally old school but that’s just how it goes.

Be mindful of the websites you use


Be mindful of the websites you use to book and pay for certain things. These are especially true around Government and official processes that relate to immigration.

As technology improves, we are constantly doing more online which includes paying for visas. One of the easiest mistakes people do is clicking on the wrong source for applying for an e-visa, which have become increasingly more popular.

Angkor Wat sunrise temple walk

For example, Cambodia, home to the famous Angkor Wat temple, recently instituted an E-Visa which allows you to prepay your visa with a credit card so you don’t need to do it when you arrive at the airport. If you search for “Cambodia e-visa”, you’ll see the results in Google:

As you can see, the first few results are sponsored and they direct you to various travel agencies that claim to be the home of the Cambodian E-Visa but in reality, they are just a travel agent that will upcharge you a hefty fee to get the same visa you could do yourself.

The red arrow is the official Government website of Cambodia and you can always verify this by the URL. Anything that ends in .gov is a legit Government website and what you want to use. For Cambodia, the URL ends in .gov.kh with the KH part being Cambodia. These are official Government websites so no one can create a random website using these URLs.

Car Rentals

We love renting cars when traveling. It gives us the freedom to go off the beaten track and explore on our own. But when renting a car, it’s important to be savvy and to follow these safety tips.

  • We usually book in advance. Booking a car rental with our flight in a bundle has saved us big time.

Car Insurance

Purchasing insurance is always a difficult decision. Car rentals are usually quite reasonable, but once you add on their insurance, it can add up quickly.

I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve for most car rentals and they have complete insurance, which means I never get more insurance. The Sapphire Reserve also has primary car insurance which covers damage to the car as well as damage you might inflict onto another car while most other cards do not offer this.

Rentals – Scooters

When it comes to travel safety, a lot of people get into trouble when renting scooters. But if you don’t have experience driving one, or don’t have the appropriate international permit or local license, reconsider your choices.

bali scooter rice field Jatiluwih ubud

For me, a scooter is a must have in places like Bali or Thailand as it allows you to explore the country without having to wait in crazy traffic all the time. I wouldn’t visit Bali ever again without renting a scooter.

Not everyone is comfortable with a scooter however and I wouldn’t recommend driving a scooter without some sort of training. Even though Bali required zero verifications of my scooter skills, I rented one without any prior knowledge and lived to tell the tale. In fact, I was just fine and got the hang of it within a few minutes. Others are not as lucky as you always hear about people that get into crazy scooter accidents.

Learn from Your Mistakes

It was years of trial and error that helped us finally learn our lesson to have safe and healthy travels. So hopefully you will be able to travel safely right from the start!

Table  Mountain view from Lion's Head sunrise hike in Cape Town

Now that I follow these travel safety tips, I usually have a safe and healthy trip. Or at least we are prepared when emergencies do happen. Moreover, I learn something new on every trip that I bank and apply to my future travels.

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