Sunday 20 April 2014

A to Z 2014: Research

{For the month of April I will be blogging alphabetically on the topic of travel tips.}

DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! I've mentioned this a bunch of times already. You might think you're a free spirit and you'll just go where the wind takes you but there are things you NEED to know before you go. Things that will make or break your trip.

We stayed at a gorgeous Spanish parador in Ceuta for cheap because I did my research on line.

This might be a bit of repetition on all of my posts this month. That's how important it is. I'll try not to repeat myself too much but here are some things you need to look into before you leave for your trip:
  • Do I need a visa? (More on this April 25th; "V" day.)
  • What will the climate be like? (More on this April 24.)
  • What is acceptable modesty there? (More on this tomorrow)
  • What languages do they speak?
  • What currency will I need?
  • What is my luggage allowance?
  • What terminals will I need to traverse?
  • Which camera do I want to bring?
  • Will I need to book a tour in advance?
  • What happens if I get sick?
  • How much will this cost me?
  • What are they known for making/growing?
  • Are there cultural norms I will need to be sensitive to?
  • Which restaurants do I need to eat at?
  • Where should I stay?
Let's talk about those last two items today. This may seem obvious to some, but seriously, check out TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet before you book your accommodation. Even if you're a frugal, simple traveller, where you sleep can affect the quality of your trip. There are hostel specific sites if that's what you're into. Even then, the major travel review sites are a gold mine of information!

When you read reviews, don't just take every word at face value. Know what kind of traveller you are and try to figure out the perspective of the people writing reviews. Maybe there was construction near by and that put someone in a bad mood and now they've written a scathing review that isn't at all indicative of the normal experience of said establishment. Or maybe the owner has gotten all of their friends and family to say nice things and push up their score. Read with a critical eye.

Same goes for eating out. Some countries are known for having amazing street food. Mobile food stalls might not have any kind of on-line presence and that is ok. But if you want to go for something a bit more formal, check it out first! We've discovered some amazing places you'd miss if you just walked down the street. Besides TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, check out some travel food shows. We swear by Anthony Bourdain. ("A Cook's Tour", "No Reservations", "The Layover", "Parts Unknown"...) He helped us get the most out of our Vietnam epicurean adventure.

Had the best sandwiches ever from this unassuming stall thanks to Tony's recommendation.
There are a lot of great travel blogs out there as well. People who make a living eating in different countries. Check out some of these, too. Often, you can contact them to get some personal tips. Here are a few that I've enjoyed recently:


  1. "Are there cultural norms I will need to be sensitive to?"

    This one especially. That's the first thing I research when I'm going to a foreign country. I don't want to be accidentally rude or offensive. Before I went to Taiwan, I asked a Taiwanese friend if there were any cultural things or special rules we should be aware of. She said no, but then an hour later told us that we weren't, under any circumstance to eat, drink or chew gum in the subway. Good to know :)

    1. Absolutely! We might think we're just being "normal" but we could accidentally be rude and offensive. This can sometimes be hard to figure out.

  2. Awesome list and info. I am big for researching a destination before I leave as well. I would add finding out what public transport options there are and where you can buy tickets and passes as its not always easy to find in some cities.

    Sean at His and Her Hobbies

    1. Right, yes! So many things... It's hard to come up with an exhaustive list!

  3. Wow! Thanks for the shout out! I do love to eat and we do try to post food items on our blog. I think hearing from fellow travelers is a great recommendation. Great List!

    1. You are welcome. I've been enjoying your blog. I'm a bit behind (just got back from Korea. :P) but look forward to catching up.

  4. Great point about the reviews - a positive review from someone with a different travel style isn't necessarily a good sign. We always try to keep this in mind when booking accommodations.

    1. Especially if there are only a few reviews. If it's got hundreds then it probably balances out.