Hello and welcome to my travel page.On this page I am giving some general travel tips, and in addition to this I have numerous pages describing several countries I have visited. A few years ago I started to make maps on Google MyMaps with what to see, places to eat, train stations, hospitals and so on. Before I travel somewhere I read alot about the places I am going to, not just to get an idea of what to see, but to better understand the culture I am visting, the history of the places, safety / crime, how to get around and so on. The pages I have made about some of the countries I have been to have this information and some more, in addition to maps of the most important cities.
The maps I link to above opens in Google Maps and is therefore easy to use. The maps are often revised during my visit and I often find new and interesting places. To some extend this applies to my articles as I pick up new information along the way. I often do walking tours and actually talking to and get to know the locals is a nice way of getting to know the places you visit.
Whilst visting new places I love to visit small grocery stores. Not necessarily because I want to buy lots of local food but such stores tells alot about the food culture in the places I am visiting. When I told this to my mum she was slightly surprised and was fast at replying something like "this is something you have from your dad. Nothing is worse than when he wanishes into a grocery store for nearly hours and read on tin cans and such".
The most important word when you are going on a holiday is planning. By planning you may avoid lots of problems. If you read travel books and online information before you travel you have a better chance to know what to see, when to see it (and what time of year not to see it) and so on. I prefer using Wikipedia and Wikitravel to get travel-related information online.
Think twice before you buy souvenirs. Souvenirs may look nice on a holiday may be equivalent to garbage when you get home.
Store important information online
When you get confirmation on bookings and reservations store this at Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive or similar places. By storing this information online you have a backup in case your bag with important papers, memory stick, phone, laptop or similar is stolen or lost. Make a document where you store passport number, credit card numbers, important phone numbers etc and store this online as well. By storing important information online you have an extra point of security if anything should happen. Store phone numbers to the embassy of your country, bank (in case you loose your cards and so on) and phone number to the company that issues your travel insurance (might come handy if something happens) as well. In most cases everything works out perfectly but it never hurts to have a backup in case something does happen.
From June 15th 2017 it is free roaming within EU as long as your subscription is from a country within EU or EEC so you don't have to think about expensive use of cell phones any longer (As long as you are from Europe and travel within Europe). If you travel from outside the EU it could be a good thing to get a local subscription before traveling around.
Passport, visa and other documents
As a general rule you need a Visa visiting another country. You should check what kind of visa you need to avoid surprises at the border. There are several types of visas which you may read about here. Most visas is issued to specific passport numbers. If you get a new passport with a new passport number after you have received a visa you may have to apply for visa once more. The articles about the various countries have sections about visas.
Certain countries require that your passport is valid six months after you have planned to depart. If you try to enter a country with this rule you may not me allowed to enter the country at all. To avoid potential problems check when your passport expires in advance and get a new passport before you travel. To Norwegian citizens (and some other countries I guess) passport is the only valid id-card they may use abroad. There are some rules for Norwegians travelling inside the European Union but as a main rule you should always bring your passport. As from 2018 a new credit card-sized id-card will be available for Norwegians which you may use within the Schengen area. Note that this id-card is already in use in several European states.
Remember to get a travel insurance that covers as much as possible. In Norway Europeiske reiseforsikring is looked upon as one of the best insurance companies when it comes to travel insurance. Be aware that most travel insurances are limited to travels that lasts 45 days or less. If you have planned to travel longer than this you need additional insurance. If you have residence in the European Union or a country that is member of the European Economic Area you are entitled to have a European Health Insurance Card which is issued by the country you live in. This card entitles you to health services for your home country account within Europe. The European Health Insurance Card covers medical expenses and you should have the travel insurance to cover anything unexpected that may occur. You should have travel insurance in addition to the European Health Insurance Card.
Read information about the places you are visiting and make plans before you go
When it comes to travel books I prefer books from Cadogan guides, Rough Guide and Footprint. I like these books because their description of places is similar to how I experience them. I bought two books from Lonely Planet and sold them weeks after because I didn't like them.
Wikitravel.org is a handy site to know about and a good place to get information about destinations. It's similar to Wikipedia, but have travel-related information about the places you are going to visit.
The app Citymapper is available for both Android and iOS devices, and inside your web browser. It lets you instantly compare your travel options in real-time across all types of transports. Easily navigate your city with turn-by-turn directions for all your public transport, walking, cycling and scooter trips. It also has options for downloading city maps and plan plan routes locally on your device.
Laws and culture
Remember to respect the customs and laws in the country you are visiting. Things you are used to do back home may be illegal or people may be offended by the way you behave. Ie. in Muslim countries one of the worst thing you can do is to touch someone with your left hand or show them your shoe sole. Some places you may get arrested for showing affection in public.
If you get caught doing something illegal you may find yourself all alone and an embassy unwilling to help because you should know what you did is illegal. Read this and this article in Aftenposten (Norwegian newspaper) about the subject.
Where am I going to sleep?
To most people the choice is either to sleep in a hotel or in a hostel. If you travel alone I recommend you to sleep in a hostel because staying alone in hotels could be very lonely in time. I have met people travelling alone who slept in hotels and they have described their nights in hotels as their most lonely days ever on holidays. Staying in a hostel you will meet a lot of interesting people from all over the globe. The comfort is better in hotels and you will get more privacy but it is very likely you will feel lonely if you are travelling alone. During my travel in Spain in 2008 I had only booked two nights in Valencia. Before I went to bed the second night I tried to book one more night but because of a concert that night everything was full. I simply had to get out of town the next day. I travelled to Madrid where I had a nice stay. To avoid incidents like mine you should book a few days ahead to be sure you have somewhere to sleep. Book three days in advance and you should be fine in most cases. Be aware that if you are going somewhere and there is a big social event, such as a soccer game, bank holidays, it may be more difficult to book places in short notice. During Semana santa in Spain and mid-summer celebration in Porto (Portugal) you should make your reservation well in advance.
Use Internet to book hostels (hostelworld.com is the biggest site for booking hostels) or hotels (booking.com or hotels.com are the largest sites for booking hotels). Booking on the Internet you may compare prizes and view feedback from other guests. Online booking sites sends you written confirmation as documentation. I always prefer to have written confirmation on the places I am booking. ebookers.com is a great all-in-one-site for booking cars, hotels etc on the same place. Another great site for online booking of apartments, rooms at peoples places etc is Airbnb.com.
Phone and internet
If you are staying for long in a country I advise you to get a telephone card. Normally this is a much cheaper option than using your cell phone, especially if you travel from one part of the world to another. From June 15th 2017 it is free roaming within EU as long as your subscription is from a country within EU or EEC so you don't have to think about expensive use of cell phones any longer (as long as you are from Europe and travel waiting Europe). The telephone operator I am using offer the possibility to send SMS and MMS from their webpage for free. If you have a laptop, smartphone and tablet you may also consider using Zoom, WhatsApp, Mesenger or similar apps for free video calls using WIFI. Most hostels and hotels have Internet available for their guests where you may send email, use Facebook and other online facilities.
Buying a multi-purpose battery pack / power bank enables you to charge your camera, telephone or tablet anywhere and any time. The largest power bank I have seen is a Anker PowerCore 26.000 mAh it is under the 100Wh limit most airliners have for bringing it on board but it is powerfull enough so charge all telepnones, tablets and computers I may bring around. If you are going to buy an powerbank remember that the more milliampere hour (mAh) the better, but keep it under 100 Wh if you are planning on traveling with it. 100 Wh is roughly equal to 27.000 mAh.
Hide your equipment
I advise you to purchase a money belt where you keep a backup-card (Visa, Mastercard etc), money and other things you don't have to keep in your pockets. Have nothing more than a daily consumption of money in your pockets in addition to perhaps one card. By doing this you don't loose all your money or all you credit/debet cards, passport, etc if you are being robbed.
Personally I prefer using backpacks while travelling abroad because it makes me more mobile. If you use a wheeled bag or suitcase its harder to drag your luggage along. If you are travelling from city to city a rucksack with a 40 liter capacity could be sufficient, at least if you travel from city to city. I have travelled for 3 weeks with only a 40 litres backpack. In most big cities it it's quite easy to find somewhere to do your laundry. The disadvantage of travelling with a backpack that small is the lack of space if you have planned to do a lot of shopping. If you have planned to travel in more remote places a larger rucksack is recommended - 80 litres or more. If you are going to use a backpack I recommend you to use a safety net. The safety net is available in several sizes. Using one of these you are sure that no one will slash open your rucksack to steal things. Because of it's construction you may lock your rucksack to i.e. a pole or your bed. Using this while sleeping at a hostel you are guaranteed that no one will steal your rucksack (or something from it) during the daytime while you are out or while sleeping.
Buy everything you need in advance. Nomaden is a great place to check out to buy stuff you need. That place has a huge section of map in addition to a huge section of books and other equipment. The advantage of buying stuff at a place like this that everything is compact and does not use unnecessary space in your rucksack (or suitcase). On their homepage Nomaden has lists of what you should pack wherever you are going to travel. Spend a few days to pack. By doing this the chance is bigger that you don't forget anything. If you are unsure on what kind of power adapter you need in the country you travel to check this page.
Water and food
If you are going to drink tap water I recommend you to buy a water filter or water treatment tablets. Water is quite cheap in the supermarket and a good alternative to tap water which in some countries may give you problems.
Normally you don't encounter any problems eating foreign food. If you are travelling to another part of the planet be sure to eat food that is properly cooked to avoid any problems. Remember that some countries have restrictions what food you may bring in to the country. In case you get food poisoned you should bring Imodium.
Dictionaries and language barriers
If you are not fluent in the language they are talking where you are planning to spend your holiday I advise you to buy a dictionary. You will be surprised how poorly people speak i.e English in places you would expect them to be good. If you are fluent in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese you are likely to get along fine most places. Dictionaries come in most sizes, analog as well as digital. It is possible to instal dictionaries on your most telephones. Both Google play and Apple App store have plenty of offline dictionaries.
If you are planning to attend to a guided tour you got three options. You may either (mis)use some locals you know, you may use a bus-sightseeing or you could attend a walking tour. Cycling tour is an alternative to walking tour in my opinion. A fifth alternative is to walk around by yourself but doing this you may miss the nice spots. Most people working at hotels or hostels are likely to show on a map what to see though.
Use one of the other options first and then walk around by yourself and explore the places you want to explore more by yourself. The tickets you get on a bus-sightseeing normally lasts for 24 hours and let you hop on and off at any location along the route. Personally I prefer the walking tours because it lets you get close and personal with the cities you visit. In addition to this the guides often tell you things no one else have told you. SANDEMANs NEW Europe Tours offer free tours in several cities in Europe and is highly recommended.
Instead of using ordinary (analog) maps you could install maps on your phone or tablet. Google maps is available for Mac, Microsoft Windows, Android and iOS. The disadvantage is that this program download maps whenever needed which may be costly while roaming. Cheaper alternatives are offline maps. If you search App Store, Windows Store or Google play for ie "offline map".
If you use medicine bring it in its original packaging. If your medicine contains narcotic substances, you should bring a note from your doctor. Otherwise you may find yourself some trouble in the customs. The Norwegian medicine authority have written a good article about bringing medicine abroad.
Payments, cash and payment cards
I like to have some spending money in cash when I travel, ut I have realised I am being outdated. Especially after the Covid pandemic contactless payment (aka "tapping") has become more widespread. Apple Pay and Google Pay lets you pay contactless using your phone, and you have additional security features that doesn't exist on "traditional" payment cards. Above in this article I recommended the use of money belt for hiding valuable stuff under your clothes, and that is still valid. If you ie has a Visa debet card and a credit card you should have one of your cards in the money belt. Most, if not all, credit cards users are insured in case of fraud so it could be an idea to use such a card as a primary card whilst traveling.
Virtual cards allows you to minimise the amount of personally identifiable information you share with places you buy at. New providers of these cards have made virtual cards simple and easy to use. Virtual credit cards and virtual debit cards are now valuable tools in protecting your privacy and security without compromising convenience.
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Many users may think of virtual cards as burner cards that can be used for quick, one-time purchases. However, Privacy's virtual cards offer more enhanced security features and unlock more use cases than a simple burner card.