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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Travel tips: How to be a safe lone ranger

Sadhana Bakshi   September 19, 2012
First Published: 14:59 IST(19/9/2012) | Last Updated: 15:41 IST(19/9/2012)

Radhika’s husband is not into travel. Not for him, the hassle of packing bags, negotiating guides, staying in different hotels and bumping into strangers. She loves all this and soaks in the sights, sounds and smells of a new place – be it the dusty deserted inner villages in the far flung deserts of Rajasthan or the swanky casinos of Las Vegas. Between the two of them, they have managed to make peace with her decision then to travel alone. Sometimes she gangs up with girlie friends, at other times she joins a tour company and often enough she embarks on trips all by herself.

She has now been travelling alone for almost a decade and has mastered the art of planning itineraries, making changes as she goes along and maximising benefits on her ‘Happiness Quotient’ as she gets more and more travel savvy. She shares some of these learnings with readers of hindustantimes.com

Extensive research and referencing

Thanks to the Internet, there is a whole lot of information out there for you to soak in. But remember not all sources and websites will be truly authentic. You will have to back all the tid bits you have gathered with due referencing from friends, tour operators and generally folks who may have been on the journey you are planning. Also, within the World Wide Web domain there are ways of getting authentic information. Anjalee Rangachary, an avid traveller swears by the reviews on sites like makemytrip and traveltalkononline saying she and her family have been going to places recommended there and have done their hotel, cab, coach, guide bookings from them and never gone wrong. In fact the resorts they have stayed in are not run of the mill and on the usual tourist advisories. So, go beyond the official tourism websites and research extensively. There are blogs and travel accounts and in some places you can even write and engage with a fellow traveller online. Get your facts on all aspects of your travel – where to stay, what to see, where to eat, what to shop, what to avoid, how long to be in one place and other little bits of information which only a like minded traveller whose only agenda is to make the most of his/her travel, can share.

Planning the logistics

Be very clear of your budget. This will help you stay on course as you plan your itinerary. Be focused as you figure what airline you want to fly, what kind of lodging facility you are looking for, how many days you want to stop over at the different places you would be visiting, would you be hanging out with local friends in some place, what are your priorities in sight seeing and how best should you carry your money (travellers cheques, local currency, dollars etc). Sufficient thought must be given to planning the logistics. Depending on what you want to see while at your chosen travel destination, you should figure the most efficient way of holidaying. If it is a luxury holiday you are seeking then it may not be a priority for you to be close to the places you want to see. But if it is comfort, economy and less hassle that are the key drivers for you then you need to make a cost effective and yet efficient choice. For example, when visiting Los Angeles, Sudha decided to skip staying at a friends’ place and instead opted to stay in the hotel within Disneyland. This way she saved cab fare from LA to Disneyland, which was about $200 one way and also she could spend two full days, soaking in a lot more. Also she met up with other fellow budget travellers and benefitted from their advice, tips and company. Explore all options and then take a very informed decision.

Mapping a detailed Plan of Action

Along with securing your accommodation, prepare an itinerary for each day before you leave. This should include everything from visiting all the famous landmarks to relaxation time. Detailed lists must be drawn up with places to stay, addresses, phone numbers, distance to travel to most places, preferred mode of transport, cost involved etc. The lists can be updated as you get more information. Having day-wise plans would be good for they would at a glance give you clarity on any windows that may be available to squeeze in anything extra that you may wish to do. Getting the most of a trip is never a coincidence. It requires clarity of thought, detailed planning and being smart about all final decisions. It also entails a fair amount of flexibility. Many of us tend to spend a lot of time on our itinerary and then do not want to make changes. While being firm and unwavering is a good thing, being rigid and closed to suggestions may not be travel-wise. So be a bit flexible and make your own assessments before tweaking or altering plans if they are indeed better for you.

Having a Plan B

This is the most important part of your plan, particularly when you are going solo. Murphy’s Law states that things will go wrong when they have to and this unfortunately does happen. Rains and bad weather could lead to flights being cancelled. There could be a goof up on your hotel booking so inspite of a confirmed reservation you may land at your hotel in the middle of the night and be told that you do not have a room. There could be a bad experience with a cabbie who may take you on a wild run of the city, before dropping you off to your destination, presenting a ridiculously overcharged bill. You may lose your passport. Things happen. So have your wits about yourself and always be prepared for any eventuality. Having the right phone numbers on you and enough money to get back to your hotel and a local contact who you can turn to would be safe bets. But mostly, you will have to rely on your own wisdom. Ofcourse technology has ensured that we can never really be too alone. Whether it is skype or twitter, blogs, facebook, email and international roaming on your mobile, you can connect with anyone, anywhere in the world at any time of day or night. Use all that to advantage.

Must Carry Items

* Carry a bilingual dictionary for figuring the most commonly used terms and phrases in the country you are visiting
* Maps are a must to navigate cities, towns and local areas. They give you a clearer understanding of where you are and where you want to be and also help you with directions when checking with locals who may not figure your pronunciation but will be able to guide you via a map
* Photocopy all your important documents, like passport, visa, insurance etc and also email them to yourself
* Split your currency into travellers cheques and cash and also carry your international credit card with their customer service line numbers etc
* Print outs of details around the places you are visiting
* List of all confirmations of hotels, cabs etc that you have booked from your home country
* Spare lock, torch, measuring tape, medicine kit and small sewing kit
* Finally, travel light


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