Travel tips: The no-guidebook guide to traveling
Travel Ideas

Travel tips: The no-guidebook guide to traveling

Enter a bookstore or any travel kiosk at the airport and you’ll find a number of guidebooks in almost every country in the world. It seems that there is no valley left undiscovered, stone left unturned in any corner of the world that hasn’t made it into one or two guidebooks.

For some traveler, guidebooks can be pretty useful, giving you a checklist of the important things to remember, interesting places to visit, and unusual things you should do when you embark on your trip.

But rely too much on them and you end up going to a foreign place like you were simply going through the different sections of an obstacle game. True, guidebooks can  give you an overview of what you might expect in a different town or country, probably give you a couple of ideas on how you can plan your itinerary, but ideally speaking, they should just give you a head start on your trip, and leave the rest to your imagination. After all, it’s not just the destination that can be exciting during the holiday, but the journey you take as well.

Are you a bit hesitant to leave home without a guidebook? Well, buck up because here are a couple of tips to help you out the door:

Opt for accommodation that’s NOT on the recommendation list

If you’re often prey to advertisements, then you’re probably wishing you were that girl staying in the 5-star hotel, lounging in the bathtub with rose petals all over the floor. While that’s not exactly a bad way to spend your down time during a vacation, might we suggest that you try staying in a place that isn’t listed in a guidebook? True, they may not have all the amenities that a top hotel brags about, like free wireless internet or a gym or a gigantic pool, but unlisted places usually match all that glitz and glam with charm and coziness, not to mention a very attentive staff.

Usually, unlisted places are the ones run by families that have been going on for several years. In these places, it’s not surprising for their staff to do a little something extra for their guests to make their stay comfortable and memorable.

Sometimes, you may even encounter the owners of the establishments, who are friendly and willing to share stories about the history of the place and answer any questions you might have. Who knows, maybe they can also tell you about any previous famous guests they’ve had; maybe a celebrity or two stayed there before they walked the red carpet. These places may not have “business centers” like other big hotels, but if you need any insider info about the area like the best places to eat or where the nearest drug store is, chances are, the staff would know.

This way, not only will your experience be different from everyone else who bought the guidebook and are following it to the letter, you will also be doing your contribution in keeping the local commerce alive by supporting one of their local businesses. And because these joints are usually cheaper than other establishments, you’ll be able to save a couple of bucks, too. If you want to stay in an unlisted place but don’t know where to begin, you could always ask around for some people who are willing to rent out their houses to traveler. This is one way you can get an authentic feeling of being a resident of whichever city you happen to be in because you get your very own home there for a couple of nights. You can cook, wash your clothes, and retire to your bedroom after a day’s worth of exploring. This is also ideal for families or those who travel in a big group, because that way you can split the fee among yourselves and have room for everyone to sleep in.

Take advice in average doses

One way that guidebooks can be helpful to traveler, especially the newbies, is to offer advice or travel warnings for a certain place. These can save traveler the embarrassment of offending other people especially when it comes to cultural differences, or the danger of finding themselves in the middle of a war zone. Take the advice and keep them in mind during your holiday, but don’t let your vacation revolve around them.

Follow the advice that they offer, but also exercise common sense. Don’t transform the travel warnings serve as a threat, where you end up being too anxious and jumpy, scared for your life. Of course, tips on cultural respect are always good to remember; you certainly don’t want to wander inside a mosque wearing a string bikini.

Things change with the times. Deal with it.

While guidebooks usually print out the prices in various establishments, traveler has to keep in mind that these are always subject to change depending on the current economy of the place that you’re visiting. Also, if you’re basing your figures on that dog-eared guidebook that was given to you by your friend and printed way back in the 80’s then chances are the prices have gone up a dollar or two.

It may be okay to ask the establishment about their increase in rates, but insisting on paying less simply because it’s declared on your guidebook is frankly insulting, and kind of makes you rather unpleasant and miserly. Arguing with establishments may also won’t earn you a lot of friends, so it’s better to relax, breathe deep and pay what you owe. We understand that you want to save as much money as possible, or that you’re in a tight budget, but rates aren’t set in stone, so don’t let this issue ruin your holiday.

Share stories with other traveler and take notes

During your holiday, you’re most likely to meet fellow traveler on the way. Don’t be afraid to chat them up and ask for some tips on cheap places to stay and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve amazing grub. There may yet be a small portion of the area that’s relatively untouched and remains under the radar.

Let’s face it, once something like a “hidden spring” ends up on a book that’s sold in millions of stores worldwide, it won’t stay hidden for too long. Backpackers who shun the paved roads may be able to share a thing or two on how to turn your laid-back holiday into a wild adventure. Who better to ask than someone who’s just been to the area? Taking notes from other traveler also provides you with a varied perspective on a certain place. Some traveler may have all the info on the most exhilarating activities to get your blood pumping, others may be masters in locating the remotest places that you can spend your holiday in, and better yet, some of them might know where the best place is to go shopping for some local cothes, accessories, souvenirs and other trinkets.

Think of other traveler as alternative, interactive guidebooks. They have lots of stored information on the place that you want to go, and they can actually respond to any questions you may pose.

Exploring sans the guidebook

Unlike your passport, the guidebook isn’t exactly an important piece of document. You don’t need to bring it with you everywhere you go. So, at night while in bed,  read a couple of pages; and in the morning, leave it on the desk and go exploring. You can still visit the famous attractions enumerated on your guidebook, take a couple of pictures and awe at the scenery. But remember that impressive landmarks aren’t all there is to see in a city. Turn the corner and take a side street. Delve deeper into the heart of the city.

Stay in a small village, perhaps, and bond with the locals there. Make new friends, try the local cuisine, and learn how they go about their daily lives. Find out how many foreign words you can learn while getting hammered in the local liquor. These intimate moments may not be so grand compared to the glittering, massive structures whose pictures are plastered all over your guidebook, but they will definitely imprint a singular memory in your mind, a memory that will enable you to say, “Yes. I had a good time there that I definitely won’t experience anywhere else.”

Taking chances

If you took the time to get on a plane, boat, train, or drive your car all the way to the destination of your choice for a holiday, then don’t hold back. Guidebooks can only show you so much, impart a certain amount of information, but the rest is up to you. Don’t confine yourself to everything that’s written in the pages. Go out and explore. See, hear, touch, taste, and experience everything! Armed with all of your senses, lose yourself in a different world and emerge with an experience that can merit its own page in another guidebook someday.

Stepping into the unknown may be scary and risky, but as long as you keep your wits with you, and follow the other pointers that we’ve shared so far, then you’ll probably be okay. After all, those guys who wrote the guidebooks didn’t come up with that just by reading or interviewing a bunch of people; some of them actually went there and tried things first hand. It could result in a bit of a bumpy ride, mistakes will be made and lessons will have to be learned, but that’s exactly the point, and beauty, of going off on an adventure. Heck, it could even be the ride of your life.

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