Photo: Wong's Bar, Bangkok.

Idle banter forum

How do people travel?

Posted by Geezy on 10/8/2010 at 23:03

I'm really interested in other peoples approaches to travelling. I went to Thailand for the 1st time last year. It was my first long haul out of Europe. To be honest when i got there my head went to pieces. I didnt really know how to approach the whole 'travelling' experience. With booking flights, how to get different accomodation day after day, booking trains and things like that. If you have any advice or experiences about travelling logistics i woould love to hear it.


#1 Geezy has been a member since 27/7/2009. Posts: 48

Posted by exacto on 11/8/2010 at 02:42

Hey Geezy,

I typically will do quite a bit of online research with website like Travelfish before I visit a place, to get an idea of what to expect, what there is to do, variety and cost of accommodation, and how best to get from place to place. I'll have a general idea of where I want to stay too, maybe three places not too far from each other. Once I show up, I'll also learn alot about an area by chatting with other travellers and locals.

I'll put together a rough itinerary before I go, but nothing too fixed, and just sort of follow my nose through the trip. I'm not particularly shy about booking tours or using travel agents to help with logistics either, particularly if it is a place I don't know.

Pretty much the only time I'll book accommodation in advance is if I'm arriving in a big city after a long flight or if it is a special place where I'd really like to stay. I'll sometimes book local flights in advance, and tend to book overnight sleeper trains in advance too now that they book up so far ahead. Other than that, I just find rooms, restaurants, and things to see and do based on research and feedback from locals and other travellers as I move along. I suspect the majority of folks on this website do it more or less the same way.

Was there something specific that was difficult for you? Sometimes it just takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it. It took me a few trips, but it comes naturally now. Hope that helps. Regards.

#2 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,759
 Send exacto a private message   Where has exacto been? 

Agoda coupon: Get an extra 7% off selected properties with the coupon code

Posted by busylizzy on 11/8/2010 at 03:52

Hi Geezy - Exacto’s comments reflect my own thoughts on this.
I also like to research the place I'm going ahead of time so I know what to expect, and work out a shortlist of places where I might want to stay. I use TF guides as my first source of info to come up with a short list of accom options - then often use to check their reviews as well. (TF guides are generally pretty spot-on for their accom reviews; much more reliable than other guides that I have seen).
If I'm flying in to a biggish city, I usually book the first 1-2 nights ahead of time. In Thailand, I sometimes phoned a day or two ahead of time to book (rather than book online) especially when going to some of the smaller islands. This gave me the reassurance that I definitely had somewhere to go, but if the place was totally unsuitable then I could walk out and check out one of my other options instead. I never had to, though. If it's a quieter location, off-peak and sounds like there is a good range of accom then I'll leave it until I get there to check them out rather than book ahead of time.
Whenever I get off a bus/train/plane, I like to know the address of where I'm going (ie my first accom option). It avoids getting hassled too much by the touts and tuktuk drivers standing there waiting to take you away to a place of their choice! If the bus drops me off in a central area I may just first go to a nearby restaurant for a cold drink while I sort myself out, get orientated with a map and work out my plan. If the restaurant seems safe enough, I may ask to leave my main pack there while I walk around looking for my accom .
I worked out a rough overall itinerary ahead of time, then refined things as I went, always thinking ahead by 3-4 days so that I knew what the next step was. I often used my bus travelling time to read up on the next place. One of the things that I like to do as I'm arriving is to find out what my transport options are for leaving. In that way, I can spend the next few days asking around about specific options, getting a handle on departure days/times, etc. That took the pressure off for any 'last-minute' planning hassles.
I carried a netbook with me, which made it easier to pop online to do some quick research, planning and bookings if necessary. But that's not necessary as there are usually loads of internet cafes around.
Just remember, if you plan to keep to the touristy areas, they will be well-geared to help you out. Accom and transport options will be plentiful and there will be lots of people eager and keen to help you out. The more remote and off the beaten track, the more limited your options might be. But there are always going to be options, so you just have to take it a day at a time.
And another thing... when I first started travelling around, I was determined that I could do it myself and didn't need to enlist the help of local guides, agents etc who 'were all out for my money'. I eventually came to realise that sometimes, these people CAN make life a bit easier for you, and often are a wealth of information. Don't be afraid to discuss your plans with them and ask what they suggest. But you still need to keep your head about you when it comes to making bookings and handing you money over!

OK - enough rambling. I've finished my coffee - time to get back to work!

#3 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
 Send busylizzy a private message   Where has busylizzy been? 

Posted by Geezy on 12/8/2010 at 23:01

Thanks for the replies. In answer to your question Exacto, i think i just have a problem landing somewhere and not having a set place to stay and having to motivate myself to find accomodation and travel. It just seems a bit daunting to me. It didnt take me long to get over it last time but that was the main issue i had.


#4 Geezy has been a member since 27/7/2009. Posts: 48

Posted by Missbonnie on 13/8/2010 at 05:06

Great thread!

I haven't really traveled yet(leaving in 3 weeks whoo!) so i have nothing to add

#5 Missbonnie has been a member since 23/12/2009. Posts: 7

Posted by svendj on 13/8/2010 at 17:21

agree with busylizzy about the agents. They do try to rip you of once and a while, but just try to be friendly to them (or talk to them in their native language if you can!) and they will help you out very well.

my first time I went to Thailand I just hadn't booked anything, never looked at lonely planet or travelfish and just went for it. stayed in hotel in BKK and moved on with the train the next day. Just figured it out while I was there. Right now I know it can be very helpful to use the travelfish guidebooks and advice on the website here.
If you go back to the same places (especially BKK as it is a starting point for backpackers) everytime, you will start to know the place better and better. I do like it when I arrive at the airport and I see a bunch of backpackers with their lonelyplanet book trying to figure out where they are going. It's all a good experience.

It is so that you have to get into that way of travelling. If you don't like the hassle of searching for accommodation you do need to make some plans in advance.
The less you plan, the more fun the experience will be even when you start getting annoyed if you don't find a place, it's still fun :).
though planning sometimes helps but not always as you might find better things (like guest houses and hotels ) while you are at the place itself.

totally agree with everything else from busylizzy and exacto

#6 svendj has been a member since 30/4/2010. Location: Belgium. Posts: 196
 Send svendj a private message   Where has svendj been? 

Posted by Nokka on 13/8/2010 at 18:10

Its nearly 30 years ago that my wife and I met and started taking trips, or holidays together. We weren't able to go 'travelling' then, far too caught up with careers and other stuff. We, like most, were only able to take a couple of weeks to go on a trip, or a holiday, into mainland Europe.

We've always travelled independently, though - have never been on a packaged trip. Back then, we would get a flight only deal through bucket shops on a charter flight. There were no budget airlines back then, mainly just holiday companies or overpriced national airlines. At the foreign airport every other passenger would walk towards the coaches to take them to wherever they were going, but we would walk the other way towards local buses, or a tiny, old hire car. (Fiat Pandas were especially used). We never had any plans, just a Rough Guide (which weren't very detailed then) and sometimes a map. We'd stay where we felt like, never any planning; just was the room clean and well positioned, if it was, we were in.

Last winter we managed our first long period (ie over 3 weeks)away. 4 months in total in SEA, a long time dream. Inevitably, I suppose, modern technology plays a part. We had the first month pretty much booked up, including trains and planes. After that we would plan with the aid of the internet our next move. Usually we had our next place to stay booked etc etc. Its all so convenient and easy, plus you can even see what your room's gonna look like. Why waste time looking round looking for places to stay, have it all done beforehand.

I guess for many (including me probably) that's the way it is now. Yet a part of me still yearns for those days when the internet didn't exist, when it was largely pot luck what you got (sometimes good, sometimes not so good), when you didn't stay somewhere because it had a website, when serendipity still played a part.

#7 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259
 Send Nokka a private message 

Posted by MADMAC on 14/8/2010 at 17:02

"I guess for many (including me probably) that's the way it is now. Yet a part of me still yearns for those days when the internet didn't exist, when it was largely pot luck what you got (sometimes good, sometimes not so good), when you didn't stay somewhere because it had a website, when serendipity still played a part."

Unless I am going to BKK on buisiness, I never book in advance and I never plan where I am going. I just get on my chopper and ride until I find someplace I want to hang out. And I do so for the reasons you describe here. I just like the feeling of having to be no where at any specific time.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
 Send MADMAC a private message 

Posted by somtam2000 on 14/8/2010 at 19:34 admin

Great discussion.

Personally have to say I found travel easier pre internet. There was less info available (pick a guidebook was about it) and you just sort of figured it out along the way.

I liked that -- sure I wasted some time and missed some highlights probably, but it was fun and was totally unplanned.

For eg on arrival in India I got a train, liked it so much decided to circumnavigate the place by train, there wasn't really any plan to begin with, so there were no bookings to rearrange, and so it made for an interesting few months.

How do I travel now? If for TF it is pretty banged out and planned timeline wise, but I generally don't book anything in advance save the flights I have to book.

If I'm travelling with the kids, then we book in advance, as anyone who has travelled with kids (or encountered mine), the idea of trolling through sois looking for a family room at 3am after a four hour flight is less than appealing.

Different horses for different courses.

#9 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,931
 Send somtam2000 a private message   Where has somtam2000 been?   Website   Twitter   Facebook    Flickr    Google+   Instagram   Pinterest 

Posted by JourneymanTraveller on 17/8/2010 at 16:09

I'm a voracious planner, if only to get a sense of what is available in a given region, what is likely to be worth visiting, what the logistical issues are, how to travel within the region and so on. I think most of the views expressed on here as to simply grabbing a Guide Book and heading out sit well with me but I admit to using the internet too - that said, I like to form my own views of a place so I don't spend a lot of time researching what people think about a particular monument or historical location, I spend more time ensuring we have a reasonable place to stay in the area and then go visit whatever is there. I like knowing what I am seeing so I do read about the history of a particular region and the historical significance of the various temples an monuments I might want to visit, rather than 'reviews' of them.

That said, so often the plan goes out of the window - or is deviated from - so it really only ever forms a framework around which you build using knowledge gained while you are there. You can research all you want beforehand but the learning curve is far steeper once you arrive. You can see, smell and touch the region you are in which no guide book can do for you. For many people these days, time is short so having so knowledge of the internal infrastructure of your destination is invaluable. Better to learn it before you go than to be reading it while you're there. Also, there is a great deal to be said for the practice of not booking accommodation and wandering round to find a place you'd like to stay in - you get some real gems that way - but you can also get tired and disillusioned, especially after a long flight so I recommend booking the first night.

Other than that, just get out there and enjoy! Things go wrong - that's part of the fun - indeed Mark Twain once said: "It doesn't have to be fun, to be fun." Sometimes challenging journeys are the best journeys.

#10 JourneymanTraveller has been a member since 28/6/2010. Posts: 24
 Send JourneymanTraveller a private message   Website 

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 17/4/2011 at 12:59 TF writer

.............. I find travelling to places where I have friends brings some of the best experiences. Having a local person unlock the place for you and take you to their favourite places - perfect!

And when I'm in a place where I don't know anyone, I still try to find the locals. Tuk tuk drivers and motodops and people who work in guest houses have lots of information to impart. Students and other people wanting to practise their English can make great recommendations. And the expats, if you can find them and not make them grumpy, have the best gossip and know where the parties and happenings and nice guesthouses are.

Most of my best guesthouse stays have come from tuk tuk/autorick/saungtaw drivers, dropping me off at a little bit of paradise that wasn't in the guidebooks. I use TravelFish a lot, but in a large city there can be so many places that it's a bit overwhelming. I generally decide which area I want to be in, then scope it out when I arrive. I also avoid the scrum of drivers when I step off the train/bus - I usually go for a coffee to get my bearings and often, I'm approached by an older, quieter driver who gives me lots of information. I got a free tour of Agra's sights because my driver told me it was free entrance for World Heritage Day.

I've learnt to let go of certain anxieties - it's really not important if another guesthouse is slightly prettier or has a higher rating on websites. Saving 50 cents on a bus ticket is not a priority. The first day in any country is always going to be the most expensive, so I don't worry too much about the budget that day, I'm just grateful to have arrived, found a bed and eaten my first meal in the country.

#11 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 178
 Send AbigailatPenhandInk a private message   Website 

Posted by Thomas922 on 18/4/2011 at 02:42

Wow! Long but good posts. It seems most of us do some kind of advance research using sites like this.
If you are a newbie, just go step by step.

A. Choose a place. (For many the hardest step.)
B. In your home country book a flight. If you are confused just go to
a major website like Kayak and plug in dates and places.
C. Go from the airport in your new country to a very popular place to
stay based on popular feedback or guide books. Do not go off the
beaten path. Take the most used route to a very popular place.
For example, from Bangkok airport take a taxi straight to a
popular guesthouse like SUK 11 or somewhere on Khao Sarn Rd.
Of course having booked this through a popular website like
Hostelbookers or even a link from this site. Book for a few days.

D. Grab a coke or a coffee and sit in the most touristy area of the
guesthouse or local eatery and listen to people talk. Look in your
LP or RG guidebook. Book a very popular tour for a day trip that
your guest house can arrange or follow another group at your
lodgings on a day trip. After this trip and you are safely back
to the famous guesthouse, try a trip on your own locally with
someone you meet in the guesthouse from your own country
or who you understand very well, or who may be a single female
traveller like yourself (or male). All this time you are getting
more comfortable with the money, and the food, and hearing
stories. From here you can use the local IT and book a room in
another famous guesthouse somewhere else (like Chiang Mai)
and let the hotel people book travel for you to get there, or you
will start feeling more independent and do it yourself or with
new friends. Even if you just stay in Bangkok for a week with
a few day trips and go back home, you will feel so empowered
that the next trip will be much easier.

#12 Thomas922 has been a member since 1/7/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 352
 Send Thomas922 a private message   Instagram 

Posted by MADMAC on 18/4/2011 at 09:36

This conjures up some great imagery!

#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
 Send MADMAC a private message 

Posted by sayadian on 18/4/2011 at 14:27

The only real travellers were the 'overlanders' and they ended with the era of cheap flights.

#14 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
 Send sayadian a private message 

Posted by MADMAC on 18/4/2011 at 17:55

What about those who worked tramp steamers? That wouldn't exactly be "overland".

#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
 Send MADMAC a private message 

Posted by sayadian on 19/4/2011 at 04:42

Like W.H Davies and Jack London, the great age of tramping.By boat or land

#16 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
 Send sayadian a private message 

Posted by MADMAC on 19/4/2011 at 19:00

It's a bummer you can't do that anymore. When I moved to Thailand, I had to ship my household goods and I looked at traveling with them. The ship actually had 10 passenger births, and I was willing to work on the ship at whatever they needed. But nope - that's all skilled labor now (I guess even the janitor). And the passenger births were EXPENSIVE. Around one hundred English pounds per day. That added up to over 3,000 USD to get to Singapore... That just wasn't working for me. I had the time, but it was not justifiable from a monetary perspective.

#17 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
 Send MADMAC a private message 

Posted by sayadian on 20/4/2011 at 18:46

'10 passenger births' Wow did they have a midwife!!!
Sorry Madmac but I couldn't resist that one.
I think you mean 'berths' but I'll forgive you because you're a yank.

#18 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
 Send sayadian a private message 

Posted by Phiddy on 15/12/2011 at 15:21

Sorry to dig up an old thread but it really is a great one, travelling on my own as an 18 year old girl and arriving in BKK in particular is freaking me out but reading this has reassured me slightly ! :)

#19 Phiddy has been a member since 1/12/2011. Posts: 64
 Send Phiddy a private message 

Posted by altmtl on 15/12/2011 at 20:47

The biggest mistakes new travellers make is not doing enough online research: google, thorntree, travbuddy, couchsurfing and listening to experienced travellers who offer them advice. Guidebooks often promote the common back packer routes... boring if you actually want to meet locals instead of being scammed by touts.

#20 altmtl has been a member since 18/5/2009. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,003
 Send altmtl a private message   Website   Twitter   Facebook  

Posted by frangrit on 16/12/2011 at 15:09

So glad that someone has resurrected this thread. I've found it useful and, actually, pretty fascinating to read about others' travel outlooks.

I'm an over-planner myself, a project manager by nature. I enjoy that part of the trip, too — the pre-planning. But I try to let go a little bit of all the details once I've arrived somewhere, and just spend time meandering. One of my favorite things to do in a place is just to walk along the streets and take in the pace and feeling of the place. Grab a coffee and loiter for a while in one place. At the same time, I like the steadiness of having a few crucial items — like accommodations — booked ahead. It's already proven challenging to my travel style that I can't book everything online ahead of time for an upcoming first-time trip to SEA. But I'm hoping in the end that a more go-with-it attitude will be freeing, and will change the way I travel everywhere.

#21 frangrit has been a member since 1/10/2011. Location: United States. Posts: 4
 Send frangrit a private message   Website   Twitter 

Posted by MADMAC on 16/12/2011 at 22:14

OK Sayadian, so I was on my "arse". I claim distraction by my daughter. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

#22 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
 Send MADMAC a private message 

Please login to add a reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a reply to this post. Please use the button below to log in. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.