We’ve just published new editions of The Rough Guide to First-Time Europe and The Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World, and they’ve got us thinking about the advice we wish we’d been given before our first big trips abroad.
Travelling for the first time can be daunting. Do you go alone? What do you pack? Should you book a round-the-world ticket? Will you meet people along the way? How do you keep in touch with friends back home? And, most importantly, where should you go?
There’s advice to help you answer all of these questions and more in the new First-Time guides, but our travel experts weren’t always quite so savvy. Here’s the advice we wish we’d been given back when we first embarked on our travels:
Ian Blenkinsop, Editor
Where did you go on your first big trip? Ecuador.
What advice do you wish you’d been given beforehand? Take earplugs anywhere you go! Tents, cabins, hostel dorms, people's sofas, plane/bus seats, even nice hotels... there are noises in all of them to ruin a good night's sleep! Snoring dorm-companions, flappy tents, honking trucks and wildlife: it's a jungle out there.
Andy Turner, Senior Editor
Where did you go on your first big trip? Round the world ticket via US, Hawaii, NZ, Australia, SE Asia, India and Nepal.
What do you wish you’d been told beforehand? Be careful with mosquito coils (almost burned down my Thai beach hut). Spend the least amount of time online – checking Premiership scores in a sweaty internet café is not "travel". Remember that time is relative. Yes, the bus probably should have left 3hrs ago, but do you see anyone else complaining?
Lucy Kane, Editor
Where did you go on your first big trip? To Italy, starting in Bologna, heading down to Florence and then up on the sleeper train to the Dordogne.
What do you wish you’d been told beforehand? To enjoy the places for what they were, rather than as a tick-box exercise. I became obsessed with seeing the cities/churches/galleries/restaurants recommended in my guidebook (a Rough Guide, of course!), rather than going with the flow and soaking the country in a bit more. Now I use my guidebook as just that, a guide.
Alison Roberts, Editor
Where did you go on your first big trip? A one-month trip backpacking around Cuba.
What advice do you wish you’d been given beforehand? I wish I'd been advised to bring an eye mask and ear plugs for overnight coach journeys, to avoid the 9/11 documentaries played on loop at full blast on the communal TVs all through the wee hours. I also wish I'd been forewarned that Cuban showers are electric and not generally very well wired…
Monica Woods, Managing Editor
Where did you go on your first big trip? Thailand and Laos.
What do you wish you’d been told beforehand? Don't be nervous and don't plan too much, just see what happens! And more specifically, learning at least 1-10 in the local language stands you in good stead for haggling/not getting swindled.
Emma Gibbs, Editor
Where did you go on your first big trip? Round-the-world, starting in Singapore and ending in LA.
What do you wish you’d been told beforehand? To pack at least one smart-ish outfit – I hadn't really thought about the going out aspect of travelling, and found that my scruffy travelling clothes didn't really work when I wanted to go out to bars and clubs in the evenings.
Ed Aves, Senior Editor
Where did you go on your first big trip? Three months to India (Delhi to Calcutta overland), Thailand, Malaysia (Peninsular), Singapore, Indonesia (Sumatra), Hong Kong and Macau.
What do you wish you’d been told beforehand? Not to go to the north of India in May/June as it was ferociously hot. I basically spent five weeks in a sauna. To chill out more, worry less about being ripped off and engage more with local culture. Looking back through the pictures, that what passes for backpacking fashion is far from acceptable, even when across the other side of the world.
Ellie Aldridge, Editor
Where did you go on your first big trip? Central America. I flew into Cancun and out of Panama City, travelling in-between by bus.
What advice do you wish you’d been given beforehand? To spend more time in each country: trying to visit eight countries in four weeks was a completely crazy idea. Oh, and that those roll-up vacuum bags might allow you take double the amount of clothes, but you won’t be able to lift your backpack!
Olivia Rawes, Editorial Assistant
Where did you go on your first big trip? Four months in South America, starting as a volunteer in Peru before traveling through Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
What do you wish you’d been told beforehand? Pack only what you can comfortably carry; you really can buy everything you need when you are out there. That said, it’s always handy to keep a spare pair of clothes in your day bag – it makes losing your luggage a bit more bearable! Also, I rarely go anywhere without my Power Monkey (a portable multi-device charger), it was a lifesaver when my camera battery died half way through the Inca Trail.
Are you about to head off travelling for the first time? Or do you have any words of wisdom to pass on? Let us know.