"Don't lock your bags and thieves will think there's nothing worth stealing, don't book until the last minute and you'll score a bargain, carry your passport at all times"– travellers get all kinds of lousy advice hurled their way. Much of it will shrivel under the bright light of logic but some can lead you into darkness. Here are five bits of travel advice that should never be believed.
Everything is cheaper duty-free
A few things are, most are not. Cigarettes are the standout, duty-free booze is quite a bit cheaper but the rest? The duty we pay in Australia on perfumes, clothing, electronics and watches is the GST, just 10 per cent. Right now the Australian dollar is tracking low and prices in retail stores in our cities are competitive so buying duty-free overseas is not likely to deliver a bargain. If you're buying duty-free, you're probably making your purchase in an airport and airport retail space is expensive. To cover their rent, airport shops must jack up their prices. There are a few places where you can get a better deal on computers, electronics and cameras, for example New York and Hong Kong, but if something goes wrong with that Phantom Quadcopter drone or the Apple iBook Pro you bought overseas, chances are the local retailer won't honour your warranty.
Steer clear of street food
Chowing down on a veg samosa in Old Delhi, a murtabak in Malaysia or a beef noodle soup in Vietnam has brought joy and sustenance to my heart as well as my stomach. It's a cultural as well as a culinary foray and it's low risk, but I have rules. It has to be cooked to order in front of me, it must be served hot, the cook should look healthy and I'll like it even better if those plastic plates are getting a thorough wash with detergent between servings. Fruit smoothies and ice cream I'd be more careful about but if the stall looks sparkling clean and it's popular I'll probably go for it. Peeled fruit or anything that's sitting around in big pots waiting to be served are no-go items.
See Australia first
Why? This advice is sometimes offered to the young when they're contemplating their first solo foray into the wider world. Many thousands of youthful travellers come from overseas to explore Australia every year. For them it's exotic, unfamiliar and a long way from their parents – a mind-expanding experience. For exactly the same reason many thousands of young Australians depart our own shores and set off to explore Europe, Asia or South America. Most will return with expanded horizons, having absorbed ideas and experienced wonders that are not to be found within our own shores, and that enriches them and us. See Australia, sure, it's got some world beaters, but it doesn't have to be a first solo outing. Besides, a foray into the wider world might just show you why the country you call home is a pretty terrific place to live.
Bali is for bogans
No it's not. For many Kuta is the reason they go to Bali but it's not my Bali. My Bali is a soul-stealing place with the sound of water trickling through the rice terraces, with mossy temples and spirit houses in the rice fields with their faded, flapping shreds of yellow cloth, where soaring bamboo penjors arch above the roadsides and the sweet, musky smell of kretek cigarettes perfume the air, where women head off for midday prayers with a pyramid of fruit and flowers piled on their heads and the night air caries the staccato rush of a gamelan orchestra. It's fresh lime juice with sugar syrup on the side, the smoky taste of Bali coffee, siting over a Bintang in the evening watching geckos stalking insects drawn to a wall light, the sticky heat of midday and long, indolent afternoons on the massage table. And in my book that comes pretty close to heaven.
Take a guided tour and you'll see everything
A guided tour gives you certainty. You get to tick off the highlights and you'll know almost exactly when and where you're going to be. If you have limited time, if you're in a place well outside your comfort zone, if you're travelling on your own, if you're concerned about your personal safety or your belongings then a guided tour might be your best option. On the flip side, wrestling with timetables, figuring out where you'll stay and for how long, ordering food from a foreign menu and getting your tongue around "Where is the toilet?" in a strange language brings its own special currency to your travels. When you organise your own travels you're more engaged with the place you're in. You might even find out how great you are at getting about in the world, and that's one of the best gifts travel can give you.
See also: 18 signs you need to go travelling again
See also: The 15 most pointless travel items