Travel tips: 10 travel experiences you should never stop doing

I'm not entirely sure why, but riding a horse is a lot more fun than riding a camel. Maybe it's the fact that it just feels more natural, or more elegant, or more like you're actually in control of what the giant beast underneath you is about to do.

Whatever it is, when it comes to choosing animal-borne transport while I'm travelling, I would take a horse over a camel any day of the week. Horses are fun. Camels are not.

With that in mind, and after last week's column on the travel experiences you'll only have once, here's the flip side: the good stuff, the things you should keep on doing for the rest of your travelling life. Enjoy.

Eating street food

This might end badly every once in a while. It's not 100 per cent safe. But if you stick to the golden rules – eat at places that look popular; watch the food cooked in front of you – you'll find some of the best cuisine you've ever tasted being served on the streets. From Bangkok to Mumbai, Salvador to Mexico City, the tradition of simple, cheap, freshly cooked local food dished up by the side of the road is something that every traveller should embrace over and over again.

Travelling by train

Click-clack, click-clack… What's not to love about train travel? It's easy, it's efficient, it's comfortable, and it's romantic. Trains, for me, are the ultimate way to get around. You can sleep easily on a proper bed. You can chat to people from around the world. You can read a book, or drink a beer, or sit there by the window and watch life in another country go whizzing by. Some of the world's greatest journeys can be done by train.

See also: World's best and cheapest train trips

Learning the local language

It's embarrassing, the first time you attempt to wrap your tongue around a foreign language. You think it'll almost be an insult to the local people when they hear your mangling of their beautiful words. But soon you realise that it's quite the opposite – your worst attempt at a simple "hello" and "thank you" is always better than nothing at all, and you'll find everyone is suddenly far more helpful and friendly when you try. It's a small amount of effort that goes a long way.

Ditching the guidebook

When you first start travelling, the guidebook is an invaluable safety net, something to fall back on in times of confusion and inexperience. But then you run into the same people at the same tourist sights in a few different cities, and you realise just how regimented your travel experience becomes when you use the guidebook as gospel. Ditching the bible means you'll have a few dud experiences, but it also opens the world up to millions of possibilities.

Buying big, expensive souvenirs

It's tempting to stock up on hundreds of cheap little trinkets that catch your eye overseas, but I've found those are the things that tend to get stuffed into the back of a cupboard or just chucked in the bin when you get home. Want a memorable souvenir that you'll actually cherish? Splash out on something big, something amazing, something you'll have on a shelf for the rest of your life. It's very rare that you'll regret the expense.


See also: Souvenir shopping: The Backpacker's biggest regrets

Drinking the local drop

I've tried – and hated – the local booze in pretty much every country I've been to. I've disliked rakia in Croatia, I've been disgusted by palinka in Hungary, I've been grossed out by chicha in Peru, by vodka in Russia, by lao-lao in Laos, and by baijiu in China. But the point isn't to like this stuff – the point is to give it a try, and have locals laugh at you when you inevitably hate it. Drinking, like eating, is part of travel. Go for the weirdest stuff you can find.

Splashing out on a nice place to stay

Budget travel is amazing, it's rewarding, it's social and it's simple. But it's also kind of dirty and hard work in the long-term, which is why travellers should consistently embrace the joy of a night or two in a fancy hotel. Make it part of your budget: a short stay somewhere great, somewhere with crisp, clean linen and a giant bathtub in which you can sit and drink room-service champagne. Then check out and head back to the hostel.

Taking a sabbatical

I was going to call this a gap year, but it ceases to become a gap year when you do this in your 30s, or your 40s, or even your 50s and 60s. Here's the deal: you have a crisis of some kind, you quit your job or get a huge leave of absence, and you head overseas. Maybe for a few months. Maybe for a few years. But this is something everyone should do, not just once, but regularly. The world is there to be explored. Why limit yourself to two-week chunks exploring it?

Slumming it

While the splashing out is nice, if there's one thing travellers should do and should keep on doing, it's slumming it in budget accommodation. Share a dorm in a hostel. Go for the cheap Air Bnb place. Rent a run-down bungalow by the beach. The less you spend on the place you sleep, the longer you can afford to travel, and the more amazing experiences you'll have. And if you're worried about hygiene, remember: there's nothing you can't get used to eventually.


I realised the other day that for someone who's officially not a horsey person, I've done a lot of horse-riding. I've treated gee-gees to my special, inept brand of horsemanship in Argentina, Colombia, the US and South Africa. And I've come to love it. There's something traditional and natural about climbing on the back of a horse and going for a gentle trundle through beautiful countryside. It's both adventurous and relaxing. And it's far better than riding a camel.

What do you think are the travel experiences that you should always have?



See also: Nine travel experiences you'll only do once.