Don’t be like me: the pitfalls every traveller needs to avoid

When you’re in a foreign country – alone, on a budget and with little support network – basic gaffes can seriously hit your wallet. Or, even worse, your health.

Who hasn’t poured orange juice on their cereal? Or realised they’d left their keys in the flat as the door slams behind them?

Mistakes are a part of life. It’s how you deal with them that counts.

Fear not, because in my nine years on the road, I’ve managed to make almost every mistake in the book. And I’m here to tell you how to avoid them.

From falling prey to shark-like taxi drivers to getting injured with no insurance, these are some of the most common pitfalls faced by travellers.

Deciding to stay up all night to catch that early morning flight

This always sounds like a great idea at the time. Why waste time sleeping when I can hit the town and then grab a taxi to the airport at 5am?

And it is a good idea, until you get past check in and realise you’re going to have to wait in the security queue for two hours feeling like an extra from The Walking Dead.

A full night’s sleep is better than a few hours. But a solitary hour is better than none. Get your rest while you can.

Waiting for Arrivals to arrange transportation

Airport taxi drivers can be a cut-throat bunch. And if you’re fresh off the plane, still acclimatising to the heat and unsure of the local geography, you’re in for a rough ride.

Arranging transport beforehand is one option. So is doing some rudimentary research on how much you should expect to pay. Either way, arrive prepared.

Choosing ‘posh’ restaurants to avoid food poisoning

In developing countries you often have two options: eat like a local on the street or eat like a tourist in a swanky restaurant. But which one increases the risk of food poisoning?

Surprisingly, it’s not that obvious. Street food stalls often have a high-turnover of hungry diners meaning the food is pretty fresh. An ‘upmarket’ restaurant, meanwhile, may be hiding truly abominable food hygiene practices behind its swanky facade.

Read reviews online and, if in doubt, eat where the locals do.

Getting sick before thinking of healthcare options

I’ve (fortunately) only been stricken by relatively minor ailments during my time on the road. But both times I’ve found myself traipsing the streets trying to find a pharmacy or a walk-in clinic in 35-degree heat. And feeling rather sorry for myself about it.

Don’t gamble with your health. Get appropriate cover – ideally, with an insurer that can recommend hospitals, clinics and pharmacies nearby – to ensure injury or illness is dealt with quickly and professionally.

Forgetting your passport at the hotel

You had a bit of a heavy night but you rose early, packed your bags and hopped on a bus to the airport. Anything you’re forgetting? Nah.

Oh yes, your passport: the sole piece of documentation which will allow you to actually go home today. And where is it exactly? Behind reception at your hotel – an hour’s drive across town. Looks like another night in Bangkok then.

Or maybe this one’s just me?