When embarking on a trip abroad, whether it is for a week or 12 months, it is important to make sure you make the most of the travel destinations that you visit. This seems like an obvious point but it is amazing how many people visit fantastic places around the world and spend their whole stay on a sun lounger by the pool without taking in the destination's array of stunning sights.
My experience as a backpacker has taught me that it is crucial to make the most of places you visit as you often only have a short time to take in its delights before moving on to the next destination. Along the way i have picked up various tips which have helped me really maximise my time in a travel destination and experience everything it has to offer.
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Step 1: Do Your Research!
One of the most important things to do before you go to any travel destination is to research the area and discover what the best sights are, where the best places to visit are and where you should stay. If you don't do this you will waste a lot of your time wandering aimlessly and not make the most of your visit.
You can do a lot a lot of things to research the area. Obviously there are guide books which you should consult both before your visit and during. They are great for information on where to visit as well as containing useful resources like maps and restaurant guides for when you are at the destination.
You should also consult the internet. There are a never ending amount of travel blogs and websites which will give you up to date information which may be more reliable than guide books that were published years ago.
Finally, you should ask friends. People who have been where you are going are always likely to provide valuable information - just take it with a pinch of salt as taste accounts for a lot!
Step 2: Ask the Locals
After you've researched a destination you should have a good idea of where the best spots are and what the main sights are that you can't miss during your stay. What can take your visit to the next level is discovering the little nuances of a destination that guide books can't tell you. These are the hidden gems that will have you singing in french bars into the early hours, going mountain biking in the Peruvian mountains or sat in the middle of the home fans at an Argentinian football match chanting your heart out.
Locals hold the key to their home town and you need them to unlock it. Imagine what a guide book would say about your home town and then picture everything it misses out. You need the local folk to tell you about those places.
This is also an excellent way of discovering a new language if it is different to your own. There's no better way to introduce yourself to locals than asking for help with their lingo!
Step 3: Be Adventurous
There's nothing more liberating than wandering down a street without knowing what is at the end of it. As with the last step, it is the exploring of unknown areas that regularly unearths a destinations gems and by being adventurous, moving away from the guide book and the hoards of tourists you can discover the real heart of a destination.
So next time, as you wander around Paris, Buenis Aires or Moscow, take that left turn which seems to lead to nowhere and see where you end up. More than likely you'll find a local bar, hidden garden or friendly group of locals. Then you can combine this with step 2 and discover your next spot for the agenda!
Step 4: Stay With Locals
Finally, following on from step 2 and taking it a step further, staying with locals with give you even more insight into the local culture and the secret diamonds of the place you are visiting. not only are you more likely to learn the language, discover the best local spots and make friends who can show you an unseen side to the place you are visiting, but you will do it all at a cheaper price than staying in a hotel!
There are websites that help cater for this, the main one being Couchsurfing which can hook you up with like minded people who will give you a bed and more than likely help you make the most of the place you are visiting. If you're lucky enough to stay with a good one then you'll never have another holiday like it and, if you've followed all these tips then i'm sure you'll be on the way to one of your best holidays ever.