25 travelling mistakes to make before you turn 35

As I celebrated my twenty something birthday recently, I realised that although I have travelled extensively, I still make a pretty suaku (Singaporean term for unsavvy) traveller. I find myself making the same travelling mistakes all over again. Things like ending up at the wrong terminal to catch a flight, or underestimating the time taken to get to an airport would mean having to sprint from one end of the airport to another in double-quick time, with a heavy bag in tow. And I thought to myself, this cannot be done at age 35, with babies in tow, while lugging milk bottle and diaper bags.

In all honesty, I find some of these travelling mistakes pretty amusing. These are the sort of thing you can’t stop laughing about when you’re back in safe and secure Singapore, but the feeling at that moment was probably, less than ideal.

25 travelling mistakes to make before you turn 35

kashmir india sirnagar
Notice the “grey clouds” on top? I was freezing, and so was my digital camera. The shutter could not open properly and I had to pry it open. Resulting in the shades of grey on a otherwise rather splendid photo.

1. Not buying a better camera earlier

I’ve been to many beautiful places, especially in Kashmir, India, and it’s a real pity that I did not take a DSLR along with me. Sadly, some of the awesome photos I took were rather grainy and the exposure was quite off : (

2. Dropping a good camera

Ah, enough said. As seen from the photo, a UV lens protector will do well in protecting the lens too.

3. Not backing up your travel photos

It happened to me – one day the hard disk which contained 5 years of travelling photos went Ka-Put (Bonkers). Thank goodness it was possible to retrieve at least 70% of the photos.

Read more about it here: A good reason why you should back up your travel photos

airasia a true malaysian
You don’t have to be an expert to know this, but book your flights early!

4. Not booking air tickets earlier

I personally make this mistake time and time again. Sigh. My trips tend to be spontaneous instead of basing it on air fare sales. For instance, I booked air tickets to Indonesia two weeks after my friends made the booking, and the price had risen to that of twice of theirs. By then, the budget airlines were as expensive as a full-fledged airline, so I took that instead.

mural walls chennai travel
I tried to remember the way to my hotel based on the murals on the walls. Little did I know that there were several similar murals all around Chennai.

5. Not taking the hotel’s name card, only to forget its name and address later

This doesn’t happen when you’re staying in a big hotel. But it happened to me when I was in Chennai and the hotel’s name was in Tamil. I just couldn’t remember both the name and the address. (I forgot the way back too.) I attempted to utter some words but the auto-wallah (drive of the auto rickshaw) did not understand. In the end, I had to use international roaming to check out the name of my hotel room. Needless to say, sky-high roaming charges awaited me when I got back.

I later found out that in such dire circumstances, using the Opera Mini browser on my phone could have shrank down the webpages I was loading up to 90% of the original size, helping me make a faster connection at a lower cost.

Opera mini
Here’s why you need Opera Mini on your phone before going on a holiday.

6. Attempting to sleep at XXX’s country’s airport while waiting for your 3am flight, only to be awakened by crying babies and airport vacuum cleaners

Yeah, I did that once before and it was painful. Naturally I did not get much sleep, and did not enjoy my time in that destination.

7. Forgetting that you are in a different timezone, and missing your plane, or bus.

This happened to me while I was in Bali. I did not realise that the Jakarta time was one hour later that Bali time. Therefore, I was about an hour late for my bus from Ubud to Kuta, and had to take a public bus instead. :/

ambassador taxi india
Rushing from one airport terminal to another in an Ambassador, with style. Credits: BBC’s Top Gear – Word’s best Taxi Race

8. Going to the wrong airport terminal to catch a flight

Unlike Singapore where the terminals are located just a 2-minute sky train away, I found myself at the wrong terminal at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. I had missed the shuttle bus, and had to take an Ambassador Taxi to get from one terminal to another, which was about 15 minutes by car (about 8km away). Throughout the journey, I urged the taxi-walla to go as fast as he could possible make the Ambassador go. I made it in time, and in all my gratitude, gave the taxi-walla a small tip.

9. Underestimating the time taken to get to a country’s international airport

In Seoul, I thought the airport like in Singapore, is less than 45 minutes away from the city. Little did I know it took me slightly more than an hour to get there, hence the sprinting from the subway station to the departure gate.

10. For girls, not having a pad on the plane

Don’t worry, the air stewardess usually has one.

paan spit sandals india
Yeah, if you look closer you’ll be able to see some droplets of paan spit on thy feet. Not the best feeling in the world.

11. Stepping on everything from paan spit, to dog shit to potholes in India

It took me 2 months to develop an instinctive agility in my footsteps. My toes were even covered by red paan spit, and heels by the dung of cows. It’s not the most pleasant feeling one can have.

12. Not learning the language of your favourite country

To this day, I still regret not taking Hindi lessons while in India. Life would have certainly been more meaningful then.

Huangshan tour

Staying in a 32 bed dorm room in Huangshan

13. Getting cheated/ misrepresented by a tour agency

I never go on tours, but I took one recently on my trip up to Huangshan, one of China’s tallest mountains. Despite the affordable price, I ended up sharing a 32 bed room with lots of snoring uncles and aunties as a result. Part of the tour also includes a trip to an emporium that sells odourless underwear among other things, and a tea factory.

Read more about it here: (Day 1) Journey to Mount Huangshan – a Singaporean on a local Chinese tour 

Seoul latte
Budgeting on lattes can be tough

14. Not bringing enough cash/ not authorising your ATM card to withdraw cash

This happened to me in Seoul and it was less than ideal. I had so many clothes I wanted to buy, so many lattes I wanted to drink but I just couldn’t because I had ran out of won. 🙁

15. Exceeding luggage space and having to pay ALOT

Ever had to pack and unpack at the airport just to avoid paying extra charges? That feeling is most unpleasant, especially with judging eyes of those in the queue behind you…

shoes kashmir india
My feet were freezing while walking on the icy pavement in Kashmir at sub zero temperatures with this pair of sneakers I bought for SGD8 (USD5) in Bangkok.

16. Wearing the wrong shoes

While in Seoul, I was wearing a friend’s boots which had an arch was slightly behind the arch of my feet. This gave me a really bad knee ache, which was a real bummer during my time in Seoul, given that there were so many staircases up and down the metros. Wearing cheapo canvas sneakers in Kashmir at sub-zero temperatures resulted in feet that were mostly numb and frost bitten all the time.

Moscow vodka
Vodka is not a cure for flu. Quite the opposite actually.

17. Thinking vodka is a cure for flu

It’s not. If you feel a flu coming while overseas, go to bed. Don’t be a chiongster (person who tries very hard despite his less than optimal physical condition).

18. Flirting with hotel receptionists

The only reason I can see this as a non-positive thing is when these nice, foreign ladies start posting on your Facebook wall, “I miss you dear”, three weeks after you’re back in your home country, and have sort of forgotten who she is.

19. Losing your wallet

Self-explanatory. As a consolation point, what could be even worse than the above statement? Losing your handphone and your passport too.

20. Getting ripped off by cheats

I spent a good part of my first two months in India getting cheated. I used to pay RS150 (SGD 5) for a short 10 minute rickshaw ride to the bus station, only to realise that the going rate then was RS30 (SGD 1). The thing is, I wasn’t there for just a week as a tourist, I was there for six months under a student meagre salary, which did not allow for such excesses. After some time, I wised up, choosing to walk rather than give in to the cheater-bugs. A good point of reference – the elderly rickshaw wallas seldom cheat, though they speak no English at all. To reach out to them, speak some Hindi words. The best way to detect a cheater is by looking into the person’s eyes.

21. Not going to the washroom before a long bus ride

When I first started travelling, my bladder used to call out for help, when the bus was an hour away from the next rest-stop. I have learnt my lesson. Never drink too much water before or during a long bus ride. Especially in cold weather.

22. Travelling with the wrong people

Thankfully, I have not met people who I would like to unfriend after a trip. But I have heard of horror stories of friends of friends who act like byatches while overseas, insisting that the group compromised and catered to their every need. Not cool.

23. Not bringing the right medicine while overseas

During my recent trip to China, I brought all sorts of medication such as flu medication, medication for wind and sore throat, but neglected to bring painkillers, and charcoal pills.

Needless to say, the Chinese pharmacies near my hotel were not equipped with such stuff. They sales lady even scolded me for wanting to buy painkillers for menstrual cramps, saying that the medication should cure the root of one’s illness, and not its symptoms. -.-

Shanghai sick
Poisonous instant noodles that made me terribly sick

24. Cooking instant noodles with the hotel’s hot water dispenser

I had one day to spend in Shanghai, and half of it was spent puking and diarrhea-ing. I was lazy to boil some of my own water to make instant noodles and took some from the hotel’s water dispenser. Three hours later, I was crouching at the toilet bowl vomiting. I was alone at that time and it was really quite bad.

Read more about it here: Sick in Shanghai alone

sparky the bed bug sniffer
Meet Sparky, the bed bug sniffer

25. Bringing home bed bugs

The last one was the most painful. My poor family also suffered with me. Across a span of two months, the Father had multiple bites on his leg. The Mother refused to believe there were bedbugs (until she saw one herself). In the end, I threw away my bed, and we called up Spotty, the Jack Russel who is also a bed bug sniffer. I must stress that we are now 100% bed bug free, but the painful memories linger. I threw away my bed and it cost us SGD600 (USD 471) to get the bed bugs eradicated. Moral of the story, wash your backpack with boiling hot water when you return from a trip, and avoid placing it at dubious/ dirty areas.

* * *

Just like how there is a time to love and a time to hate, there is also a time to make mistakes. To be honest, I think I will still be making these mistakes when I’m 35, or older. (Or new mistakes, such as forgetting to bring make-up to hide my crow’s-feet.) But I guess, let’s not be too hard on ourselves. The key is always to take our mistakes in our stride, smile fondly at what a crazy person we had been then, laugh and keep on going. New places, lands and experiences awaits us, only if we can see past our past predicaments. I consider a good travelling companion to be not someone who is flawless in his execution of travel, but someone who is able to laugh and smile when things go wrong.

Do you have any great travelling mistakes? Do share them in the comments below!

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