After two months of travelling around Nicaragua and Costa Rica, here are ten things that I would definitely recommend for your travels!
- Do your research: From destinations to visit, hostel reviews to the basics of a new language, research will make travelling a lot smoother and less stressful. With a quick search on the internet or a chat with a friend, you can draw on their experiences from the best place to buy bottled water to how to avoid being “gringo tourist taxed”. This summer we were fortunate to have some friends that told us the ‘official’ price for a taxi, without this knowledge we would have ended up paying over five times the ordinary price simply because we were “gringos”.
- Talk to the locals: The locals, after all, live there all year round and know the best about their area. They know the reasonable price to pay for a mango and know where to get the best “gallo pinto” in town (their house). You might even get lucky and have a local resident agree to take you on a tour at a subsidised rate.
- Live with the locals: If you can, living with the locals will also make a massive difference. Homestays are a great way of exploring a new culture as you’re immersed in the daily life of a family. Whilst making friends with the family and picking up hints about the area, you’re also supporting a family who often puts up travelers for extra money. Hostels are also a great way of meeting some locals as well as other travelers and finding out the best things to do/see.
- Pack an extension lead and power bank– a bit random but these are two things that will make the world of a difference if you’re planning on taking electronic items whilst travelling. Hostel rooms, especially in third world countries, simply do not have an abundant supply of plugs and when there’s around fifteen people sharing two plugs, you’ll make the world a happier place if you brought a small extension lead. Power banks are great as you can charge your items ‘on the go’ – especially on long bus journeys or days out as you’re taking so many photos of your awesome adventure.
- Keep a record of your trip: When you’re having an amazing time abroad it’s often hard to find time to write in a diary but even just writing a sentence per day could make a fascinating read when you return home. The sentences could also jog your memory on anything else that happened and you could expand the sentences later on.
- Take photos: Whilst you want to enjoy the moment whilst it’s happening, a photo here and there would make great memory sparks for when you return. You could also try taking photos of things that are seemingly more insignificant. For example, photos of different hostels you stay in, places you eat from, signs of places you visit and your favourite foreign drink. From making a recommendation for a fellow traveler on good churros to remembering what your favourite snack looked like, it’s the little things that you often forget without a photo.
- Take photos of your passport/other important documentation and email them to yourself: having an electronic copy via e-mail means that you can access it wherever you have your phone or an internet connection. It’s also a good idea to have several photocopies of your passport so you can keep your passport locked away in the hostel and you only need to carry a passport photocopy during the day.
- Take a small supply of your favourite snack: This sounds a bit crazy as you’re there to discover and embrace a new culture but trust me, your body at some point will crave a certain type of food which is only found in your homeland. From white tortillas to Dairy Milk chocolate buttons, we were one month into the trip and whilst the food was good, there was certain foods that “gallo pinto” couldn’t compensate for…
- Take a sleeping liner: As a suggestion from a friend, I can honestly say that this is one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received. Hostels, especially in third world countries, are notoriously known to be dirty and the hostels in Nicaragua definitely lived up this expectation with bedding that didn’t seem to have been washed since purchase. When you’ve been travelling or exploring all day, a good night’s sleep is so important and can be easily ruined by unclean bedding. A sleeping liner is a thin piece of material like a big pillow case which you can sleep inside of so your body doesn’t have touch the dirty surfaces of the bed. It takes up minimal space in your rucksack and makes the world of a difference!