The tourist

Decisions.  Decisions.  Decisions.

For tourists traveling  for the first time to a new vacation spot, excitement fills the air.  An excitement  either from  the freedom of getting away from it all and/or getting to fulfil a dream come true.

The ordinary tourist has a few days traveling on a budget and hoping to see all the places they need to visit in that particular trip.

Every traveler, thus, makes an itinerary.

Arrival. How to transfer to hotel. Drop bags.  Go out and start Day 1.  What to see. Where to eat. What to do. What to eat.  Where to go. What to eat. When to get back. Get some rest.

Repeat.

The Itinerary

In a nutshell, it is mandatory that a city tour is part of one’s itinerary (or if you have a friend living in the country of destination, ask for the city tour). The local tour affords us  a brief overview of what the city or country is like – with a guide (cum interpreter or story teller) who provides an overview of what the city is like. They take us to major “tourist” spots, and if you’re lucky, point out en route the places where the locals congregate to shop and grab bargains.

The most common form of city tour (that I’d even take or recommend because I am an ordinary tourist) is the Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour.  It will serve as your transportation for the day as you can get on any of these buses, get off at the places you want to stop over and just grab any of its buses that hover the same route the whole day long.  Don’t forget to make sure that you budget for this. This should be the FIRST on any itinerary.  Get to know the city before exploring on your own.

As you begin your tour, remember, each destination will offer a city pass for tourists (well, except for the Philippines because our public transportation system is crummy). There are day passes, but I suggest that you buy one for a specific duration. For example, if you plan to stay there for say 7 days, then get a commuter pass for 5 days so that you do either the first and last day around your hotel area (make sure you read my blog on The Lodging for choosing a great location for your hotel), and use that commuter pass in between.  Passes that include entrances to various tourist sites will save you money if you wish to explore the city more.

Transportation

Most of the cities have subways, trains and buses for various routes. Get a map of the routes for reference.  Unless the city is walkable, you will not want to be scrimping on a commuter pass, only to end up with having to take a cab later on because one of your destinations was far from your lodging.  These incidentals will set off your budget and you may just miss the bag or shoe you wanted to buy.

As in my blog on Roaming, it’s a good idea to have a pocket Wifi because Google maps will help you with the various modes of transportation including walking distance and time.

Remember, getting a commuter pass saves more money especially if you want to go around the city.  Isn’t it envious how thoroughly efficient most of the countries are when it comes to public transportation?  And how well disciplined their drivers, pedestrians and commuters are!

Don’t be lazy.  Take the opportunity to walk when you can.  It’s not only healthy but makes you appreciate the city you’re in.

Water

Water is the real elixir of life.  On the plane.  In a ship.  At your travels.  Rehydration keeps you going.  One of the MUST HAVES on any trip is water.  Make sure that you drop by a 7/11 or supermarket in your area of destination and stock up on large volume of water.  That’s the first order of the day (and not on the junk food).  It is essential for your medicines, your in-room coffee (or three in one which you may have brought with you), your instant noodle soups, and your overall rehydration source.  You can bring empty small water bottles with you to your trip and refill in aliquots these water bottles as you travel the city.  DO NOT BUY THE SMALL BOTTLES OF WATER.  It is wasteful and heavy and not environmental friendly.  Get the big gallons and drain in aliquots as needed.  Remember, some hotels MAY provide free bottled drinking water (usually a maximum of 1 per person or 2 per room).  That’s about it.  You need more, you pay more.

Hong Kong for example is one of the worst countries to be sourcing water.  Tap water isn’t potable there and you need to buy your water even at the restaurants.  In some dining areas, tea is free.  In Europe, wine is cheaper than water.  So let’s drink to that!

Remember the cardinal rule: the hotel industry is a business.  A business needs to profit. Nothing is free.  Even if they say it is “free”, you’ve paid for that. It’s already in the finer details.

Car Rental

If you know how to drive then considering a car rental may be a great alternative to going around the city and the countryside.

The average car rental rate depends on many factors: size of the car, number of days of rental, among a few.

In certain cities, moving from one place to another is impossible by public transportation alone.  For example, when traveling to Orlando, Florida, or San Diego, California I always rent a car for the duration of my trip.  Pick it up at the airport and return it at the airport. Make sure that you get ALL the insurances paid for, just in case.

Again, in most countries, all you will need is a local driver’s license and a credit card.  You’re good to go! Take into consideration parking fees where you’re going.  If you’re driving in New York, the parking will end up more expensive than the car rental per day.  Other cities offer cheaper parking. Most hotels offer reasonable parking fee per night of stay.

The upside of having a car at your disposal is that you get to go where you want, when you want. The freedom of not being a prisoner of public transportation has its perks, especially if money isn’t a problem!

The Embassy

It’s important that you know where the embassy of your country is in your place of destination.  You can never tell when you will need it most.  In some countries, your country may not have an embassy, but rather a consulate. If your country has an embassy in your destination, then there is a permanent diplomatic mission and is headed by an ambassador. A consulate is led by a consul and is otherwise known as a junior embassy.  The main task of embassies is to represent their government in another country. Embassies deal with political and diplomatic relations between nations.

The major role of consulates is to promote trade (i.e., helping companies in the host nation invest in its country and vice versa).

Embassies and consulates are important particularly when you’re traveling.  It will be your source of help from your government when you’re far from home.

Churches

Catholic is as catholics get.  Don’t forget to Google the nearby church in your area especially is you’re traveling over the weekend where you’re most likely want to have Sunday service no matter what language is used during the mass.  Not all catholic churches have anticipated masses.  Most of the masses are Sunday mass and usually filled with Filipinos (including OFWs).  The midmorning masses are usually in English.

If you’re not sure with the church that’s nearest your hotel, you can always ask the concierge or front desk for the nearest Catholic Church and the schedule for mass.  Then again, a clue that the church you’ve gone into isn’t Catholic is when the church is devoid of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Which means, enjoy the city the way the locals would spend their daily routine. The food.  The shopping.  The entertainment.  Keep in mind that exploring on your own by doing thorough research before going to your destination is the key to enjoying the life of the wandering tourist.

And yes, it’s alright to get lost in translation.  Half the fun is exploring yourself and the city.

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