Shanda Kopp, our On The Road Editor, shares her best travelling advice — so you don’t have to learn the hard way. 


Once upon a time, I went traveling for a little while. The thing about carrying a backpack around is that people like to stop you (especially if your mother has sewn a flag onto the top flap) and give you their nuggets of advice about the place you’re in or going to. Here, I have compiled some of the best I have received, and though a lot may seem like common sense, it’s always handy to have a reminder when venturing out of the Bubble.


1. Don’t loosen your grip on your phone in Barcelona.

2. Actually, don’t loosen your grip on anything in Barcelona, and keep track of everything carefully. Those pickpockets are smart. And good.

3. Beware the street meat, but don’t write it off completely. A good rule to stick by is if there are locals there, you’re usually good to go.

4. Always ask if it’s okay to drink the water. More often than not, it’ll be a no, but even then, often you can brush your teeth in it.

5. If you don’t speak French fluently, try English first in Paris.

6. If you speak any French at all, try it out before English everywhere else in France.

7. Don’t go to someone’s house the first time alone, you might not know how to get out if you find yourself stuck.

8. Hostels are, by far, the best places to meet friends; they’re literally cesspools of people desperate to know you.

9. Never be afraid to ask for help, most locals will give it readily. If they don’t, don’t be offended, just think about how you would treat a language-challenged tourist at the end of a hard day.

10. Always plan your way back from a night out. Even if you don’t actually go back, at least you’ll have a plan and enough cash saved to get there if you need to.

11. Try to learn at least a few directional phrases and polite words in the language of each country you go to. If you end up in Italy and all you can muster is “Grazie!” things may not always turn out for the best.

12. Google Translate is your best friend –especially when you buy a train ticket. Make sure you know if you have to verify it yourself, or you might be looking at a surprise €300 fine (common in Italy).

13. Except. perhaps, The Netherlands. Seriously, almost everyone speaks English.

14. Always pack a spare toothbrush, set of clothes, and lots of underwear in your carry on, as well as anything that you think you’d need if you didn’t get your luggage for a few days.

15. Even in hot countries, bring something warm in case you get chilly. Air conditioning can be really harsh when your body has adapted to higher temperatures, and you might find you can avoid getting ill by making sure you’re warm when you sleep.

16. Bring more money than you ever think you’ll need. Most likely, you’ll use it.

17. Most importantly, like I mention in every other article, don’t be afraid to abandon the plan. The best things happen when you get out of your comfort zone.


Shanda Kopp