It seems a little bit funny for me, a blogger whose website is filled with travel advice, to be telling you to take such advice with a grain of salt. But the truth is that not all travel advice you receive should be believed completely and it’s important to think critically about it and make your own decisions.
When you go travelling there will be many people who will be eager to give you advice about where you should go, what you should do, etc. Whether they are friends and family or random people you meet or bloggers on the internet there is always someone who will want to offer you tips when you mention where you are going. The problem is that they all have their own perceptions, opinions, experiences and motives that will influence the advice they give you.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
They Have Never Actually Been Travelling
In my blog “The Five Ways Adults Scare Young People Away from Travel” I wrote about how many people will tell you that the world is too dangerous and that you are taking a big, crazy risk by going travelling. They will tell you that you are likely to get mugged or kidnapped and that sleeping in a hostel is dangerous, scary and creepy.
When people who are giving you this advice haven’t been travelling themselves, it means that they are basing these conclusions on what they have seen on TV or in the Taken film series and not what happens in real life. The truth is that the world is not as dangerous as we have been led to believe. There are some dangerous places in the world of course, but they are not where you are likely to be going backpacking. You will be in safe places that are filled with other travellers where there are no more dangers than in your own country.
Of course, it is important to be aware of any travel scams and risks particular to your destination. The best place to get advice on this is from someone who has actually visited the country you will be travelling to recently and can offer you real first hand tips.
They Are Exaggerating
We are human and we have a tendency to want to impress others, so sometimes when we are describing things we often exaggerate. Sure, it makes for a more engaging story but it also means that the information isn’t very accurate.
For example, I often see this when I hear travellers describing how cheap it is to visit Southeast Asia or other very affordable destinations.
“Yeah, you can live the high life on only $10 a day and eat delicious plates of food for only 50 cents! It’s soooo cheap!”
Often this person is mentioning only the very bottom of the barrel cheapest prices they were able to find on their trip, but they are describing it as if those are the average prices – making this information very misleading.
Yes, it is possible to eat a massive plate of delicious Pad Thai in Bangkok for 50 cents. However, the average meal you have on most days of your trip will probably cost $2-$5. Yes, it is possible to find hostel beds for $4-$5 per night, but you might not find them everywhere you go and on average you will probably have to pay more.
If you listen to the exaggerating advice-giver while making your travel budget you might end up not taking enough money to cover your travels. It’s nice to know that the super bargains are out there, but make sure that you look up the average prices yourself so you know what to expect – then bring a little more just in case.
They Have Different Tastes than You
When I was in Ecuador recently, another backpacker told me that the beach town of Montañita was the “greatest place in the world” and “changed his life”. I’m happy that he had a great time, but I took his evaluation with a pinch of salt and didn’t get my hopes up. I was aware that I had met this guy in a party hostel and I knew that his idea of having the time of his life involved getting absolutely out of his mind on drugs, raving on the beach until sunrise, sleeping all day and then doing it again.
There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but I know that it’s not really my scene. I knew that the things he loved about Montañita wouldn’t necessarily interest me. When we eventually went there, it was exactly as I had figured – a touristy beach town filled mostly with bars and nightclubs. Taking this into consideration was good because I was able to enjoy the things I liked about it (beautiful sunsets, great fruit smoothies) without being disappointed that it wasn’t the greatest place in the world.
When someone gives you advice on a travel destination, make sure that you consider whether or not they like the same things as you. A destination that can be incredibly exciting for one person will not have the same allure for someone of different tastes.
They Don’t Remember it Accurately
This is another factor to consider when someone is giving you travel advice – they might not remember things well enough to give you accurate information. Maybe they travelled there a few years ago, maybe they aren’t good at remembering details (I know I’m not) or maybe someone else did the planning and they were along for the ride? They might misremember prices, names of places or even how long it took to get from point A to point B.
This means that it is important to verify the info by looking it up yourself and finding the most accurate, current information online.
They Stand to Profit from You
Last but not least, another reason to take travel advice with a pinch of salt is when the person giving the advice stands to profit from you. We’ve had many tuk tuk drivers tell us that our hotel is 5 miles away – much too far to walk. Lo and behold when Lee whips out Google Maps on the phone the hotel is only a 15 minute walk away. Of course the tuk tuk driver wants us to think it is further, he wants us to give up on the idea of walking and jump in his cab!
Also, it’s quite common for taxi drivers to recommend hotels not because they are the best hotel in the area but because the hotel is giving them a commission to bring them customers.
Whenever anyone gives you travel advice, think about what they are selling or how they will profit if you follow their advice. Sometimes tour agencies, taxi drivers and other tourism industry members will give you very good advice – it’s just important to keep this in mind and to evaluate the decision yourself based on impartial information gathered from your own research.
These are just a few reasons to take travel advice with a grain of salt. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to any travel advice that you are given. A lot of it will be very valuable advice that you can use on your adventures. Just make sure that you are aware of who is giving you the advice and what their perspectives and opinions might be.
(Don’t forget to be sceptical of my travel advice too, of course.)