Top 10 surprising things about travel

17:00, Aug 25 2011
FULL OF SURPRISES: There are certain things that are guaranteed to shock you when you hit the road.
FULL OF SURPRISES: There are certain things that are guaranteed to shock you when you hit the road.

Doesn't matter how much you've travelled, the world always has the power to surprise. That said, for the inexperienced traveller, there are certain things that are guaranteed to shock you when you hit the road...

1. Aeroplane food isn't that bad
It's an old cliché, but really, unless you're flying with an American carrier, aeroplane food isn't that bad. I've had a great meal on AirAsia - I had to pay for it, but it was legitimately decent food. Beef rendang - get in. And the noodle dishes on Singapore Airlines could be served in restaurants.

2. Starbucks is your friend
I once saw a bumper sticker in San Francisco: "Friends don't let friends go to Starbucks". And that might be good advice at home, but when you're travelling, Starbucks... isn't that bad. For starters, if you're in the States, you'll get a decent espresso coffee rather than the filter crud that the cafes all serve. Plus you get free Wi-Fi to check your emails, and a free newspaper. There are worse ways to start the day.

3. The "@" key is painfully hard to find on foreign keyboards
It's like a game of Sudoku, only more annoying. The keyboard is taunting you - there's the "@" symbol, right there in front of you, but how... the... hell... do you make it appear?! Ctrl + Alt + Shift 2? No, wait, Shift + Caps lock + Alt + F5. Wait, wait... Del + Down arrow + Shift 5 + Enter? You'll forget who you were trying to email by the time you've figured it out.

4. Stereotypes mean nothing
Every time you think you've got a certain nationality sussed, you'll find an exception to the rule. You'll meet inefficient but jovial Germans; laidback Israelis; gruff Canadians; sober Englishmen; quiet Americans. And even cultured Australians. Seriously.

5. That good advice you got is bad
"Make sure you go to 'x'," your friend will say, "it's amazing." Except, it isn't. Not to you, anyway. Take people's advice on board, but all means, but remember - it's your holiday. Do what you want.

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6. Street food is safe. Well, relatively safe.
You always hear horror stories, but street food is generally safer than the stuff you get from restaurants, mainly because you can watch it being cooked in front of you. And an added bonus is that it tastes better. Just look for the stand with the longest queue, and go nuts.

7. Squat toilets aren't that bad
First time I walked into a toilet cubicle and saw a hole in the floor I turned around and walked straight out. I am not doing my thing in there. But after a bit of practice, getting the hang of holding your balance and making sure your aim is right, squats are actually pretty comfortable to use. Sitting's better though.

8. Travellers' cheques are pointless
About 15 years ago they were a must, but with the massive proliferation of ATMs around there world, there's really no need to carry travellers' cheques unless you're going far, far off the beaten track. These days cashing a TC is like trying to deposit a box of gold doubloons at most banks.

9. Everything costs more than you think it should
But, but... TripAdvisor said my cab should only cost 30 euros! Why is it 40 euros? And surely beers don't cost this much. And Lonely Planet said I should budget for $60 a day, but I'm way over that! Sigh. Travel always costs far more than you think it will. Do your research, work out a pre-trip budget, then double it.

10. No one cares what happened while you were overseas
This is a little surprise waiting for you when you come home. All those amazing experiences you had on the road? No one wants to hear about them. No one wants to look at your photos. No one wants to see your souvenirs. You'll just have to start a blog...


Sydney Morning Herald