Travel leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to wisdom, wisdom leads to…
Travel Yoda here, I am. Every country been to, I have. Answer your travel questions, I will.
The Comment Form below for you to use, it is.
How exactly do you get around the world without flying?
Read my blogs! All the countries I have been to so far I have reached overland on a bus or train. I’ve taken a combination of ferries, cargo ships, yachts and fishing boats to the islands of the Caribbean, getting from Canada to Iceland to Europe, getting to Malta, Cape Verde, Sao Tome, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, travelling up the Red Sea from Djibouti to Egypt, Cyprus, across the Caspian Sea, from Dubai to Pakistan to India and all around Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea.
But there are so many countries!
There are a lot of countries, but not so many that it is impossible to visit them all. There’s 50 states in the US, and there are some nutters(!) who have been to every one, right? Well, 50 of the world’s 200 countries are in Europe and Europe is smaller than the United States. You can get around them all in about three weeks on public transport if you’re keen enough (I know, I did!). The planet is much smaller than we think.
Don’t you have to be a millionaire to travel the world?
NOOOOOOOOO! I don’t own a house, or a car, or even a TV – everything that’s mine I fit into a backpack – and it’s a pretty small backpack!! I saved up about $7500 to travel and I got $15,000 from the TV people which I spent on visas and rickity old boats. Backpacking around the world is not expensive – CouchSurfing is free, public transport is inexpensive and food (and drink) is cheap… so long as you’re not in Norway, Japan or Australia!
How come you’re not dead?
Living dangerously comes with the territory, but I quite enjoy being alive(!) so I also try to minimise the risks. The best way to do that is to read up extensively about a place before you turn up… forewarned is forearmed. But generally speaking everywhere I’ve been most people are just trying to get on with their lives don’t present a threat. There was a TV show about this guy, Mark Beaumont, who cycled around the world, through Iran and Afghanistan and all sorts… and ended up getting mugged… in the USA!
How do you know who to trust?
I don’t and have been right royally ripped off as a result! But, so far, I haven’t been messed around too much (except in Cape Verde), as I say, most people just want to get on with their lives… they’re not interested in doing you any harm. It’s only as safe as trusting your bus driver, gym teacher or the guy in selling you kitchen tiles in Home Depot. There are obviously cases of abuse of this trust, but in general people aren’t out to get you. Ex-girlfriends are more likely to cause you problems and heartache than some dude you ask for directions in Cambodia!
Where’s The Best Country In The World?
Difficult one. Travel is tremendously subjective, but my Top 20 countries would have to include Egypt, Bolivia, Thailand, Madagascar and Iran but for a full list check out my League of Nations.
What’s the best travel agency in the world?
STA Travel. Cheap as chips. I’m not getting paid to say that… if I was I’d tell you.
I’m a single female. Where shouldn’t I go?
I would advise against going to countries in the Middle East, Africa and India on your own, because the hassle you will encounter from the local men will be intolerable. Having a buddy or two tag along would be a very good idea. But Europe, Latin America, East Asia: you shouldn’t encounter too many problems so long as you follow the same sensible precautions that you would at home.
Eek! I’ve lost my hotel!
Mark where it is in your Lonely Planet. Also pick up a business card from reception before you go out on the lash.
Should I travel or should I go to university?
Well, you’ll learn more travelling than you will on any given humanities course and travel has GOT to be cheaper than universities these days. Unless you’re studying something useful like engineering, science or medicine, I’d be getting my backpack on if I were you.
But how am I ever going to get a proper job?
Proper jobs are over-rated! Sod the rat race, you’ve got loads of time to watch soap operas when you’re old and your brain stops working…
I want to go to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Am I mad?
Naaaaah. Well, maybe a little… For Yemen you don’t need a visa, however when I went there they had barred entry to all western tourists for the rather sensible reason that we keep getting murdered by mad bastards who are often/always outraged about something or other. Having said that, a female friend of mine went to Yemen in 2009 and utterly loved it and it seems that if you’re looking for culture in the Arabian Peninsular, Yemen is the top treat (followed by Oman) so I’m sad I missed it.
The real dangerous area of Yemen is around the border with Saudi, which I doubt you’d get across for love nor money. If you are planning to get into Saudi overland from Yemen, you’re probably best swinging around Oman and then UAE to get there. As for the ferry between Djibouti and Yemen, to my best knowledge it doesn’t actually exist. You could try winging it on a cargo boat or a dhow: but be aware that it’s pretty dangerous and you might not be the only merchandise on board…!
Saudi visas are like the golden ticket at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Basically you need to get a company in Saudi and another (corresponding) company in your home country to sponsor you, and you need to get your visa at home (I had to Fed-ex mine back and forth to Kuwait – hence my delay there for 6 weeks). Once you have your Letter of Invitation you need to take it to the embassy in your home country: they may not accept personal applications, you might need to do it through an agency.
All the other countries in the area are visa-free, but you need a Saudi visa to even pass through the place.
If you can get a one-month business visa it should (these days) be multiple entry and you’ll be able to move around the region freely. All you really need a friend who is high up in a company that trades with Saudi who’ll say you work for them. If you haven’t got one you need to make one!!
I want to overland it to Central Asia. Any tips?
Istanbul is a (fairly) good place to pick up a visa for Iran, but you’ll have to jump through a ton of hoops beforehand!
Your best bet is to go to Georgia first from Turkey. No visa required. However, with a UK passport you do need a visa for Azerbaijan, DON’T get it in Istanbul, get it from Tbilisi in Georgia. If you go to a travel agency they can get your Azerbaijan visa SAME DAY.
Once in Baku, you can (fairly) easily get a visa for Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Head down to the port (warning – they speak NO English!!) and ask about the sort-of weekly ferry over the Caspian to Kazakhstan (or fly). Uzbekistan (Tashkent) is good for visas for Kyrgyzstan (two day service, Afghanistan (overnight service if you’re feeling fruity) and even Turkmenistan, although Turkmenistan is a proper fortress.
A good place to get your visa for Tajikistan is Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Only takes two days.
Oh – and when you’re in Uzbekistan DON’T FORGET TO REGISTER every night at a hotel (you don’t actually have to stay there). Otherwise you’ll be deported. They don’t have too much of a sense of humour about stuff like that.
What’s the best way to make $$$ on the road?
Prostitution! But if that fails, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a bloody good idea. You don’t even need to speak the language of the people you’re teaching, or English for that matter! They’ll stop somewhere for a few months, teach, then move on somewhere else. Sounds like a bloody good laugh to me.
How can I make money as I travel out of YouTube?
Be more sexy. YouTube pay out $1 for every 1000 unique views that you get (so you can’t just blag it by using a auto-refresh program – bah!). BUT you have to be a YouTube partner to get the dosh: this is the tricky bit – they won’t ask you to be a partner until you’ve got like 100,000 views or something, and you can’t get the money for the views that you received before becoming a partner.
Epic Meal Time has got a combined total of 130,000,000 hits in their first seven months: that’s a good $130,000 they’ve made…. just from YouTube… good work if you can get it! I’ve only made 60 quid. But then I am a backward-talking swamp lizard from Dagobah.
Should I take a tent?
Not unless you’re camping. When I’m backpacking I never carry a tent: too heavy. I use CouchSurfing to stay at people’s houses – which is brilliant – you never know what you’re going to get. One day you might be sleeping on a hammock outside a jungle shack, the next you might be staying at a penthouse at the top of a skyscraper… HELL YEAH!
Is eating street food dangerous?
Yeah, street food can play serious havoc with your innards: my rule-of-thumb is to only eat stuff that is piping hot. Prawn salads are a big no-no, at least until you build up some bionic-soldier-like resistance over the years. If all else fails, there’s always McDonalds…
Doesn’t Travelling On Your Own Get Lonely?
You’re never alone for long. Travelling solo allows you to meet more people, engage in more conversations and get into more interesting situations. It also allows you to travel much faster! I haven’t come across any big problems that have come about because I’m on my own, and in some cases – such as when I got thrown in jail – it was better that I was on my own. Travelling in large groups is a nightmare as nobody can ever make a damn decision. Also – never travel in threes. Not a good number.
What do you do if there are no internets, googles or phone coverage?
Every country has internet access and phone coverage in the major cities and most towns and villages, although some places (like Eritrea) don’t make it easy! But if you’re going to find yourself halfway up a mountain or out on the open ocean in a wooden canoe, might I suggest a sat-phone?
I only speak English! Is that going to be a problem?
Not at all. Body and sign language is pretty universal and I haven’t been anywhere I couldn’t (somehow!) get across what I was trying to say. A working knowledge of French and Spanish is helpful, but not essential – anybody who says otherwise is lying. Although I would caution against taking on the world if you only speak Welsh.
How difficult would it be to beat your world record?
If you don’t waste your time getting to islands like Cape Verde, Sao Tome and The Seychelles, you could quite easily beat my record of 133 countries in one year. So what are you waiting for…?