Traveling can be incredible, but going somewhere new usually comes with a learning curve. Whenever you visit a new place and spend time getting to know the culture, you’re bound to discover things you probably didn’t realize before. So I looked through the subreddit r/travel and put together a list of helpful travel tips for popular destinations around the world, according to travelers who have been there.
San Francisco, California: “Pack appropriately for the weather. There’s fog in the summer (cold Arctic current + warm land mass = cold fog every morning and evening). Back a sweater/layers or you’ll end up having to buy an overpriced tourist fleece!”
Sydney, Australia: “Don’t bother going swimming at Bondi Beach. If you want to swim, I recommend checking out the many beautiful harbour beaches. There’s a whole heap around the Watson’s Bay/Valcluse promontory at the mouth of the harbour. There’s Lady Bay, Camp Cove, Gibson’s Beach, Kutti Bay, Parsley Bay, Shark Beach, and then multiple little bays with views of the Opera House down the Hermitage Foreshore Walk.
Paris, France: “Don’t go in August. A lot of shops, restaurants, and popular sites are closed because many locals take the month off for vacation. You could end up missing some things you really wanted to see.”
Key West, Florida: “This popular vacation spot doesn’t have great beaches. It’s a small island with a couple of overcrowded beaches that have imported sand. If you want a beach day, I’d recommend going to the Northern Keys. Watch the sunset in Key West, eat key lime pie, and stand in line to take your picture at the southern most point, but plan your beach day elsewhere.”
Tokyo, Japan: “You can easily go to Tokyo and never eat sushi (or any raw fish whatsoever). The restaurant scene in Tokyo is nothing short of incredible. You’ll find everything from unbelievable steakhouses and chicken yakitori eateries to ramen shops and chef’s counters serving multi-course tempura meals. In fact, I had some of the best pizza of my life in Tokyo. All this is to say that if you’re not a fan of raw fish, you can eat incredibly well in Japan without feeling that you’re missing out on the local cuisine.”
Colorado: “If you’re not used to high altitudes, let me tell you that altitude sickness is no joke…and it sneaks up on you. Walk and climb more slowly than you normally would, take frequent breaks even if you think you’re not tired, and drink water very frequently.”
Norway: “The city is extremely expensive, and many tourists underestimate how pricy the cost of living actually. I’ve seen jaws drop when people discover the price of the two beers they ordered.”
Greece: “Avoid Mykonos, Santorini, and other touristy places. Sure, you may want to take pictures of the beautiful sunset in Santorini, but do you really want to spend a lot of money on that? There’s so many different islands you can visit, and Greek people suggest avoiding these two islands (or going for a three-day stay, max).
Mexico City: “Mexico City is known for its amazing restaurants, but you’ll want to be very strategic in your meal-planning in order to save lots of time for street food. I had some amazing meals in CDMX, but it’s hard to compare any fancy meal to the $0.20 tacos you can find at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria or a cheap quesadilla from a cart on the side of the road.”
Spain: “Don’t expect to eat lunch before 1 p.m or dinner before 8 p.m. Lunch in Spain happens a bit later than in many other countries. During the week, Spaniards eat lunch around 2 p.m., and many restaurants don’t even open until 1:30, so don’t show up at noon expecting to be fed. And as for dinner time, restaurants typically close following lunch and serve dinner from 8–11 p.m.”
Italy: “When choosing restaurants in Italian cities, you should stray from places in busy central areas, especially those that have menus with pictures outside and servers trying to lure people in. Those restaurants are for tourists. Feel free to venture onto side streets, which are full of traditional restaurants where you’ll eat amazingly well (and you won’t get scammed).
“Colombia: “Many tourists head to Bogota, Medellín, or Cartagena, but I’ve travelled extensively through Colombia and the coffee region is one of my favorite places in the world. Visit Salent and Filandia (which is near Salento and has great restaurants). Camping in the Cocora Valley is also a beautiful experience, and you can take a horseback ride up into the mountains and see the hummingbirds.”
Hong Kong: “Explore the outlying islands and small villages. From Central, you can take ferries to all the outlying islands. I recommend going on weekdays because weekends can be crowded. Lamma Island has a hippie-ish vibe while Peng Chau is small and quiet and Discovery Bay is more developed with lots of sea-side dining. All are car-free and offer hikes and small beaches.”
Japan: “If you’re traveling to Japanese cities on a budget, you can have plenty of good, high quality meals and snacks in convenience stores. Alternatively, department store food halls are a bit pricier, but still cheaper than eating at a restaurant.”
London: “Take advantage of all the free things there are to do. Many of the museums are free like the Tate Modern and the British Museum. The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum is my favorite and always has some interesting exhibits going on.”
Machu Picchu: “Hire a guide. Without the context you’ll get from a knowledgable tour guide, Machu Picchu is just an old ruin. With context, it is so much more meaningful. I can honestly say it’s been my favorite place I’ve been to in all of my travels so far.”
Barcelona, Spain: “Many restaurants in Barcelona offer what is called the menú del dia at lunch time. It’s basically a three-course meal at a really great price. It’s an amazing way to eat well on the cheap in Barcelona. And as an added bonus, you can often order wine for the same price as a bottle of water.”
Thailand: “I’ve spent 6 months in Thailand, and while many people come to see Bangkok and Changmai, Pai is worth a visit. It’s my favorite town not just in Thailand but in all of Asia. It’s a little hippie town in the mountains where you can rent a motorbike and explore the windy roads. You’ll find things like crafts, trekking, music, relaxing spots, and meditation retreats.”
Copenhagen: “This city is the bike capital of the world so I recommend renting one. It’s just the easiest way to get around. Bike lanes are everywhere, it’s very safe, and biking is faster than buses most of the time. I rented one from an online service that lets you reserve and pick up a with your phone. Many bikes like the one I rented come equipped with a phone holder so you can download offline maps and explore the city independently.”
Lisbon: “If you’re visiting Lisbon, a day trip to nearby Sintra is a must. The Pena Palace is a great trip and well worth it.”
Iceland: “Don’t assume that just because you’re traveling to Iceland during the winter you are automatically going to see the Northern Lights. First of all, the weather conditions have to be right in order to see them, and secondly, you’ll most likely need to drive outside of Reykjavik to a setting without light pollution. I was in Iceland for four nights during Northern Lights season, and sadly the weather conditions weren’t conducive to catching a glimpse of them.”
Sydney: “A tour of the harbour is a must, but if you want to see the harbour for cheap, just get the Circular Quay to Manly Ferry Service. It’s public transport and a return trip is about $10. It takes half an hour each way and offers great views. You can pick up some beers from in Circular Quay for the ride.”
Cape Town: “Get used to taking things slow. South Africans move very slowly in all aspects of life (except for driving). Just be patient and relax. Don’t get upset when the bill takes a long time to come at dinner. Don’t be mad when the train is delayed for half an hour. That’s how things work in this city.”
Paris: “I didn’t know this the first time I went to Paris, but every night, every hour on the hour, the Eiffel Tower sparkles in golden, twinkly lights for five minutes. It’s the most gorgeous thing to see. The best place to watch it from is the Place du Trocadéro, which is the open space right across the Seine. You can also stand on a bridge that crosses the Seine for a great view.”
What’s a helpful piece of travel intel you’ve learned after visiting a destination that others should know? Tell us in the comments!