My 30 Best Travel Tips After 4 Years Traveling The World

Favorite Travel Tips

My Best Tips for World Travel

Travel Tips

It’s now been 4 years since I sold everything and left the United States to travel the world. These are the best travel tips I’ve discovered along the way.

It all started when I took a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind while embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.

It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve learned a lot since I first left. To celebrate my 4 year “travelversary”, I’ve decided to share a collection of my best and most useful travel tips to help inspire you to make travel a priority in your life.

Feel free to share your own best travel tips at the end!

1. Patience Is Important

Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless.

Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.

2. Wake Up Early

Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.

Read More: 15 Common Travel Scams & How To Avoid Them

Favorite Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Laugh at Yourself

3. Laugh At Yourself

You will definitely look like a fool many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously.

Once a whole bus full of Guatemalans laughed with glee when I forced our driver to stop so I could urgently pee on the side of the road. Returning to the bus and laughing with them gave me new friends for the remainder of the journey.

4. Stash Extra Cash

Cash is king around the world. To cover your ass in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did.

Some of my favorite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag.

Read More: How To Protect Your Money Traveling

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Meet Local People

5. Meet Local People

Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate with them than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language.

Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do.

6. Pack A Scarf

I happen to use a shemagh, but sarongs work great too. This simple piece of cotton cloth is one of my most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It’s great for sun protection, a makeshift towel, carrying stuff around, an eye mask, and much more.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Observe Daily Life

7. Observe Daily Life

If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you.

Slow down your thoughts and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you’ll see stuff you never noticed before.

8. Back Everything Up

When my laptop computer was stolen in Panama, having most of my important documents and photos backed up saved my ass. Keep both digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency.

Backup your files & photos on an external hard drive as well as online with software like Backblaze.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Take Lots of Photos

9. Take Lots Of Photos

You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.

They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.

10. There’s Always A Way

Nothing is impossible. If you are having trouble going somewhere or doing something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found the best solution or met the right person yet. Don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done.

Perseverance pays off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told what I want isn’t possible, only to prove it wrong later when I don’t listen to the advice and try anyway.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Smile & Say Hello

11. Smile & Say Hello

Having trouble interacting with locals? Do people seem unfriendly? Maybe it’s your body language. One of my best travel tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello in the local language too. This is a fast way to make new friends.

You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. That’s your job. Usually all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.

12. Splurge A Bit

I’m a huge fan of budget travel, as it allows you to travel longer and actually experience more of the fascinating world we live in rather than waste your hard-earned money on stuff you don’t need. In fact you can travel many places for $50 a day with no problems.

That said, living on a shoestring gets old after a while. It’s nice (and healthy) to go over your budget occasionally. Book a few days at a nice hotel, eat out at a fancy restaurant, or spend a wild night on the town.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Keep an Open Mind

13. Keep An Open Mind

Don’t judge the lifestyles of others if different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions and interests. Ask questions. You don’t have to agree, but you may be surprised what you’ll learn.

14. Try Couchsurfing is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. If you truly want to experience a country and it’s people, staying with a local is the way to go.

There are millions of couchsurfers around the world willing to host you and provide recommendations. It’s fun and safe too. Expensive hotels are not the only option, there are all kinds of cheap travel accommodation options out there.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Volunteer Occasionally

15. Volunteer Occasionally

Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends.

There’s a great site called Grassroots Volunteering where you can search for highly recommended volunteer opportunities around the world.

16. Pack Ear Plugs

This should actually be #1 on the list. I love my earplugs! Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, dormitory sex, natural gas salesmen, and more. A traveler’s best friend. These are my favorite earplugs for comfort & effectiveness.

Read More: My Complete Travel Gear Guide

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Don’t Be Afraid

17. Don’t Be Afraid

The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out.

This goes for women too. I realize I’m not a woman, but I’ve met plenty of experienced female travelers who agree.

18. Get Lost On Purpose

If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.

Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighborhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Eat Local Food

19. Eat Local Food

Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front.

I’ve been very sick only twice in my travels. Don’t be scared of the food.

Read More: The Food Traveler’s Handbook

20. Say Yes Often

Be impulsive and say yes when someone randomly invites you to meet their family, try a new activity, or explore a place you didn’t know existed. It’s these unexpected and unplanned situations that add spice to your travels and always turn into the best stories later.

Accept the kindness of strangers when you travel — you’ll have plenty of opportunities.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Slow Down

21. Slow Down

Please don’t try to cram 6 countries into 6 weeks of travel. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore. You’ll learn about activities that aren’t in your guidebook and meet people who are eager to show you around.

I can honestly say that NONE of my best travel experiences happened within the first few days of arriving somewhere. Spend more time in fewer places for maximum enjoyment.

22. Keep Good Notes

My memory for details sucks. When I first started traveling the world 4 years ago, I didn’t keep a good journal, and now I’m regretting it.

Information like the names of people I met, conversations I had, feelings about a new experience, or what a particular town smelled like. If you ever want to write about your travels, these details are handy.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

23. Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Challenge yourself to try things that normally give you anxiety. The more you do this, the more that anxiety will fade away. Not a hiker? Go on more hikes. Have trouble talking to strangers? Talk to everyone. Scared of weird food? Eat the weirdest thing you can find.

The reason this works so well while traveling is because everything is already so different, what’s one more new/uncomfortable experience?

24. Don’t Plan Too Much

I cringe when readers ask how many days they should spend in a particular country or city. The truth is I have no idea what you’ll enjoy or who you’ll meet. I thought I’d rocket through Nicaragua in a week or two, but ended up living there for 4 months.

My advice is to pick a starting point, 1 or 2 must-do activities, and an ending point (or not). Then just let the universe determine the rest.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Pack Less Stuff

25. Pack Less Stuff

You don’t need 1/2 the gear you think you do to travel anywhere. We’ve all done it. It’s a right of passage for travelers to slowly become better at packing less. My first backpack was 70 liters packed full, my current bag is only 38 liters.

As a full-time vagabond, everything I own fits on my back. If you’re not sure about packing something, you don’t need it. It’s also possible to buy most things at your destination country if you discover you need them.

26. Listen To Podcasts

Podcasts are awesome. It’s like creating your own personal radio station and filling it with shows and music you always want to listen to. I never thought I’d actually look forward to a 10 hour bus ride. But with podcasts, it’s possible (well, as long as the seats are comfortable).

Time will fly by as you listen to incredible storytelling, fun music, or interviews with experts. Here are some of my favorites: This American Life, The Moth, RISK!, Radiolab, Smart Passive Income, and Electro-Swing.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Treat Your Body Well

27. Treat Your Body Well

Travel can throw your body out of whack. When you’re moving from place to place it’s difficult to maintain a workout routine, and many of us slack off. Or we don’t sleep enough. Or we eat too many cupcakes. I’m guilty of not flossing my teeth.

Remember to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy, use sunscreen, and exercise often (check out this bodyweight routine, no gym required!). And, yes, flossing too I guess.

28. Stay In Touch

Remember to call your family & friends from time to time. Maybe surprise them and go old-school by sending a postcard (it’s in the mail, Mom!). Travel isn’t lonely, far from it. You constantly meet other people. But many of those relationships are fleeting. So maintaining a strong connection with the people who know you best is important.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Get Off the Beaten Path

29. Get Off The Beaten Path

I know it’s cliché, but you should still attempt it. Seek out interesting and unusual places that don’t see much tourism. Many memorable travel experiences have happened to me in areas that are not easy to visit. By all means travel to popular sites, but don’t rule out other locations just because they’re not on the tourist trail.

Although please realize that just because an area is remote or dangerous doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a life-changing experience.

30. Travel More

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past 4 years, it’s that many people back home love to tell me how lucky I am while making excuses why they can’t travel. It’s too expensive. They can’t get time off work. Who will feed their pets?

When I suggest solutions to these “problems”, they still don’t take action. Why? Because they’re often hiding behind the true reason: they’re scared.

Unfortunately most people who wait to travel the world never do.

You don’t need to sell all your worldly possessions and become a homeless vagabond like me. Just get out there more than you do now. Start with a weekend in a different state. Then maybe try a week in the country next door.

The new car, remodeling project, and iPhone can wait. If you truly want to travel more, you can make it happen. Career breaks are possible. You have friends who would love to watch your pets.

It’s a big, beautiful, exciting, and fascinating world out there.

Explore some of it now, rather than later.

[Tweet “Unfortunately most people who wait to travel the world never do.”]

Travel More

How to Travel the World

Travel The World

Want to know how to travel the world? I’ve put together a huge page full of useful world travel resources that should point you in the right direction. Learn how I fund my adventures, how to find cheap flights, different ways to save money for travel, how start a travel blog, and more.

READ NEXT: Useful Budget Travel Resources

What are some of your favorite travel tips?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.


Hi, I'm Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for over 4 years. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and useful tips from my travel adventures. Join thousands who receive exclusive email updates and click the green button below...

Comments & Questions


  1. Tito
    November 18, 2015

    Great post
    See you in Indonesia guys 😀😀😀

  2. Travelsito
    November 12, 2015

    Matt, your tips are smart and inspiring.

  3. Lily
    November 11, 2015

    Hi! My name is Liliy, i want to know what is the best way to get around London in the winter. Please help me. Thanks. : )

  4. Thessauron
    November 11, 2015

    What a fantastic list. You covered practically every area there. No.18 was once a great thrill to me. Sadly, age made me freak out every time I get lost nowadays. Thanks for reminding me about the joys of it.

  5. Kristina RO
    November 8, 2015

    Great for read , would like to do it, but still worry travel around the world a lone.

  6. Yvonne
    November 6, 2015

    Wow, great post. nr 9: take lots of photos, I found that after traveling for more than 1 year I started to take less and less photos… for us this was a sign we’d traveled enough for while… things started to be less interesting to us. I wonder how people can stay so enthusiastic and travel for 4 years! Will definately have to read more on this blog. :)

  7. Achmad fauzi
    November 5, 2015

    Great tips, I want invite you to come to Indonesia because I have plan travelling still indonesian like the bali, pulau komodo, raja ampat and lombok.

  8. Adeline
    November 4, 2015

    These tips are great for a traveler like me. I will agree with the tip that states “Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone”. This is what I am facing right now. I had lot of fears before but as I started traveling, I know how to face it right now. Traveling is one of the key on how I faced my fears. It is not not easy but I am sure that it really contributed a lot.

  9. sarah
    November 3, 2015

    Great tips, thank you for sharing it ! I honestly am so exited to start my path in traveling,

  10. Dean
    October 30, 2015

    Excellent read. I always enjoy to read tips from experienced travelers. The one from above that really stood out for me is #4: “Stash some extra cash!” This is so crucial when visiting places outside the US. With cash being almighty, it can get you out of a jam if you have it on you. Thanks for sharing with us!

  11. tam
    October 29, 2015

    Great tips! so many of these tips are sooo important and often get forgotten. I can’t even pick my favourite because they’re so good. I started a travel blog recently so I might borrow some of your hints but will be sure to link back to you :)

  12. Anthon
    October 23, 2015

    For the person who has such a big travel experience I’ll recommend Armenia, a country of ancient history, traditions and Christianity. You will discover for yourself many interesting facts about history.

  13. miah
    October 16, 2015

    I honestly am so exited to start my path in traveling, couldn’t have asked for a better thing to read.

  14. Jane
    October 15, 2015

    What a great list Matt! Much better, wiser and amusing than the regular lists we often see!

  15. Alex Costa
    October 15, 2015

    I liked so much the tip 13. I think is essential respect the different cultures and trying to integrate with it.

  16. Kris
    October 10, 2015

    This list is inspiring and refreshing, love your attitude!

  17. Orlando Diaz
    October 8, 2015

    Hello Matthew im happy for you enjoying the world, I wish I can one day I should I say I wish I know where to start, I can just get up off my ass and go but not sure where to began, I tell myself where why who I’m going to go visit, not Afraid sleeping out side I lived in the street for 6 months and it was hard, now I am able to visit life I’m asking myself how come I did not just visit the world, #17 would be a great way to say go out and do it,

  18. Logan Murphy
    October 8, 2015

    I love tip #15! I think that is such a great idea. My wife and I want to start traveling more often to see the world. Volunteering in the countries we visit sounds like a perfect way to get a better understanding of the culture and characteristics of the locals. Thanks for the awesome idea, we’ll definitely put it to good use.

  19. Larry Adams
    October 7, 2015

    Hi Matthew Karsten this indeed is a thought provoking blog, you have put things in a very simple manner. cheers!

  20. Aaron Mitchell
    October 6, 2015

    Very good read and spot on. Great work.

  21. Mackenzie
    October 1, 2015

    AirBnB is pretty similar to couch surfing if that’s a little too much for you. It isn’t free to rent, but you can find cheap accomodations in somebody’s spare bedroom or guesthouse, or entire apartments or houses. Cheaper than most hotels and the host will usually give you good recommendations and maybe take you around town or introduce you to people.

  22. Touring the Globe
    September 30, 2015

    I’ve just started a travel blog and I love these tips! Hope you don’t find if I use a few of them on my blog, I’ll be sure to give credit!

  23. Aarav Agrawal
    September 13, 2015

    This is indeed one of the best list. I really like so many of them, wake up early, pack less, meet local people and specially “There is always a way”.
    Thank you so much for such an amazing list.

  24. Natalie
    September 4, 2015

    Love this list! Especially agree with get up early! All of my best travel experiences are in the early morning. Well, most of them. :)

  25. Monty anderson
    September 1, 2015

    Good advice. I just finished my 3rd around the world trip. A little under 3 years. Needed to comeback and see my family and go to the dentist. Slow and steady is how I travel. Now with free phone calls and no cost photos it is a lot easier. Next the Silk Road. Overland cost around 10k for 100 days. That is what has stopped me but I want to go to every country in the world so any advice would be nice. Great advice thanks

  26. Jones
    September 1, 2015

    Excellent post! Every single point I was nodding my head. I don’t have ear plugs though, so maybe I’ll look into tha . I normally just put in head phones and play music. And I Love the last one the most of course!

  27. Brianna
    August 20, 2015

    Hello Matt! I’m a teenage girl, and your photos have really inspired me to travel! Would you mind if I put a few up on my blog? If not, that’s totally okay! ☺

  28. Matthew Elliott
    August 19, 2015

    Thanks for this post, Matt! I am currently working in the beginning stages of planning my own 1 year trip around the world, and I can’t wait to read what else you have learned on your travels!

  29. Claudia
    August 19, 2015

    This is such a great post. I love your advice and I must say I follow most of it already – particularly the earplugs one. I even wear them when I am not travelling at times.

    And oh, stopping a chicken bus to pee. I should have done that in Nicaragua once. Instead I almost killed myself and peed myself (gross) and waited till the bus got to the station. I had to RUN then!

  30. Pauline
    August 17, 2015

    I love #20 you get some fun adventures with that. Learning do drive tuk-tuk in Ella the mountains in Sri Lanka.

    Then they day after the two locals decided that they wanted to walk Adams Peak with us, we got the true local experience on why it is so important for them to take this walk up the mountains and saying thank you to Buddha.

    Yes, let´s do it, let´s go – Let´s have an adventure.

  31. James Owens
    August 16, 2015

    What wonderful advice and while our readers mode of travel is motorcycle this advice transcends all modes and we are happy to share this page on our travel link section. I couldn’t have put it better myself, obviously or I would have!

    Inspiring stuff Matt.

  32. raluca
    August 15, 2015

    Hey, I’m planing to go on a trip first to Spain for the 3rd time, and then…who knows!? The problem is that I don’t have a companion.

  33. Karen
    August 14, 2015

    Just finished a six-month trip to four countries. I did a lot of reading in the couple of years before I took off, and I seriously think this is the best list of travel tips I’ve ever seen – especially after having done an extended trip myself. (And I’ll be sharing with those who followed my trip on FB, for sure!) Well done!

  34. Bruno B @ Geeky Explorer
    August 13, 2015

    Get Up Early.
    The best travel advice ever, I hate when people stay in bed late with a whole new place to explore out there!!

  35. Bjorn Fjeldstad
    August 9, 2015


    Love your first point on the list. After living in El Salvador for a while, patience is king. Nothing goes fast here! Remember that if every travelling here.

  36. sravani
    August 7, 2015

    Nice Information.. Really #8 and #2 Topics are most dangerous.. Really good stuff

  37. Akash !
    August 6, 2015

    Great Work Matt (:

  38. mona
    August 5, 2015

    I live in Iran,I am Persian not arab,we have country with the old culture,we have a lots ancient place to visit,its my pleasure to help some body how wants to come here

    • Ben
      September 3, 2015

      Hi Mona,
      I am planning on visiting Iran in close future. I didn´t make a plan on where I want to go yet, maybe you can advise me where its best to go.
      Hope to hear from you.

  39. Paty
    August 3, 2015

    Great tips, thank you for sharing it!

  40. Logan
    July 29, 2015

    Awesome blog Matthew, I would love to travel in South America. I am gonna follow your tips thanks for sharing.

  41. Everton Drakes
    July 25, 2015

    Good points. I just booked my RTW trip. I’m choosing to pack 5 countries in 2 weeks and to do it again just taking a different route. I like the hustle and bustle of going on an airplane and discovering new places and people and then pressing repeat again in another couple of months. Loving life.

  42. Sylvie
    July 25, 2015

    So glad I found you on twitter and discovered your blog. These tips are great!

    I have handed my notice in at work, rented out my flat and will be off on an adventure round the world at the end of August! So excited to go travelling. Will be blogging about it too and I definitely agree with your point about the journal – I found my travel diary from when I went to Thailand 6 years ago recently and it’s amazing how much your mind changes over the years. I felt transported back to my 19 year old self!

    • Matthew Karsten
      July 29, 2015

      Hi Sylvie, great to hear you’re heading out in August. That’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it? Getting everything settled before leaving on a big trip. Good luck!

  43. David O Shea
    July 21, 2015

    Great to read
    I would agree with all your points I went around the world
    in 2003/4 it was as good and as easy just the way u told it.
    Going again this year but calling to other country.I loved it
    very much bye for now

    • Matthew Karsten
      July 29, 2015

      Enjoy your next adventure David! Glad you liked the travel tips.

  44. Anil_traveller
    July 18, 2015

    Great post Matt!

    Always struggled with #2 but agree with #17 the most. :)


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