Tricks and Hacks For Long Train Rides

In some parts of the world, riding the train is just a way of life. Yet, some of us live where there is no train service easily accessed. So if you are an avid train rider, this may sound silly to you, but keep in mind there are others reading who are about to embark on their very first train ride. If that train ride is a very long one, they have no idea what to expect. Still, read along, you may find a few hints that you can use as well.

 

Baggage

You will have a baggage allowance. You will be allowed to check your baggage if you choose to. Most advise against it. There is plenty of room to stash your bags overhead and there are little places like where back to back seats form a V that you can shove a bag into. If you pack smart you will have not problems taking what you need along with you.

Besides your bags consider a small backpack to wear on your chest, You can wear one on your back too, but the small one is for valuable things that would cause great problems if you lost them. Secure that backpack with a lock and use it as a pillow when you go to sleep. That is the time most baggage thieves strike. While many people lock all their baggage, you might find securing it to the rack with a strap is enough. A thief is not going to stand there and try to figure out why your bag will not move, he will move on to the next one.

 

Trains

 

Spreading out / sleeping cars

If you have room (no one is looking for a seat) feel free to spread out. Just be polite. If the train begins to fill up, move your things out of the way.

If you are going to be on a train for several hours, splurge on a sleeper car. If you are traveling with others, chip in together. Having the extra room and comfort is well worth it. To offset some of the expense, bring your own food and drinks with you. Train food is expensive and it usually is not very good. You might consider freezing a bottle of water before the trip and let it thaw during the early part of the ride. By the time the water thaws, you have a fresh cold drink for the evening meal.

 

Train etiquette

Pay attention to the people around you. If they are speaking softly, then you speak softly too. Do not be the loud passenger, speaking too loud, laughing too loud, and being a jerk.

 

voyage en train

 

Do not put your feet on the seat across from you, even if you take your shoes off. If you have foot odor, do not take your shoes off on the train. Also, take care of your look, especially if you are using your holidays for hiking, climbing, or any other nature sport. Your shoes might be full of dirt, and it’s recommended to leave the train in the same way you’ve entered it.

If you are going to snack, eat quietly and use proper manners. No one wants to hear you smacking and slurping. Do not bring smelly food on the train. Tuna or egg salad is simply not a good idea.

The restroom will be small, but look around in other cars, there is probably a larger one for handicap passengers.

If you want to stretch out, just before nighttime, head for the observation deck with your (backpack) pillow and blanket. You will probably not be asked to move.

 

Sri Lanka

 

Here are a few things to take with you on your trip:

– Reading material (or puzzle books)
– Portable charger for your phone. These can be precharged and they will recharge your cell phone anywhere
– Motion sickness medications
– Wet wipes
– Write down any train changes and keep it in your pocket so you do not have to dig out your actual tickets
– Breath mints

 

 

AUTHOR BIO
Wendy Dessler
Wendy is a super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.

Cover image by Hugh Lunnon

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Crossing border gate in Cambodia

9 tips & tricks for a smooth border crossing

Crossing a border by land is hands-down a tedious moment for everyone. Backpackers do it solely for the love of the game, and as a means to cut expenses of a tight budget. When it comes down to the more money I get to save, the more traveling I get to do, we just gotta suck it up and do it.

But after several unfortunate occurrences (like this one, and this one), border crossing also became synonymous of anxiety and sweaty palms. In all conscience, being on the other side of the world dealing with corrupt armed men planning to steal your money, would make you feel quite apprehensive as well.
On the other hand, you can see land border crossing as the rite-of-passage that turns a common tourist into the intrepid backpacker all of us strive to be.

All jokes aside, corruption from police and border officials underlines a real social problem that we’ll explain in a minute. But first, here are the top tips (in no particular order) for crossing a border by land:

 

1. Appearance

I’m all up for comfortable clothes, but entering a new country is an occasion that asks for something with sleeves, so dress appropriately. Let’s just say that the goal is: to not give the officials a reason to ask for a proof of adequate funds.

 

2. Lie on your resume

On the subject of “adequate funds”, it may be convenient to have a job – so lie if you have to. Naturally, most countries prefer welcoming tourists on vacation than unemployed backpackers who’ll try to find illegal work on a tourist visa.

At the borders, some occupations are more taboo than others, so diving instructor, musician or bartender should be replaced by engineer, dentist or accountant. Young looking travelers can dodge the question altogether by saying they’re students.

 

Mario crossing a vietnamese border

 

If an officer asks why you’re visiting, allegate that you’re on holiday and avoid any excuse to be tangled up in further bureaucracy.

 

3. Exact cash and crisp bills

Even though Lonely Planet includes scams as a common border crossing expense, don’t give in just yet! Check up on the visa costs beforehand and carry the exact amount in the appropriate currency (usually US dollars or the country’s currency).
As a preventative measure, hide some emergency cash in case you bump into a more “assertive” guard. Also, don’t expect them to accept your crinkly-old-faded bills!

Tip: You’ll find plenty of money exchange services in the periphery—some more legitimate than others—avoid them, the rates are always unfavorable.

 

Vietnamese dong

 

4. Research the border crossing checkpoint

Do a fast Google search on the land border you’re about to cross and become acquainted with what you might expect, such as location and visa procedures (not all checkpoints provide visas on arrival to foreigners). Maps.me and travel blogs can help you with that.

 

goats crossing lao cambodia border

 

Some border checkpoints are more isolated or sketchy than others, that’s why being prepared, walking in confidently and understanding the country’s processes can make the experience run smoother.





5. Transportation to and from the border

Bus companies in Southeast Asia will arrange and assist you in the whole border crossing process front point A to point B. However, this is not the norm around the globe.

Border forms and officials will ask for your destination inside the country, so have an answer ready.

Tip: there will be plenty of transport options at customs (tuk-tuk, taxi, shuttle buses), but negotiating transportation from the border will always be more expensive.

 

Arriving at the border checkpoint

 

6. Updated Visa information

Double-check in advance the exact visa requirements to your nationality—you might need to apply for the visa and it takes time.
Have in mind that foreigner policies keep changing, and is up to us to keep informed. As an example: in Thai land borders, as from 2017, tourist visa renewals are limited to twice per calendar year— despite airport borders not being affected by this measure.

Tips: your passport should be valid for at least six months.
If you’re going to be traveling through several countries, you need to be informed about where the embassies are.
Carry up-to-date vaccination booklets.

 

7. How long are you staying for

Trust us, always ask for the maximum limit of time in the country—you might regret if you don’t. If a country exceeds your expectations, or in case of an emergency (like ignoring point 6) you’ll be able to stay for a while longer.

 

8. Staying safe

If you’re on a bus ride to the border, make some acquaintances so you won’t have to cross it alone. Try to join other fellow travelers during the crossing.

Keep an eye on your belongings, be cooperative and civil to the officers as many of them have useful safety advice to share.

 

After crossing land border

 

9. Just beat it

Get away from the border as quickly as possible. Get back your stamped passport, thank the officials, and leave quietly before they regret letting you in. Bye Felicia!

Tip: take a picture of your visa and save it on your phone. In case of something happening to your passport, you’ll have somewhat of a proof of your legal entrance in the country.

 

Cambodia tourist visa

 

The cause of border corruption

Most of us are unaware of the personal and professional circumstances surrounding police officers and border guards in many Southeast Asian countries. Did you know that they have to buy their position for sums of money that can reach up to $25.000?
And every time they apply for a new position, they’ll have to pay the fee associated with it.

To put that insane amount of money together, officials have to borrow it from their families and friends, to which they’ll have to pay back. And it gets worse when you consider the economic reality of countries like Cambodia, where a big part of the population lives on merely $2 a day.

Although nothing justifies the scamming and the stealing, it may help us understand the context in which they operate and their conduct as a way to comply with a rotten system.

 

If you have extra tips or similar experiences share them in the comments below. Thanks!
Cover image by Rikker Dockum.

Nuno and Mario

Hi there! We’re Nuno and Mário and we share helpful tips to make travel planning easy for you.

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Mario playing while traveling

10 ways to keep the travel spirit alive

So you’ve returned home after a big trip, unpacked your stuff and wistfully stowed the passport in a drawer. Now what?
Now you’re probably starting to crave some endorphin-pumping adventures again. We know the feeling  ̶  you’re hooked to the excitement of the unknown.

But why is that we only feel enthusiastic about places away from home?
Well, because travel stimulates our brains and spirits the way the familiar can’t. That’s why every return home can be a tricky transition period, and why we have to manage it in the best possible way: by actively keeping our spirits up and carry on doing EPIC SHIT.

So if you’re feeling blue, here are 10 ways to get you out of that post-travel funk:

 

1. Keep the traveler mindset alive

What is that you did on your travels that you can keep doing now?
Look at things with a new set of eyes and from a different perspective. For instance: if thousands of tourists visit my hometown every year, they must do it for a reason!

Make an effort to explore your surroundings, or at least meet your friends at a different place  ̶  why should it always be in that same cafe?

 

Aveiro, Portugal

 

2. Be grateful

Be grateful for being surrounded by friends and family again, for your soft mattress and home cooked meals. Revisit your favorite places more often, and find out what is that you like about them.

Be grateful for all that your hometown has to offer, even the small conveniences you wished you had while you traveled. For instance: as huge bread lovers, we recall craving almost every day for a bakery like the ones we had back home. Now that we’re back, we can stuff our faces with white bread and gluten again!

Be grateful for the privilege of having traveled, and remember that coming back doesn’t mean that a chapter of your life has closed forever.

 

Nuno_myanmar

 

3. Take time for yourself

If you traveled long-term like we did, you remember how good it felt to take ownership of your time and self-indulge. What were the things that you enjoyed the most? Have you taken time to re-connect with yourself since you came back?
We’re not talking about binging the last season of your favorite show, we’re talking about fruitful, soul-pleasing time.

Go watch the sunset on the beach and meditate, read a new book, ride your bike around town.

If you’re into physical activity go trekking, get your heart pumping while getting in contact with nature.

 

20160503_0105.jpg

 

4. Sign up for a class

Keep the momentum going and your brain stimulated by learning a new language  ̶  one from a country you’ve been, or from a country you want to visit next. Seize the opportunity of your mind still being open and fill it in with knowledge!

Enroll in that yoga class and see how it goes.
Register for the marathon you always said you wanted to run.

 

5. Cook. Spice up your life!

Cook for your friends and family some of the exotic foods you’ve eaten abroad. Remember that being the only one who knows how the food is supposed to taste, you can pretend like you nailed it even if it ends up tasting like hot garbage. They’ll never know!

I’ve been following the recipes from a few books and this Youtube Channel: Palin’s Kitchen. The Thai green curry, the fried rice, and Kung Pao Chicken have become crowd favorites at home. Next challenge: Thai Fried Bananas.

6. Get involved in a project

Start a personal project with your travel photos, set up a travel exhibition in your town with all the memory cards and gigabytes of pics you brought back. It’s an excellent way to share your stories with your community and friends.

Last December Nuno and I did a Travel Gathering in our hometown of Aveiro. A bunch of cool people came to hear our stories, see our photos and make some questions. It ended up being a 3-hour session dedicated to Southeast Asia and Australia. Watch it here.

We’re still getting facebook messages with questions from people about to travel through some of the countries we visited. And it’s super rewarding to be able to help.

 

7. Connect with other travelers

Another awesome way to connect with folks who groove on the travel culture is to read and comment on blogs. Talk up travel with like-minded people, join facebook groups, “like” facebook pages  ̶  you probably have pretty valid inputs to share.

 

Backpackers

 

Take in Couchsurfers, show them around town. Stay in contact with people doing what you love doing, stock up on some of their travel enthusiasm and keep that fire burning.





8. Get a makeover

A week after I arrived, I caught myself with a similar attitude like the one I had 6 months before traveling to Southeast Asia. Something had to be done, and if my brain was starting to forget, I had to use my body as a reminder: I cut all my hair off, took my earrings out and trimmed my beard as a physical representation of change.

Now I and everyone around me is reminded that something changed in me, inside and out. So I better behave accordingly.

 

9. Goals and Resolutions

Often the arrival of a New Year isn’t a big enough motivation to establish a new set of goals for ourselves. How many times did the calendar change and our lives remain the same for that entire year? That is because a New Year doesn’t imply transformation, but a life-changing event can be at the root of it.

The moment to rethink, reprioritize and let go of what’s not resonating with you, is at pivotal moments of your life, such as: a trip around the world, a college graduation, the birth of your first child.

 

20160404_0114.jpg

 

There’s no better time to declare a new set of goals than when you got back from a trip all inspired and renewed. Now is the time to shift your goals and have them match the new expanded version of you.

 

10. Plan your next trip

Any thoughts on where to go next? Daydream with your next trip, research locations as an escape.

Start putting some money aside for it, set up a money-saving strategy  ̶  if you did it once, you’ll be able to do it again.

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/planetgravy/32214622992/in/dateposted/

Do whatever suits you best to keep the adventurous spirit alive and above all, ease yourself to the inevitability of routine. Find a way to retain the optimism and enthusiasm around by keeping busy  ̶  purposefully busy  ̶  instead of biting your nails out of boredom, or stain your travel memories with sadness.

Maintain your heart open to the possibilities of change, and transmute that stagnated yearn for adventures into risk-taking or life-changing matters. Move out, change the scenery, change jobs, color your hair, get a perm, propose, lose the weight, love yourself harder! Just don’t forget who you became and that you will travel again.

 

What have you been doing to keep the travel spirit alive? We’d really like to hear it.
Share it in the comments bellow.

Nuno and Mario

Hi there! We’re Nuno and Mário and we share helpful tips to make travel planning easy for you.

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Mario and Nuno in a rice field using the travel apps on their smartphones

Travel Apps we use and love

We live in a technologic world, smartphones are everywhere and you’re probably reading this post on one. There are more than 100.000 travel apps to make your life easier while you’re on the road, you don’t need to carry around a map that folds out to be the size of a beach towel anymore.

We will be talking about the best travel apps, the ones we use and recommend. Most of them can be used offline because, let’s get real: if you get lost in the middle of a rice paddy in Indonesia, chances are you’re not going to find any Wi-Fi hotspots.

 

Daily Expenses

Nuno already used this app daily and was quite pleased with it, so we now use it to keep a record and control our day to day expenses on the road. It’s intuitive and allows you to organize your earnings and expenses. It can show the information divided by time, days, months or category of expense in text and in graphic form.

It’s available in several languages and currencies and let you schedule ahead money movements like wages or payments. It’s like having all your financial records in your pocket.

There’s a free and a paid version (2,5€) and it’s only available for Android:

Google play – Daily Expenses

 

XE

We use this app several times a day, usually before we buy something to know how much it costs in euros. It’s a currency conversion app with ten different currencies on an initial panel (chosen by you). It’s fast, super easy to use and it really comes in handy when you’re negotiating prices. It always gives you the latest Exchange rates but unfortunately, all vendors will have their own rate and that’s the one they’ll use.

 

XE Currency App

 

We use the free version for Android and Windows phone. The Android version is way more user-friendly:

Google Play – XE
Windows Store – XE

 

Maps.me

We heard about this one on the road and immediately surrendered to it.
When connected to the internet you can download the map of the country you’re visiting to your phone, getting there just turn the GPS signal (no internet needed anymore) and get globe-trotting!





It’s a free app with an open map that works on the same premise as Wikipedia: you can add more places and information as you go along and upload them for others to use. It’s possible to pinpoint restaurants, gas stations, viewpoints, hospitals, hotels and so on.

 

Maps.me app

 

Maps.me is available on Google Play and iOS but not available for Windows phone yet.
On a personal note, it would be cool if users could save places as favorites in their accounts.

Google Play – Maps.me
App Store – Maps.me

 

Snapseed

Travelling comes with taking pictures especially if you have an Instagram account like we do *Insert plug here: Instagram*. Most of our photos go through Snapseed. It’s very simple and intuitive and lets you touch up the brightness, shadows and saturation, crop photos and applying filters among other useful stuff. That being said, if you have photo retouching OCD it won’t be enough, you’ll still need Photoshop.

It’s available for Android and iOS, but not for Windows phone:

Google Play – Snapseed
App Store – Snapseed

 

Agoda

All of us travelers want to book cheap accommodation and we want it fast!
The Agoda app gives you access to discounts that you won’t find on the website. Quite cool when you have a limited budget, just be sure to always add the 10% tax to the final price. Look for the Mobile Deals or Insider Tips, they’re usually worth it!

 

Agoda app

Available for all smartphones:

Google Play – Agoda
Windows Store – Agoda
App Store – Agoda

 

Booking

A hotel booking app similar to Agoda.
You can manage and cancel your reservations here. There are advantages to be registered and logged in: the app and the website will show you some “secret deals” that sometimes can reach 50% off, so do yourself a favor and spend 3 minutes registering. It’s worth it.

Available for the all operating systems:

Google Play – Booking
Windows Store – Booking
App Store – Booking

 

AirAsia

If you’re traveling through Southeast Asia and need to catch a plane, there’s no way around it, sooner or later you’re going to fly on AirAsia.
The Airline app still has a buggy search engine, but it’s still useful for check-ins and to access special discounts.

Available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone:

Google Play – AirAsia
Windows Store – AirAsia
App Store – AirAsia

 

Google Translator

Handy when you get to a restaurant with no English menu and you’re really hungry. Especially if you have some dietary restrictions and are trying to avoid eating dog, or frog. It happened. Nuno ordered frog thinking it was chicken. Chicken of the pond!
Download the app and the dictionary on the language you’ll need and save yourself some trouble. Plus, you can actually learn something while using it! Frog = Con êch.

Available for Android and iOS:

Google Play – Google Translator
App Store – Google Translator

 

Evernote

It’s a convenient and versatile app for you to write notes as soon as they pop into your head. You can save them in the form of text, voice recording, photography, and drawing. They’re stored in an online account which you can access anytime with your PC, phone or tablet. We’ve been using this app to write down what often appears written in this blog.

 

Evernote App

 

It’s available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
Sometimes when you’re offline, older notes are not accessible.

Google Play – Evernote
Windows Store – Evernote
App Store – Evernote

 

Pocket

Can you imagine spending 14 hours straight on a bus with absolutely nothing to do?
Yeah, it’s not cute and there are only so many trees you can look at before starting twitching and going slowly insane.
If you like to read, this app allows you to save web pages that can be later accessed when you’re offline.

Available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Google Play – Pocket
App Store – Pocket

 

YouTube

The YouTube app allows to download videos to your phone so you can watch them later offline.
Quite cool! It can help you break the dullness of a long ass road trip.

Available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Google Play – Youtube
Windows Phone – Youtube
App Store – Youtube

 

app-mario

 

As you can see smartphones are here to help, they can become your best travel buddy especially if you’re traveling alone. Digital tools can make you pack lighter, avoid some of the logistic hassles of being on the road and entertain you. So gear up your phone with the travel apps that suit you and get to steppin’!

Nuno and Mario

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Best backpack for travel

The winning Backpack

The main item for any backpacker is a proper backpack.
Also essential, is the realization that you’ll need to travel with the least amount of things possible. Fewer things mean less weight on your back, more mobility and comfort. As two practical guys, we decided that one big backpack will be enough for the both of us.

The process of choosing the ideal backpack started by analyzing the needs and challenges we could encounter while traveling.

 

Requirements for the perfect backpack:

• Easy access to the whole interior;
• Flight cover or removable straps for an easy airport check-in;
• A capacity of 70 to 80 liters;
• A small detachable daypack;
• Easily adjustable straps considering it will be carried by two different people;
• Comfortable padded shoulder straps;
• Rain cover;
• Approximate cost: €150

 

The Brands

We headed to Google and started the search.
The main brands are, Haglöfs, Deuter, Eagle Creek, Osprey, Patagonia, Monte Campo, Rei, Kelty, Jansport, Lowe Alpine, Tangoworld, Mammut, Karrimor, Caribee and The North Face.

Nuno was responsible for listing them all. He spent several days looking for backpacks and as a conscious consumer, arranging all the information on Excel (yeah, he’s that kind of guy).

The three finalists were: *Drum rolls*
• Vango Freedom 60+20,
• Deuter Traveler 60+10,
• Osprey Farpoint 55 (40+15).

Backpack, Vango, Freedom

 

The winner backpack

We decided to buy the Vango Freedom 60+20.
The only downside to this backpack was that the rain cover wasn’t included, so we had to buy it separately for an extra €15.





The purchase

Vango has an online store but they don’t ship to Portugal.
Luckily we found the website Noite de Campo http://www.noitedecampo.com that sold Vango backpacks in Portugal, but the model we wanted. We contacted the store anyways and asked if they could get the Vango Freedom, and they actually did! A month later the backpack arrived with no delivery charge.

The backpack ended up as a birthday gift to Nuno from all of his friends.

 

Check the video for more details

If you have any questions about the Vango Freedom 60+20, please leave it in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by!

Nuno and Mario

Hi there! We’re Nuno and Mário and we share helpful tips to make travel planning easy for you.

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