travel myths

How to travel: 14 travel myths debunked (Part 1)

by Larissa on February 25, 2013

There are many misconceptions out there about travel, so it’s time to set the record straight. This week we debunk seven common travel myths. Next week we’ll tackle seven travel myths about select destinations.

Travel Myth #1: International travel is unsafe

Etosha national park Namibia lions

This one always blows us away—in our travels to 70+ countries, including road trips in remote areas of Africa and the Middle East and a jaunt to North Korea, we have never felt unwelcome or unsafe. Travel may take you into unfamiliar territory, where you might not know the  language and jet lag can leave you a little less aware of your surroundings. But unless you’re planning to visit the middle of a war zone, just using a little common sense like you would at home should keep you out of harm’s way. But take a tip we learned the hard way, don’t wake a sleeping lion. For more specific tips on safety while traveling, see this excellent post about travel safety by Cole Burmester of Four Jandals.

Travel Myth #2: Long-term travel requires a backpack

travel myths luggage

Backpacks aren’t bad; they’re just not the only option. We traveled around the world for 14 months using 22”-wheeled suitcases and a shoulder bag. Since we weren’t camping and most of our transit was through airports or on streets, the suitcases worked well. And it was nice to simply pull them along behind us.

Travel Myth #3: You must carry your valuables in a money belt or similar device

cleavage caddy

Unless you’re into wearing a “bra stash” (and who are we to judge?) we don’t use money belts or similar devices and have never had a problem. We pretty much exercise the same common sense precautions as we would at home. We do make sure to split up our cash and credit cards so everything isn’t in the same place. Money belts may be a good idea if you’re camping or staying in shared rooms in hostels, but for most types of travel it’s not necessary. Larissa does use anti-theft bags made by Pacsafe when on the road.

Travel Myth #4: Duty Free is a Bargain

Petrol coke bottles

Nah. The prices might not have the import tax added on, but they are still priced at full retail. Unless it’s something you absolutely can’t get anywhere else, or you’re trying to use up your last few euros/pounds/yuan, skip the shopping and buy your booze and chocolate at home.  (Note: my one exception is makeup, although not because of pricing; you can often find neat travel kit versions of the major brands that are not available outside passport control.)

Travel Myth #5: It’s difficult to drive on the opposite side of the road

Travel myths

It’s a little strange at first, but after a while it seems pretty natural. Our tip is to arrange rentals so you’re not driving in or near major cities: in Scotland, England and Australia we took the train to secondary towns and picked up our rentals at suburban locations, bringing us closer to those remote country roads. You may also want to spend a few extra dollars for an automatic shift to reduce the “oddness” factor, although driving a standard on the “wrong” side becomes second nature quickly as well. Here are our tips to drive on the left side of the road.

Travel Myth #6: Hostels are the cheapest lodging option

It depends on your criteria, and how many of you are traveling together. We travel as a couple, and like our own room with an en-suite bath. These are available at hostels, but are often priced comparably to midrange hotels. For two people we’ve found the cheapest lodging choice is short-term rentals. We can usually get a small flat, including a kitchen and wifi for the same price, or less, than a room in a small hotel or hostel. If you’re traveling alone and don’t mind sharing your room or a bath, a hostel might be your best bet.

Travel Myth #7: Tuesday at 3:17 am is the cheapest time to buy a plane ticket

Who knows when the best time is? Some weeks it’s reported the cheapest tickets are available on Tuesdays and then the next week sunrise during the vernal equinox is the best time. Airline ticket pricing is a more closely guarded secret than the formula for Coca Cola. No one wants to pay more than the guy in the next seat, but trying to find the cheapest price can become a full-time job. Check out sites such as Kayak and SkyScanner, always comparing your selected flight to the airline’s web site which may be cheaper, and if the price looks good then go ahead and buy it. Then stop agonizing and start looking forward to the trip. For great tips on finding low-cost airfare check out Nomadic Matt’s post on finding cheap flights.

For more see 14 Travel Myths Debunked (Part 2)

What are some of the myths you’ve debunked in your travels?

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28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

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There's a lot of misleading info out there. Based on our experience, we set out to de-bunk several popular travel myths.

Cat of Sunshine and Siestas February 25, 2013 at 7:51 am

I’m doing research for my Camino trip, and that bra pac is insaaaaane!! My old money belt, which has traveled with me for 12 years, may need a rest!

Cat of Sunshine and Siestas February 25, 2013 at 7:52 am

Whichh begs the question…where can I get it? Do they have an online shop?

Talon February 25, 2013 at 10:45 am

One thing about duty-free alcohol: It actually depends where you’re going. I bought a huge bottle of Absolut in the duty-free shop in Morocco when I was headed to Lyon, France. I normally don’t because it usually isn’t worth it. When I got to France and started shopping around, though, I was surprised to find out that a similar-sized bottle was 3x what I had paid in the duty-free shop! And even the crappy, generic vodka was still more expensive.

Micki February 25, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Great tips!

That bra stash is fantastic, but I’m just not sure how I’m going to cram four passports, two international drivers’ licenses, credit and debit cards, cash and boarding passes in there? Time for some augmentation, I guess 😉

I am so jealous of your little suitcases, btw! It’s been lugging up our two big suitcases and large backpack up stairs in Spain…

Bethaney - Flashpacker Family February 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Agree 100% with all your myth-busting! I’ve been known to stuff a more than just cash (keys, business cards etc) down my (ample!) bra!!!!

Larissa February 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Cat, I have no idea where to get that bra pack-it was actually a joke, but maybe we should become distributors 😉

Larissa February 25, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Maybe, Talon. But I do think it’s silly for people to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation and then try to schlep home a gallon of liquid packaged in glass just to save a few bucks. :/

Larissa February 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm

We are very proud of our little suitcases and how much we can fit into them 🙂

Larissa February 25, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Personally, I find bras uncomfortable–and I’m not interested in doing anything that makes them more uncomfortable 😉

Lillie - @WorldLillie February 25, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Wonderful list, and great graphics to go with it! Made me smile. 🙂

Cole @ February 26, 2013 at 3:51 am

Can’t wait for the next flight sale at sunrise on the vernal equinox! Will set my alarm 😉

All joking aside, great tips and ways to break the myths. It is amazing what some people believe when they have never travelled before.

Kate @30Traveler February 26, 2013 at 6:12 am

I’m definitely in the camp of 4 wheeler suitcase and not backpack. I don’t really use my money belt for travel anymore. Instead I use it when I want to carry cash and small bike tools while cycling and don’t want to carry a purse/bag.

Kellie February 27, 2013 at 11:30 am

Great post, and definitely agree with some of your points! Whilst I travel with a backpack, I don’t use a money belt and don’t bother with duty free anymore. I had my first experience driving on the ‘wrong’ (right-hand) side of the road in the US last year and followed your advice. I rented a car from the outskirts of the city to avoid the crazy traffic, which came in handy when I drove around the first round-about I saw the wrong way!

Reena @ Wanderplex February 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Interesting post! I agree with a lot of your points, but I will say that it took me a looooong time to get used to driving on the other side of the road. More than anything, it’s parking that I struggle with. But that’s just me and I know other people that have no problem at all.

I also still believe money belts or something similar are a good idea, especially when traveling by myself. It just gives me peace of mind, which is important to me.

Linda @EcoTraveller February 28, 2013 at 9:00 am

Ahhh, duty free. I remember it well. It used to be soooo cheap to buy whipping around Europe. Miss it!

Larissa February 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Vernal equinox is only a few weeks away, so get ready 😉

Glad you liked the list. . . I’ll have more next week.

Larissa February 28, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Good tip regarding the money belt while cycling, Kate.

Larissa February 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Yes, Kellie, it definitely helps staying out of congested areas 🙂

I’m a firm believer that round-abouts (called “traffic circles” in the US, btw) should be outlawed EVERYWHERE! They are a menace!!

Larissa February 28, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Agreed that we all need to do what’s best for ourselves, Reena. And if wearing a money belt makes you more comfortable, then by all means do so.

Regarding the driving, I’m not the best at parking in my home country, so when driving on the opposite site I avoid it whenever possible 😉

Larissa February 28, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Yep, good times–cheap times. Sigh.

Larissa February 28, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Glad you found it useful, Lillie. And it always helps to inject a little humor into an otherwise super-factual subject 😉

D.J. - The World of Deej March 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Great points…I could never pull off the backpack thing, so good to know it’s not required:)

Rachele March 4, 2013 at 11:48 am

We like to call those lovely little round-abouts “suicide circles”. They are a pain in the booty

Mike March 8, 2013 at 12:07 am

I am with you. I have never understood how duty free is sold as such a good deal..

Steph | A Nerd At Large March 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Great tips! Is that cleavage gadget for real?!?! I have a difficult enough time keeping track of things in my pockets and handbag. It would be a recipe for disaster to start stowing items in my bra!

Larissa March 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Right there with ya, DJ 🙂

Larissa March 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I think “sold” is the key word, Mike. Plus I need to stay away from those places, otherwise I start craving too much chocolate 🙂

Larissa March 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I guess the cleavage gadget is real, Steph. But I’ve never used it–it seems silly to me. I have no interest in making bras any more uncomfortable than they already are 😉

ella April 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

“suicide circle” is the PERFECT name for them !

Larissa April 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Agreed, ella, but knowing that name doesn’t make them any easier to navigate 😉

Pretraveller July 17, 2013 at 5:40 am

Larissa, thanks for an enjoyable article about travel myths. I liked the ‘other side of the road’ one.

The first time I drove on the other side of the road (in France) it took approximately two full days of driving to feel comfortable. Similarly we caught the train from Paris to Versailles to avoid the city traffic. We found that where there was other traffic we were OK, but if we were by ourselves was when we were most at risk of driving on the wrong side…

Michael July 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Ah, it’s interesting to hear someone refer to the right side of the road as the “wrong” side. In the English countryside it was easier on one lane roads where we just hugged the center.

Catherine July 28, 2013 at 10:01 am

Great post, funny, and I agreed with the majority… But as we live in Singapore: alcohol can be a worthy investment if bought tax free, if it is taxed A LOT where you are from. At the same time, I can count the number of times that I purchased something expensive at the airport because it gave me a holiday feel to be shopping, or because I forgot to buy a souvenir for someone… They do charge you the lot – just to get back the expensive airport shop rental, etc. (the accountant in me speaking). Avoid tax-free shopping, unless you know it is really cheaper!

Marysia @ My Travel Affairs February 2, 2014 at 7:00 pm

It is official, from now on I only buy my tickets on Tuesday at 3:17 am BIG LOL

Keith June 23, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Totally agree w # 2 and 3. Why do peeps, and backpackers actually take a Backpack when they visit anyplace and stay in hostels!? How many are actually going to camp outside?

I like my wheels:)
Thanks for the post!

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