You’d think after 50+ countries and almost 6 years of travel blogging that I’d be a pretty savvy traveller. Last weekend: not so much. During my 4 night trip to Bangkok for TBEX* I practised almost every rookie travel mistake there is in the book. Boy, was it embarrassing!
*Translation: TBEX is a travel blogging conference I attended as part of my work with moodAway
In my defence the logistics of the trip were put together a little last minute. Although I had my ticket and was planning to attend since July, the conditions of my visa here in Australia mean that I can’t travel without first seeking the permission of some unknown entities in the immigration office. I duly completed my travel request 4 months ago but it turns out these forms are not processed until 2 weeks before the date you are due to travel. Despite much chasing to see if I was going to be granted the visa I needed to travel the only response I got was ‘We’ll let you know before the event.” Not so helpful for pre-planning then.
Just over 2 weeks before TBEX, whilst I was in the literal middle of Australia exploring Uluru, I got an email saying I was good to go outside the country. So I set about booking flights and confirming all the arrangements I’d loosely made up until getting that permission.
Which means my Rookie Travel Mistake Number 1 was: Booking flights last minute
Although there are direct flights to Bangkok from Sydney they were all vastly more expensive than ones with a stopover. I decided to fly with Singapore Airlines as I have partner status with them (more on that soon) but the flights with the shortest stop over time were all sold out. I ended up with a 7 hour layover in Singapore, during which I checked myself into a transit hotel that was very comfortable and convenient, but at a cost of $90 for 6 hours cost more than most hotels in Bangkok.
Rookie Travel Mistake 2: Trusting the travel times on Google maps
I’m very lucky to have some PR friends who work with beautiful properties in Bangkok (more on them soon too!). I reviewed 2 different gorgeous properties in Bangkok during my stay but when arranging them had forgotten that one cannot take Google maps travel time at face value – especially not in city that suffers from as much congestion as Bangkok. The approx. 20 minute drive from my riverside room to the conference centre was in fact a 2, sometimes 2.5 hour, crawl to the other side of town. One time the traffic was so bad no taxis would take me where I needed to go, despite the hotel trying their best to convince someone for 30 minutes. So instead I took a boat, ran through a market, and secured a taxi on the other side of the river.
Rookie Travel Mistake 3: Not watching the taxi metre
On this occasion I was so euphoric that a taxi had agreed to take me I forgot to watch to see him put on the meter. I suspect because the driver saw the desperation in my eyes he figured he could charge what he wanted and so at the end of our meter-less journey he demanded twice what I had paid the day before. Just relieved to be there I dejectedly coughed up but..
Rookie Mistake Number 4: I forgot to bring small change
Being fresh in the country my purse was packed with 1000 baht notes, which, had I packed my brain, I would have exchanged for smaller notes at the hotel. The taxi driver, again seizing another opportunity I had so kindly handed him, claimed to have no change and thus ended what may have been THE MOST EXPENSIVE TAXI JOURNEY IN THAILAND.
Rookie Mistake Number 5 is the most embarrassing one yet
I’ve honestly never done this before so I’m going to blame general jet lag and brain frazzle after a day of conferencing. Basically, I cannot be 100% sure, but I think I left my debit card in an ATM. I remember clearly going to the cash machine at the conference centre. I remember the amount I took out and where I safely put the money. And then I remember nothing more. There is a blank at the bit where you normally retrieve your card and put it safely back in your purse. Oops.
I got a taxi home (a pleasant 2.5hr journey – not) and paid in cash. As I ate dinner at the hotel I had no need for my card until I checked out the next morning and PANIC – I looked in my bag and saw it was not there. I’d got up before 6am that morning as I was due to be checking into my next hotel and then meeting a bunch of bloggers for coffee before another day of TBEX but time was running away with me. So with not having any time to spare I made the..
Most stupid of my Rookie Travel Mistakes: I used the hotel phone to call the bank
In my defence (weak argument warning) the hotel very generously provides free smartphones in all the guest rooms. These phones are loaded up with data and calls to local numbers and select international ones are completely free of charge. So when I couldn’t get on the internet to see how much money had been wrenched from my account, I blindly picked up the hotel phone thinking ‘It can’t be that bad, they give out phones with free data.’ Wrong. I think when it comes to using hotel phones it will always be that bad. It was 2000 baht (approx AU $80) bad. So that was how the most expensive of my rookie mistakes transpired. Luckily my account had not been rinsed overnight and I had some funds to pay the bill I was surprised with at check out.
There were more mistakes and misplanned adventures during these 4 days but it’s become too embarrassing to go on. I don’t think I’ve travelled like this much of a newbie since the late 90s. But at least I can say I learned from my 6 (coughs: 20) rookie mistakes on this trip, they ripped me out of my travel complacency and have hopefully set me on a smarter path for trips in future. At least, I hope I’ve learnt my lesson..
Have you make any rookie travel mistakes when you really should have known better?