General Notes on Travel

Being a set of observations for U.S. travellers going to the U.K., Ireland, and other "civilized" countries.
  1. Sorry, Douglas Adams, but a towel is not the most massively useful thing a traveller can have. In fact, I've been travelling for 5 weeks, and I've yet to use the one I brought along. (Although, if you stay in hostels a lot, you may find it quite useful.)
  2. Except for underwear and jeans, don't bring a lot of clothes along, since you'll want to go clothes shopping anyway, and this gives you a good excuse to pick up a lot of interesting garments that are a little different in style than what you are used to. That is, if you can afford that sort of thing.
  3. Similarly, had I to do this all over again, I would have left my electric razor at home, and simply purchased an equivalent model over here. It's nearly impossible to make razors work using a transformer, because all of the electrical outlets for shavers are generally in physically awkward locations. The main trouble is that the transformer is large and heavy, and keeps slipping out of the socket unless it is physically supported, which is difficult when the outlet is 5 feet from the ground.
  4. Don't bother with traverlers checks, or with getting local currency before you leave. ATM machines are everywhere, and your card will work in virtually all of them.
  5. Similarly, you can purchase the same shampoo, soap, deoderant, conditioner, toothpaste, and other consumables that you have already (unless you are into "natural" brands).
  6. If you are going to Scotland or Ireland, don't go before mid-April, because half of the interesting places will be closed. Most of the interesting festivals don't start until May. The only advantage in going in winter or early spring is that those places which aren't "closable" (like the Standing Stones on Lewis) you will have all to yourself.
  7. Books: In addition to copious travel advice from my friends, the two books I have are the Let's Go! guide and the Eyewitness Guide. Both are indispensable. Let's Go! is targeted at younger travellers such as college students, and as such tends to focus on what's "cool". It also has lots of information on food and accomodations, something lacking in the other book. It's one fault, for me, is that it's idea of a "good time" is one that a typical teenager would enjoy; There's lots of info about nightclubs and places where folks a generation younger than I am would hang out. When I've attempted to try out some of these places, they tend to be crowded, loud, and very smoky. The Eyewitness guide specializes in pictures - it has at least one color photo of just about everything you'd want to see. This is useful, because there are many places that I have visited that I wouldn't have been interested in unless I had seen them in a picture first.