General Notes on Travel
Being a set of observations for U.S. travellers going to the U.K., Ireland,
and other "civilized" countries.
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.)
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
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.
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.
Similarly, you can purchase the same shampoo, soap, deoderant, conditioner,
toothpaste, and other consumables that you have already (unless you are
into "natural" brands).
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.
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.