Let’s continue on with Why You Need a Travel Agent. If you haven’t read Part 1, I suggest you go back and read it, it’s only about a 5 min read and this will make more sense. In should I use a travel agent part 2, we’ll go into more detail so you really understand what can happen when you travel solo with no help from a Travel Agent.
….You arrive and follow the signs to baggage pick up but first have to go through immigration.
You don’t speak or read the local language and just hope the signs are in English too. So this is where your research starts to pay off. If you had a checklist, hopefully, you know if your nationality has to have a visa? Or is it Visa on arrival? Or is it nothing and you just walk up to immigration like you would in your home country?? This is why I should have used a Travel Agent.
The line up for immigration could easily be 1 hour to find out you are in the wrong location…you must leave and walk over to the correct counter and wait for another hour. You figure it out and now you are in the baggage area and pick up your luggage.
It’s very hot outside and there are signs everywhere for taxis. Did you pre-book a taxi? No, okay, now you are at the mercy of the vendors. You’ve heard you can barter in this country but does that mean with a taxi driver?? He asks where you are going and figures it out in his head and gives you a price and well, what are you going to do? You need to get to your hotel so you agree.
I just want to say that the taxis outside of an airport are all so different. Even when it comes to the same country but different cities. You could fly in and out of 4 major cities in the same country and every time it could be different. They obviously all used taxis, but the process can be very different. Sometimes you can barter, sometimes you just pay the price quoted. Another reason to ask: why should I use a Travel Agent.
You Made It To Your First Destination!
We’re still on day 1 unless you’ve had an overnight flight and you’re exhausted.
It’s been an extremely long day, you’ve arrived at your hotel, you’ve managed to get there in one piece and everything looks great. Your chosen hotel is either what you expect, exceeds your expectation or is really crappy….any of the above can happen, you really don’t know.
So let’s say the hotel meets your expectation. You have 4 days in this city, in this country before you move on.
What Do I Do?
You go to the front desk to ask about how to get to the train? They tell you to go out, turn right, then turn right and it’s just up ahead. What they really mean is that it is a 20 min walk and watch out for the tuk-tuk’s they’ll harass you and the cars don’t stop if you’re walking across the street. Can you see the train? (after stopping and asking 3 different people) and you see on the map where you want to go and you manage all the turnstiles and people and get on the train.
You’re at your destination but nothing is familiar, you can’t read the road signs but you manage. 20 min and you get to let’s say a Sunday Market in Bangkok. Excellent. You have fun, spend lots of money and it’s time to head back.
Are You Confused?
Now everything is in reverse…but you’re tired, this stop is different than the first one you got on and you have to figure it out. You get off at your stop (you did take a picture of your station right, otherwise you’ll be riding the train all day)
You get off the train, it’s up 50 feet and you’re now on the wrong side of the road and everything looks the same. Where the heck do you go? Your phone is dead and you can’t speak the language and no one knows what you want. Do you try a hotel, ask at the concierge desk? But you don’t know the name of your street, remember, your phone is dead. Maybe you can ask someone if they have a charger for your phone. That might work, but what if no one can help you. You have to figure this out on your own. Be smart, keep your wits about you and not panic.
Finally, after 1 hour, you find someone to help you!!
You make it back to your hotel in one piece. Day 1 is over and you have managed it! Good Job! 13 more to go. Keep saying to yourself, I can handle this solo travel! ummm…have I mentioned this yet? Another reason why I should have used a Travel Agent.
Hopefully, it’s better than Day 1 you say to yourself.
But the reality is, it doesn’t get any better. You are still traveling solo as a female, making decisions by yourself and you don’t have a second set of eyes.
You have to pay for a taxi ‘by yourself’ you are not splitting the cost with someone else. You dine alone, you drink alone (I know that sounds bad!!) You see the sights by yourself and in the end, you may have spoken to a few people on the way, but everyone is busy with their lives and their experiences.
Okay, back to day 2.
You want to do some sightseeing and you’ve done your research and everyone tells you to go to see this particular sight. You now have to manage to get a taxi, making sure he doesn’t rip you off, maybe wait in a long line, pay a terrible fee to get in and wander the attraction alone. Sounds like a ton of fun to me!!!
You see what you need to see, but who are you going to talk about it with. You can tell all your friends at home about it! They will be so jealous you say!! So one by one you start letting everyone know on FB all about your adventures. You feel good!!
You’re tired from Day 2, you’ve eaten breakfast in the same spot two days in a row because it was good and close and you feel safe.
You set out on another adventure. This time you are going to walk to the destination and take a local water taxi. Save yourself $100, perfect.
You see the water taxi going in both directions, on both sides of the river. You hop on the taxi, along with the locals and pay for your ride. You get off when they tell you…okay..where are you? This is not where you were expecting to be? What then. Do you wander around and try and figure out what to do. You’ve wasted an hour, crap.
You have a brilliant idea…your map tells you that you are very close to the place you want to be. You hail a taxi and try to explain where you want to go. He may take you, he may not. If he does, fantastic…if he doesn’t then you have to figure out what to do.
Your day is coming to a close and you’ve wasted much of it travelling to places you didn’t want to see and convincing taxi drivers to go where they don’t want to go. You look in your wallet and realize that you’ve spent over $150 and have not done anything except pay for food and taxis. I know, I sound like I’m repeating myself …..Another reason why I should have used a Travel Agent.
Maybe a good massage will help…
Day 3 & 4 are very similar to Day 2. More wandering…more trying to maneuver through cities you don’t know and trying to converse with people that don’t speak your language.
Some days will be great, some days will be okay, and others will be absolutely horrific. It’s a crapshoot, it really is. Did you enjoy the experience? Maybe, maybe not.
And you’re off to a new city, a new destination with new sights to see! It’s very exciting. You’ve managed the first 4 days, you have managed to stay alive, not gone run over by a tuk-tuk driver and you have all of your money safely in your purse.
Good for you!
It’s travel day and it’s pouring rain, I mean torrential down pouring…did you bring an umbrella? Do you have proper foot attire? You are outside your hotel trying to flag down a taxi. Maybe you get lucky and someone at the front desk is able to help you.
You get in the taxi, ‘how much to the airport’ $100…What? $100, that’s crazy, I’m not paying you $100, how about $20…get out…get out? Yes, get out!
So you get out…suitcase in hand, it’s still pouring and you flag down a second taxi, the same price. No, you are not paying that ridiculous price, but time she is a wasting and your flight leaves in 3 hours and the ride is 1 hour.
The 3rd guy says $80, which at this point seems like a bargain and you take it! Whew! The ride is actually 20 minutes and you pay the driver $80.
You’re soaked, you’re at the airport, and you’re ready to leave and have fun in a new city!!
You Arrive At Your Second Destination.
This time you understand the culture better, you know what to do…or do you? This is not the same as the last city, crap…they’ve changed the rules. How can that be? Just when you thought you understood…you realize you still know nothing at all!
It starts all over again…you spend the next 4 or 5 hours researching your new city, new hotels, new excursions.
In The End
of 14 days you’ve gotten lost 4 times, (for more than 2 hours each time) your feet are swollen from walking so much, you’ve only seen half the things you really wanted to see, you have not made any new friends, you are still relying on all of your old friends on FB and you’re tired and just want to go home.
You do a quick calculation of how much money you’ve spent, from the time you left home to the time you arrived back at your front door.
Your rough calculation is about $3700 USD. You think that’s not bad…but in the end, was it everything you hoped it would be. Was it the trip of a life time…are you happier now than when you left. And would you ever suggest to another woman they do what you did? The lessons you learned were probably wonderful, but did you really need to learn them? Could you have learned the same lesson in a group tour?
Regardless of those answers, you did it, and you should be very proud of yourself, but is that the type of vacation you had in mind. If the answer is yes, that’s fricken awesome and way to go.
How Much Have You Spent?
If it’s not, you spent $3700 and only got to experience half of what that amazing country had to offer. Oh, and that $3700 doesn’t take into account the 120 hours you spent planning out this trip. If your time is worth anything you have to make another calculation and add them together. Even if you put it at $20/hour that’s another $2400 for a grand total of $6100.
What if you spent $5000 and everything was taken care of.
What if all you had to do was pick your destination and sit back and enjoy the ride. No searching for the right hotel, no picking the places to see or restaurants to eat in (okay, every once in awhile you have to set out on your own, but by then you have 20 new friends to go with)
What if you were chauffeured around, given that umbrella, didn’t have to wait in the long line ups and had a perfect English speaking tour guide who knew exactly what you needed. What if you used a travel agent? Who was the expert? Who had done this tour at least 20 times?
Last time, I promise…Another reason why I should have used a Travel Agent!
What if you got picked up at the airport and dropped back off. What if you never ever got lost, or got on the wrong boat, or spent the day alone!
What if you made 20 new friends for life. Forever.
Without sounding repetitive, you really need to use a travel agent. They are the professionals and know exactly where to send you and what to do. Find one that you trust, has traveled extensively herself and who has your best interest at heart. She may not know all the answers, and maybe you have to be patient while she finds out all of the best deals for you, but in the end, I’m pretty confident that you will be super happy using a professional travel agent.
Related Articles & Podcasts
From the Expat Money Show ~ In Episode 074: Nora Dunn – How to Pay nothing for accommodations and travel the world rent free. It’s a fantastic episode, I know you’ll really enjoy listening in.
Lastly, an amazing article written by George Kaponay called: One family’s odyssey of learning together while traveling the world.