The things written here may be common sense or may be something everyone else has already figured out, but I just want to share the insights I gained on our recent trip to Hong Kong.
(photos courtesy of Filbert Uy)
1. Create a budget, writing a specific amount for specific items, and put each amount in separate envelopes.
Dividing the amount will ensure you are not overspending on any items, and will create less confusion during travels. On your last day, if there is left over money from different envelopes, you can combine them all and opt to buy something else.
2. If you are in a budget, be the boy scout. Bring everything you need, regardless of the bulkiness.
Medicine, toiletries, tissue, umbrella, hat, jacket, fan, shopping bag, sun screen, water bottle, eye patch, etc. I brought all, and used all in times of need. Think of how much you can save by just refilling your water bottle in your hotel instead of buying one every time you go out. How I wish I brought this walking cane that can turn to a chair when needed. It would have been useful in Disneyland, when we had to line up for everything.
3. Prepare for entertainment you can use for long waits.
Waiting in long lines can really be boring. Specially when you are with kids. Before traveling, arm yourself with mini games you can use: play the tour guide and invent the history of a particular building. Clap every time you see a baby. Download iPod group game apps like Charades. Minutes will breeze away and you can ensure that every minute of your trip is F-U-N!!
4. Have back up dollars for unexpected expenses
You may find a really good deal when shopping or be in a terrible accident. When traveling, money is a friend you don’t want to lose, specially when you are not familiar with the language or culture.
5. Research on local market availability and rates before purchasing abroad
Why were we so confident and decisive in purchasing major items? Because we took time to research for their local price. Before buying my video camera, we looked for its information and price comparisons online, and we even canvassed from electronic stores all over. Before deciding on what designer bag to buy, I had to read various bag threads online, got a feel of the brand image, looked at local supply, and made sure I know how to tell the difference between real and fake leather. Extra preparation is hard work, but it sure makes you more responsible in spending hard-earned money and gives you the peace of mind and happiness, when you discover a real bargain in your travels!
6. Know the current events in the foreign land
Will there be a lantern parade or a special festival in the place you’ll go to? It may be worth it to take some time to visit it. If these events are special for the locals, chances are, they’ll be special for you too. In our case, we knew that there would be a food, tea, and medicine expo during our visit to hk, so we took time to visit them. We learned a lot, received food samples, gained business insight and even had free medical checkups.
7. Meet up with old friends and gain new ones
As Filipino-Chinese, you will surely have acquaintances in major cities all over. Visiting old friends is a good way to spend time. Share a meal, or visit a tourist site together. Their knowledge of the foreign land and grasp of the culture might open your eyes and let you think of the possibility of working abroad (or not). Meeting new and foreign friends is also a delightful adventure. When we went to the medicine expo, there were this group of girls who befriended us. I think they were fans of Fil; they kept saying he looks like Wang Lee Hom. It was also a relief that Fil got some camera stuff from a recommended shop owner of a friend. When things connect beyond the superficial level, events become more meaningful.
8. Get out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself to the culture.
Do locals walk all the time? Take time to do the same. What do locals eat? For some reason, people go to Hong Kong to eat at McDonald’s, something we have in our own backyard. Maybe their purpose is to compare and contrast, but it is best to try their local, native fares, things you might not find in your own country. If you dare, you can also visit their local parlor and have your hair ‘culturally’ done. It is also helpful to learn some commonly used phrases such as ‘thank you’. A little effort goes a long way.
9. Research on the best place to stay, according to your needs.
Are you after shopping? Maybe it is best to stay in a shopping district. Is it about work? Then look for a hotel nearby the office. When we planned our trip, our utmost concern in the place was budget and accessibility. So we booked a hostel instead of hotel, for 130hkd per person per night (php780 or roughly $18). It was in Causeway Bay, two minute walk from the nearest MTR station.
10. Bring gospel tracts and local gifts
You will never know when opportunity will come for you to share about Jesus Christ. It pays to be prepared to share and to defend your faith when necessary. As for the local gift, being prepared to give a newfound friend something from home is a plus. Of course, it should ideally be edible and easy to pack, to be flexible and worthy of its transport value.
11. Pack your bags a day or two ahead and check the weather forecast before packing your bags.
Check the weather to know what to wear, and pack in advance to prevent yourself from wearing the outfits you wish to bring. It also gives you time to buy the things you need or to fix the sole of your shoes.
12. Create a detailed schedule, but be flexible enough to veer away from it when necessary.
With the availability of Internet and friends who travel, it is quite easy to come up with your own travel itinerary. Create one and show it to friends who have been there. They will be able to provide pieces of advice and insights. During your travel, a lot of time and money will be saved if your schedule is well thought of. However, take extra care to not become too rigid in following it, else you’ll take away the sense of adventure and enjoyment.
Going to Hong Kong is the first out of the country experience we have had since we got married, and I look forward to more traveling in the future. May God grant us the opportunity and the means to do this more often 🙂