If you’ve been around here before, you’ll know that I’ve spent most of this year (a) going through the absolute most, and (b) saving for a trip to Portugal. If you haven’t, or didn’t know: welcome! I’ve spent most of this year saving for a trip to Portugal.
In May this year, I was watching my favourite travel vloggers and considering the novelty of travelling somewhere alone. So I used mine and every other broke traveller’s saving grace, Skyscanner, to look for a cheap flight from Johannesburg (Any) to Anywhere. I was looking for the first and cheapest thing off of the African continent, and the beautiful city of Lisbon popped up and stole my heart. And money.
After a session or three of I-can’t-sleep-so-let-me-research-this-decision sessions, i decided to tell my sisters, brother and mom that I would be going to Portugal in November. My mom laughed, and older sister looked at me and said, “I’m coming too”. And that was that. We had six months to raise all of the money we would need, and too many problems that tried to throw us off. So. Here are some things I’ve learned:
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A VALID PASSPORT / VISA / VACCINATIONS.
This seems pretty obvious, but 2016 just so happened to be the year where both of my passports expired right before I needed to book flights. Check your passport(s). I ended up renewing both of them by myself and felt very adult-like, but I was still pressed for time for flights.
BOOK FLIGHTS EARLY!
Some tips on booking flights: most places where you buy a flight online have a booking fee, and if you’re a broke bitch like me or if you just want to save money, call into the place first – the booking fee is usually waived when you call in or go instore. Book early. That lucrative price you’re drooling over? You’re gonna keep drooling. Because it’s going up in three, two…
HOSTELS > HOTELS.
Why on earth would you stay in a hotel that you know you can’t afford if you could stay in a hostel, meet new people from all over the world who are travelling cheaply just like you, and still receive free breakfast and wifi? Y’all. Come on now. When deciding which hostel to stay in, check reviews and make sure you don’t pass over a great deal because there’s a bigger hostel overshadowing a little gem.
MONEY IS PROBLEM. KINDA.
Look, money is funny. There’s never enough of it, and just when you think you have enough, you remember that the exchange rate on Google isn’t the same rate the bank is going to give you. Walking into a forex place with a wad of cash and coming out with ten notes is a little discouraging, but you’ll survive. Have a plan. Capitalise on the free breakfast. Do your research on where to eat and how to move around cheaply. You’ll live. (I’m hoping you will. I’ll let you know if I do in about a week or so.)
LEARN A LITTLE OF THE LANGUAGE!
Even if it’s just little things like asking where the bathroom is, or how to say left and right so that you can interpret directions. Languages are amazing and impossible to avoid, so rather prepare yourself and know how to get to the airport shuttle than having a breakdown in the airport. 10/10 would recommend googling ‘(language) for tourists’.
PSYCH YOURSELF UP FOR TRAVELLING ALONE.
My sister and I are going on different dates because of exam clashes, and I’m a little scared about being alone. No, I’m not a wimp for this – I’m just scared. I’m going to travel through a country alone and make a stop in another’s airport (I see you, Angola) and it’s gonna be a little scary. But that’s okay, because I know I just have to feel the fear and to the thing anyway. I mean, I paid for it! I may as well. It may not be sunshine and rainbows from jump, so prepare yourself for the anxiety, fear, and wonder that comes with flying solo.
In three dayS, I’m going to write an exam, come home, say goodbye to my family and then hop on the train (subway? metro? gautrain.) to the airport. I’m going to leave for Portugal via Angola with nobody watching my back but myself. I’m excited beyond belief. Prepare yourself for the inevitable spam.
love and light,