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Independent travel need not be intimidating. Even if you consider yourself only mildly adventurous, this type of travel can work well for you. More importantly, the cost can be substantially less, making foreign travel a reality rather than just a distant dream.

The following is a list of twenty tips which can make independent travel easier, cheaper and safer.


1. Plan a circular itinerary, so you can fly into and out of the same major city.

2. Call the nearest tourist authority for the country you are planning to visit and ask for information. Most will send a large packet, great for planning and anticipation.

3. Photocopy pertinent guidebook pages, instead of carrying the entire books.

4. Choose either the highlights of several countries or cover one area in-depth. You can't do both unless you have months to travel.

5. Avoid June, July and especially August. Travel in late May or early September.

6. Independent travel requires lots of walking, so build-up during the months before the trip. Practice useful phrases as you stroll, such as "where is the bathroom?"

7. Change two hundred dollars into the currency of the city where you'll be landing.

8. Make the tourist information office your first stop in any city you visit. They usually have free maps and valuable advise.

9. Pack light-weight, inexpensive rain ponchos, as they are less cumbersome than umbrellas and cheaper to replace if lost.

10. Pack several sizes of clear baggies, for carrying maps on rainy days, or storing wet items in transit.

11. Find alternate means of carrying your valuables besides a shoulder bag. Shoulder bags are invitations to pick-pockets.

12. Allow extra time in your itinerary. Sightseeing will often require more time than you expect.

13. Bring a small notebook for jotting phone numbers and addresses. You can always draw pictures in it, if the language barrier poses a problem.

14. Purchase food and drinks before arriving at the train station, bus station or airport. Their prices are exorbitant.

15. Carry cosmetics in sample-size containers.

16. Use only one bag per person. Make it small enough to fit under your airline seat and you won't have to check any bags. Flexiable-sided bags work best. (Ladies don't scoff, this IS possible!).

17. Plan to wear slacks/shorts/skirts at least twice and hand wash items in the evening if absolutely necessary.

18. The ability to remain flexible is the key. You can't change your environment, but you can change yourself and your plans.

19. Save money on food by having a picnic once a day. Fruit, bread, cheese and wine are easy to find anywhere. Select a site in a park or by a lake.

20. Check out extended-stay tourist passes on subways, trains and city buses. They are economical and convenient.