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11 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Trip To Ghana

11 Things I Wish I had Known Before Visiting Ghana || #explore #ghana #africa

After 18 days in Ghana, I can happily say I’d love to make a trip back! The weather was heavenly, the people were beyond kind, and it was so affordable. BUT it would have gone a lot smoother if I had known these now-obvious tips. Every single issue I had was 100% preventable and now you can be sure the avoid the same mistakes I made. Overall, Ghana is way easier than the majority of places I have traveled to.

 

1. You must get your yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days prior to travel.

Get Your Yellowfever Shot- 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #explore

As I mentioned previously, I was unaware of this until after I had waited too long to get my vaccination. Luckily, the CDC or WHO states that the vaccination will be effective seven days prior to departure. So I went ahead to Ghana with a premature vaccination and got stopped at border patrol. I’ll go into detail a little later on the post, but just know that Ghana is quite known for “corruption” in the form of bribery. Unfortunately, I only had a $20 bill on me when I probably could have given a $5 bill and been completely safe.

2. Bribing happens everywhere.

Bribes Everywhere in Ghana - 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #explore

Ah yes. My first encounter with Ghana was literally bribing to get through the vaccination check. Police will try to get a bribe from cab drivers who do not keep their inspection stickers present. Even the president has been accused of (and struggles to deny) bribery during power. The only benefit to this applies to the airport, even though it’s probably wrong. The line for the ticketing counter was atrocious, but plenty of people popped over to the side with 10 or so cedis and skipped the whole line. To each his own.

3. There is no WIFI at the airport.

No Wifi in Airport - 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #explore

Make all of your accommodation plans ahead of time! When my ride got my flight time and local address wrong (oh yeah, it was reallll bad- after about 26 hours of traveling from California to Africa my ride showed almost two hours late!) I was held by border patrol until she showed up… An hour and a half after my flight had landed. There wasn’t wifi for me to simply look up hotel to provide another address to write down.

4. … Or really anywhere.

There isn't much wifi in Ghana #travel

Unlike Europe and other tourist friendly areas, Ghana has very limited public wifi. From my understanding, data is a little costly and most people use those little personal wifi boxes. After nearly three weeks I was ecstatic and baffled upon finding a café that provided free wifi. Of course, it didn’t actually work. Consider bringing an unlocked smart phone (check with your provider as to not break any contracts), buy a cheap smart phone upon arrival, or download one of these amazing map apps that work without service.

5. Expect to get told the “Obroni Rate” or as I call it, “Tourist Tax.”

Pay The Tourist Tax- 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #explore

Obroni, sounds like “oh-bro-knee”, is the word for foreigner and in particular, white person. Ah yes, the ole haggle with the cabbie task. There are a million and one taxis in Ghana, and Accra specifically. Of these, 9/10 will offer you an outrageous price on the first try. Before this can happen, ask a friend (or anyone standing near you, people are SO helpful) how much the price of the cab should be from point A to point B. No clue? Simply offer half of what the taxi offers and gage their reaction. Even if it’s a fair price, some will still pressure you to pay more. Just step back, say no thank you, and wait for another cab. If they drive away, you know you offered too little. If they wave you over, you now know your pricing. Note: Not to tell you what to do buuuut, consider what an extra 5 cedis is to compared to a taxi driver in Ghana. Let them know it’s not cool to price gauge, but throw in a tip.

 

 

6. Food is available 24/7 on nearly every road. 


People hawk for the majority of the day, everything from towels to USBs to puppies. After two weeks of crepes and eggs I got pretty invested in the street hawkers. Have to mention that some of them are children, and usually are hawking until they get enough to pay for their school fees. Call me a sinner but I’ll usually just through them a cedi or two and not take what they are selling. Generally I’ve been warned a million times to not give to child beggars and have heard horror stories of people “renting” babies and children to illicit sympathy only to keep the majority of the money for themselves and pennies for the parent (who may or may not use that to the child’s benefit). The best bet for that is to keep a pack of grapes, plantain chips, or other semi-healthy snack to give to the children.

 

 

7. The people are extremely friendly.


It took me a minute to understand that when someone gives me directions, they don’t want a tip. Generally while traveling, I have to constantly swipe away handsy men who think they will get some cash if they carry my suitcase a few blocks. The only time we had a situation like that was in Cape Coast where a guy basically just tried to ride around the cab with us giving us “advice” even though we knew where we were going. And we tried to tell him that. He didn’t even really ask for anything but I could tell he was hoping for it. Besides strangers, all our neighbors were chatty and one lovely lady would pop by the house to visit with us.

8. Using your left hand is considered rude. 

Use Your Right Hand In Ghana- 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #exploreEven though this applies to a large portion of the world, I still forgot until I messed up and someone corrected me. When greeting, there is this little handshake thing that involves snapping your fingers. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do it with your left! You’ll most likely get a tt-tt-tt noise and a disapproving headshake. This also includes when you’re exchanging money for goods. Sort of a pain in the ass, but when in Rome…

 

 

9. The food is spicy and CHEAP.


As someone who enjoys rice for breakfast and spices, I was in heaven for a few weeks. Usually a road-side stand would give me pork or chicken and yam chips (fries) for around 8-12 cedis or $2-$6. Expect grilled tilapia, chunks or pork, and seasoned grilled chicken. My favorite dish was the Goat Lite soup, which was sooo salty and usually a little spicy. No matter how much I loved watching the little goats jump around town, I didn’t think twice about ordering goat lite soup. Sorry kids 😉 (get it? Baby goats are called…)

10. Public transportation is extremely affordable (tro-tro!) but cramped and slow.


For under 1 cedi you can pretty much get anywhere in Accra. The photo was taken on one of my many tro-tro rides- notice the bagged water? You can get it pretty much anywhere. Circle is the rightfully named circular area where you can catch tro-tros around the city. Honestly don’t think there is an actual schedule or a way to figure out your path. Ask anyone in your path, and you can be certain you are headed in the right direction. It can be a little overwhelming for some people, so if you don’t want to be touched or talked to, just walk around with bitch-face and no one will mess with you.

 

 

10. Accra is a happenin’ town.


Like many capital cities, Accra has plenty to do. Being there less than a month still provided me with a huge book fair, arts + music festival, and the Homowu Festival. There is SO much to do! One of my favorite spots that I stumbled upon pretty briefly was the +233 Jazz Bar. When I popped by, a beautiful woman was singing so beautifully I almost teared up. And people were dancing everywhere! My kinda place 😉 We also made it out to Tea Bar, a really  hip little spot with phenomenal food. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had the BEST salad in the city. Best part? They have TIPSY tea. Oh yeah. Get the peach + rum.

 

 

11. You have to exchange to another currency if you have more than 500 Cedi upon departure. (That’s about $130.00)


As briefly mentioned, corruption is rampant in Ghana. The only thing that will happen to you is getting your money confiscated. Since it is a small amount of cash in the grand scheme of things, it can be easy to show up at the airport with too many cedis only to have them snatched. Don’t let it ruin your trip at the very end!

Have you ever been to Ghana? What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you on a trip?

Laughing to Keep From Crying: Kakum National Park in Ghana

Visiting Kakum National Park #travel #explore #africa

 

Okay, I’m being slightly hyperbolic here. I was totally fine swinging 100 feet up in the air. Not to mention, we were slipping all over the place thanks to the rain that had been steadily drizzling for a few hours. I peaked down to the distant land below and gulped. Kakum National Park was a first-time thrill for me. The bridge starts swaying. I clutched my go-pro arm and attempted to twist my head just enough to see the group behind me.  But there was no turning back… How did I get myself into this predicament?

 

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

We arrived at Kakum National Park by hopping on a tro-tro in Accra, and driving a little under two hours to Cape Coast! Then, we hopped on another tro-tro and headed straight for Kakum National Park. The streets were lined with goats of all sizes, as we quickly turned from semi-paved roads to full on swerving-left-and-right-and-more-left to avoid the massive potholes in the roads. Nevermind, our driver chuckled, and picked the speed up to 100 km/hr. As the person sitting next to the massive open window, I had to laugh to keep from thinking of popping out of the window and rolling down the hills. But don’t worry. I’m typing you today, so clearly, I’ve survived.

We came screeching along with a couple other dozen, maybe fifty people trickled up the entrance. Be warned, foreigners have a little bigger of a fee. Personally, I think that’s how it should be in every country- your right to your own national parks. But I did overhear other visitors complaining, so you’ve been forewarned. The park itself cost a mere 2 cedis to enter, but what you want is the canopy walk! It’s only an additional 50 cedis (little over 10 USD) for an exhilarating adventure.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

Most of us hadn’t eaten all day, other than some amazing road-side plantains, and by the time we arrived it was nearing 3:00 in the afternoon. At the same time, it was starting to drizzle. Probably not safe to do the canopy walk while it’s wet and on an empty stomach. Simply unsafe, to me. *Rubs empty belly* Just to our luck, there was a perfect little open-air restaurant INSIDE of the national park. And they sold CLUB BEER. I sat my happy little ass down and order my favorite Ghanian dish- Goat Lite Soup and rice. Disclaimer- do not order the pizza! All my pals tried to get pizza and it was quite similar to the elementary public school plastic excuse for dining. Save yourself and order something local!

If you can manage, you should try to get there early to avoid the last minute rush. To make it easier, I let the pushers push up ahead, and our group hung out by the back. That way, we didn’t have to feel rushed. Once you get going, you can’t really turn back. This proved to be a little intense for some people, children and grown-ass men included. There were tears. Prayers. Cries and whimpers.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

But it was absolutely beautiful!

The air was refreshing, the trees were a million shades of emerald and green. Birds fluttered about, singing to each other. Did you know there are over 250 species of bird in Kakum? I didn’t either until I visited. Honestly, the rain made it a little more surreal. The canopy was just long enough to enjoy it, without feeling like you need to do it again.

 

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

 

After the canopy, you can walk through the park and explore the different species. Most animals will be hiding by noon, so get in early if you want to see any elephants!

There is even an option to SPEND THE NIGHT on the canopy walk! Bring a mosquito net and proper shoes though, you have to be there early for this option.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

Overall, Kakum National Park was a great day trip and I highly recommend it. Nothing is better than fresh air and friends! Have you ever heard of the park or been on a canopy walk?

18 Ways To Stay Safe While Traveling (And Still Have a Kick-Ass Time!)

How To Stay Safe While Traveling and Still Have a Kick-Ass Time #travel #explore #wanderlust

“Aren’t you scared?”

How many times have you been asked that same question about your travels? I know some people get annoyed when their parents or loved ones try to deter them from exploring out of fear. Maybe they aren’t worried. The truth is, I can get quite scared when I travel, which is one of the reasons I do it. One way I avoid soul-crushing anxiety is by keeping myself prepared for the worst and being (slightly) vigilant. I’ve written briefly about the time these tour guides were trying to separate my friend and I in Thailand. Not saying I’m perfect, but I’ve definitely picked up a thing or two. As we say at my Alma Mater, “It ain’t my first rodeo.” Okay, they might say that elsewhere, but I can only speak to what I know.

The point is…

Over 98% of my travels have been perfectly safe, and plenty of explorers never have a bad experience. 

But there are some tips and tricks to the trade! This isn’t going a post regarding potential scams around the world, but rather specific concepts that come in handy when you’re alone or in an unfamiliar area. Having a wild trip doesn’t mean you have to get hurt or in trouble. Don’t get anything stolen, don’t end up in a hospital, and don’t get arrested. 

In Ghana, a group of us (five North Americans under 30) were hanging out in Cape Coast a little late at night. It was the night before President Mahama was to speak in the city, and the drumming ban was lifted. Down the street, people were partying like crazy and we wanted to join! Before we even got within 50 feet of the festivities, multiple children told us we should leave before we get robbed. Having lived in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, I knew better than to be hanging around in an area after I’m told not to. My best buddy on the trip, K, has also lived outside of D.C., and gave me the look. So, after collecting the valuables from one of our group mates, we started walking back to the hotel.

The difference between 7 p.m. in Cape Coast and 10:30 p.m. is vastly differently. People were smoking the ganja everywhere and believe me, I would’ve gladly joined if I hadn’t already been warned that pretty much only the legitimate gangstas smoke weed in parts of Ghana. Gun-toting, people snatching gangstas. And college kids at the University of Ghana.  And as soon as we pass the group, for the first time in my travels, someone grabbed my arm hard. I ripped my arm away and screamed, “NO TOUCHING! ANY OF YOU!” like a crazy lady. And continued to walk down the middle of the road. Because that’s how you keep people from f’king with you when y’all don’t have cash for a cab and have a mile until the hotel.

Within 15 minutes of us getting to the hotel, our group came back. They had been robbed.

Before You Arrive

Map Out the Embassy

Even if you aren’t visiting a capital city, you should consider finding the address of the embassy as well as the phone number. If your passport gets stolen and you don’t speak the local language, having the embassy number will be a major time-saver.

How To Safe While Traveling = Map Out Embassy

Read The News

With the internet giving us everything we need to know at the touch of a fingertip, it’s easy to stay up to date on local politics. Some things to be wary of are: protests, elections, important speakers, royalty’s birthdays, national holidays. You can still enjoy these aspects of travel, but from a well-informed distance.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Read The News #wanderlust #explore #tips

Get the Recommended Medicines

Getting yellowfever is no joke, not to mention they usually won’t even let you inside certain countries without the vaccine. Malaria medication is recommended to start prior to a trip and waiting to contract the disease will really give you something to bitch about.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Get Vaccinations

International Health Insurance

Just do it. My last policy was about $16.00 for a month of travel. Especially if you’re heading to a part of the world you’ve never been before, health insurance is a necessity. Something as simple as brushing your teeth with tainted water can put you in a hospital. Going somewhere with limited healthcare? Be sure to sign up for a contract that allows air-evacuation.

Sorry First Class, The Safest Seats Are In The Back

The chances of your plane going down are slim to none, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take extra precaution for that slim chance! Luckily, most airlines let you choose your seat before you arrive at the airport. Check out seat guru to ensure your seat isn’t too far from an exit window.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Sit In The Back #explore #tips

During Your Travels

Sit By a Window On Public Transport

Not only will you be able to take in the views, you’ll be more mobile than if you were squished in-between people. Being able to remove yourself from a tro-tro/tuk-tuk accident is a matter of life or death. Not having any luck finding one? Feign like you have motion sickness that will only be cured by watching out the window (LOL- I hate myself a little for this advice, but sheet we all gotta do what we all gotta do) and surely someone will remove themselves for you.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Sit By A Window On Public Transportation #tips

Keep Important Info Available

Your phone WILL eventually die. Even with those little battery packs, I’ve gotten stuck for 6-12 hours without my phone + notes +emails + maps. Write down on paper, yes REAL authentic paper, the address of your hotel and the number to get directions.

Stay Safe While Traveling - Write Important Info Down

Let Your People Know Exactly Where You Are

This is a pain in the ass, I know. But sending updates, multiple times a day, will be essentially to getting you safe if anything bad happens. And with all the options we have- call, Facetime, email, whatsapp, etc., there’s no excuse! Not only major destinations, but any national parks or day trips. Be sure to give clear, specific details and names of any person that joins you during your travels.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Keep In Touch #traveltips

Take Photos of Your Cab Drivers Info

Unfortunately, there have been incidents of fake taxis kidnapping or assaulting innocent passengers. Let ’em know you aren’t playing games by snapping a photo of what they are legally required to display. Anytime someone gets flustered, get a new ride. There are always plenty around.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Taxi Rules #explore #tips

Don’t Split Up!

LADIES- we all have urges that might feel uncontrollable, especially while on a grand adventure, but don’t leave your friends for the D! Showing up at an unknown location for a temporary romp is not only a serious safety hazard, but you could get lost trying to get back. If he/she wants you that bad, they can find a nice private hostel room near by (sorry mum).

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Stay Together

Listen to the Locals

If you are told that you are probably going to get robbed, you should leave. If you “have a feeling” you aren’t welcome there, you should leave. Your life is not worth a few Instagram pics to prove you did something wild!

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Listen to The Locals #explore #tips

“Lock” Your Door With A Door Stop Or A Chair

fF you aren’t expecting anyone during the night, take a little extra precaution and pack a door stop. Already traveling? Grab a chair (usually will have one in your hotel room and if in hostel, check the lobby) and nuzzle it under the door handle.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Lock Your Door

Walk Where You Will Be Seen By Most At Night

Realistically, if someone is planning on doing something sketchy, they will have seen you WAY before you see them. Hiding on the side-walk right next to alleyways is just silly. Walk in the middle of the road (until a car comes!) and assert your dominance.

how to stay safe while traveling - walk where you will be seen #travel #explore

Stagger-Walk in Groups

If it’s you and two friends walking down a dark street at night, consider staggering a few feet away from each other. No one needs to know who is on your side and who isn’t. Avoid huddling up and appearing small. When worse comes to worst, at least one of you will be able to scramble away to get help or swoop in to save the day.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Stagger Walk In Groups #travel #tips

If It’s About To Go Down…

Consider Your Defenses

Unless you’ve been trained to specifically defend yourself, chances are a man twice your size will probably be able to over-take you. Nail scissors are small but helpful in bus situations. My favorite weapon? My Go-Pro stick with Go-Pro attached. I’ll whack a mofo if I have to.
How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Consider Your Defenses #traveltips #explore

Act Batshit Crazy

No joke. Just start screaming and thrashing about. Not many people feel like dealing with a mentally unstable person, let alone one who seems to be expressing their illness. Throw in a little spittle at the mouth, just in case. I’ve used this while walking home alone in major U.S. cities and I have (yet) to be messed with.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Act Crazy #travel #explore

Play Possum

Okay just to verify, playing dead with bears only works in certain situations, like a mother protecting her young. I’m referring to dealing with an active shooter situation. Not a fan of sensationalizing tragedies so I won’t point to any specific events, but playing dead in a violent situation like a mass shooting isn’t a bad idea. While the first movement is ideally physically removing yourself, it’s always necessary to have a back-up plan in you get trapped.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Play Possum #traveltips #explore

Trust Your Instincts

There’s a good chance if you’re a traveler and you’re in a violent situation, you won’t be speaking the language of the perpetrator(s). Any time a group starts to gather, be aware of the aura of attitude. Just because you don’t understand what’s being said doesn’t mean you can’t figure out what’s going on. That physically draining gnawing at the gut you get? Listen to it.

How To Stay Safe While Traveling - Trust Your Instincts #travel #explore

Overall, use that lovely little brain you have and enjoy yourself. Hope this helps!

Is Ghana Safe For Tourists?

Is Ghana Safe For Travelers? || a tipsy gypsy life #travel #Ghana #Africa…was something I tried to Google before deciding if I was going to make the trip or not. I didn’t know “diddly-squat,” as they say down south, about the country. In fact, I really wasn’t even certain if it was in West Africa or southern Africa elsewhere. There wasn’t much information on the matter and I truly feel it is my obligation to let everyone know the answer to such a pressing question.

Is Ghana safe for tourists?

Yes. Si. Oui. Ja. Can’t think of any other languages so I’ll give a hell yes!

Seriously. You can walk around at 2 a.m. with no streetlights, and not be scared. If you look even remotely distraught, someone will happily figure out how to cure your sadness. Lost? No such thing! Everyone helps each other out.

Ghana has been the only place that I’ve visited and I didn’t feel the need to take a photo of each cab that I hopped into. Any time someone asked for my number, I knew that they wouldn’t harass me. Men don’t whistle at you or try to grab your tush as you walk by.

If you’re uncomfortable with how fast the taxi or tro tro is going just speak up. The nicest aspect was not being made to feel silly when I admitted I was a little scared of going to Ghana all alone.

The Worst Thing That Happened to Me In Ghana Was 100% Preventable…

When I arrived at the airport and tried to go through immigration, the officer realized the address I was given was not a real address. No worries! I have a phone number for the host.

*Le Ring- BEEP BEEP BEEP. WE’RE SORRY, BUT THE PERSON YOU’RE TRYNG-*

I shuffle my papers around with the copy of my yellow fever card (which I did end up having to bribe my way in), address and contact info of my host, and New Lens Travel info, and try to act like I don’t notice how concerned the guard is getting. “One moment, miss.”

*Le Ring- BEEP BEEP BEEP. WE’RE SORRY, BUT THE PERSON YOU’RE TRYNG-*

They knew it was my first time in Ghana and that I was meeting with someone I had met online (yes, really). No worries, I thought, my girl is probably waiting for me outside. 

I let them know that I had someone waiting for me, probably worried since I had gotten held up at the vaccination area for 15 minutes and then another 10 at the immigration place. They happily supplied someone to walk me outside to help me check out where people gather to pick up their visitors. My girl, we shall call her J-Baby, was no where to be found. WEIRD. “She’s got to be here!” I swear.

They shoot each other worried glances.

Don’t forget, I had been traveling for about 30 hours without a shower or so much as a nap. Running into J-Baby’s arms and being whisked to a shower was all I had been fantasizing about for days. But she wasn’t there!

*Shivers nervously as the last passengers in the last flight in for the night waltz past me and lights start turning off*

SHE HAS GOT TO BE HERE! I start twitching. Stinky, sad, and downright HUNGRY, I prayed she would arrive.

20 minutes pass by. Now my concerned immigration crew has grown from one grown-ass man to four grown-ass men and one woman. We continue to search the building while the officers try to look her up on Facebook to contact her.

SHIIIIIT. What if everyone has been right my whole life? What if leaping before I look will ultimately lead to my demise?! What if this was a plot to get me kidnapped at ransomed?!

By now, I’m starting to cry, and whimper, and drop the “f-bomb” enough to make all my angels shake their heads in heaven. Please, I beg. please just let me see her little beautiful face.

Over two hours later, I friggin hate myself for making these wonderful people stay late. I beg to just let me go to a hotel, but they were genuinely concerned for my safety. That amazed me. One last time, I say, we shall check outside.

And of course, there she was, a little frantic because I was surrounded by guards.

What was the issue? She had gotten my flight time wrong. If I had been anywhere else, I would’ve been rejected OR had to deal with sleeping at the airport.


Overall, my biggest advice is to simply trust your gut and listen to the locals. I’ll write soon about my friend getting robbed in Cape Coast and how that was also 100% preventable. 

Remember people, fear is the thief of dreams!

Confession Time: 9 Dumbass Mistakes I’ve Made While Traveling

Confession Time: 9 Dumb-Ass Mistakes I've Made While Traveling #explore #travel || a tipsy gypsy life

What do your friends love about you? Throughout life, I have generally been commended for two things. First, being non-judgemental (usually…). Second, not giving a shit. Generally, these two characteristics benefit me in addition to everyone around me. Yet, there are times it seems as though the laissez-faire attitude bites me in the ass. As they say, one man’s trash in another man’s treasure, so I share these moments that I should be slight embarrassed by in order to prevent you from doing the same damn thing.

1. Not Getting Vaccinations In Time

Well, I’ll actually have to update y’all on this one, since I’m currently on my flight to Ghana as I type. Going on this trip was pretty last minute; I was informed of the opportunity about a month before my flight. Which is today. Of course I knew I’d need a vaccine. I’m not an idiot!… But I am. Apparently you need to get the yellow fever vaccine 10 days prior to arrival or it’s not valid. My options were buying a new ticket for a week later or just showing up, feigning dumb, and offering a bribe.

We’ll see how it goes in 12 hours. 

Don't Make These Rookie Travel Mistakes! #exploremore #travel || a tipsy gypsy life

2. Showing Up At The Airport, Only To Discover I Didn’t Have a Ticket. Twice.

No shit, my heart belongs to Southwest Airlines! One particular trip to my parent’s house in Florida, as a sophomore in college, I had spent a little too much time at my parent’s house. (I’m sure they felt the same way LOL. Love y’all!)  So I hastily booked an unbelievably (this is called foreshadowing, and it works in real life too 😂) cheap flight from Tampa to New Orleans. The next day, I waltz up to the southwest sky hub, enjoying the pleasant breeze, ready for gumbo and grits. “Confirmation number?” “Blahblahblah” *SHIT-EATING GRIN* “Hm… It looks like we don’t have a flight for you today Ms. Huntley. But you do have one next Thursday.”

What. The. Fuck. As my momma says, “They don’t call it dope for no reason.” How baked was I when I booked the flight?!

In my defense, it WAS summer break.

That pleasant breeze that brought me in quickly turned in whirlwind of teenaged fury as I fought back tears imagining another week without smoking bowls in my bed, cupcakes for breakfast, and getting ratchet at the world famous Tiger Land of LSU. Before I had the chance to calculate the cost of a new flight, or burst into tears, the Southwest angel says, “Oh, but don’t worry honey. I can get you on today’s flight, free of charge.”

My story ended wonderfully. Another airline, another day, could be a much different outcome! Double check that ish before you pay. Boss Bitch Tip: In the USA, you legally have 24 hours after purchase to cancel your flight free of charge.

But wait, there’s more! 

 The second time I made this mistake was during my incident with Stockholm Syndrome, (which I actually haven’t written about… Another story for another time…). After a few sober, costly, but memorable days in Stockholm, Paulius and I decided it was time to head for warmer weather.  One morning, after checking Skyscanner, we settled on an unbelievably cheap (are we seeing a pattern yet?) ticket from Stockholm to Paris THAT NIGHT on the last flight out of Stockholm.

Giddy as can be, we roamed around the city all day, and dreamed of macrons and bubbly under the Eiffel Tower. Slightly buzzed, we hop on the Arlanda Tram (swear to G, the name is burnt into my memory), and arrive with over 100 lbs of luggage ready to take on the most romantic city in the world. As we get to the reservations desk, we’re informed there is NO reservation under our confirmation number. They say there are no more tickets. Since it was the last flight, we had to lick our wounds and take the tram ALL the way back into town. When I get wifi, I check my spam folder in my email and there it was, the cancelled reservation. 

Apparently, SkySkanner.com had let me book the tickets, even though there were none available. Be wary of 3rd party airline reservations and ALWAYS double check your spam for important information!

check your spam before you head to the airport || Don't make these travel mistakes! #explore #travel

 

3. Getting My Passport Snatched (and then returned)

I’ve written about this story in full, right here. But, in a nutshell, this is what happened. My last night in Rome with my best frand started out with over a dozen (no liee) tequila shots and ended with me verbally threatening the Roman Polizia in Spanish. Proudest moment? Nah. Lowest moment? Not even close.

Why one tipsy gypsy WON'T drink before international flights anymore... #wanderlust #travel #confession

4. Overpacking in Europe (sorry babe).

After my first tour in Europe, (uh, yeah, we do consider it a tour-Tour de Survival) I swore up and down I would NOT over-pack. Fast-forward to 2014. It was during our honeymoon-even-though-we-are-not-married extravaganza. I thought I was being helpful by packing a carry-on sized suitcase. Key word, thought. Unfortunately, this “carry-on size” was just a ploy created by T.J. Maxx, and my suitcase rang in at 60 lbs at the airport.

Sorry, babe.

In my defense (another familiar tale in this girl’s world) I didn’t expect him to carry it. The whole time. You might be thinking, “Bitch, get a suitcase with wheels.” And my response is, “Bitch, have you ever been to Europe?!” Stairs. Bricks. Cobblestone. Brick bridges. Elevators- HA! Jokes.

It’s not my fault I have a man’s man. Watching him lug my shit up as many as 10 flights of stairs in the Mediterranean summer was painful. But carrying it would be much worst. Boss bitch tip: never bring more than a carry-on. You can buy what you need when you get there.

 Don't Make These Rookie Mistakes: Overpacking for Europe #travel #explore

 

 

5. Getting A Terrible Airbnb Rating.

FML. This is a little bit embarrassing because I’m generally pretty aware of when I’m being offensive. Which feels like all the time BUT ANYWAYS….

Our first AirBnB rating was, no joke, 2 stars. WHATTHEFACK. But we didn’t steal anything! But we didn’t defecate in the bed! But-but-but-buttttttt- we totally deserved it. 

What did we do wrong? A few things.

  1. We showed up late. In my defense (I gotta get over defending myself, huh?) we thought we’d be arriving much earlier, but I ended up having to check my bag on the last leg of my flight. She had been waiting for over an hour.
  2. We slept in both beds. When we rented the room, it was listed as a 3-bed place. I was a little surprised to find out that the renter locked off one of the bedrooms, while the other two were out in the open studio. So we *ahem* rendezvoused in the two open beds. In retrospect, it would probably be ideal to only mess up one bed for the owner to clean up after.
  3. We didn’t give a proper cleaningIn all honesty, I can’t tell you how the apartment was left. We had a 6 a.m. flight after four days of partying in AMSTERDAM. Did we throw away food? Yes. Did we wipe down the counters? Probably not. Assholes. 

My advice? Treat it like you would a good friends place. Not a best friend though, that will lead to low ratings, as I have mentioned.

Don't make these rookie travel mistakes #explore #wanderlust

6. Almost Getting Arrested in Chicago.

Whether it’s at age 14 or 41, I can pretty much guarantee you will smoke de herbs at least once in your life. Heed my advice on this one- just because it’s permitted, doesn’t mean it’s welcome! Case in point, Chicago, New Year’s Eve, age 22.

The funniest part of the whole story is the last thing my mum said to me before I got on the flight, “Be nice and don’t get arrested!”

It was myself, three bad bitches, and one boyfriend. As we prepare for the night out in our GORGEOUS 3-bedroom suite, it came as a group necessity to smoke a blunt. It’s decriminalized in Chicago. We’ll be totally fine, right? WRONG.

About 3/4 through the blunt, an alarming *BANG BANG BANG* came from the door. Mind you, not only are we almost a blunt deep, we had been slamming whiskey since about 8 a.m that morning. So I really don’t think much of it when I peak over my shoulder and notice it’s a hotel worker. We’ll put it out- no big deal, right?

WRONG

Less than a minute after we say goodbye to the hotel employee, a much more furious BANGBANGBANGBANG followed by, “Chicago PD, OPEN UP!” FuckersssssWe scramble, trying to flush what we can down the toilet. BANGBANGBANGBANG as the last of the adderal swirls down the porcelain teammate.

WHOOSH! A few cops swarm in, screaming, “What else do you have up here?!” (umm, nothing, it’s swirling down the pipes of Chicago). We all stood by, jaws on the floor, as they proceeded to flip all of our beds over and search the room.

Finally, being the brilliant lawyer I am *eye-roll*, I say, “Isn’t weed decriminalized here?”

I’ll spare you the exasperated response from the cop, but one very good point she (Yes, she. Ms. Officer, Ms. Officer, know ya wish ya name was Mizzus Carter, huh?) made was the fact that we were NOT on our own private property. What we didn’t realize was that the hotel was so old that while we were sitting on the central A/C unit blowing down, the weed smoke was wafting into every single hotel on our floor. She recommended we use some type of perfume from then on out.

We didn’t get arrested. But I did get a $250 charge for smoking in the room.

Don't Make These Rookie Travel Mistakes: Almost Getting Arrested in Chicago || a tipsy gypsy life

7. The Time I Should’ve Gotten Kicked Out of a Hostel With April

One theme that runs rampant at A Tipsy Gypsy Life is traveling without expectations. For example, we didn’t expect the city of Venice to shut down at 8 p.m. We didn’t expect the markets to close as well. We definitely didn’t expect to down two bottles of vino rioja each without anything in our stomachs.

The third to last thing I remember was April facetiming her dad, YES HER FKING FATHER, and his response being, “You seem a little sick. You should probably go to bed.” Translated, “Bitch, you wasted. Have some dignity and sleep it off.”

But we didn’t.

The second to last thing I recall is April hanging out of our 4th floor hostel window, titties out, screaming for attention. Literally shirtless, torso out of the window, shaking them money-makers. Mind you, this girl doesn’t even flash during Mardi Gras. It was a shit-show.

The last thing I remember is April and I showing two girls from Wisconsin how to catch the wall, also known as “Express Yourself.”  Yeah. Exactly. Oh, don’t know what that is? It’s essentially doing a handstand against the wall whilst simultaneously thrusting about. It’s wayyy cooler than it sounds. Or is it? You tell me! 

What happened between these three memories is a mixture of accidentally blurry recollections and repression. It ended with both of the beds in our private room getting broken, toe smudges on the wall, and an argument with a hateful Yankee. Very glad HostelWorld doesn’t have user ratings.

 Don't Make These Rookie Travel Mistakes #hostel #explore #travel

8. Walked Out On a Check… Or We Were Robbed. 

A true friend is one who never ever ever makes you drink alone, right? April is that friend. And Rome is one of those charming towns that calls for red wine all damn day. By 3 in the afternoon, you are expected to be a little buzzed. Ever the over-achievers, April and I were SLAMMED long before then on a fateful June afternoon. We were laughing, doing lemon shots, swimming in pasta for what seemed like hours.

Honestly, I have no idea WTF happened, but this is what I remember.

  • I excuse myself to the bathroom located downstairs.
  • I walk back upstairs.
  • April is gone. In Rome.
  • I frantically run out of the restaurant.
  • THANK GOD I spot her about 10 yards down the road, sitting on the corner, with three men standing over her.
  • I SPRINT over to her, thinking something is wrong.
  • These three men claim they are from the restaurant and we didn’t pay.
  • April is SWEARING up and down that she left the Euros on the table.
  • If there is one thing this girl doesn’t do, it’s be cheap. There is no WAY in hell she would’ve intentionally dined and dashed. Or me!
  • We didn’t speak Italian, and they didn’t speak English.
  • We screamed at each other until a crowd gathered.
  • Broke down and paid them (possibly an additional) 40 euros.

Truly, I pray that I was actually right, because I was LIVID over this. May or may not have been making a scene claiming that my military family would swoop down and MAKE THEM PAY FOR THEIR TOM FOOLERY. Lolz. Hopefully I never accidentally stumble into that restaurant again.

don't make these travel mistakes || a tipsy gypsy life #explore #travel

9. We Went To The Wrong Airport.

Flash back to July 2015. My main squeeze, referred to as Titty, (yes, that is her nickname derived from the original nickname TT) and I were about to leave Bangkok for an easy, simple flight to Chiang Mai, right?

Wrong.

We squeeze into the cab, an hour and 30 minutes before departure. We should arrive just-in-time, about 35 minutes before. Well, well, well, we actually got there 35 minutes until take off, pure brilliance. Titty has all of her belongings in tow. Seriously. She sold all of what she could, kept what she couldn’t live without, and traveled the world. Read all of her adventures right here.

We scan the departure board.

Weird. Don’t see ours up there. Maybe we got it wrong.

Weird. They don’t even HAVE flights to Chiang Mai with AirAsia today.

FACK.

Titty whips her little beautiful head around, and screeches, “We’re at the wrong airport!” 

It’s on like Donkey Kong, the massive comeback of plastic choker necklaces (didn’t ya’ll have those as kids?!), and everything else in-between. We made it on time, after paying a cabby nearly double fare to allegedly speed through the speedlight tickets. I’ve gone into a little detail here on the matter.  We ended up making our flight, drenched in sweat and broke as a joke. 

Boss Bitch Tip: Always double check the airport location. Totally worth it. 

Don't Make These Rookie Travel Mistakes: Showing Up At The Wrong Airport #travel #explore

Honestly, I’m sure there are more hidden deep in my repressed memory. But now it’s your turn! What’s the biggest rookie mistake you have made while traveling?