The French, rude? Don’t believe the hype. Photo: Alamy
I’m not sure how these things start. Maybe someone writes a newspaper story, or a blog post, or just tells a few tales to their friends, and these things gain a life of their own, they become perceived wisdom, they morph from story into fact.
You just know them, now, to be true: you should pack light when you travel; you should fly to your destination; you should dress smart to get an upgrade; you should shop at duty free; you should pre-book your hotel.
However, the travel world isn’t always what it seems. Regardless of how these things start, there are certain myths out there that are absolutely not true.
- 1 Planes are the fastest way to travel
- 2 Buses are the cheapest way to travel
- 3 You should always travel light
- 4 You can get by with English
- 5 The French are rude
- 6 Budget airlines are terrible
- 7 You can get an upgrade
- 8 Europe is expensive; South America is cheap
- 9 Uber and Airbnb aren’t safe
- 10 Duty-free is really cheap
- 11 Last-minute bookings are expensive
- 12 You can beat jet-lag
Planes are the fastest way to travel
Obviously, right? These things go almost 1000km/h – there’s nothing at ground level that can beat that. However, in Europe particularly, you need to look a little closer. Let’s say your flight time is an hour. First though, you need to get to the airport from the middle of the city. Then you need to be there a few hours before your flight. Then you need to get from the next airport into the next city. You’re looking at probably five-to-six hours of travel for a one-hour flight. There’s every chance an intercity train will be faster.
See also: The places where high-speed trains are beating planes
Buses are the cheapest way to travel
Again, this seems obvious. Buses are pretty much the least comfortable and slowest way to travel anywhere in the world, so they’ll also be the most affordable. But that’s not necessarily the case. In Australia, in south-east Asia, and even in Europe, flights with budget air carriers can be incredibly cheap if you book at the right moment. That way you’ll save on travel time, and maybe even save a few dollars.
You should always travel light
It’s a lot better for the environment if you can travel light. The fewer things you carry, the less fuel is burnt. However, if that’s not a big priority for you, then there’s really no need to go crazy over packing as little as possible. Most international airlines will give you 20 or 23kg of luggage. Most bags have wheels and rarely need to be carried. If you aren’t going to be moving around a lot, just take whatever you need.
You can get by with English
In the main tourist hubs of most countries, this is true. If people speak a second language, it will most probably be English. And people will. However, in many parts of the world once you get off the beaten tourist path, once you’re out of the cities and into the rural areas, you’ll find that English is pretty well useless. Time to brush up on that local language.
The French are rude
This entry is actually about all of those tired old stereotypes – the whinging Poms, the uptight Germans, the rude French. Every now and then you will find someone who fits the bill, and it will be hilarious, and it will affirm all of your beliefs. But it’s a rare thing. If you really pay close attention you’ll find all of these national stereotypes are ridiculous, and usually untrue.
Budget airlines are terrible
It depends on the airline. Some of them are, indeed, terrible. I’ve had bad experiences on Tigerair in Australia, and Ryanair in the UK, and many more. However, there are budget airlines out there that do a great job. Southwest Airlines in the US, AirAsia X in Asia, Vueling in Europe – I’ve never had a problem with any of them. Flying budget can be a great experience, as long as you set your expectations accordingly.
See also: Budget airlines have one job, so stop whingeing about them
You can get an upgrade
Just turn up to the airport looking smart and business-like, right? Get there early; be polite to the check-in staff; flirt outrageously if you have to. Do all of that, and you’re a good chance of scoring an upgrade. Except, you’re not. None of these things actually works. About your only genuine chance of being upgraded on your flight is to be a gold or platinum frequent flyer, or to know someone at the airline. Or, of course, to pay for it.
See also: Five ways to get an upgrade on your next flight
Europe is expensive; South America is cheap
This really depends on where you go in these continents. If you hang out in Scandinavia or the UK, then yes, Europe will be expensive. And if you confine yourself to Bolivia and Argentina, then yes, South America will be cheap. But now change things up. Travel to southern Spain and Italy, or even parts of France and Germany, and you’ll discover that Europe can be extremely affordable. Conversely, if you spend a lot of time in Brazil, your finances will quickly dwindle.
Uber and Airbnb aren’t safe
This is new technology, which people are generally wary of, and there are also the inevitable horror stories that get a lot of press. However, when travellers utilise the sharing economy, they’re given a large safety net. With Uber, you get a photo of your driver, and a permanent record of your journey with that driver; you can track where you are at all times, and there’s no cash to be paid. Taxis can’t do that. With Airbnb, there’s a review system, photos are verified (unlike hotel brochures), hosts are vetted, and you (usually) have the backing of a major company if anything goes wrong.
See also: The ultimate guide to using Airbnb
Duty-free is really cheap
If you’re buying alcohol – though only spirits – you’ll save a reasonable amount of money at an airport duty-free store. Though probably not as much as you think. For everything else, though the duty may be dropped, the price you pay in an airport is really not that different to shopping at home.
Last-minute bookings are expensive
Leaving hotel or transport bookings until the last minute is generally not a great idea. However, with plenty of websites selling off hotel rooms and even flight and train tickets for a discounted price if you book only a few days before you need them, you’ll be surprised at the deals you can get.
You can beat jet-lag
It would be nice to think that there was some sort of universally reliable cure for jet-lag. However, even if you follow all of the advice, if you stay hydrated and don’t eat too much, if you time your sleep to line up with your destination, if you stay off the booze and exercise when you land – even if you do all of that, sometimes, you will get jet-lag. Sorry.