The Mystery Tour – Dirty Cash

Dirty Cash

Throughout my travels I have picked up lots of tips and good advice, as well as some bad advice. I have overspent, under planned and been sucked into scams. So here’s how you can travel with less hassle. What follows is tips and tricks I have learnt from my recent journey visiting Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

It’s important to have your wits about you when traveling although you don’t want to focus on all the possible things that can go wrong because it would spoil your adventure. Sometimes you have to go with the flow but knowing a few things can make it more enjoyable.

Do not buy bottled water from street vendors, it most likely won’t be the first time that the bottle has been used. In Asia I witnessed people collecting used water bottles from the side of the road, washing them and filling them with tap water. Only to refrigerate them and sell them to unsuspecting tourists.

Always carry some hand sanitiser and use it often because the money you are handling is filthy. When in Tunisia I discovered that lots of tourist get upset stomachs and a doctor told me it’s because they handle the local currency incorrectly. Cash from all over the world is filthy and covered in bacteria, in some countries you use your hand instead of toilet paper.

Use a money belt as deep storage and only have in your pocket what you are willing to lose. Train stations, markets or anywhere there’s crowds there will be pick pockets. Take all the necessary precautions to avoid losing your money.

Be mindful of cash machines (ATM’s). I usually get cash from an ATM before leaving the airport, I will watch, from a distance others use the machine and then take out my spending money. If I do need cash whilst in a town I always go to a bank and use their machine. That way if my card gets eaten I can go and speak to someone to sort it out. Always withdraw and be charged in local currency as your bank will then give you the best exchange rate.

Consider a prepaid debit card but ensure it is Visa / Mastercard and has your name printed on it. In some countries you have to present I.D and it must match the card.

Ask your bank for an extra debit / credit card just in case an ATM eats one, you have one spare.

Pay with the correct change! We are so used to not counting our change that in a lot of countries it’s standard to short change you.

I’m 52 single and love travel but I know if a beautiful women comes to chat with me the likelihood of me being that attractive is slim. Expect a scam to follow, be polite as she is usually accompanied, make your excuses and leave.

Never leave a drink unattended as it’s a great way to get robbed. Drinks are easily spiked and you may well wake up in the bar or cafe and wonder where all your valuables have gone.

When traveling alone do not wander at night in an unknown part of town, unless you specifically know it’s safe or you have Jack Reacher’s skills.

In addition to the one above, never leap over a wall or fence. In Fuerteventura I had to organise a search for a customer’s husband who had gone missing. It turned out he jumped over a 4ft wall at night thinking it was a shortcut back to the hotel. The wall was over 50ft the other side, he broke both his legs and was there all night before the police found him in the morning.

Tie your backpack zip toggles together or wear your backpack on your front, when in busy markets, train stations and anywhere with crowds. It’s really really easy to open a backpack without you noticing when it’s on your back.

Avoid having your DSLR camera on its strap over your shoulder, it takes less than a second to remove your lens without your knowledge and the thief can disappear into the crowd before you notice.

Use Apps like Uber, Grab, Gojek and Rome2Rio to find out the price of a taxi before bartering with a taxi driver. If you don’t the driver will always win as it’s their career, just like you know stuff that others don’t a taxi driver knows how to make money. It still amazes me that if a driver was honest and provided a good service, I would tip them anyway and be happy about it.

Avoid taxis at airport, railway stations and bus stations, theses drivers usually make a lot from stressed tourist. Wait until the crowds have gone and if possible walk a few streets away. If there are no taxi’s visible ask a local or shop keeper to call you one. Again there are some excellent apps Uber, Grab, Gojek, Rome2Rio where you can book a car or bike and know the price in advance.

In general lock the door and keep the windows up when in a taxi. In some countries there are touts at traffic lights and it’s easy for them to grab a bag and disappear before you get out of the car.

The quickest way to get any driver to slow down or drive modestly is to tell them you feel sick, no one wants puke in their car.

Again this goes with the above or with any bartering situation, you may have to Google this or look on YouTube as it’s a bit long winded to explain. Always, always, always start the bidding, the technique is called anchoring and it’s extremely powerful. Don’t bid in whole numbers. I’ll give you 100 means the bidding goes in multiples of 100, I’ll give you 95 bidding can then go up in 5’s. That’s why cars sell for odd prices 6995 rather than 7000 because you’ll get less discount. Google, anchoring psychology.

Most places in Asia you remove your footwear before entering a building or religious venue. Be prepared, most travelers have flip flops which makes this easy, if in doubt ask.

Book a flight which arrives at your destination in the early hours and then get a few hours sleep at the airport. It saves a fortune on accommodation, I carry a ¾ inflatable camping mat and spent 19hrs in Krabi airport, 36hrs in Kuala Lumpur airport and 7hrs in Bali airport.

Take an empty water bottle through security as there are usually drinking fountains in departure lounges.

Ensure your hand luggage fits easily under your seat and avoid the stampede, just get on and off the aircraft last. It amazes me why people unbuckle and stand for ages before the aircraft door is even opened to only then spend ages waiting at the luggage belt!

A recent trick I learnt and tried and to my surprise it worked a treat. Just before checking in for a flight go online and change your seat to either an empty row or one with an empty seat next to you. I did this recently on an Airasia flight from Jakarta to Bali best £4 I ever spent.

I learnt this next tip the hard way, I always feel bloated and rough when I arrive off a flight, I have discovered if you don’t eat on board an aircraft and only drink water you arrived feeling a lot more refreshed.

As soon as you board an aircraft change you watch and any other device to the time of the country you’ll be arriving in. Trust me it makes a huge difference.

A cheap foam neck brace from a chemist is a million time better than one of those neck pillows that don’t work. You also get a bit of sympathy from the crew, I got offered to move to a better seat during a recent flight.

I’ll be writing a whole post on this soon but in brief, when booking accommodation online I use Airbnb, Expedia and Google Maps. Do you have an itinerary for your destination? If yes book accommodation in line with your itinerary. There is no point booking a place far away because it’s cheaper when you then have to travel to and from the sights. Book accommodation close to public transport hubs like a metro station etc. It can be far more enjoyable and cost effective to book somewhere right in the middle of town as most tourist will head back to their hotels on the outskirts and you can then enjoy quieter sightseeing. You also avoid rush hour.

When you are a walk in, always view the room they are offering before paying. In Butterworth, Penang I ended up using my camping gear on the bed because it was so filthy.

Assume your accommodation will have no towels, soap or toilet roll.

Only book accommodation for a few days maximum, you can usually do a deal to stay longer or there maybe, better, cheaper alternatives nearby. I stayed for 10 days in a reasonable place only to discover 2 minutes away was a gorgeous room cheaper.

When visiting an island or area you want to explore book accommodation with your itinerary in mind. So 2 days in George Town, followed by 2 days in Teluk Bahang at the national park etc.

Flat screen TV’s have a USB socket which will charge a device. The same socket can play videos from a USB stick too.

Most of the time a day pass for transport is cheaper and easier, especially if you take the wrong metro train, as I did in Kuala Lumpur.

Consider buying coffee sachets to leave at your accommodation, I stayed in Jakarta and the hostel had a kitchen and a water dispenser which had hot water, I bought a 30 sachet bag of 3 in 1 nescafe, had a dozen in my bag and left the rest by the water dispenser. Word got out and the owner was quite impressed and gave me a free late checkout.

A mosquito net means a better nights sleep.

Carry a head torch in your bag, mine came in handy when the fuses blew in one hotel and we had a power cut in another.

I discovered this in Bali but it’s a simple trick anywhere, carry some dog chews or treats. In Bali there were lots of stray dogs and I had a couple of incidents nasty looking, growling dogs were blocking my way. So I threw dog treats and they picked them up and wandered off. I was extremely surprised how this worked as I was very scared at the time.

Always use a vpn when using the Internet, if you have to look up vpn then you definitely need to use a vpn.

4G is amazingly fast and quite secure, buy a local sim card if you are staying in a country more than a few days. Ensure your device is unlocked though, again if you have to look up unlocked device you really need to use a vpn.

Putting a device in airplane mode will mean it charges faster, a lot faster.

Learn how to use the app “fing”

Here’s a list of the apps I use for traveling

Google Maps
You can now download areas for offline use, however not everywhere is available and directions won’t always work. A 4G sim card is a life saver here because Google Maps has some amazing features. Did I mention I’m a Google Maps Contributor, that means some of the stuff you see on there, I put there.
A great offline piece of mapping software. Important note, download app, change storage settings to SD card then download maps. The maps are pulled from openstreetmap so they tend to update often, I would suggest switching off auto update.

Google Trips
This app is in its infancy but has some great features, I would suggest if you have a Gmail account which you use for booking travel than this app is ideal as it pulls in the info from your email account. You can also download information on things to do, food and local transport for places you’ll be visiting. There was a comment that you can’t add stuff that’s not been sent to your Gmail account, I’m sure it’s coming but a work around is to send yourself an email with all the details in, it worked for me.

Such a good app for planning journeys of almost any kind, I use it to plan from Airport to accommodation or today I used it to workout how to get from my accommodation to the Bali national park.

I am writing an article on my Airbnb experience and how to use it to your advantage. The app is a really good way to locate and book accommodation. I would recommend to always read the reviews and do a Google search to check it’s not a commercial property trying to fly under the radar of safety regulations.

Trip it
This app is brilliant but is run by a different company and I’m a little annoyed that I bought the original app years ago and they want me to buy it again. So I only use the free version. It is feature backed and highly recommended to keep track of your itinerary.

Grab, Uber, Gojek and Bluebird
I’ve grouped these together because of their similarities, I would suggest downloading all of them as it’s a great way to compare the different options. Grab is Asia’s answer to Uber but Uber is still available in Asia. Gojek is motorcycle taxi’s and Bluebird is a metered taxi company in Indonesia.

Trabee Pocket
An excellent way to keep track of your budget and spending habits on any trip. Ensure you ‘sync to server’ to get the latest exchange rates.

Exchange Rate
A great app for calculating any exchange rate, useful when traveling in lots of countries.

The above apps are my main go to apps when I travel, I have lots of other apps from social media, video editing to photography. I’ll save that list for another day.

Thank you for reading this post, please subscribe and share.

Hi I’m John Holt

In 2004 I started traveling extensively working in various countries to fund travel. In 2014 I reached my 50th Birthday and decided to launch The Adventure at Fifty Project which is a combination of a YouTube VLog, Website and social media to record my adventures.

Originally this was just for my benefit but now I would like to think that I’m showing anyone who is single and older that you just have to do it. Live your life your way!

The YouTube channel and blog demonstrates how to travel on a budget on your own.

I have visited 14 countries. So far!

I have worked in Menorca , Mallorca, Benidorm, Tunisia, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and Italy.

I have cycled across Europe from London to Venice
I have Cycled from Blackpool to Amsterdam
I have become a Dive Instructor, a Local Guide, Wine tasting demonstrator, I had my own excursions and I am a Google Maps Contributor.

I am currently touring Asia for 3 months.

I worked for 18 months in Lanzarote to be able to take 10 months off.

Hire me to create a website for you!

Support via the Donate Button at

You can also support me by using my Amazon affiliated links at no extra cost to your self.