When I went to New Zealand I flew out with a BUNAC group. My group was made up of 20 people going to both New Zealand and Australia. We had a 3 day stopover in Hong Kong which was action packed. Not only did we squeeze lots into those 3 days sightseeing wise, we also had our fair share of mishaps. These are the five lessons we learnt within the first 72 hours of leaving England.
Know The Local Cons
Upon arriving in Hong Kong our guide, Lyonna, picked us up from the airport and dropped us at the hotel. We had the rest of the day free to do what we liked. Before Lyonna left us to it though, she did give us a couple of tips. Whilst she reassured us it was safe, she did recommend we stick together at night. She also told us we should know a taxi shouldn’t cost us more then HK$50. Fair enough really.
That evening some people within the group decided to hit the town. (Apparently a 12 hour flight and a full day walking around Hong Kong simply isn’t long enough to go without sleep.) Nevertheless out they went clubbing. It wasn’t long though before one of the guys admitted defeat to the jetlag. He decided to leave the hard-core partiers and get a taxi back to the hotel. Instantly the taxi driver tried to charge him HK$200! Now in GBP that’s about £20 so whilst pricy it might not raise huge flags if you’re not familiar with the area or how far you’ve come.
Of course we all knew that this wasn’t right. He argued with the driver and threatened to call the company before getting the price down to HK$60. Whilst still being more than what we were told to expect it was late and he decided to accept it. Had we not been tipped off about this scam it would have meant paying over triple for the taxi ride! Everywhere you go in the world there are the popular tourist scams. It’s worth doing to research and knowing what you should expect. That way you can avoid losing money unnecessarily.
Be Aware and Get Insurance
Whilst all this drama is happening with the taxi the rest of the group is still at the club. They’re all having fun, talking and dancing. Then suddenly one of the guys starts to feel and act quite drunkenly. Of course as we had only met each other we didn’t know each others alcohol tolerances. Therefore, the others with him didn’t think to much of it at first. After all he could have just been a lightweight.
However, once they got back to the hotel, he realised he didn’t feel drunk. He felt dizzy and realized it was more likely the effects of having his drink spiked. He went to the hospital with the others he had just got back with and found out that he had indeed been spiked. Luckily it appeared he hadn’t been given a big enough dose to have as large an effect as it would otherwise. Therefore, he could just pay the hospital bill and leave.
Looking back everyone could identify when it must have happened and even who did it. They had been talking to someone who was acting strangely however they didn’t think anything of it at the time. Of course now they know why he was asking where their drinks were. It just goes to show you should always keep an eye on your drinks and not just the girls. It also proved why everyone should get travel insurance. He was able to get the hospital bill paid back from his insurance. He probably didn’t intend to use it so soon.
Know The Plan
We managed to get through our second day without major incident. We went sightseeing with Lyonna and then went out in the evening. However, on our third and final day the drama was back. We were meeting Lyonna at 2:20pm with all our luggage. We were doing some sightseeing through the afternoon and then going straight to the airport. Lyonna had stressed repeatedly the time of 2:20pm and that we were to meet in the lobby. Most of the group spent the morning packing and playing cards. (Backpackers really do love a good card game). Then at 2:15pm we headed to the lobby. We all loaded our bags onto the bus and got on ready to go.
However, we couldn’t go. We were missing 2 people from our group. We hadn’t seen these 2 girls all day. Though, saying that, we hadn’t seen much of them over the three days as they had very mu0ch stuck to themselves. Lyonna was running around trying to find them but there was no sign of them or their bags. We had nothing to go on so we had to leave without them and Lyonna left a message and her contact details at reception.
Ten minutes later Lyonna received a call. Apparently the two girls had showed up after all. However, we had left and Lyonna said we would have to pick them up later. Brutal. We went back to collect them after a couple of hours but they missed out on a bunch from that afternoon. Apparently they had been waiting in their rooms. If they had known where they were supposed to be they wouldn’t have been left behind. Instead whilst we were sightseeing around Hong Kong they were sat in a hotel lobby.
Don’t Wander Off
When we went to pick up the girls later in the day we thought that we were passed the days mishaps. We were wrong. It was 4pm and we pulled up outside the hotel whilst Lyonna went inside the get the girls. Meanwhile some people stepped off the bus to smoke. When Lyonna got back everyone got back on and once again we left the hotel. We had one final stop before heading to the airport but halfway there someone noted we only had 19 people. We double checked and sure enough we were still down one person.
It turned out one of the guys had got off the bus to use the bathroom whilst we had stopped. Thing is he hadn’t told anyone so it was assumed once we picked up the 2 we were originally missing we would be at our full number. So once again we had to turn around and go back to the hotel. It’s worth always telling someone if you are leaving the group. The accumulative delays and detours back to the hotel meant cutting our time at our stops. Always be on time and don’t wander off without letting someone know if you’re part of a group.
Aim To Be Early
Amazingly we all made it to the airport in one piece. The flight to New Zealand was a couple of hours before the Australians group so we went through security ahead of them. Once through we all split up to get food or browse duty free. We all agreed to meet at the departure gate. It was 45 minutes before our flight and all but one person had made it to the gate. We didn’t think anything of it until time ticked down. With 30 minutes to go before our flight he still wasn’t there. The Australian group had got through security and come to say a last goodbye. The flight started boarding and there was still no sign of our last group member…
It was at 20 minutes to go with half the flight already on board that he eventually appeared. It turns out he had got lost and not realised how long it would take to reach the gate. To be fair Hong Kong is a huge airport. There is a dedicated subway to get to the gates so it would be easy to get lost. Nevertheless it would have saved everyone a bit of worry had he left a little more time. It’s worth working out where you need to go and leave before you need to. That way you aren’t at risk of being late, or worse, missing a flight.
Despite all these near misses everyone arrived in their chosen country in one piece. It was an adventurous few days and we had a great time. It would have been less stressful perhaps without the constant near misses. However, now it’s a funny story to tell and some important travel lessons.
- Know how much something should cost and don’t be afraid to argue to avoid getting conned.
- ALWAYS keep and eye on your drink!!! Whether home or away, male or female, just be aware of your surroundings.
- Be on time! If you are told to be somewhere at a certain time. Be there! Get there early if possible, especially if it’s important!
- Tell people where you’re going if you’re wandering away from a group.
- Figure out where you need to be before you need to be there! Leave early if you have to.
What lessons have you learnt whilst travelling?