Apart from metal history and the music reviews, which I said I’d never do, the travel articles on Steff Metal get by far the most views. Every week I get questions from fellow metal travellers – “What should I do in <insert random and obscure place I’ve never been to>?” “How do I talk to other metalheads if I don’t speak their language?” “How do I organize my trip?” “Where should I go and what should I do when I get there?”
I haven’t written a top-ten post in awhile, so I thought I’d pull together a few of my favorite travel tips for metalheads. If you’ve got any more to add,
1. Use the Metal Travel Guide Website
Before I go away to a new city, I check out the listings on Metal Travel Guide. This awesome website lists metal bars, clubs, shops and distros in every major (and minor) city in the world. I keep a list of the most promising-sounding haunts printed out in the travel folder I carry around everywhere. When we arrive in a new city one of the first things we do is visit the local metal shop / bar, flick through a few discs or order a couple of drinks, and start chatting to whoever happens to be behind the counter. Chances are, they can point us towards a great gig in the city, recommend a metal-friendly place to stay or something to see, or a less touristy archaeological site we could visit.
If you want to know what’s happening locally, the best thing to do is to talk to local metalheads.
2. Learn a few essential local phrases
If you’re going to a country where english is not the first language, it’s useful (not to mention polite) to learn a few key phrases in the native tongue. Even if you sound like a complete twat saying “Pallee voo onglaise?” “Mime doitch ist schise,” etc, most locals will just laugh and offer you a hand. Whenever I go away I try to learn hello and goodbye, how to ask for something (“can I have …), yes and no, the numbers 1-10, and “do you speak english?” If you can ask for a beer, so much the better.
3. Don’t plan out every day
Most of us like a bit of chaos and disorder in our music, so our holiday should be no different. Have a list of things you’d like to see, but don’t plan out every day in great detail. For our trip I have the first ten nights of accommodation booked, and Wacken, but we have around 12 nights where we have no idea what we’re doing – we could be anywhere, doing anything. We have potential ideas, but we’ve got the freedom to follow whatever adventure happens to come up.
4. Choose travel partners wisely
If you like slumming it in hostels and spending your days hiking through the wilderness, and your best mate is more of a boutique hotel and city-exploring kind of dude, you’re going to have a few clashes. You both either need to compromise (equal nights spent in hostels and hotels) or choose a different travel partner. Even if you’re in an amazing place, you’ll have a shit time if you’re annoyed with someone, or you’re busy looking for them because they’re an irresponsible git and don’t turn up at the appointed meeting place. I’m lucky that my husband and I are both into the same things – archaeology, history, weird art, epic landscapes and metal – so we almost always find something to do together.
5. Keep copies
Got hotel rooms, rental cars, concert tickets or attractions booked? Don’t just rely on rocking up and giving them your name – keep a copy of your booking confirmation in a folder and carry it with you. I can’t tell you how often I’ve arrived somewhere and they’re written my name into their system wrong, or my Expedia booking hasn’t come through, or I can’t communicate with the clerk. Having something in writing will avoid untold problems.
6. Go to a Local Gig
If you’ve got the time and budget, get along to a metal bar and see a band play, or just have a few drinks with the local metalheads. One of my favorite parts of travelling is meeting fellow metalheads from all over the world, and seeing what’s similar – and what’s different from – our crowd in New Zealand. Plus, it’s always good to expand your musical horizons.
7. Try some local food … even if it sounds disgusting
Don’t spend your holiday looking for the nearest burger king. Instead, try the local specialty at a real cafe or restaurant – not some touristy attraction. Find cafes and restuarants off the main streets – places down alleyways and at the foot of hidden staircases. This is one area where I find guidebooks quite useful – they’ve often got decent guides for restuarants and information about local specialties. It was thanks to a guidebook I knew to try smoked herring in Bornholm in Denmark.
8. Visit Esoteric Museums
Even better than huge national galleries in grand buildings are the random collections stored in basements and above pubs. An arts guide at the local info centre will have a listing of all the museums in the area (as will a local map book), including some of the smaller, more unusual ones, like the Hair Museum in Cappadocia, Turkey, or the Erotic Art museum in Hamburg (which is on my must-see list this visit).
Be wary, however, as this isn’t always interesting. The Lamp Museum, in Brugges, for example, is one of the most boring places on earth.
9. Set a daily budget
This is the one tip that keeps me from having to put the second-half of all our trips on a credit card. Divide your money by the number of days you’ll beaway, and each day, doll yourself out a daily budget. Tell yourself when that money is gone, it’s gone. When I was in Greece and Crete, my daily budget was €20, and I managed to spend well under that, while still eating out every night (all my accomodation was paid for, however). In Germany, our daily budget is around €120, with food, accommodation, travel and sightseeing included. Some days we will spend more, but some, much less.
10. Never say no to a free breakfast
If you’re staying at a hotel or hostel that offers free breakfast, eat your fill and then some. No matter how much you can’t stand the smell of bacon in the morning, or how much you couldn’t bear another serving of pita bread and boiled eggs (thank you, Syria), eat that food right up. You’ve paid for it in the cost of your room, it will give you energy for the day, and it’ll save you buying extra. In fact, if you can slip an apple in your bag on the way out, so much the better.
And those are my tips for having a fun and hassle-free metal adventure. Where are you traveling to next, and do you have any travel tips to add?