My short bio: What's up, Reddit! I'm Chris Guillebeau. From 2002-2013 I visited every country in the world. I made it to at least half of these countries thanks to "travel hacking" -- the creative use of Frequent Flyer Miles, Round-the-World tickets, mistake fares, and other strategies that greatly lowered the overall cost and allowed me to have experiences that would have otherwise been inaccessible.

One time I applied for 13 credit cards on the same day, earning 300,000+ Frequent Flyer miles (and no, my credit score wasn't ruined). Another time I earned 808,000 miles by purchasing useless stickers for $6,000.

I'm new to Reddit and this is my first AMA. Please ask anything you'd like about travel hacking, going to every country in the world, or anything else!

I also wrote two books, The $100 Startup and The Art of Non-Conformity. You can learn more about me from my website:

My Proof:


I'm teaching a one-day course on Travel Hacking TOMORROW! This course will stream free via creativeLIVE on Tuesday, October 15. They've created a special code for the Reddit community to take 20% off any ONE course in their back catalog of creative courses. Code is good for 48 hours after this AMA and is single use per person. Course page:

Code: REDDIT20 (expires: 10/17/2013) Enter coupon code on the checkout page after adding the course to your shopping cart.

That's a wrap! Thanks for all the questions.

I'm heading to another appointment but will try to get to the few remaining ones soon. If I can help with anything else in the interim, feel free to email from my website or say hi on Twitter.

Comments: 82 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

danielpacker7 karma

I really enjoyed reading The $100 Startup and it has led to me thinking a lot about side ventures that don't require a lot of money to start.

My friends all think you need a lot of money to make money. How can I convince them that you can start a business with very little money?

193countries2 karma

Thanks, Daniel! Yes, that is a common perception that I try to counter wherever I can in the books, blog, etc. Ultimately, though, I think most people's minds will be changed through direct experience. It's not so much being able to point to an author or pseudo-celebrity as an example of success, but being able to point to someone you know who has created their own freedom.

As more and more people embrace creative self-employment, I think that some of the negative perceptions about starting a business will change.

jeffharbert6 karma

What gear (gadgets, luggage, etc) do you usually take with you? Anything in particular you never bother taking?

193countries8 karma

I'm pretty basic. Everything fits in a carry-on bag (Briggs & Riley) and a laptop bag (Tom Bihn). The thing that takes the most space is my running shoes. I take the same clothes with me wherever I go. Tech-wise, I always (always) have my laptop and iPhone. I'm working almost everywhere I go, usually for about half the day. The other half is transit, sightseeing, or meeting up with friends and readers.

Furnace_Admirer6 karma

North Korea included? if so,

What was it like there, I understand they put you in a hotel, on an island, and you are always accompanied by someone unless in your room. You get out and explore with the travel authorities, that's what I've seen/heard.

What was the most unique difference of North Korea, other than anti american propaganda?

What were the people of North Korea like?

Did you enjoy your trip to the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) as I'm sure you know ;)

193countries3 karma

I didn't stay in North Korea proper. I went on the Panmunjom tour from Seoul, where you can visit the point where both sides hold talks and view the room that divides them. It's technically possible for Americans and other Westerners to actually stay in Pyongyang if you go from Beijing on an organized tour. I haven't done that yet.

searchingpathways6 karma


193countries4 karma

When I was a kid, I had a stepparent who was stationed in the Philippines and I was dragged along for two years (not drugged, but that could have happened too). At the time I wasn't very excited about it, because it meant that I was separated from my dad. Travel-wise, though, it was good to have a strong cross-cultural experience at a young age. I was six years old and remember riding jeepneys to buy fireworks and ninja stars, which I then smuggled back to my room. I've often thought back on those years, especially once I started pursuing travel more actively.

h20rabbit6 karma

Have you had an airline dispute miles gained from your practices? What was their response?

Have you been banned from any airline for your creative thinking? Which ones?

193countries18 karma

Great questions.

  1. No, I don't believe so. It's important to realize that airlines benefit from the Frequent Flyer mile programs they set up. In many cases it's a profit center for them, not something they expense.

  2. I had a dispute with Egypt Air and they withheld my passport in Cairo. They wanted me to pay them $600 (long story) and I preferred paying them $0 and receiving my passport back. Finally they agreed to return my passport as long as I signed a piece of paper saying that I would pay them later. I signed it "Under Duress" and wrote "This is bullshit" -- but as the guy explained it, that was good enough for him and he returned the passport. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable flying Egypt Air again, though.

brock54785 karma

How do you manage travel and marriage?

193countries4 karma

I'd be the first to say it's sometimes a challenge. She deserves far more of the credit for making it work than me, I'm sure.

In the early days we talked a lot about how much time we'd both be comfortable being apart, and for the rest of the journey I was usually able to stick to those parameters.

fawky_4 karma


193countries2 karma

Much of travel hacking is fairly universal, with the exception of the credit card stuff. Even from Germany you can still take advantage of: Round-the-World tickets, glitch or mistake fares, elite status, many of the U.S. promotions, and a lot more.

Oh, and the Miles & More program is actually pretty decent. Among other things, the FRA First Class terminal is the best in the world. :)

Regrind4 karma

What was Nauru like?

193countries9 karma

Nauru was odd. Aside from Australia, it's the only country in the South Pacific that requires a visa in advance. None of the info I read in advance indicated this fact, and I was denied boarding the flight in Brisbane on my first attempt. I regrouped, got the visa, and was able to visit a few months later. It's a tiny, tiny place with very little to do. The high point for me was going for a run up and down the actual runway, which is only used as a landing strip twice a week when the plane from Brisbane returns. The rest of the time, people go out at sunset to walk along it or play soccer on it.

ry90574 karma

Hi Chris. I loved your book. Welcome to Reddit and /r/iama! You are up against no-belly button guy, no-puberty guy, cancer survivor, plane crash survivor, Renny Harlin and Bill Nye's DWTS partner. Good luck!

Questions: 1) any book-readers who have recently made it big? 2) what do you think of the 'Four Hour Work Week' and Gary V's 'Crush It'?

193countries8 karma

Thanks! Tough competition. :)

  1. I'm fortunate to be connected to an amazing community of people doing far more interesting things than just flying to every country. One of my goals for the near future is to do a better job of telling their stories.

  2. Tim and Gary are great guys. I admire their generosity and persistence.

Frajer4 karma

Did you set out from the beginning to visit every country?

193countries5 karma

No, at first I just started traveling. I volunteered for a medical charity in West Africa from 2002-2006. During that time I visited about 25 countries and began to get comfortable with going to places that were off the beaten path. After that I set a goal of going to 100 countries "sometime in my life." Then, as I started working toward the goal, I realized that 100 countries wouldn't be that difficult because I could pick and choose the easy ones. Once I was at about 80 countries, I officially set the goal to go to every country.

bhsu214 karma

How do you decide when to use points for airfare or just pay for it?

193countries4 karma

A couple of considerations:

  1. What's the retail price? (General rule is: pay for cheap tickets, use miles for expensive tickets.)

  2. Is status a consideration? (I like to maintain elite status with a few airlines and hotels, so if I need to requalify, I'd be more likely to pay for it. If this doesn't matter, I'd be more likely to use points or miles.)

IUpvoteReplies3 karma

Hi Chris! Thanks for this! Big fan!

Is traveling full time a worthwhile pursuit? My little startup is making enough for me to be able to travel and work full time.

193countries3 karma

Congrats on your startup! If it can support you traveling full-time, it doesn't sound that little to me.

In my case it's been great to have a home base (Portland, Oregon) from where I can come and go instead of traveling full-time. But plenty of other people do pursue full-time travel, at least for a time.

chrispy_bacon3 karma

Does that include Sealand? If so, what was it like?

193countries2 karma

Nope, it's the 193 countries recognized by the UN. Someone else will have to file the Sealand trip report!

RanDeeKaySee3 karma

What do you do to kill time on long flights?

In your opinion, what country has the best cuisine?

193countries5 karma

If I have a 4-5 hour flight, I usually relax (reading, movies, etc.) for half the time and work the other half. If it's a 10-12 hour flight, I hope to get a full sleep cycle of at least six hours if possible. My least favorite flights are short red-eyes, because you never get any real sleep and then arrive somewhere with a full day ahead.

alt45983 karma

Did you have any outside funding or sponsorship for all the initial traveling you did to all 193 countries? Were you doing any remote work, etc, at the time?

193countries3 karma

No outside funding or sponsorship. Other people have done it with those things and I don't think that's bad per se -- I just wanted to be more independent. Yes, I worked remotely from wherever I was. On some trip I had to work more than others. I never really took vacations, but that's not a complaint. I get bored trying to relax, so I'm always working on new projects.

danielpacker2 karma

How do you decide on an itinerary for a specific country?

How long did you spend in each country on average?

193countries3 karma

  1. I don't plan a lot. My main concern is getting to the country. Once I'm there, I tend to rely on my readers or other contacts to point out what kind of experience would be best. I also enjoy spending a lot of time walking in cities without an agenda.

  2. It greatly depends. Anywhere from a couple of days to a couple weeks was the average. The shortest would be an afternoon (Luxembourg) and the longest would be Sierra Leone or Liberia, where I lived on a hospital ship for about a year (in each country) in 2003 and 2005.

nonetimeaccount2 karma

got a bunch of miles i want to use for a trip this dec. what's the best way to maximize them?

193countries3 karma

Give us more info! What kind of miles and how many? Where do you want to go?

nonetimeaccount2 karma

60k or so with american. based out of miami. thinking anywhere from last 2 weeks of the month to maybe the whole month. probably a good beach and budget combo.

193countries3 karma

Panama? Nicaragua? Pretty much anywhere in Central America seems a good bet for you with AA miles and being MIA-based. For 60k you could go Business Class, which won't be that great on the short-haul flight but is still decent.

caligator302 karma

How many times have you slept in an airport, train, or bus station?

193countries6 karma

Dozens and dozen of times, especially airports. Ironically some of the worst experiences were in places that you might not expect to be miserable: Rome, Paris, Dallas, JFK, etc. Of course, sleeping on the floor of an airport in central Africa isn't great either, but I didn't really plan on visiting TGI Friday's there.

Toyou4yu2 karma

What country has the nicest airport?

193countries4 karma

Probably Singapore (SIN) would be the overall winner.

Other highlights include Hong Kong (HKG), Abu Dhabi (AUH), Frankfurt (FRA - but just for the First Class Terminal), Bangkok (BKK - but just for the First Class lounge), Heathrow (LHR - but just T5), and Sydney (SYD).

IsraelGonzalez1 karma

How was Mexico?

193countries1 karma

Fun place! I've been many times, mostly to the coastal areas but also Mexico City. We're hoping to do a book event there sometime next year.

caligator301 karma

Has smartphones changed the way you travel?

193countries1 karma

Definitely. First and most obvious thing: Despite having visited every country in the world, I get lost everywhere I go. Thanks to handheld GPS, I can now at least find my way home from the nearest coffee shop.

alt45981 karma

Do you have a favorite international dessert?

193countries1 karma

Uh... crema catalana? Flan in general? Baklava?