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The Queen’s Palaces
If you were an ordinary person in Ethiopia, what would life be like? Ethiopia has towns and even big cities, but most live in the country – and most are also Christian – so I take that point of view in what follows:
Work: Men farm, women cook, keep their children clean and looking nice, pound grain into flour and look for cow dung and wood for the family fire. Older girls look after children, older boys look after sheep. Most families have about a hectare of land (less than three acres). All water has to be carried back from the nearby well, something that falls to women or children.
Work hours: Men work 80 hours a week, women 126 hours. You are supposed to take Saturdays and Sundays off, but how many do?
Pay: $123 a year (in 1998. That comes to 3 crowns a month, which is just what shepherds made in Shakespeare’s time). Most Ethiopians grow their own food, build their own houses and so on. Their wealth is in their animals: cows, chickens, sheep, etc. Like Jack in the Beanstalk, they sell one when they need money – for things like salt, coffee, oil, pots and clothing.
Housing: A small, two-room house. One room to store food, the other room for everything else. There is a fire that is always going. No electricity or running water.
Transport: Walking. The nearest market is one to three hours away on foot.
Dress: You have one change of clothing, maybe even ill-fitting, second-hand clothing at that. If you go to school, you get a second change.
Food: Bread, maybe with egg and vegetables. Meat on special occasions. Everyone eats from the same dish with their fingers.
Family life: Families are big. Ethiopian women have about seven children. As a child you grow up near your cousins, aunts and uncles.
Holidays: Christmas, the Baptism of Jesus, Good Friday, Easter and the Feast of the Cross.
Education: Only a fourth of all children regularly go to school. School is free, but schoolbooks, school supplies and school clothes are not! Early schooling is in your own language, but to go further you need to know Amharic or even English because that is what the books are written in!
Entertainment: Mainly visiting and storytelling. Most people cannot read and have no electricity. Men like to sit, drink coffee and talk.
It could be worse and sometimes it is:
Famine: Having little money and growing all your own food means that when the rains do not come it gets very bad: you can water only so much of your land by hand and sell only so many of your animals to buy food. A million people died this way in the 1980s.
Genocide and civil war: Ethiopia is in effect an empire, so for most people their land is ruled by foreigners, and evil ones at that who are not above wiping out your kind. A quarter million have died this way in the last 60 years.
Korea is a historical state in East Asia, since 1945 divided into two distinct sovereign states: North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by China to the northwest and Russia to the northeast. It is separated from Japan to the east by the Korea Strait and the East Sea.
Sri Lanka’s total population is approximately 20.2 million as of the 2012 census. Nearly three-quarters, 74.9%, are ethnic Sinhalese. Sri Lankan Tamils, whose ancestors came to the island from southern India centuries ago, make up about 11% of the population, while more recent Indian Tamil immigrants, brought in as agricultural labor by the British colonial government, represent 5%.
Another 9% of Sri Lankans are the Malays and Moors, descendants of Arab and Southeast Asian traders who plied the Indian Ocean monsoon winds for more than a thousand years. There are also tiny numbers of Dutch and British settlers, and aboriginal Veddahs, whose ancestors arrived at least 18,000 years ago.
The official language of Sri Lanka is Sinhala. Both Sinhala and Tamil are considered national languages; only about 18% of the population speaks Tamil as a mother tongue, however. Other minority languages are spoken by about 8% of Sri Lankans. In addition, English is a common language of trade, and approximately 10% of the population are conversant in English as a foreign language.
Religion in Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka has a complex religious landscape. Almost 70% of the population are Theravada Buddhists (mainly the ethnic Sinhalese), while most Tamils are Hindu, representing 15% of Sri Lankans. Another 7.6% are Muslims, particularly the Malay and Moor communities, belonging primarily to the Shafi’i school within Sunni Islam. Finally, about 6.2% of Sri Lankans are Christians; of those, 88% are Catholic and 12% are Protestant.
Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean, southeast of India. It has an area of 65,610 square kilometers (25,332 square miles), and is mostly flat or rolling plains. However, the highest point in Sri Lanka is Pidurutalagala, at an impressive 2,524 meters (8,281 feet) in altitude. The lowest point is sea level.
Sri Lanka sits at the middle of a tectonic plate, so it does not experience volcanic activity or earthquakes. However, it was heavily impacted by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which killed more than 31,000 people in this mostly low-lying island nation.
Sri Lanka has a maritime tropical climate, meaning that it is warm and humid throughout the year. Average temperatures ranges from 16°C (60.8°F) in the central highlands to 32°C (89.6°F) along the northeast coast. High temperatures in Trincomalee, in the northeast, can top 38°C (100°F). The entire island generally has humidity levels between 60 and 90% year-round, with the higher levels during the two long monsoonal rainy seasons (May to October and December to March).
Sri Lanka has one of the strongest economies in South Asia, with a GDP of $234 billion US (2015 estimate), a per capita GDP of $11,069, and a 7.4% annual growth rate. It receives substantial remittances from Sri Lankan overseas workers, mostly in the Middle East; in 2012, Sri Lankans abroad sent home about $6 billion US.
Major industries in Sri Lanka include tourism; rubber, tea, coconut and tobacco plantations; telecommunications, banking and other services; and textile manufacturing. The unemployment rate and percentage of the population living in poverty are both an enviable 4.3%.
The island’s currency is called the Sri Lankan rupee. As of May, 2016, the exchange rate was $1 US = 145.79 LKR.
History of Sri Lanka:
The island of Sri Lanka appears to have been inhabited since at least 34,000 years before the present. Archaeological evidence suggests that agriculture began as early as 15,000 BCE, perhaps reaching the island along with the ancestors of the aboriginal Veddah people.
Sinhalese immigrants from northern India likely reached Sri Lanka around the 6th century BCE. They may have established one of the earliest great trade emporiums on earth; Sri Lankan cinnamon appears in Egyptian tombs from 1,500 BCE.
By about 250 BCE, Buddhism had reached Sri Lanka, brought by Mahinda, the son of Ashoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire. The Sinhalese remained Buddhist even after most mainland Indians had converted to Hinduism. Classical Sinhalese civilization relied on complicated irrigation systems for intensive agriculture; it grew and prospered from 200 BCE to about 1200 CE.
Trade flourished between China, Southeast Asia, and Arabia by the first few centuries of the common era. Sri Lanka was a key stopping point on the southern, or sea-bound, branch of the Silk Road. Ships stopped there not only to restock on food, water and fuel, but also to buy cinnamon and other spices. The ancient Romans called Sri Lanka “Taprobane,” while Arab sailors knew it as “Serendip.”
In 1212, ethnic Tamil invaders from the Chola Kingdom in southern India drove the Sinhalese south. The Tamils brought Hinduism with them.
In 1505, a new kind of invader appeared on Sri Lanka’s shores. Portuguese traders wanted to control the sea-lanes between the spice islands of southern Asia; they also brought missionaries, who converted a small number of Sri Lankans to Catholicism. The Dutch, who expelled the Portuguese in 1658, left an even stronger mark on the island. The legal system of the Netherlands forms the basis for much of modern Sri Lankan law.
In 1815, a final European power appeared to take control of Sri Lanka. The British, already holding the mainland of India under their colonial sway, created the Crown Colony of Ceylon. UK troops defeated the last native Sri Lankan ruler, the King of Kandy, and began to govern Ceylon as an agricultural colony that grew rubber, tea, and coconuts.
After more than a century of colonial rule, in 1931, the British granted Ceylon limited autonomy. During World War II, however, Britain used Sri Lanka as a forward post against the Japanese in Asia, much to the irritation of Sri Lankan nationalists. The island nation became fully independent on February 4, 1948, several months after the Partition of India and the creation of independent India and Pakistan in 1947.
In 1971, tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka bubbled over into armed conflict. Despite attempts at a political solution, the country erupted into the Sri Lankan Civil War in July of 1983; the war would continue until 2009, when government troops defeated the last of the Tamil Tiger insurgents.
The history of Antigua began with the first known inhabitants, the Ciboney Indians. They lived here for thousands of years, but for reasons yet to be determined, they packed up and left.
The Arawak people followed them, but they were eliminated (ran off) by the Carib Indians, and when Christopher Columbus sailed by Antigua in 1493, thousands of Caribs called it home.
Columbus named the island “Antigua” in honor of Spain’s Virgin of La Antigua. Regardless, daily life did not change much on Antigua until the early 17th century.
In 1632, a small group of English colonists sailed to Antigua from St. Kitts and established the first European settlement; sugar plantations were established, and by the late 1670s, sugar was Antigua’s main crop.
To operate their plantations, the British imported tens of thousands of slaves, and by the mid-1700s, their numbers reached to nearly 40,000. These hard working people were forced into a miserable life of labor and very crowded living conditions.
Throughout most of the 18th century, African slavery was a hot-button issue on Antigua. Repressive rules forced on the slaves were the genesis of numerous rebellions, some quite bloody, but none were successful.
Regardless, the now-profitable sugar industry was operated by a number of white-controlled plantation estates, and some of those greedy operators continued to import enslaved West Africans to Antigua.
The American War of Independence in the late eighteenth century disrupted the Caribbean sugar trade, especially for the British. At the same time, public opinion in Britain was gradually turning against slavery.
Because of its valuable position in the northeastern Caribbean, Britain (although on the losing side in the American War of Independence) still wanted to preserve this valuable colony for themselves, and dispatched Lord Horatio Nelson to the island.
Nelson, an English flag officer, famous for his service in the Royal Navy, arrived in 1784. He was 26, and took immediate command of the garrison. Before Nelson’s arrival, cargo vessels from the newly independent United States were carrying on a lively trade in Antigua.
Well, Nelson put an end to that lucrative trade, and locals and English merchants alike were not happy. During his tenure, Nelson prohibited the under-the-table trade with foreign countries, and American ships were not permitted to use the harbor; today called “Nelson’s Dockyard.”
Nelson left for home in 1787, and a few short years later in 1808, Great Britain abolished the slave trade. All existing slaves in their Caribbean colonies were finally emancipated in 1834.
In 1967, with Barbuda and the tiny island of Redonda as dependencies, Antigua became an associated state of the British Commonwealth. In 1981, it finally gained its independence.
Today Antigua is a very popular tourist destination, for both its historic and natural attributes. Cruise ships use the deep water port at St John’s and its international airport serves jumbo jets from around the world.
The island is known for its low humidity, shopping bargains, a passion for cricket by the locals, sugar cane fields, rain forests and small, scenic coastal villages.
As for Barbuda, (a dependency) 26 miles to the north, it is sparsely populated and famous for hunting and diving venues.
Tips for Solo Woman Travel in South America
My last afternoon at home before departing on a much anticipated, year-long solo journey through South America, I had a meltdown over duct tape, or rather, the lack thereof. A staple in my backpack for quick repairs of ripped rain pants or threadbare boots, I had forgotten this item in one final, blurry blaze of frantic preparation. But it wasn’t the missing tape that caused my waterworks. I knew what lurked behind the tears.
I was scared—even somewhat terrified. In about twelve hours I was heading alone to a continent where I did not know a soul. Beyond a couple banal pleasantries (“hello” and “goodbye”), I could not speak a lick of the language. Mixed with these worries were closeness to family, friends, a beloved old dog, and a tacit concession that as a woman of a certain age perhaps I should be heading out on a job hunt rather than an extended trip.
Well-intentioned supporters only added to my creeping dread with admonishments for the solo female globetrotter: “Be careful! It sounds kind of dangerous. Don’t go out alone at night.” The butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling of expectation and exhilaration had given way to nausea.
But, plane tickets being what they are, at 3 a.m. the next morning I was hurtling through the dark on a LAX-bound airport shuttle and then onto a Peru-bound flight.
From the moment the plane finally touched down in the southern hemisphere, the gentler butterflies returned and I never looked back. Landing on an unknown continent amidst its layers of novel landscapes, people, and languages proved to be one of my life’s most rewarding experiences. In the end, I scrapped my return ticket and extended the trip until the money ran out.
And that duct tape did come in handy. On a road trip across Bolivia’s remote salt flats with my guide and a few fellow travelers, it provided the temporary fix to a broken hose, getting us safely on our way—and then onto the next adventure.
By following some common sense tips, a few of which were offered by the South American women and men I encountered on the road, exploring this captivating continent is indeed a safe and wondrous experience for the solo female traveler.
Learn some language basics. Knowing a few greetings and phrases in Spanish (and Portuguese in Brazil) is invaluable for meeting people, getting around, and asking for directions and assistance.
While most offers—and you will get many—to carry your luggage to a bus terminal or hostel lobby are well intentioned, some are not. Politely insist on carrying your own backpack and/or daypack wherever you go.
Load your own belongings onto a bus (either in the hull or secured on top), train, or taxi, or watch to make sure your things are properly loaded and unloaded. Larger bus companies that travel to popular destinations and cities will often provide a claim check for any item you store.
Watch your belongings at crosswalks, which is a popular site for pickpockets. Be mindful of those standing in front and behind you. The same rule applies on public transportation.
Daypacks and purses sometimes get stolen from Internet cafes, restaurants and other tourist hangouts. Don’t place packs/purses on the back of a chair or even loose under the table. Avoid losing a pack by keeping a foot through an arm strap. Keeping a foot or hand on your pack will help ensure it remains with you.
The best way to thwart unwanted advances from men is to avoid eye contact or saying hello as you pass on the street. Walk purposefully. This can feel rude at first, but it’s effective. If someone persists in making an unwanted advance, be firm. Be loud. It works.
Use “radio taxis” to get around cities after dark. Radio taxis belong to private companies, are well marked and easily dispatched at any time of the night. Lots of individuals in South American cities operate their own taxi services using personal vehicles. I used these (often cheaper) services during the day, but was advised to go with radio taxis at night. Most anyone can charge for a car ride, but you don’t know whose car you are entering; robberies have occurred in some individual taxis, especially at night.
When possible, connect with groups of fellow travelers for explorations. Most of the time, I found them more than willing to let me tag along and I made some great friends that way.
Join a group to visit bars, clubs, and sports matches. Though going to a sporting event or club can be a great way to experience the local social scene, it’s not the norm for South American women to partake in these activities alone. Plus, a Pisco Sour or glass of Chilean red is much more enjoyable when shared with friends
If it’s not possible to connect with a group, discreetly lag behind travelers heading to the same destination you want to visit. While discussing a solo hike to a secluded Brazilian beach, locals warned me that the forested trail I planned to take was not safe for a woman alone. I waited near the trailhead until a couple began the same hike. Sensing they were on a romantic getaway, I followed just within sight of them. This respectable distance allowed them not to feel bothered, while providing me some security.
When exploring a new city, tourist spot or hiking area, let someone you trust know where you’re going and approximately when he/she can expect you back. You might tell your plans to a fellow traveler, or a trustworthy café, hostel proprietor, or tourist office official.
If you are heading out on an excursion alone with a male guide, get some references first. Though most guides you meet in South America are courteous professionals, there are occasional reports of inappropriate behavior and unwanted advances from male guides toward their female clients. (and this issue is certainly not unique to South America!) It’s worthwhile to spend a little more money on a reputable tour agency or guide service. Whenever I headed out on an excursion alone with male guides, I made sure to get a minimum of two recommendations from females I trusted. Trusted sources of information include proprietors of reputable youth hostels and restaurants, travel agencies, fellow travelers, and tourist offices.
Once you have your recommendations, go for it! One of the best hikes I’ve ever taken was a trek into a cloud forest in northern Bolivia, where not many tourists venture. I spent eight hours alone with two male guides and shared wonderful conversation and laughs while exploring waterfalls, tropical wildlife and incredible vistas.
“Use “radio taxis” to get around cities, especially after dark. Radio taxis belong to private companies, are well marked, and easily dispatched at any time of the night. Many individuals in South American cities operate their own taxi services using personal vehicles. I used these (often cheaper) services during the day, but was advised to go with radio taxis at night; some travelers may feel more comfortable using the radio cabs all the time. Almost anyone can charge for a car ride, but you don’t know whose car you are entering; robberies have occurred in some individual taxis, especially at night.
Leave the thong at home—or at least hide it! I watched indigenous women on a bus in rural Bolivia aghast at the site of a female backpacker’s fire engine red thong, spilling out of her low-slung jeans. Though that trend might fly in Rio de Janeiro, in rural South America this type of dress is considered offensive. Dressing respectfully and following the general mores of where you are traveling go a long way to ensuring a hassle-free trip.
Go with your instincts. If a guide, trail, or other location doesn’t feel right, don’t pursue it.
During my travels, I was surprised at how seldom I was actually alone. So many people I met, whether they were from Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, or another South American country, were immediately concerned when I told them I was traveling solo. “It’s too dangerous out here for a woman on her own!” was a common refrain. I felt completely the opposite. I often received unsolicited help, ranging from directions to offers of meals, homestays, and even the occasional matchmaking attempt. In the course of my experience, I found South Americans to be some of the friendliest, warmest, and inviting hosts in the world.
Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago situated in the north Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Portugal. Its total population was estimated in 2011 at 267,785. The capital of Madeira is Funchal on the main island’s south coast. Source: Wikipedia
Safety Tips for Travel in South America
By Volker Poelzl
Although most foreigners travel safely in South America, travelers should be aware of the safety risks they might face during their trip. South American countries are developing nations with widespread social disparities that encourage petty crime. Foreigners, regardless whether they are wealthy tourists or backpackers, are widely considered wealthy compared to the locals, which puts them at a higher risk of being targets of petty crime and rip-off schemes. But if you inform yourself before you go and keep a watchful eye on your surroundings as you travel, you will most likely have a safe and enjoyable trip in South America. The following travel tips are based on my own experiences for my extensive travels across South America, and I hope they will encourage you to explore this fascinating continent while taking a few basic safety precautions.
Know Before You Go
The best way to prepare yourself is to be well-informed about the current political and economic situation, which often indicates the overall safety and stability of a country. Search the web for reports on strikes, protests and civil unrest in the South American country of your interest, and also look for news about transportation safety. Airplane and bus accidents occur more frequently in South America than in North America or Europe, mainly to bad road conditions and a badly maintained fleet of buses and airplanes.
Government travel warnings should also be taken into consideration, and you should check the website of the State Department or Department of Foreign Affairs of your home country for any recent events that might affect travelers. Before going off into remote areas you should register with your embassy or consulate and inquire about safety risks. Keep their phone number and address handy in case of an emergency. I have also found it helpful to read the local newspapers or a locally published English-language publication to stay abreast of the latest news and events that might affect your safety.
Fortunately there is little activity by guerilla groups in South America today, with the exception of Colombia, and travelers have little to fear in that regard. As a general precaution travelers should avoid slums and shantytowns, where curious foreigners are never welcome. There are many safe places to visit where travelers can have contact with the locals and learn about their daily lives, and shantytowns and slums are not among them.
Travel with a Watchful Eye and an Open Mind
Among the most common annoyances for travelers in South America is being overcharged by taxi drivers and shopkeepers, and being targeted by skillful pickpockets. These annoyances pose no direct safety threat, but they point at the vulnerability of foreign travelers in an unfamiliar environment. It is essential for travelers to be alert and observe the world around with watchful eyes. A friend of mine was charged US $50 from the airport to the center of Buenos Aires, whereas I only paid a fraction of that. Ask around to get an idea of current taxi rates, and compare prices at shops and markets to make sure you are not being ripped off.
Travelers should also take special precautions when walking around in unfamiliar cities or towns and should keep in mind that the crime rate in many South American cities is quite high. Dark streets with little traffic invite muggings. Unless you know the area well, you should avoid walking or waiting for a bus on deserted streets after dark. Late at night, taxis are a safe alternative to buses. Ask for safety tips at the local tourist office.
City centers, beaches, and tourist attractions are often frequented by pickpockets, and you should always keep an eye on your belongings. Be especially careful in crowded places and on buses, trains, and boats. Some travelers go as far as chaining their backpacks to luggage racks or railings while waiting in a public place or traveling, which can be especially helpful when alone.
Carry as few valuables as possible and keep important documents in a money belt under your clothing. Instead of original documents, carry authenticated copies. If you plan on staying in one place for more than just a few days, it may be worth depositing your valuables and travel documents in the hotel safe, since hotel rooms are never entirely secure against theft. This is especially true for cheap hotels around bus terminals, railway stations and the ports which often attract suspicious clientele.
Carrying your wallet in your back pocket only invites pickpockets. It is best to carry as little money as possible, and only keep a few bills in your front pocket. Purses worn over the shoulder are also easy targets for pickpockets. If you are ever mugged, don’t resist, even if the assailants are just kids. Remain calm and don’t attract attention as it will only startle the assailants and put you in danger. Keep in mind that they are armed and may not hesitate to hurt you. Hand over your money and leave the scene as quickly as possible.
I have found that the best way to lessen the risk of theft and muggings is to travel subtly. Less conspicuousness means less danger. The more you dress down and blend in with the crowd, the less likely you will attract attention. Avoid wearing flashy clothing, expensive watches and jewelry, and carry your camera in a small backpack instead of around your neck or shoulder. Keep in mind that it is illegal in many South American countries to photograph military installations or government buildings. Ask a policeman or security officer if you are in doubt.
Although women travelers in South America face the same general safety concerns as men, they also have to cope with undue attention from local males. South America is a fairly chauvinistic continent, and a single foreign woman is often considered an easy target for male advances. To get rid of undesirable male company, some women recommend wearing a wedding ring and referring to their imaginary husband. However, there is no strategy or advice that can completely prevent undesired advances. A friendly shopkeeper in Peru offered to take my girlfriend and me to the outskirts of a small jungle town. Since he only had a motorcycle we had to go one at a time. He took me first and when my girlfriend finally arrived, she told me that the man had taken her to his house and had proposed to have sex with her.
Learn from the Locals
Learning a few words in Spanish (Portuguese in Brazil) will also increase your safety. The ability to communicate builds friendship and takes away anonymity and distance. A traveler who is in contact with the locals and knows a few phrases is less likely to be regarded as an ignorant outsider and targeted as a victim. With just a basic vocabulary you can ask the locals if it is safe to walk in their town at night and where to find a good restaurant or a reputable hotel. You can’t always trust every word, but their advice will help you make up your own mind.
Even without basic language skills you can learn a lot from the locals by watching them and following their example. If people in a marketplace pay only with small bills from their pockets, you probably want to do the same and hide your wallet. If the locals take their carry-on when leaving the bus during a rest stop, maybe you should too. I have found the example of the locals to be especially helpful in remote areas, such as the Andes and the Amazon rain forest. They known what water is safe to drink, where streams are safe to bathe in, what trees not to touch in the jungle, what mosquito-borne diseases might be present, and what the common weather patterns are in the mountains. The wealth of local knowledge of their environment has helped me many times to complete my adventures safely and without incidents.
Know your Abilities and Limits
While it is important to keep a watchful eye on the world, some of the most serious safety threats come from the fact that we think of ourselves as more experienced and stronger than we really are. Misjudging our physical ability or potential risks is probably the most fatal mistake any traveler can make. If you are planning an adventure in a South American country you don’t know, you might want to take a more cautious approach to your adventure. You could go trekking in the Andes with a group before exploring this vast mountain range by yourself, or join a boat tour in the Amazon before returning in your own kayak. Get in shape before your trekking adventure in Patagonia and start with training sessions several months before your departure, so your body is prepared for the strains and the exertion. Be sensitive to your physical condition, and think “safety first” when you plan your adventure. Climate and weather factors are also an important consideration. How well can you handle tropical climate and humidity? Is your skin sensitive to intense sunlight? If you are hiking in the Andes, are you equipped for a sudden change in weather, freezing temperatures and snowfall?
Even with knowledge and planning, a certain degree of risk is an inherent element of travel. Neither insurance policies, professional guides or security guards can provide an ultimate guarantee for our safety when we’re high up in the Andes or far down in the subway of São Paulo. But it is this unpredictability that makes travel so fascinating and sets it apart from our daily lives. We are invited to take chances with the unknown, explore unfamiliar countries, and discover the adventurer within us. And these enriching experiences undoubtedly make up for the uncertainties and risks of travel.
For online travel safety resources, please visit our Living in South America section, choose the country of your interest and click on the link to the “Health and Travel Safety” section.
Best Travel Tips
Always pack a hat. In the winter, a knit hat will keep you warm and take up little room. In the summer, a brimmed hat will keep the sun off your face. In either case, it will save you when your straightening iron doesn’t work in the trapezoidal electrical socket you found in your hotel room
Packing for a trip is infinitely easier when you’ve just done laundry.
Bring a travel first aid kit with the following: ibuprofen (or other pain killer), decongestant, NyQuil, bandages, hydrocortizone cream. You will not believe how often it will come in handy.
Going somewhere with clean drinking water? Pack a reusable water bottle that clips on to your bag. Bonus points if it’s collapsible. In an age where the bottled stuff costs $7, you’ll save a ton, too.
You will never wear that second dressy outfit, so stop packing it. Most trips, you won’t even wear the first dressy outfit (but you should still pack that one).
Bags with wheels are amazing. That backpack might seem more agile, but have you ever seen someone trek across an airport with one of those on their back? Nimble does not come to mind. Sciatica, yes. But not nimble.
Don’t forget your camera charger. You will go through that battery in a second, esp. when your friends insist on flipping through all of the photos that you just took in order to relive something that happened 5 minutes ago.
Don’t pack clothes that require ironing. Hell, don’t buy clothes that require ironing.
If you are staying with someone, get them a present. Either bring it from home, or take them out during the trip, or send them something afterwards. Do it not only because you will likely be invited back, but because your mom will be so proud.
Never pack something that you haven’t worn before. Otherwise you’ll find your new shoes too uncomfortable, your new jacket too flimsy, your new underwear too wedgie-prone.
Buy that delightfully grotesque souvenir, even if you don’t know who to give it to. Odds are, you will think of someone for whom it would be perfect. Worst-case scenario, you’ll keep it for yourself. Which is a really great worst-case scenario.
If an airline loses or damages your bag and you file a claim in the United States, the Department of Transportation requires that the airline compensate you for the value of the bag and its contents, up to a maximum of $3,300. If you file a claim overseas, the Montreal Convention regulations apply; these stipulate that airlines provide up to $1,750 in compensation, depending on the exchange rate.
Proving the value of a bag and its contents without receipts is difficult. Alexander Anolik, a travel attorney and baggage liability expert, encourages travelers not to be discouraged. “Even without a receipt, if your dispute ends up in court, a judge will look at your claim, and if it seems legitimate, you will likely get your money.”
If you don’t want to go to court, it can be hard to get anything besides travel vouchers. “They will stall until you forget about it,” Anolik says. He encourages passengers to be firm and to include pictures of missing items with claims. Secondary evidence of a purchase is often effective.
“The United States has few explicit consumer protections for baggage delays,” Anolik says. “Airlines make their own regulations and are required to post them online.” However, the DOT does require airlines to provide victims of delayed baggage with a stipend to buy items like clothing, toiletries, and medicines.
How carriers choose to pay this stipend is largely up to them. Delta, for example, provides $50 a day for up to 5 days, while airlines such as American reimburse passengers following the presentation of receipts for authorized “reasonable expenses.” At what point a delayed bag is considered “lost” is not regulated by the DOT, but for overseas travel it is 21 days after landing.
Protect Your Belongings
If you’re checking possessions valued in excess of an airline’s standard compensation, ask to purchase additional coverage at check-in, Anolik says. Some but not all airlines offer this insurance, so it’s worth requesting if you’re checking high-priced items. United sells insurance at the one-way rate of $1 per $100 of coverage, up to $5,000. Typical travel insurance plans also include compensation, but beware of the exclusions.
Be sure to report any lost, damaged, or pilfered items immediately (United requires passengers to report within four hours of landing), and file a written claim as soon as possible (some airlines require the claim be filed in as few as 21 days). Otherwise, you may not be due any compensation, regardless of your loss.
Malaysia has some incredibly strict laws that may not be common-sense for many travelers from Western countries.
Failure to follow these laws can result in fines or imprisonment. Many aspects of Sharia law have been implemented in Malaysia, and some of these laws are applicable to non-Muslims. Before traveling to Malaysia, check with the US State Department to receive the most up-to-date laws, as the country’s laws are evolving quickly under its relatively new democracy.
Drug laws in Malaysia are significantly stricter than in the United States. Anyone possessing any controlled substances may be levied a heavy fine, kicked out of the country immediately or imprisoned. Engaging in drug trafficking in Malaysia is punishable by death, and the courts take this law seriously. Anyone possessing more than seven ounces of marijuana or one-half an ounce of heroin will be assumed to be a drug trafficker, and will be tried as such. While drinking alcohol is legal in Malaysia, driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal, and as a crime is strictly enforced. Being caught driving while intoxicated us punishable by immediate arrest and may result in extensive jail time.
Malaysia is a devoutly Muslim country, and many of its laws derive from Sharia law. These include laws that pertain only to Muslims, such as those outlawing premarital sex or the imbibing of alcohol. Non-Muslims found facilitating a Muslim in breaking Sharia law may be arrested and fined. More serious is the prohibition against preaching of a faith. Those founds disseminating non-Islamic materials, or preaching any non-Islamic doctrine for the purpose of conversion may be arrested and imprisoned.
Malaysia once had very strict laws regarding homosexual conduct – in 1998 the Deputy Prime Minister was removed from power on sodomy charges – but the attitude regarding sex has shifted as democracy has taken hold. Strictly speaking, homosexual acts are still illegal and punishable by caning and imprisonment for men and imprisonment for women. In practice, however, Malaysia is home to a vibrant gay scene, and even when raids on gay businesses do occur, locals are very rarely targeted. Public acts of sex are still very much illegal, however, and are punishable by caning or imprisonment.
Petty theft, cheating in business and lying in business are all also illegal in Malaysia. These white-collar crimes are punishable by fines and by caning. Removing any flora or fauna from Malaysia is strictly prohibited, and may result in extensive fines, imprisonment, and expulsion from the country. Malaysia is also a common law country, and other than a few exceptions retains the basic common laws found in most Western nations.
Keep Your Cool: What to Do If Your Passport is Lost or Stolen While Traveling
What would you do if your passport was lost or stolen while traveling overseas? The bad news—it could eat up a little bit of your time, money, and patience (and potentially delay your trip). The good news? If you’re prepared and know what to expect, you can actually make things a lot easier on yourself. While On Call members can rest assured that we can assist them through the process, here’s what you should know (and do) if your passport is lost or stolen while traveling abroad:
1. File a Police Report ASAP.
This is especially important if you plan on claiming the cost of replacement on your travel insurance cover. A police report will also validate your information should someone try to use your passport illegally. Make sure before you leave the police station that you have a copy of the report for your records.
Caution: Filing a police report can be quite frustrating if you’re experiencing language barriers with the local authorities. On Call members can call us for 24/7/365 for language interpretation services, and those who remember to pack a few extra copies of their passports may also have an easier time filing a report.
2. Locate Nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Once you’ve located the US Embassy in the country you’re visiting (for a complete list, click here), you will need to schedule an emergency appointment. Generally, appointments are available Monday-Friday mornings (excluding Federal Holidays) and there are no walk-ins allowed.
3. Apply for a New Passport.
This must be done in person and you will need to bring the following documentation with you to your appointment:
Passport Application form DS-11 (filled out in black ink)
DS-64 form (filled out in black ink)
Proof of U.S. citizenship and a form of primary identification. If you cannot present primary evidence of U.S. citizenship, you must submit secondary evidence of U.S. citizenship.
Note: If you have an extra copy of your passport with you, it could help streamline/expedite the process of proving your identity to a representative.
Passport photo—if you do not already have an extra photo handy, there are often stores and businesses located near the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where you can get passport photos. Either way, make sure your passport photo meets the State Department’s specific passport photo requirements.
Extra credit: pack a few extra passport photos whenever you travel abroad.
A copy of your travel itinerary which includes your plans for leaving the country
Payment—while the specific fees for services are the same as if you were in the U.S, embassies and consulates overseas can only accept your payment in cash in U.S. or local currency on site (or in some cases via credit card). And unlike acceptance facilities located in the U.S., they don’t accept personal checks.
Check the website of your embassy or consulate to see what forms of payment they are able to accept. If your wallet was lost or stolen (or if you were a victim of a natural disaster) and you cannot reasonably obtain money to pay the fees before continuing travel, no passport fee will be charged.
4. Wait it out.
You should receive your new temporary US passport within 24 hours. This passport is only good for one year and will need to immediately be renewed and replaced with a traditional 10-year passport once you have returned back to the United States. If for some reason the application process or waiting period disrupts or delays your trip, On Call members can contact us for help with rescheduling their travel plans.
Gender and traveling.
On the Train: Tips for a Smart Ride
Once you’re on board, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the journey.
Find a seat. If you have a seat assignment, locate it and plop yourself down. If you’re traveling without a seat reservation, you can claim any unreserved seat. If these are in short supply, take a closer look at the reservation tags posted above the seats or on compartment doors. Each tag shows which stretch of the journey that seat is reserved for. You may well be getting off the train before the seat owner even boards. For example, if you’re headed from Luzern to Lugano, and you see a seat that’s only reserved from Lugano to Milan, it’s all yours.
Stow your luggage. In more than 30 years of train travel, I’ve never checked a bag. Simply carry it on and heave it up onto the rack above the seat or wedge it into the triangular space between back-to-back seats. I’ve seen Turkish families moving all their worldly goods from Germany back to Turkey without checking a thing. People complain about the porters in the European train stations. I think they’re great — I’ve never used one.
Be savvy with your bags. I assume every train has a thief planning to grab a bag. Store your luggage within sight, rather than at the end of a train car. Before leaving my luggage in a compartment, I establish a relationship with everyone there. I’m safe leaving it among mutual guards. I don’t lock my bag, but to be safe, I often clip my rucksack straps to the luggage rack. When a thief makes his move in the darkness of a train tunnel, and the bag doesn’t give, he’s not going to ask, “Scusi, how is your luggage attached?”
Use train time wisely. The time you spend on long train rides can be an opportunity to get organized or make plans for your next destination. Read ahead in your guidebook, write journal entries, delete yesterday’s bad photos, double-check your connection information with the conductor, organize your daypack, or write an email home (you don’t have to be online to write one). If the train has power outlets (rare but becoming more common), charge your gadgets. Don’t, however, get so immersed in chores that you forget to keep an eye out the window for beautiful scenery around the next bend.
Use WCs — they’re free. To save time and money, use the toilets on the train rather than those in the station (which can cost money, and are often less clean). Toilets on first-class cars are a cut above second-class toilets. I “go” first class even with a second-class ticket. Train toilets are located on the ends of cars, where it’s most jiggly. A trip to the train’s john always reminds me of the rodeo. Some toilets empty directly on the tracks, so never use a train’s WC while stopped in a station (unless you didn’t like that particular town). A train’s WC cleanliness deteriorates as the journey progresses.
Follow local train etiquette. Pay attention to the noise level in your car. If everyone else is speaking in hushed tones, follow suit. Watch for signs indicating that you’re sitting in a designated quiet car, where business people come to work and others to nap. No matter where I’m sitting, I make an effort not to be the loudest person in earshot (easily done on the average Italian train, but takes extra awareness in, say, Germany). Resting your feet on the seat across from you without taking your shoes off is perhaps an even graver faux pas.
Talk to locals or other travelers. There is so much to be learned. Europeans are often less open and forward than Americans. You could sit across from a silent but fascinating and friendly European for an entire train ride, or you could break the ice by asking a question, quietly offering some candy, or showing your Hometown, USA, postcards. This can start the conversation flowing and a friendship growing.
Pack a picnic. For the best dining value and variety, stock up at a local deli, bakery, supermarket, or wine cellar before you board; most train stations offer at least one of these. Food sold on the train costs more, with options ranging from a basic coffee and sandwich cart to a more extensive bar car or sit-down dining car (noted on most schedules when available). A few trains offer a “complimentary” meal, in first class only, usually covered by a higher seat-reservation fee.
Strategize your arrival. Use your guidebook to study up on your destination city while you’re still on board — it’s far more time-efficient and less overwhelming to arrive in a station already knowing how you plan to reach the city center (or your hotel). If you’re trying to make a tight connection, it’s good to know which platform your next train leaves from. If you don’t already have that information, flag down a conductor, who either knows the answer or should be able to look it up for you.
As you approach your destination, have a game plan ready for when you get off the train. Know what you need to accomplish in the station before heading out — e.g., looking up the schedule (and perhaps making seat reservations) for the next leg of your train trip, picking up a map from a trackside information office, hitting an ATM, buying a transit pass, or grabbing provisions from a grocery store (especially if you’re arriving late, after most city-center shops and restaurants have closed). If you’ll depart from the same station later, pay attention to the layout.
Know where to get off. In Dresden, I twice got off my train too early — at two different suburban stations — before arriving at the central station. Know which station you need before you arrive, and be patient. When arriving in a city (especially on a commuter train), you may stop at several suburban stations with signs indicating your destination’s name and the name of the neighborhood (e.g., Madrid Vallecas, Roma Ostiense, or Dresden Neustadt). Don’t jump out until you’ve reached the central station (Madrid Chamartín, Roma Termini, or Dresden Hauptbahnhof) — ask fellow passengers or check your guidebook to find out which name to look for. Learn the local word for “main station.”
Be aware that some trains (especially express trains) stop only at a major city’s suburban station — if you stay on board, expecting to get off in the center a few minutes later, you’ll bypass your destination city altogether. For instance, several trains to “Venice” leave you at Venice’s suburban station (Venezia Mestre), where you’ll be stranded without a glimpse of a gondola. (You’ll have to catch another train to reach the main Venezia Santa Lucia station, on the Grand Canal.) On the other hand, it can be handy to hop out at a suburban station if it’s closer to your hotel than the main station. Many trains headed for Barcelona’s big Sants station also stop at the Plaça de Catalunya subway station, which is near many recommended accommodations. If you do find yourself at the wrong station, don’t despair: It’s a safe bet that a city’s stations are connected by frequent trains, and probably subway or buses as well.
Airport – Get Ahead of the Game
1) Sign up. The TSA’s PreCheck (TSA.gov/precheck), a trusted traveler program, has spread to more cities across the U.S. and is now available at more than 180 airports. Members of the program are prescreened and can whiz through security without having to take off their shoes or remove laptops from cases. The U.S. Customs Department’s Global Entry program (see GlobalEntry.gov) is another shortcut for frequent international travelers, especially as the federal government immigration and customs lines get longer. Read 12 Ways to Cruise Through Customs and Immigration to learn more.
2) Gear up. Personally, I have found that buying more stuff is not always the best solution to travel problems, as one of the most serious travel problems for many people is having too much stuff in the first place. But there are a few items that are useful enough away from the airport to justify buying mostly for the airport, including slip-on shoes, clear zip-shut sundries bags and TSA-friendly laptop cases to help speed you through security.
Before You Leave Home
3) Check flight status. I feel like this tip is almost so obvious that I should not even include it, but I find that even in my own travels, I often fail to do this one simple but critical thing. Then this summer, I almost got burned. A very early morning flight for my son and me was canceled; luckily, I have a TripIt account, and found out about the cancellation before anyone else in the house was even awake. Had that not been the case, I am certain that in the rush to leave before dawn, I would not have checked flight status, and would have gotten a ride to the airport with all our stuff, waved goodbye, headed into the terminal, stood in line and only then discovered the cancellation. So — check flight status early and often.
Most airlines will text you flight status updates if you sign up on their websites, and sites like FlightStats.com and TripIt.com will do the same by text, on the web and through smartphone apps.
4) Check in online. Especially if you are not checking bags, this can save you a heap of time. I have found that when checking bags, having the preprinted boarding pass in your hand doesn’t help all that much, and check-in agents often end up reissuing another boarding pass when you check your bags — but it sure doesn’t hurt. Plus, it’s the best way to secure the seat you want onboard the plane. Learn more about online check-in.
5) Before you leave for the airport, put your ID, credit card and boarding pass in an easily accessible part of your wallet or bag. There are two reasons for this: one, by going through this exercise, you make sure that you don’t leave home without these crucial items. Two, you don’t waste your (and other people’s) time fumbling around for them at the moment you need them.
6) Pack everything else out of reach. Clutter is the enemy of smooth passage through the airport; pack out of reach and sight anything that you will not need between your front door and your airplane seat.
7) Check the airport parking situation online. Knowing ahead of time where to park, which lots are open and how far they are from the terminal can save you a lot of anxiety on your drive in, as well as keep you safer as you navigate tortuous and almost always poorly marked airport ring roads. During peak travel periods, lots fill up quickly, so you will want an alternate parking plan.
Many airports are adding parking lot status updates to their websites, while others have automated telephone information. As a side benefit, parking prices are usually displayed, so you can save money as well. At the very least, check the maps so you know where you are going; these also typically show the location of cell phone waiting lots, which can be useful to folks picking you up.
Off-airport lots are also worth considering, both for the ability to reserve a spot in advance and for price savings in many cases.
8) Check the airport maps, hotel shuttle info and rental car counter details for your destination airport. If navigating your home airport is confusing, it will be even worse at an unfamiliar airport at your destination. Flight status updates frequently include the likely arrival gate, so checking the maps at your destination airport can help you get through the baggage pickup, find the rental car counters or shuttle pickup locations, and find rendezvous spots for shuttles to your airport as available. If someone is picking you up, you can also pre-arrange a pickup location so he or she can find you without too much hassle.
At the Airport: Before Check-In
9) Prep your documents. Before you get in line to check in, or at least before you get to the front of the line, have in hand all the items and documentation you will need to check in. This makes everyone happy — you, airline agents and the people behind you in line who appreciate your efficiency.
10) Weigh your bags. Many airports are installing scales in front of the check-in areas; if you suspect your checked bag might be overweight, weight it before you get in line, and do any swapping between your bags before you reach the check-in counter. This also avoids any scrutiny from the check-in agents about your carry-on bag starting to swell (another topic altogether, which I won’t go into here).
If you are really serious about baggage weight, you can even weigh bags at home — buying your own luggage scale is inexpensive and will prevent surprises at the airport.
Between Check-In and Airport Security
11) Stow everything except your ID and boarding pass in your carry-on bag. This way, when you get to the front of the security line, you are not finding stuff in random pockets, messing with your phone, dropping credit cards and keys, spilling crumpled cash all over the place and generally ticking off everyone behind you. By the time you get in the security line, you should be as close to ready to go through the actual security machine as possible.
12) Take inventory of what you will need to do when you get to the front of the security line. Do a quick mental review of everything you are wearing that you will need to remove (shoes, jewelry, watch, jacket), and what you have inside your carry-on bag that might need to be taken out (liquids, large electronics). When you get to the front of the line, blast through your mental inventory and make it happen.
On the Other Side of Security
13) Check the flight status boards again. Unless you are really early, your actual flight time is getting close, and this is when you will start to see gate changes and more reliable departure time estimates.
14) With that said, though flight status boards are your first stop for directions, go directly to your gate for any breaking information. The official system updates sometimes lag behind reality, so you want to check in at your gate to make sure nothing has changed. Beyond finding out your flight status, by showing up at the gate you will get a sense of how crowded the flight is and figure out which terminal amenities (restaurants, bathrooms) are nearby.
15) Program your airline’s 800 number into your phone. If you get stuck due to a delayed or canceled flight, you’ll want to be proactive in figuring out your options, as airline folks are typically understaffed and under siege in these situations. If you have the phone numbers of airlines that fly your preferred route programmed into your phone, you will get a lot farther a lot faster than if you don’t.
How to Travel Without Hugging the Bowl: 10 Tips for Staying Healthy on the Road
As I emptied myself from both ends for the better part of 36 hours in the hills of northern Ecuador recently (a bad batch of cevichochos, I suspect), I was reminded that we owe our readers an accounting of how we usually manage to stay healthy while we travel.
Fortunately, Audrey and I have each only endured stomach bugs three or four times in the last few years of travel — in places like Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, and most recently for me, Ecuador.
Yes. That’s correct.
If you follow us, you know that we rarely deny ourselves the joys of exploring local street food and meals in hole-in-the-wall restaurants. And although it appears that we eat with reckless abandon, we do tend to follow some basic guidelines. These are not hard and fast rules (we do break them sometimes) but a philosophy and approach that seem to work for us. The idea is to sharpen our ability to size up eating situations while balancing the reward of authentic local dining with the risks of becoming ill.
Tips for Staying Healthy, in no particular order
1. Wash your hands often.
Then wash them again. Not to sound obsessive-compulsive, but get into the habit of washing your hands before a meal, after a meal and any time you think of it, particularly if you have been holding railings on public transportation or shaking hands at the local market. And don’t skimp on the soap. Carry a tube of anti-bacterial gel for those rare moments when no soap or sink is available.
2. Beware of tempting fruit shakes and drinks made with unpurified water.
Those stands may look so good in India, but don’t risk buying a fruit shake off the street unless you are certain the water (or ice!) has been purified. There’s no need to completely deny yourself this pleasure, but just ask first or order it from a tourist-oriented restaurant that has purified water clearly marked on the menu.
During my first visit to India, an Indian-American friend asked his father why he cautioned against drinking sugar cane juice from a street stall. “There!” his father pointed to a giant block of ice being wheeled down the street on a cow cart lined with poop-stained burlap.
3. Cooked is more reliable than fresh.
If you have questions about the hygiene of what and where you’re eating, make sure everything is properly cooked. Fried, boiled, or baked, high temperatures kill germs.
When in doubt, avoid the street food dishes with fresh herbs on top. Sure, in places like Thailand and Vietnam, you are probably OK. We also ate loads of fresh herbs in Burma. The point is that we didn’t wholesale avoid them; we made decisions based on the environment.
Same goes for mayonnaise toppings. Assume no refrigeration.
4. When in doubt, take it easy on the meat.
Meat insidiously turns faster and meaner than vegetables ever will. You never know how meat has been handled or how long it has stood before it lands in your mouth…and your stomach.
We are certain that leaning vegetarian helped us stay healthy in India and China. Did we eat meat in both countries? Yes, but only when the signs were favorable. In India, we usually reserved meat for spiffy-looking street stalls and formal restaurants that were certain to have refrigeration.
5. Spice is your friend.
I have no scientific proof that chili sauce kills bacteria, but I’m inclined to believe that our copious use of hot sauces have served our stomachs well prophylactically. Although the argument continues, some say that good ‘ol black pepper was traditionally used as a preservative.
6a. A little bacteria is a good thing.
We’re big believers in maintaining a healthy layer of good bacteria in our stomachs. Experiment a little bit when you travel so that you build up some resistance. If you are a first-time traveler and are accustomed to everything antibacterial and antiseptic, the world overseas will find a way to shock your system. You are likely to experience an adjustment.
So consider keeping things clean, but don’t sanitize everything you touch – living in an anti-bacterial world can put you at risk when you leave the bubble.
6b. Learn to like yogurt.
When fighting bad bacteria, make sure you have enough “good” bacteria inside of you. Some people carry probiotics or acidophilus pills to balance and replenish good bacteria. I just like to eat yogurt, particularly the fresh, unpasteurized stuff. The top of the yogurt hierarchy is the homemade stuff (matsoni) from the mountains of Georgia. It just felt healthy.
7. Look for high turnover and low fly-count.
Seek out street stalls and restaurants with a high turnover of food. Freshly cooked is better than something that’s been sitting around on a tray for a while. The longer food sits, the more likely it will play host to bacteria. High turnover also implies high traffic, which itself suggests that the food being served is probably pretty good.
Eye the fly-count. Flies are excellent carriers of disease.
8. Check your glass and silverware.
Don’t obsess, but give it the once-over. It may be better to drink your soda or beer directly out of the bottle than from a glass (or wipe the glass if you must). Or ask for a straw to drink fruit juices or sodas. Run a napkin over your utensils or ask for a new set if they look unappetizing. Or consider heading somewhere else where the silver is, um, a bit cleaner.
9. Peel your fruits and vegetables.
When everything you eat is cooked, you will crave fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy the kind you can peel – bananas, cucumbers, carrots, papayas, avocados, etc. Avoid lettuce or anything with a skin you eat (e.g., tomatoes). If you do, wash them in purified (and slightly chlorinated water).
If you venture to eat cut fruit (see the image above), be mindful of toppings that might be made from unpurified water.
10. Don’t let your guard down on organized tours.
Ironically, half of our stomach episodes have occurred on organized treks, once in Vietnam and again in Guatemala. Having assumed the organizers had taken all the necessary precautions, we ate fresh vegetables we would have otherwise avoided. Likely a dirty knife in one case and a dirty mango skin in the other. And we paid for our lapse in judgment.
Honorable Mention: Good old-fashioned luck of the draw.
Although we do not recommend relying on pure luck, it bears mentioning that you could throw caution to the wind while traveling, eat on the street 24-7 and never get sick. Likewise, you can follow every healthy travel eating guideline and spend more than your fair share of time in the toilet.
How to get adjusted to time differences around the world.
If you have traveled a considerable distance, the last thing you want to deal with is jet lag. How do you avoid jet lag? More to the point, what is the best way to adjust to a new time zone? If you can learn how to adjust to a new time zone, with light exposure and medications as needed, you will enjoy your travels all the more.
Lessons in How We Sleep Can Improve Jet Lag
First, it is important to understand why we feel sleepy when we do.
This is dependent on two processes: homeostatic sleep drive and circadian rhythm. The sleep drive is our desire for sleep; the longer we stay awake, the sleepier we become. This is due to the build up of a chemical in the brain called adenosine. The circadian rhythm complements this and also dictates the timing of our sleep. This nearly 24-hour rhythm encourages us to sleep when we do. It is the circadian rhythm that is most impacted by travel.
The circadian rhythm is something that our brain generates in an area called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This is close to the optic nerves that perceive light, and light is the strongest factor controlling our circadian rhythm. (This will become important later.) There are other weak influences called zeitgebers (or “time-givers”). These include the timing of meals, the temperature of our environment, and other social cues (like other people being awake at certain times).
Read more at link above:
24 Places Every Woman Should Visit — By Herself
Spain’s capital city is often overlooked in favor of party-packed Barcelona, but visiting Madrid will give you an equally authentic but slightly less touristy experience. Full of grand city squares and historical architecture, the city is also an entertainment hub, known for its music and great food — from Valencia’s paella to Catalan cuisine and traditional Spanish tapas.
Spain truly wakes up when the sun goes down, and the city is pretty safe at night; just be mindful of petty theft. In the Spanish tradition, have a late dinner and then explore the energetic nightlife. To read more go to Refinery29.com
Some young travelers are terrified of staying in a hostel. Maybe they saw that horror film by the same name (thanks a lot, Eli Roth) or maybe they’ve heard a few too many cautionary tales from relatives who backpacked through Europe in the 80s. Maybe you’re reading this and wondering, “what even is a hostel?” The reality is, youth hostels are safer than ever, and there are dozens of reasons to book one for your journey. The cheap accommodation and social atmosphere really make it a no-brainer. Remember that no two hostels are alike, so hop around and book a bed in every city you visit. Here are ten tips on how to get the most out of your stay:
Get to know the place… before you arrive
Some hostels are part of bigger networks, like HI (Hostel International), which regulate facilities and demand a certain level of quality and transparency. For more independent locations, Yelp and Tripadvisor are your best friends. That being said, take everything with a grain of salt. Lots of people book hostels online or over the phone with unrealistic expectations of both the facilities and their roommates. Don’t cancel your trip for one bad review, but mine as much information as you can. The goal is to know exactly what you’re getting and what you’re not. Breakfast? Wifi? Hairdryers? Some modern hostels offer luxurious amenities like built-in bedside reading lights, blackout drapes and air conditioning, but if they don’t flaunt it on their website, don’t expect it. After all, hostels are meant to be bare bone bargains.
Choose your room wisely: Coed or single sex? 4 bed or 10 bed?
Female travelers, especially those traveling alone, may want to pick a female-only room (offered at most hostels). Whatever makes you feel safe and comfortable. Same rule applies to room size. If you’re by yourself, sharing a room with just three strangers might be easier. If you’ve got a couple friends with you, save a few bucks and book the larger dorm. To find the best hostel deals, you have to sacrifice a lot of privacy, but you’ll meet other travellers just like you!
Pick a bottom bunk
When you pick a bed, try to get a bottom bunk. They’re much easier to get in and out of (nobody wants to climb a ladder after a few beers) and you can tuck your things under the bed frame. Being closer to the ground will also help you charge your phone and other devices.
Buy (or DIY) a sleep sheet
A sleep sheet is two sheets sewn together to make a sack. Most hostels provide bed linens and some will even rent you a sleep sheet, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be prepared. You could invest $15-20, but why not save that cash? Look for a Queen/King sized cotton sheet, fold in half, and sew up the side and bottom. Voila! One sleep sheet for a savvy traveler.
Bring a small towel, soap and shampoo to the hostel, as these usually aren’t provided. Grab a pair of flip flops, too. If you’ve ever lived in a dormitory, you’ll remember that shower shoes are a must have.
Hostels have a bad reputation for being filled with party animals. Over recent years, they’ve definitely become more family-friendly, but that doesn’t mean it’s always quiet. Shared rooms will never be completely noise-free, so bring some earplugs to get the deep sleep you need.
Dress in layers
You never know how warm or cool your room will be at night while staying in a hostel. Even if you’re cold when you go to bed, it’s amazing how much heat a room full of people can generate just from their bodies, so dress in layers to guarantee a more comfortable sleep.
Watch your valuables
The hostel system runs on trust and common sense. In general, backpackers and budget travelers are a trustworthy bunch, but would you leave your money, passport and other valuables lying around a private room? I didn’t think so. The same applies here – if the hostel offers a locker or a safe, use it. If not, keep them on you at all times, either in a soft, flat bag around your neck or under your pillow while you sleep.
Don’t be shy!
You’ll find plenty of travellers milling around the hostel in between activities. Most hostelers are more than happy to have a stranger join their conversation, so don’t be shy. Introduce yourself at breakfast and share your plans for the day. If you recognize your roommates at the bar (some hostels, like Generator Venice, have really cool common areas) say hi and invite them to join you that evening. Hostels are the best places to meet other people, make friends and share valuable travel tips.
Familiarize yourself with hostel etiquette
Sure, you’ll probably never see these people again, but you don’t want that kind of bad karma in the middle of your trip, do you? Follow basic youth hostel etiquette and avoid making enemies. Use headphones in the room, don’t turn on the lights at night (use a small flashlight instead), never use something that belongs to your roommate without explicit permission, keep smelly food outside the room, be efficient with the bathroom, keep your area neat (or at least contained) and if you have the top bunk, hang towels or other items over the foot of your bed, not the side. Roommate relations can make or break your hostel experience, so put in a little effort and introduce yourself when you arrive.
Language Travel Tips: How to Talk to Someone Who Doesn’t Speak Much English
By Jennifer MacDonald
People travel a lot these days—and they’re often speaking English when doing it, even if it’s not their first language. If you’re already fluent, you’ve definitely got an advantage talking to someone who’s not very proficient in English, but you may still find yourself at a loss. If you just keep on chatting like you would with anyone else, you’re probably not going to be understood, but what should you do instead?
Despite how often you see it in popular culture, simply speaking louder, (a.k.a “translation by volume”), doesn’t help much. But there are certain features of English that are surprisingly difficult to learn as an adult, but which you’re probably completely oblivious to if you learned it as a child. Here are nine linguistically informed tips for communicating interculturally in a meeting, at a conference, or traveling abroad.
1. Slow down—but keep the same rhythm
Though increasing your volume isn’t very effective, slowing your speech down generally does help, but only to a point. What happens when most people slow their speech down is that they begin to emphasize, or stress, every word evenly, and as a result, their. Speech. Be-gins. To. Sound. Stil-ted. And. Strange. This is because of that fact that in natural, conversational English, we don’t stress each word evenly. In a sentence, the words that carry the most meaning—often nouns and verbs—are stressed more heavily than function words like prepositions or articles that fill in the details.
So in a sentence like John went to the park, nouns John and park are more heavily stressed than the preposition to and the article the. This combination of stressed and unstressed words gives English a certain lilt, the absence of which can throw some people off. So slow down your speech, but keep stressing those words that carry the meaning of the sentence.
2. Speak plainly—not in idioms or slang
Fluent English speakers, when we’re having trouble talking to a less proficient speaker, often unconsciously simplify our speech by injecting it with lots of idiomatic expressions, such as the ball is in your court or take the bull by the horns. These images and associations often have short words, which makes them easy, right? And sure, they’re second nature to anyone who’s used to them, but they’re definitely not always obvious to someone who’s never heard them before.
Swap the expression for straightforward language and there will be no question as to what you mean—Taking the bull by the horns is really just taking control of a situation. The same thing goes for cultural references, slang, local expressions, or abbreviations, which generally aren’t found in textbooks designed to teach English for a global audience. A Bostoner might take the T to the Y for a dip, but just think how hard that could be to understand. Even Jean-Luc Picard and crew struggled with this.
3. Watch your phrasal verbs
Another way many native speakers or expert users of English instinctively turn the formality of their speech down a notch is to start to use more everyday language—think Put out your cigarette vs. Would you mind extinguishing your cigarette? But, counterintuitively, this shift to more informal language could make what you’re saying harder to understand, as the meaning of many everyday nouns and verbs in English are not always very transparent.
Take extinguish vs. put out. It’s not uncommon in English to have two words that mean the same thing—the formal version, extinguish, from Latin, sometimes via French, and the informal equivalent, put out, a phrasal verb, a type of verb phrase with Germanic roots. (Why does English have so many cases of two words that mean the same thing? Thank the Norman Conquest.) Native speakers of English associate phrasal verbs with easy, everyday speech, but in fact, they’re not very transparent—when I put a cigarette out, where am I putting it, exactly? But especially if you’re talking to someone who speaks Spanish, French, or another Romance language, the seemingly fancier Latinate word is more likely to be similar to a word they already know.
4. Be wary of negative questions
How would you answer the following question: Canada’s wintertime temperatures aren’t tropical, are they? Many people would answer no, meaning No, the temperatures aren’t tropical. But the practice of answering no to confirm a negative question isn’t completely widespread. Some speakers would answer yes, as if to say “Yes, what you’ve just said is true”. Confusing? Sure, even for native speakers, let alone for someone learning English.
5. Know your verbal tics
To prevent communication breakdown, it’s best to know thyself (and thy speech): If you have a tendency to speak quickly, mumble or if your sentences tend to trail off, try to keep these habits in check. If you have a pronounced regional accent, keep in mind that it may be harder to understand for those not used to it. And note that the materials used to teach English often don’t reflect the way real people speak, so you may have better luck if you err on the side of formality. The realities of how we use the language can take some getting used to.
6. Be an active listener
Being an active listener is also important. Ask questions to make sure the other person is following you. And remember, just because someone is nodding or saying “OK” while you speak doesn’t mean everything is sinking in. Keep an eye out for the the universal huh?expression, as it may mean that your message isn’t getting across and you need to re-phrase.
7. Don’t give up!
Understanding people with a different accent from yours (whether native or non-native) is something that you get better at with practice, so don’t give up! Concentrate on catching those meaning-heavy nouns and verbs (mentioned above in No. 1). If you’re not sure you’ve understood correctly, echo back what you’ve heard—”So, if I’m following you correctly, you want me to meet you downtown at 3:00?”—so you can be corrected if need be.
8. Think of your conversation as collaboration
Though it can be easy to get hung up on what’s lacking in someone’s English, remember it’s their second (if not third, fourth, or fifth) language. Good communication is the responsibility of everyone involved. Recognize the efforts that the person you’re talking to has made to learn and use English, and meet them halfway. You never know—maybe their hovercraft actually is full of eels!
9. Offer your conversational partner a drink
Fodors.com – Nice travel articles on Fodors website
Ten Simple Rules for Exchanging Your Money
1. ATMs are still the best choice for day-to-day funds.
Although some banks have high fees to use foreign ATMs, not to mention adding on high foreign-transaction fees (Bank of America, for example, charges $5 per withdrawal plus 3% premium on top of each withdrawal at a non-partner ATM), the ATM is still almost always the cheapest option for changing your money. And if your bank has international ATMs or partner banks abroad, you can sometimes save a little on your cash withdrawals; that’s true even at BOA, which charges just 1% at member banks and no other fees. Capitol One Bank charges nothing for a foreign ATM withdrawal, while other banks such as Chase charge 3% on top of every withdrawal as well as a $3 fee. It pays to shop around for a bank if you travel a lot internationally.
2. “No-fee” bureau de change are usually the most expensive places to change money.
When you see a sign that offers “no-fee” currency exchange, be sure to check the rates. You’ll notice that they are almost always significantly worse than what you’d get if you had simply taken money out of an ATM. It’s a good idea to keep up to date on the latest Interbank rates (the rates banks pay for foreign currency) to find out if you are getting a good deal. A web site like www.xe.com can give you those rates, which change daily. At best, you normally pay between 4% and 9% of the total amount you are exchanging to change money into a foreign currency, and this cost is usually built into the bad exchange rate. You pay again to change your euros or pounds back into dollars, so think carefully how much cash you actually need on a day to day basis.
3. If you need a lot of cash, ask your bank to raise your daily withdrawal limit.
Say you are renting an apartment for a week in Rome or Paris and you need a lot of euros at once to pay the landlord, your bank may be able to raise your daily withdrawal limit temporarily to allow you to withdraw much more money than you would normally be allowed to take out. ATMs may have smaller withdrawal limits, but you can make multiple withdrawals from the same ATM or from several ATMs in that case. If you can’t get enough cash to pay for a week in advance, perhaps your landlord will allow you to pay in several installments throughout your stay. If you have a traveling companion, you can both withdraw cash to make the initial payment.
4. Never take a cash advance on your credit card except in a dire emergency.
If you take cash from a foreign ATM, you will pay a fee; you’ll be charged a percentage on top of your withdrawal as a foreign-transaction charge; and you will start to pay very high interest (sometimes up to double the regular interest rate you are charged on your credit card) the moment the cash reaches your hands. It’s a pretty bad deal. Avoid it at all costs unless you have no other choice. Bank of America has pretty egregious fees, as posters in our forums have found.
5. Use credit cards for large purchases.
Most credit cards charge a foreign-transaction fee of between 1% and 3% whenever you buy something abroad, but this is still the safest and often the cheapest way to make a large purchase. You’ll almost always come out ahead on the conversion since credit cards add their fee on top of the Interbank rate. So you are almost always getting the best possible rate of exchange even though you are paying a fee. (And some banks, like Capital One, still do not charge anything extra for foreign purchases beyond the 1% that Visa and Mastercard charge; some credit unions also have very low fees, though membership in credit unions is usually limited.) Other banks, including Citibank, really gouge consumers by charge a 3% foreign-transaction fee even if the purchase is made in U.S. dollars.
6. Avoid dynamic currency conversion.
If you are ever given the opportunity to charge your purchase abroad in U.S. dollars, decline. In fact, you should insist that you be charged in the local currency. So-called dynamic currency conversion not only offers lousy exchange rates, but it also includes hidden fees, and your own credit card will charge you its own foreign-transaction fee on top of the cost of the purchase. In effect, you will be paying double the fees and getting a bad exchange to boot. You might pay a 10% premium for a purchase. Here is one discussion of the process from our forums. Just remember, you are always charged a foreign-transaction fee by your credit card company (if it charges such fees) whether your purchase is made in dollars or foreign currency.
7. Don’t make purchases with your debit card abroad.
It’s very simple. Use your debit/ATM card to make cash withdrawals. Don’t use it to make purchases. If something goes awry, your account will be debited immediately for the purchase; even if you return something for a refund, your account may not be credited for several days (perhaps for more than a week if the purchase is made abroad). If a sales clerk makes a mistake, it could take several days for an erroneous charge to be credited back to your account. With a credit card, you might never notice that a particular charge has appeared and disappeared because it will never show up on your statement. But it’s different with a bank account. The money actually disappears and may not come back for several days even if it’s an error or even if a transaction is cancelled. You might need that cash in the meantime.
8. The Chip-and-PIN situation in Europe.
Most European countries now offer credit and debit cards with a computer chip that requires a PIN to activate and make a purchase. This is especially common in automated ticket machines in Europe, even on European toll roads. If your credit or debit card doesn’t have a chip and PIN (hardly any U.S. credit or debit cards do), then you may not be able to buy a ticket from a machine with your card. Although both Visa and Mastercard promise U.S. cardholders that their cards are usable anywhere in the world where they should be accepted with just a signature, you may still have some occasional problems in Europe using your card. Posters in our user forums have discussed this issue here. The subject was also covered earlier this year on .
9. Traveler’s Checks are a good fallback in an emergency.
Although the predominance of ATMs has made some people feel that the simple traveler’s check is a relic of a bygone era, it can still be a godsend in an emergency. It’s true that few places in the world still accept traveler’s checks as payment. Normally, you must change them in a bank and will be charged a hefty fee for the privilege (though in some destinations like Mexico, it can be difficult to find a bank that will exchange your traveler’s checks). But if you can buy your traveler’s checks without paying a fee, they are a good fallback as an emergency stash of cash. And if you have American Express checks, they can still be cashed in an Amex office abroad. While these aren’t as prevalent as they once were, they are still found all over Europe and in many other countries.
10. A Ben Franklin is also a great emergency reserve.
A crisp, new US$100 bill is also a good fallback as an emergency reserve of cash. While I would not travel abroad with a big stack of cash, having a single $100 bill somewhere separate from your other travel money is a great idea. Even if you lose substantially on the currency exchange, it’s a currency that’s accepted worldwide.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON FLIGHTS OVERSEAS PER THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Carrying meds overseas
• Carry a letter from your physician describing your medical conditions plus prescriptions for any drugs (including their generic names).
• Leave drugs in their original containers. Make sure they are clearly labeled.
• Check with the foreign country’s embassy in the U.S. regarding what medications are considered legal and illegal and in what quantities.
• The site’s webpage “Customs and Import Restrictions” mentions, “Many countries have restrictions on what may be brought into the country, including food, pets. . . and medications. Even over-the-counter medications may be prohibited in some countries.”
Difference Between Passport and a Visa
What is the difference between a Passport and a Visa?
Passport is a document which is used for personal identification during abroad travels. The significant difference between visa and passport is that Visa is an official permission which temporarily authorizes us to stay in a foreign country and the passport is a document that certifies our identity during our travels.
Passport is an official document issued by a national government. The purpose of the passport is to certify the identity and nationality of the owner of the passport. A passport contains the following personal data : name, sex, date of birth, and place of birth.
Travel State Gov
Getting Help In An Emergency
This website gives you all the information you need to know in case of an emergency overseas.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol
As the world’s first full-service border entity, CBP takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity.
The men and women of CBP are responsible for enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations. On a typical day, CBP welcomes nearly 1 million visitors, screens more than 67,000 cargo containers, arrests more than 1,100 individuals and seizes nearly 6 tons of illicit drugs.
Why CBP exists…
To safeguard America’s borders thereby protecting the public from dangerous people and materials while enhancing the Nation’s global economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel.
What the Agency aspires to become…
To serve as the premier law enforcement agency enhancing the Nation’s safety, security, and prosperity through collaboration, innovation, and integration.
Our shared identity, beliefs and aspirations…
We are the guardians of our Nation’s borders.
We are America’s frontline.
We safeguard the American homeland
at and beyond our borders.
We protect the American people against
terrorists and the instruments of terror.
We steadfastly enforce the laws of the United States
while fostering our Nation’s economic security through
lawful international trade and travel.
We serve the American people with vigilance,
integrity, and professionalism.
Vigilance is how we ensure the safety of all Americans. We are continuously watchful and alert to deter, detect and prevent threats to our nation. We demonstrate courage and valor in the protection of our nation.
Service to Country is embodied in the work we do. We are dedicated to defending and upholding the Constitution of the United States. The American people have entrusted us to protect the homeland and defend liberty.
Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles. Our actions bring honor to ourselves and our agency.
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.
At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.
While Global Entry’s goal is to speed travelers through the process, members may still be selected for further examination when entering the United States. Any violation of the program’s terms and conditions will result in the appropriate enforcement action and termination of the traveler’s membership privileges.
Wikihow Travel Around the World
Source: wikiHow – http://www.wikihow.com/Travel-Around-the-World
Traveling around the world at once is often a cheaper option than breaking it down into segments. The secret is to plan carefully and purchase the ticket well in advance. The cost is more than made up for by the amazing experience of seeing many places in a short period of time and the memories you’ll have for a lifetime. Here are some tips for how to travel around the world.
- Star Alliance is based on how many miles you travel and they offer passes in 29,000, 34,000 or 39,000 miles increments. To put that in context, 29,000 miles (47,000 km) you will roughly get 3 continents (outside of the United States), 34,000 miles (55,000 km) will get you 4 continents and 39,000 will get you 5 or 6 continents. The more miles you do, the more destinations you can see and vice versa. Each pass allows up to 15 stopovers (a stopover is considered 24 hours in one destination) and you can get the ticket in first, business, or economy class. Star Alliance also requires passengers to start and end in the same country, though not necessarily in the same city. (There are also passes which are limited to geographic regions in the world.)
- Oneworld offers two different pass options: one that is segment based and the other that is mileage based. Global Explorer is Oneworld’s more conventional, mileage-based ticket. There are three levels – 26,000, 29,000 and 39,000 miles in economy class, as well as a 34,000 in business and first class. Just like the Star Alliance mileage-based RTWs, all miles are counted, including overland segments.
- Air travel is generally the most expensive way to travel. Use flight comparison websites like Travelsupermarket, Skyscanner and Kayak or flight brokers such as Travelocity, Expedia and Opodo. Pay close attention to restrictions. Many “Around-the-World” tickets mandate that you must always be travelling in the same direction, eg. L.A. to London to Moscow. You could not go L.A. to Paris to London. This takes significantly more preparation.
Get into the frequent-flyer mile credit card deal. If you have good credit, aren’t afraid to use credit cards and have some savings, you can score thousands and thousands of miles to pay for your airfare.There are tons of offers out there–most banks have some version of a credit card that has partnered up with an airline, such as the American Airlines Citi card. You have to spend a certain amount of money in a set period of time, but the rewards can be huge–tens of thousands of miles. You’ll need around 120,000 to get an RTW ticket.
Consider alternative methods of travel. For most of us, frequent flyer miles just aren’t an option. It requires a lot of forethought and money. Luckily, there are plenty of cheap options — and they’re often more interesting, leading to more memorable experiences.
Know if you need a visa. The last thing you want to do is to get stuck in Saigon getting yelled at by a man who tells you that you have to go back to Hong Kong. In certain countries, you might have to pay an exorbitant fee to get a visa immediately, but it’s hands down best to know what paperwork you have to have.
- For train travel: In the US, you can travel by rail with Amtrak (if you booked in advance, it can fit any budget). For non-EU citizens in Europe, look into Eurail passes; for EU citizens, Interrail passes are a good bet. In Asia, the Trans-Siberian railway goes from Moscow to Beijing. There you can connect to Shanghai and onto Tokyo.
- A Global Eurail pass is around $500 (€390) and will get you to 24 different countries.
- Moscow to Beijing on the Siberian railway (with stops in Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar) costs $2100 (€1635) for the no-frills, 16-day trip. For each extra person, the cost lowers.
- For bus/coach: Greyhound is the line to travel in the US. The European equivalent is Eurolines — where you can travel between 50 or so cities. And Megabus actually operates on both sides of the lake, only going intercity, though.
- All Greyhound buses are equipped with air conditioning, an on-board restroom, reclining seats with headrests, footrests and tinted windows. In addition,buses make rest stops every few hours, and meal stops are scheduled as close to normal meal times as possible.
- Lille to London through Eurolines can be as little as $36 (€28) one-way. If you’re only visiting a handful of cities, it can be a good alternative to Eurail. They also offer a free luggage allowance of two medium-sized bags.
- For ship/ferry travel: Cruises can be a frugal option of you think about the money you’re saving on accommodation and food. Some companies even offer operate transatlantic cruises; ferrying from New York to Hamburg, you can feel like you’re on the Titanic!
Look into hotels and hostels. Of course, if you have family and friends in the area, stay with them. But if they’re all back home, hotels and hostels are the standard option. Some hostels are slightly fishy, so do your research beforehand.
- The length of your stay and your citizenship are both important factors. For most Westerners, it’s easy to assume you can go wherever you want. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Do your research well ahead of time–it can take weeks to get a visa approved. And if you’re exiting and re-entering a country, know that process, too. You may need a different type of visa.
- Don’t let the one bad hostel ruin the whole bunch. There are quite a few reputable chains and you don’t have to go wandering up a dark alley to find one. Hostelling International makes finding one easy and just like booking a 4-star hotel. If you’re willing to share accommodation with strangers, you can really get a bang out of your buck. And you might meet some fascinating people.
Pack lightly. Unless you have your own personal assistant laying down rose petals 4 paces ahead of you that can carry your 12-piece luggage set, you’ll want to pack as lightly as possible. There will be a time (or two or three or four) when you have to carry it all around. It could be between checkout and check-in times for a few hours or it could end up being all day when your hotel reservation gets lost or your flight gets delayed.
- In addition to a few basic sets of clothes, some reading material, some hygienic products, and small electronics, make sure to bring an international plug adapter. You’ll be incredibly grateful when you’re stuck in Phnom Penh with a dead computer needing to book the next leg of your trip.
Set a budget. Based on where you are going, how long you will be there and whether the country is 1st, 2nd or 3rd world, you’ll need a matching budget. There will always be unexpected expenses, so add a solid “for emergency” category.
- Obviously, first world countries are the most expensive (Europe, Canada, USA, Japan). Second world countries are a bit harder to define, but are usually somewhat developed (Mexico, Eastern Europe, China, Egypt). Third world countries are the cheapest but most difficult places to travel (most of Africa, Bolivia, Peru, SE Asia).
Think safely. Going around the world can be as dangerous as you let it be. Take the appropriate precautions to avoid being taken advantage of.
- Alert your bank. Some banks are highly security-oriented and will cancel your cards if it mistakes your overseas transaction as suspicious activity. To avoid this, call them before you leave to inform them of your exact itinerary, not just that you’re traveling. It’s also a good idea to call them when you get back.
- Don’t carry around your valuables in a bag that can get easily swept of your shoulder or cut without you noticing. Invest in a money belt or small purse that is worn close to your body. Keep your cash, credit cards, and passport in this.
Buy your own groceries. Making your own meals will dramatically cut costs, as opposed to eating out every meal. Europe doesn’t have to be as expensive as they say it is.
- Living like a local will be much more rewarding than traveling like a tourist. Go to local supermarkets, bakeries, and general stores to get a feel for the local flavor. Not only will you save money, but you’ll get an experience you cannot get at home and see things you’ve not seen before.
Do your research. If you’re on a shoestring budget, don’t fret. You can still find things to do that are either very cheap or free. Most bigger cities have an arts or theatre scene that is so lively you’ll have more options than you can manage!
- Time Out, Trip Advisor, and similar travel sites have comprehensive listing of things to do and see for some of the bigger cities in the world. If you find yourself in one of these cities, check it out to get the most out of your trip.
- Guidebooks can be great–but they can also be misleading. What happens when a popular guidebook lists a spot as a best kept secret that no one’s going to? Everyone starts going to it. Do use it as a general guideline, but take everything with a grain of salt.
- Ask around. Who knows better than the locals? If you’re staying at a hotel or hostel, ask the staff. If you’re couchsurfing, sometimes your host will volunteer to show you the ropes. And if you’re worried about the language, keep your eyes peeled. Where do the people seem to be flocking to?
Stay in touch. For safety purposes, every few days find an Internet cafe and email your parents or friends, so they know where you are in case of an emergency.
- It’s not difficult to get a cheap phone if you’re staying in an area for a reasonably significant amount of time. It may be as simple as switching out your sim card.
- Only bring your computer if you’re working or otherwise truly need it. Otherwise it will be cumbersome and you’ll just worry about it being stolen.
Make the most of it. You’re about to embark upon a journey that will be life changing. Let it. Meet new people, do things you didn’t see yourself doing, and learn from it. This may be your one opportunity.
- Go with the flow. If you run into a group of Colombians that are looking for a 6th to go skydiving, don’t write it off. If 100 people are standing in line at a nearby comedy club, join them. Spontaneity can pay off with the best of them.
- Skip the knife and fork and burgers. It may take a little voice inside you pushing you along, but cave to it. Venture from the backpacker area and find a cafe full of men smoking, drinking and playing some foreign card game and order that rack of live prawns that gets grilled in front of you. You’ll leave not only with photos and souvenirs, but memories to last a lifetime.
Get international health insurance, so no matter where you are, you can get medical help or be evacuated if necessary.
- For train travel: In the US, you can travel by rail with Amtrak (if you booked in advance, it can fit any budget). For non-EU citizens in Europe, look into Eurail passes; for EU citizens, Interrail passes are a good bet. In Asia, the Trans-Siberian railway goes from Moscow to Beijing. There you can connect to Shanghai and onto Tokyo.
- Realize that you don’t need to bring everything and the kitchen sink, only the essentials. The idea is to save money. Get a backpack and some exercise and get out there. This is once in a lifetime experience and you don’t need sleep, you just need heart and soul. Trust some people to give you some yummy in your tummy cultural food and some nice living quarters. Now get out there and have a good travel!
- Find out what currencies you will be using throughout the trip and plan ahead. Although traveler’s checks are safe, they can be hard to cash in smaller countries. You can almost always find an ATM, and they will dispense cash in the local currency.
- Get your international data-only sim card in advance. You’ll need an internet for using google maps, searching for some local places to eat or for free calling and texting, bookings and etc.