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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

100 Third-World Travel Tips

Original Article

Here's some tips to make your international travel more enjoyable:


  1. Get your vaccinations ahead of time. Tetanus and Hep A and B are standard. Ask your doctor about other vaccinations needed/required in your area of travel.
  2. Make sure your passport and visa(s) won't expire for at least six months after you plan to return home.
  3. Call your banks to let them know when and where you will be traveling so they won't put a fraud hold on your accounts when you try to use your ATM/credit cards overseas.
  4. Email your air and hotel reservations to yourself and keep a written copy as well.
  5. Keep a small notebook with you that includes important phone numbers (including the local number to contact banks and credit card offices--not their toll free numbers), your itinerary, your personal info (emergency contact person in the US, etc), embassy contact info, etc.
  6. Check your health insurance coverage and see if it will cover you when you travel.
  7. Bring one carry-on bag only (saves baggage fees and hassle and it is easier to keep track of).
  8. Leave your drugs, alcohol, porn, weapons, etc at home (saves incarceration--or worse--overseas).
  9. Back up your computer files and leave the back up in a safe place.
  10. Leave all of your fancy jewelry, fancy electronics, and other expensive things at home (makes you less of a target for thieves).

  1. I keep my wallet, cell phone, and passport on me at all times, even on the plane (usually in a jacket pocket or in the pocket of my cargo pants).
  2. Skip the alcohol, drink lots of water.
  3. Wear comfortable clothes...going overseas usually requires very long flights.
  4. But not so comfortable that you would be unsafe in an emergency landing (why women wear spike heals on an airplane is beyond me).
  5. Get up and walk around every so often to help improve circulation.
  6. If you can afford it, the upgrade to seats that fold flat into a bed are well worth it--you will arrive at your destination awake and aware instead of tired and disoriented.
  7. Always assume that your flight may encounter a delay or emergency and plan accordingly (ie: carry needed medication, a small flashlight, cash in small denominations, granola bars, and other items that would come in handy if you don't reach your destination as planned).
  8. While I can recite the stewardess's safety spiel in my sleep and usually am asleep before they speak, I do make safety a priority. I always count the rows of seats, both forward and back, to emergency exits, play 'spot the air marshal', observe those around me on the plane, and imagine what kind of items on the plane could be used as a weapon.
  9. I always load up on the vitamin c and zinc before I lock myself into a plane with hundreds of germy passengers for hours on end.
  10. I make due with what is provided for my comfort on the airplane instead of bringing a neck pillow, ear plugs, eye shades, noise cancelling headphones, etc.  But then again I can sleep anytime, anywhere regardless of how noisy, bright, or uncomfortable it is.  I do this to save weight and the amount of things I need to haul around with me.

  1. Try to schedule your flight so you arrive during the day time.
  2. Change some of your money at the airport before you catch your cab so you won't be stuck with no local money to pay for your first few expenses.
  3. Carry your cash in multiple locations and be careful not to "flash your wad" in public; this makes you a target for thieves.
  4. Have an idea of the area you will be arriving in.  In most places I have no trouble hopping in a cab or taking a local bus to my hotel; in others I won't go anywhere without a local bodyguard to make sure I arrive in relative safely.
  5. If possible, book your first night or two in a hotel so that you will #1 have a place to stay so you can get your bearings, and #2 not be stuck someplace that you really don't like for an extended period of time.
  6. Keep your plans to yourself.  It may be the chatty thing to do, sharing information about where you will be staying and what you will be doing, but this can also make you a target for thieves.
  7. As soon as you get situated in your hotel, find out where the closest ATM, hospital, restaurant, pharmacy, convenience store, etc. is.
  8. One of your first stops should be to get your cell phone unlocked and a local SIM card plus minutes put on it so that you will have a way to contact people and vice versa.
  9. Another thing I do right after I arrive is stock some beverages and snacks in my room in case I don't want to go out (usually because I wake up hungry in the middle of the night due to jet lag).
  10. Alleviate jet lag by staying awake during the day of your arrival, no matter how tired you are, and sleeping at your regular bed time.

  1. If you will only be in the country for a short period, you may want to be very careful with what you eat and drink so that you can avoid getting sick (ie: drink bottled water, eat only well cooked food, don't eat vegetables or fruit that haven't been cooked, etc).
  2. If you will be in the country for a while, you may want to eat and drink whatever the locals do; you will probably get sick (intestinal trouble) but at least you will get over it and then can resume your normal activities without having to watch every little thing you eat and drink.
  3. That being said, know the difference between food and water that the locals use that you can adjust to and food and water that the locals use because they have no other choice and which could carry parasites and other nasty bacteria, then avoid the latter.
  4. Try the local food.  You could probably subsist on American chain restaurants that are ubiquitous the world over but why?  Part of the experience of travel is trying new food.
  5. Even though I am pretty liberal about what I will eat while I am traveling, I still take care to avoid food that is most likely to cause health problems (salads with mayo in them that sit out all day, fish from local waters that I know is severely contaminated, raw food, etc).
  6. Take it easy with the local alcohol.  You may be able to "hold your liquor" in your home country but there are some local brews that will knock you on your ass.  Go slow to start until you know what you are dealing with.
  7. Besides local restaurants (which range from fancy to a shack in someone's back yard) consider a common option of buying food at the local wet market then going to the restaurant next door and having it cooked for you.
  8. When I'm hungry I eat out instead of having food delivered; the fewer people who know where I am staying and who come to my hotel room, the better.
  9. If you have food allergies, write this information down in the local language and show it to your server.  Better to look like a dorky American than to die because you ate shellfish disguised as something else.
  10. Ditto if you have special dietary requirements (ie: you must only eat halal or kosher food).  First, be sure to write out specifically what you can and can't eat (if your note just says halal food people may not know what you mean) then if in doubt, ask if certain ingredients are in the food (occasionally I am on a vegetarian kick and I will tell a server this only to find out that the vegetarian noodle dish has meat added "for flavor"). 

  1. It is perfectly acceptable to check out your hotel room prior to agreeing to rent it for the night; do this.
  2. Make sure that your hotel room has a way to securely lock the doors and windows.
  3. Check the fire exits in your hotel to make sure that they accessible (this isn't always the case).
  4. Tipping the hotel staff well but not lavishly often ensures that you will have people looking out for you (and your room while you are gone).
  5. Take a walk around your hotel, both inside and outside, to look for possible threats/problems.
  6. Hide your valuables in your room, don't just leave them laying about (better yet, put them in the hotel safe), and be sure to keep the drapes in your room closed to keep people from being able to see into your room.
  7. When checking in, I decline the bellhop and carry my own bag (easy, because it is only one bag).  Plus I have the habit of not turning over my bag to anyone.
  8. Make your room look occupied even when you are gone (leave the TV on, the AC on, the lights on, etc).
  9. Keep your cell phone, room key, and flashlight on the bedside table and your shoes next to the bed (loss of power is common in these countries and smoke detectors can be non-functional or not there at all; you may need to make a quick escape).
  10. Know where you are staying; keep the name, address, and phone number of the hotel on your cell phone so you can find your way back in an unfamiliar city.

  1. Keep your wallet in your front pocket (ladies should keep their purses securely on their bodies with the strap across their body and hand on the bag); pick pockets are very good in these countries.
  2. Ditto for backpacks.  Whereas in most places you can carry a backpack on your back as it was designed for, in places where thieves or pickpockets are common, wear your backpack on your front.
  3. It is a good idea to use ATMs during the day, preferably at banks that have visible security officers (of course other ATM safety habits apply as well).
  4. Meet people at neutral locations such as at a bar or restaurant (you don't want people you don't know or don't trust in your hotel room).
  5. Don't make yourself a target for theft or kidnapping (it helps to look a bit like a vagabond...but slightly better so you won't be hassled by the police).
  6. Tips and bribery are common enough ways to smooth your way in many instances; know the local customs when it comes to these things.
  7. Do a bit of research before you leave so you will know what kind of place you are walking in to (ie: if the local narcos are a bit restless, you may want to travel elsewhere. On the other hand, a bit of local research may inform you that the whole 'radicals overflowing in the streets' has been way overblown by the media and the area you are going to is actually quite safe).
  8. If you need serious protection, hire it done.  Although your instinct may be to bring your own protection this can become a problem of epic proportions in many foreign countries.
  9. Mind your manners.  A lot of things that will fly in America will cause you untold problems in foreign countries.  The ground rules are to be polite, always allow the other person to 'save face', don't be loud or boastful or cranky, don't be threatening...basically be on your best behaviour.
  10. In sketchy places it is a good idea to mine your contacts for a friend or relative who is a local and who can help you out (of course you will want to reward him financially for his efforts).  Locals can do everything from acting as your tour guide and translator to getting you out of a jam with other locals or smoothing your way into places foreigners would not otherwise be allowed.

  1. Realize that safety standards are lacking, if there are any at all, in most third world countries.  In many places seatbelts aren't used, bicycle helmets are unheard of, and it is common to see an entire family of four on one small motorcycle.  Obviously if you think a situation is unsafe, do what you can to mitigate the problem. 
  2. It is often better to use a taxi or hire a driver than trying to drive yourself in third world countries.
  3. If you insist on driving yourself and/or your own car in these countries be sure that your documents are in order and you know what is required as far as registration/licensing/etc.  Also know what is expected of you in the event of an accident (could be more than you bargained for so this is yet another reason to have a local driver).
  4. Oddly enough there are often more numerous transportation options available in these countries than what you will find in the US.
  5. Insist on using the meter rates in taxis (sometimes the driver will try to give you a flat rate which is much higher than the meter rate).
  6. Depending on where you are, gypsy taxis are either to be avoided or are a viable option to other forms of transportation, find out which it is in your new location.
  7. Even walking may or may not be a good option (ie: this could be much more dangerous than hopping on a bus or into a taxi).
  8. Be wary of driving in areas where there has been trouble with "banditos" or others looking to separate you from your money/watch/jewelry/etc.
  9. Cheap flights can be found on local airlines that aren't found on Orbitz.  This is often a good way to get from place to place however their safety/maintenance records may not be stellar.  Use Google to find these airlines.
  10. Boats for short trips (for SCUBA diving for example) can often be hired right on the beach; I usually make it a point to NOT take ferries in third world countries.

  1. Bring your own well-stocked first aid kit as there may be items you need that are unavailable in the country you are visiting.
  2. Ditto for prescription medicines (although if you are a regular visitor to certain countries, you may find that your prescription meds are readily available and much cheaper than what you pay in the states; at that point you may want to buy your meds there. Note that purity may be an issue).
  3. You may be surprised that other medications that are prescription-only in your home country may be freely available, sans prescription, in the country you are visiting. In this case, know what you are getting before you consider using it (ie: whenever I get so much as a cold in foreign countries people always want to give me antibiotics never mind that what I probably have is a virus!).
  4. Bring packets of tissue and wet wipes (a better option than using your left hand for toilet paper).
  5. My intestinal upset remedy: take acidophilous at the first sign of stomach upset.  If this doesn't work, bring on the Immodium.  Drink bottled or boiled water and load up on the fiber.
  6. Realize that if you do need medical attention in these countries you will probably find it to be exponentially cheaper than in the US (although the clinic may look like someone's garage).
  7. If you think you may need it (either because of partaking in dangerous activities abroad or due to current health issues) you may want to spring for evacuation insurance--it will save you a ton of money if you end up needing it.
  8. Be more aware of your health (and proactive in fixing problems) in third world countries...everything from sanitary issues to local health threats to excessive heat/sun exposure can have a negative impact on your health if the problem isn't corrected quickly. 
  9. Do a bit of research before you leave to find out what health issues are prominent where you will be going and how to avoid becoming a victim of said health issues (for example, Dengue fever is rampant in many tropical areas at this time. Also, if you are at much higher altitudes than normal you could get altitude sickness and not even realize it).
  10. Write down your health history, current medical problems, blood type, allergies, doctor's name and phone number, and current medications; keep this in your wallet (extra points for having this translated into the local language).  It may come in handy should you be unconscious and taken to a hospital.

  1. Realize that HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases can be rampant in some countries (bring condoms!).
  2. If you drink alcohol, never drink until you are deliriously drunk unless you have someone with you whom you trust to watch your back.
  3. If the hot girl that is hitting on you has an Adam's apple, don't be surprised if the girl turns out to be a guy.
  4. Take extra care when gambling in third world countries; games are mostly unregulated and even if you win fair and square, others may not be so happy for your good fortune (and they may seek to do something about it later).
  5. Be aware of the social and cultural mores (and also the legality of) vices in the country you are visiting.  In some places porn is strictly taboo, in other places using drugs can net you a prison sentence or even death.
  6. No matter your vice, should things get out of hand, the local police probably won't be there to help you (and can often be more corrupt than whoever it is you have the problem with).
  7. Expect that if you bring contraband into countries where laws against these items are strictly enforced, you may end up in jail...maybe even prison.
  8. Just because a country is third world poor, doesn't mean a person can go there and raise holy hell.  Things that would be considered a crime in the US (rape, pedophilia, parental abduction, etc) could land you in jail there and due to changes in US and international law, could land you in prison upon your return to the US as well.
  9. When paying for your vices, the preferred (usually only) method is cash.
  10. Say you are a strictly anti-vice person.  Spouting off your beliefs in the foreign country you are visiting is stupid.  If you don't like the way things are done there, stay in the US.

  1. Giving gifts to the people you have encountered in your travels is an excellent way to build good will.
  2. Know what you can bring back through customs (and what is strictly illegal).
  3. Going somewhere where there is a real possibility of you being kidnapped? Consider executive risk insurance (they even offer training for what to do if you are kidnapped).
  4. Don't expect things to work there like they do here.  That's why they are called third world countries.
  5. Do a bit of homework and find out what the most common problems you are likely to experience in the country you are visiting may be...and what to do about them (blackouts, brownouts, corruption, flooding, localized disasters, strikes and protests, coup attempts, etc).
  6. If all hell breaks loose, head for the closest US embassy or consulate. If this is impossible, at least try to get word to them about your location and situation.
  7. Have more than enough money for your trip.  This can be in cash and money in the bank that you can access through the ATM or bank.  It is also a good idea to have a friend back home who could wire you money in an emergency.
  8. Go to these countries with the idea that you are there to learn and enjoy.  Going there to bitch about the lack of hot water, your nagging intestines, or the asinine way the country is run defeats the purpose of world travel.
  9. Try to help if you can.  Some countries will remain backwards for many years to come and there probably are too many problems to even begin to fix but something as simple as bringing a large ziploc bag of medical supplies or a few books to drop off at the local school can at least help out a few people.
  10. Connect with others in your travels.  Oddly enough, some great friendships can come out of a chance meeting at an ex pat bar in far-flung where ever. Take advantage of these opportunities.
And a whole bunch more travel safety tips

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