Keep your passwords and credit card info safe from Internet Cafes

I started doing some research on this subject because a travel friend of mine is currently dealing with credit card fraud in Panama. Internet cafes may have software that records your keystrokes as you type. In this way, when the “keylogger” sees 16 digits in a row, it knows its is likely to be a credit card number, or possibly a password if you type your password multiple times while online.

One way to combat this is to open another internet window. Then, when you are halfway through writing your credit card number or password, type some random numbers or charictures in the additional window before completeing your password.

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Taking Risks on the Road

I am currently in Panama, but was reflecting on my time in South East Asia last year, where I experienced many friends and fellow travelers fall victim to accidents including motorbike and water activities. We all travel to experience new things, often pushing the limits of our own personal comfort zone by taking it a step too far. Know your limits and don’t let the excitement of travel take you over the edge. If you haven’t been on a Motorbike before, its best not to rent one out in the hectic streets of Hanoi, Vietnam. If you haven’t surfed before, don’t rent a surfboard and hit the big waves on your first day in Panama. These may seem obvious, but unfortunately i have seen both of these circumstances play out several times over. If it’s not your own urges, it could be from the pure pressure of you travel mate(s). I’m guilty of taking things too far on many occasions, but I’ve been lucky enough to come away unscathed. It’s interesting how our minds change and transform while we travel, but its essential to keep your urges in order.

Travel on an Ocean Freighter

Ranging between $65 and $130 USD per day, per person, traveling on a cargo freighter is a unique means of travel that not many people get to experience.  At freightercruises.com you can look up the different routes of the cargo freighters to see what works for you.  They typically do round trip tickets, but offer one-way trips or “segments” as well.

Choose your Travel Guide Book

Over the past two decades, the popularity of guidebooks has grown rapidly. There is likely to be several guidebooks to choose from no matter where you travel. Typically, popular guidebooks like Lonely Planet, Lets Go! and Rough Guides cover an overview of the history and statistics of the city or town your visiting, followed by suggestions for accommodations, restaurants, activities and transportation. The only way you will be able to find the right guidebook is to have a look for yourself. I suggest going to your local book store to check the formats of each and browse amazon.com for online reviews. The following points should be considered:

  • How current is the book? Is it the most current addition? The accuracy of guidebooks begin to fade before their even printed, so you don’t want an old book which could have outdated addresses and contact information.
  • Are you looking for more information about the history of a location, or the most popular bar to meet fellow backpackers? What does the writer emphasize? 
  • Look at the maps given in the guide. Are they detailed?
  • If you choose the popular Lonely Planet as your guide, you can expect to see high demand for accommodations suggested in the book. Know that many other travelers will be reading exactly what you read, and as a result, competing for the same beds. During high season, consider contacting popular accommodations before arrival.
  • If you’re visiting a few countries in a region, consider buying a guide which covers multiple countries. As I write this I am in Cambodia, but I have been carrying the same lonely planet guide that covered other destinations i have visited on this trip including Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. The book also covers Indonesia, which I wont be visiting, but it was worth not having to carry several book or purchasing one for each country. Consider cutting out the pages of the countries you wont be visiting.
  • If you plan to carry a book for each country, buy one for your first stop and trade guide books with someone as you leave for your next country.

Once in a while, put your guidebook away and find something off the guides trail. Guidebooks are a great tool for reading about culture, history, language and suggestions, but its important to branch out from time to time if you find yourself sticking to a guidebook.

Just in case you lose your Backpack

Whether the airline loses your backpack, or it gets misplaced somewhere along your journey, its a good idea to have a photo of your backpack and day-bag. Its much easier to show a picture of your backpack you have printed out, or the photo saved on your camera, than trying to describe the specific color and size of your bag to someone who may not even understand the language you’re speaking. A picture is worth a thousand descriptive words about your backpack and time is of the essence when it goes missing.

Vaccinations for travel abroad

Depending on the region you will be traveling, you should prepare your body to face the foreign diseases you have no natural immunity. Some vaccines and immunizations can be expensive, as many are not covered by insurance. But, if you come down with Yellow Fever, you’re going to wish you had splurged for the treatment.

On one of my first trips, I decided to visit my doctor the days before I left. Bad idea. I was able to get my Malaria pills squared away, but they didn’t have Typhoid available. I left on my trip and ended up being fine, but my doctor was able to scare me enough to make sure that the next time I took off on a trip, I would come to the office six weeks before departure.

Your doctor should know about all the vaccines needed for each country, but its always best to check with the CDC (Center for Disease Control) or Netdoctor before hand. Its a good to have and idea of what treatments you need, so you have time to make sure you in fact did get that Tetanus or Hepatitis booster shot you think you had 5 years ago BEFORE the doctor asks you. Some of the most common medical issues that may come up in discussion with your doctor are:

Yellow fever
Malaria
Hepatitis
Diphtheria
Tetanus
Polio
Typhoid
Cholera
Meningitis
Rabies
Encephalitis

You will also want to make sure you get the appropriate proof of immunization from your doctor. Some countries require proof of immunization, so discuss the requirements with your doctor during your consultation. One example is Yellow Fever, which is a vaccine required to enter some countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.

The CDC website and NetDoctor.com allow you to click on the particular country you will be visiting on their websites world map and it will kick back information on what vaccines they recommend and other tips for staying healthy in the country selected. Here are the Links for each:
Center for Disease Control
NetDoctor

How to stay in contact with friends an family while traveling

Staying in touch with friends and family back home while traveling abroad is becoming easier by the day. With WordPress, Skype, Facebook, ichat and others, many people I know are more connected to their friends and family while traveling than when they are at home. This is because people back home are interested in what you’re doing and honestly may be living vicariously through you and all the excitement going on in your life while abroad. Can you blame them? Below some tools to stay connected:

  • WordPress is a perfect way to allow others to follow your online journal. It takes only a couple minutes to sign up and you can be posting photos and text in no time. Also, if you want to make your posts private, you can do that too. Honestly, if you can log into your email account, you can figure out WordPress. They have made it very user friendly.
  • International Calling Cards are handy if you are only spending a week or two in a country. If your spending months in a county you may want to visit a cellphone store to get cheap phone and SIM card.
  • Flickr is an efficient website allowing you to upload your pictures on the web for photo storage and also works as an album for friends and family back home.
  • I enjoy using facebook chat to talk to individual friends. Even if the internet connection is slow, Facebook chat works well. I do not suggest using facebook as a platform for storing photos. Flickr allows for storage of larger images and better privacy.
  • Skype is a great video chatting tool, which is free. You do need a fast internet connection to keep it from pixelating. For a very small fee you can also make international calls directly to your friends cellphones back home.
  • Twitter for quick updates. Especially nice if you bring a smartphone for wifi access only.
  • If you’re planning to travel with your Mac computer, ichat is a quick any easy way to stay in touch. I used it many times while in a long distance relationship and had no issues.
  • A good’ol post card is fun. The ones i sent from south east Asia and central and south America took about 3 weeks to arrive. Sometimes arriving after I’m already home. But, it does show a lot more care and thoughtfulness to send a postcard than an email, as far as I’m concerned. Especially to the parents or grandparents.