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.
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.
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.
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- Tagged adventure, backpack, backpacking, cargo, cruise, cruises, freighter, lines, ocean, ports, travel, world
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.
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- Tagged adventure, backpack, backpacking, book, guide, guidebook, Lets Go!, lonely planet, Rough Guides, travel, travel planning, world
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.
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:
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
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- Tagged abroad, backpack, backpacking, disease, doctor, health, prepare for travel, travel, traveling, vaccines, WebMD, world
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.
Posted in Travel Planning
- Tagged abroad, adventure, backpack, backpacking, contact, facebook, family, flickr, friends, ichat, skype, staying in contact, travel, twitter, wordpress, world
The most important piece of equipment while backpacking is the backpack itself. It can really make or break the amount of stress and pain you have to deal with while in transit to your next destination. I personally have an Eagle Creek bag and absolutely love it. Its a good quality bag that Ive had since 2006 and have not had any issues. When purchasing a backpack:
- Determine the items you’re going to be traveling with before you choose a pack.
- I suggest an open-faced bag. This means that the bag opens from the bottom to the top, If your bag only opens at the tops you’ll have to unload all your clothes before you get to the item you want. Packs that only open at the top are more durable backpacks for trekking, but not as convenient. If it opens like a suitcase, you will save yourself a lot of time.
- I have traveled with two good friends from collage who purchased bags with similar features to my Eagle Creek, but tried to get away with spending as little as possible on a counterfeit north face bags and the straps broke on both of their bags within two weeks of the trip. Look at the stitching. Are the stitches close together? Are the stitches strait? A good quality bag with the correct support is a must.
- My backpack has detachable day bag. This allows you to carry all your valuables in a small bag and attach it to your big bag when walking long distances.The detachable day bag should have a hidden sipper pocket for money and passport.
- Depending on your location, you may want to get a waterproof cover for your bag. Often manufacturers include the cover with the backpack.
- The bag should be made of water-resistant material. Doesn’t have to be waterproof for light rain.
- Look for ventilated back support and waist-belt.
- Check reviews on Zappos or Amazon before purchasing.
- For each zipper, you may also want to get some mini locks so you can lock your zippers when in transit. I don’t know anyone who actually locks their zippers in transit, but just having the lock gives the appearance the zippers are locked together. Some are against the zipper lock because it gives the appearance that there’s something worth stealing inside if it is locked.
Please share any additional specs or comments!
Posted in Travel Planning
- Tagged abroad, adventure, backpack, backpacking, backpacking tips, choosing a backpack, day bag, hiking, tips, travel, traveling, world
Besides the usual t-shirts, socks, shoes list of things to bring that one should be able to put together for themselves, I have some uncommon items to consider for your trip.
- Sham-wow or Quick-dry towel – Carrying a bath or beach towel, especially in humid and wet locations, can become big inconvenience. In Costa Rica, I was slinging it over my backpack, trying to let it dry out in time for my next shower or surf session. Drying off with a Sham-wow is perfect, as I can wring all the water out of it and put it back in its small plastic container.
- First-aid kit – Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, butterfly bandages, tweezers, gauze and athletic tape.
- Steripen – My previous post talk about the specifics of the UV pen, but its a great way to create clean drinking water and also keeps your waste level down as you wont be throwing away all those water bottles after every use. Also, good in emergency situations if you’re in the wilderness and need drinkable water.
- Laundry Bag – Guard all your clean clothes by bringing a small laundry bag or plastic bag.
- Rubber flip-flops – You do not want to take a shower in a shared bathroom without them. All the body fluids, dirt and foot fungus are waiting for a tender unsuspecting foot to stick to.
- Pillow case – I don’t personally carry a pillow case, but i know a few people that are afraid of the cooties and other stains that frequent hostel pillow cases. Could help you from getting head-lice, which I’ve dealt with. It seems the headrests in buses are the culprit for the spread of head-lice.
- Headlamp or flashlight – Even if you don’t plan to go on any late night walks, if you’re in a hostel dorm, you will definitely want a flashlight if you need to find something in your bag late at night. Your fellow roommates will appreciate it if you keep the main overhead light off if they’re sleeping.
- Needle and Thread Kit – For rips in your bag and clothing or possibly for a bad wound away from civilization.
- Anti-diarrhea pills – When you’ve had too much street food and you’ve been sitting on the toilet all night, it is no fun if you have to sit on a bus the next day without these. I have over the counter diarrhea pills and when I told my doctor I was going to South East Asia, he also gave me prescription pills.
- Multivitamins & Vitamin C- I currently have a cold (10/01/12) as I write this in Cat Ba, Vietnam.
- Note Pad and Pens- Whether meeting someone on the street and you want to write down there email or the name of their hostel, to filling out boarder crossing paperwork, its great to have a pen and pad handy.
- Copies of passport – In case its lost or stolen.
- Electrical outlet converter
- Depending on the country, you may want to get the local currency before you arrive. Also, look up the currency exchange rate, so you don’t get taken advantage of when you first arrive.
Feel free to add any items you’ve found helpful in your travels.
Posted in Travel Planning
- Tagged abroad, adventure, backpack, backpacking, packing, packing tips, tips, travel, travel tips, trip, world, world travel
One often unforeseen costs of traveling is drinking water. Many people opt for buying bottled water, but the cost and inconvenience becomes a nuisance . The way I have gotten around this cost is using a Steripen, which can be purchased on Amazon.com. Its a Ultra Violet light pen that kills bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Ive used on tap water in Central America for a couple of months and currently (9/29/12) in South East Asia with no illness due to drinking water in either location. As a side note, many of my travel mates have also used the pen with no issues. Its battery operated and all you need to do its swirl the UV wand in the water for about a minute depending on the size of your water bottle and its ready to drink.
Its never fun to wake up in the morning, realize your out of water and need to head to the store to buy a bottle, which you often want to drink the majority of before you leave the store. Simply hit the tap with your Nalgine and sterilize as much as you want in seconds. This will save you time and money, not to mention all the bottles you wont have to throw away.
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- Tagged backpack, backpacking, drink, drinking water, filter, quit job to travel, sterilize, steripen, tap water, travel, traveler, UV, water, world