International Travel Tips

I greatly enjoy traveling.  Here are a few random tips you might want to consider before heading aboard, particularly to developing countries (the list is not exhaustive and contains only suggestions):

A Friend Charming the Local Children in Iganga, Uganda

  • Leave your expensive jewelry, watches, clothing, etc. at home.  Unless you are a professional or amateur photographer, leave your large expensive equipment at home.  They make incredibly nice small cameras these days.
  • Pack comfortable shoes.  I take a pair of sandals and wear them a lot.
  • The easiest way to get local currency and make larger purchases is with a credit card.  The exchange rate isn’t bad and you don’t get soaked on transaction fees.  It’s also fast.  ATMs are easy to find, even in most developing countries.  Traveler’s check (if they are still available) are pretty much useless.  American dollars are sometimes useful.
  • Carry a neck pouch for your passport, credit cards, and money.  You can also use a money belt, but they are not very convenient.  Leave your fannie pack at home.  If you carry a wallet or purse, keep little of value in it.
  • I travel with a fairly-large, carry-on backpack.  However, I would recommend something with wheels, particularly if you have to change planes at least once.
  • Foreign travel, particularly in developing countries, can be dangerous, and I’m not talking about crime.  For example, you need to always pay attention when you are walking.  Sidewalks and paths can have unmarked obstacles.  Additionally, foreign roads are frequently organized mayhem.  Night travel is not recommended in developing countries.  Just be alert, and try and use good judgment.
  • If you are going to venture off, always go with at least one companion, and tell your comrades where you are going.  Be particularly careful at night.
  • At attractions, many countries have lower rates for locals than they do for foreigners.  This is not uncommon in museums, animal parks, and other places of interest.  Deal with it.  The locals on average, are a lot poorer than you are.  With merchants, however, try not to let them take advantage of you (too much).  It is okay to haggle and in many locales it is expected.
  • When at all possible, live off the local economy.  Things are a lot cheaper that way.  But more importantly, you leave more money in the country and less money in the hands of foreign tour operators.  Decide how much money you are willing to spend, and spend all of it.  This is an important consideration of eco-tourism.
  • Humanitarian trips abroad can be a great way to see other parts of the world.  But go as a friend and not as a know-it-all foreigner.  Walking pilgrimages are also another nice traveling option.
  • When packing, pack light.  “When in doubt, leave it out,” is a good rule of thumb.  In developing countries, it is easy to find laundry services.
  • Be sure to get your shots and immunizations before heading out.  If traveling in a warm, humid climate, take a malaria preventative with you.
  • In developing countries, don’t drink the water, buy bottled water.  Stay hydrated, particularly in warm climates.  Use bottled water when brushing your teeth.  Try and eat only cooked or pealed food.  Avoid ice. 
  • It is not unusual to get sick while traveling, so be prepared.  Illness has yet to ruin any of my trips.
  • Carry a small first-aid kit
  • Pack a headlamp.  In many countries, there are frequent rolling blackouts (or worse yet, no power).  Also, if you stay in a hostel or with a roommate, they are very useful.
  • When traveling in developing countries, Lonely Planet guidebooks can provide useful information.  But be advised, they are written for the college crowd.
  • I travel with a couple of books, light reading for down times.  After they are read, they can be traded if you find yourself running low on reading material.  Or they can be given away as gifts.  But these days, the younger set is probably traveling with Kindles or something similar.

Please don’t let anything on this list discourage you from traveling in developing countries.  Most of the locals are very friendly, and it is very enlightening to see other cultures and environments.  Be sure to check State Department travel advisories before making your plans.

This entry was posted in pilgrimage, Social Justice, Technology, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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