1. Pack light- Nothing is worse then having to lug your stuff all over the country. I’ve seen people traveling with a giant back pack on their back, a smaller one in front, a fanny pack, and dragging a suit case. Trust me. You DO NOT need to bring that much on your trip. I use to pack heavy and realized that I didn’t use half the stuff or could have easily bought it anywhere. Ask yourself, Do I really need this?
2.Make sure you documents are in order- Your documents will be your life line.
a) Make sure your passport is not about to expire- Obvious isn’t it? Still you’d be surprised by the number of people who forget to do this. One time my friend and I were going to travel to China and what do you know? His passport had already expired. When did we find out about this? AT THE AIRPORT! Needless to say I wasn’t a happy camper.
Some countries check if your passport is about to expire in 30-60 days. Make sure you do not fall in this category. If you do,make sure to apply for a passport as soon as possible prior to your departure.
b) Look into the visa for your country – Different places require different visas. Sometimes a visa can take months to get. You don’t want your travel plans interrupted because of this. Call the local embassy for more information.
c) Scan and email to yourself all important documents – It’s smart to make copies of your passport, insurance, dipolma, drivers license, etc. It’s even smarter to scan them and then e-mail them to yourself. So even if you lose everything, as long as you can access the internet,you’ll have access to all your relevant documents.
Now you may ask why you should scan your college diploma? Well, you never know if you’ll fall in love with a country and want to live there for an extended period of time. Having a copy of your diploma saves you the hassle of having to get someone email it to you. This goes double for any and all documents that you may need on your travels.
3. Research where you are going- If you plan to do a lot of traveling, research the areas you will be traveling to. Make sure to have a good bit of information on where you are going. If they speak a different language and customs, try to learn as much about them prior to
Recently, a friend traveled to Venezuela without doing his research. Turns out the current president, Hugo Chavez had changed the official currency exchange rate, meaning that my friend got ripped off every time he drew money out of an ATM. If he had done his research, he would have known to take US dollars with him and to exchange it in the black market.
a) Making calls – Can you take the cell phone you already have and just buy a SIM card? Or do you have to buy a new phone? You may consider getting a phone that works in many countries then make calls using Wifi.
b) Electric outlets – Make sure you have the right plug for electrical outlets. Also, look into the voltages. I blew up a $200 electric tooth brush because I’m a moron. Turns out that Korea uses 220 volts instead of 110.
c) Do you need a return ticket? – some countries will not allow you to enter without a return ticket.Make sure to have a return ticket. Google is your friend for finding out this information.
d) Also, Lonely Planet travel guides will help you. I’m the type who likes to go to a new destination with no real plan and just play it by ear. Regardless, travel guides will save you a lot of headaches by telling you where to stay and what to do.
4. Budget your trip- Budget your expenses and how much you will be spending on your trip. It is good to do a budget so you don’t over extend yourself. Be careful when traveling with others. Getting into arguments about money leads to everyone being pissed. Be sure to discuss how you will share the expenses. Keep track of the money split and write it down.
5. Speak the language- Even a couple of phrases will help. Some places you’ll find an abundant amount of English speakers, usually the younger people around universities. Other times, you’ll be completely screwed.
6. Renew all your cards- If you plan to travel for an extended period of time, then try to renew all your credit cards, licenses, etc. Most credit card companies won’t deliver your card internationally. So you’ll have to get a friend to mail your new credit card to your new address (if you’re there long enough) . That means you’ll be dealing with other countries mail service. And believe me, this can be a real pain.
7. Travel Insurance- This one is going to be a personal choice. I’ve heard nightmare stories about travelers getting into accidents and having no way to pay for it. Personally, I’ve never traveled with insurance and have had no problems…so far…Make your own decision. There are lots of plans to choose from. Use Google and figure out what plan is best for you.
8. Be safe- It pays to be secure. Invest in money belts, mini locks, travelers checks, and exomesh.
a) Money belts – When I first arrived in Colombia, one of the locals told me not to take out my wallet. Smart idea. Another smart idea is to buy a money belt, then put your important documents and the majority of your money into it. If someone robs you at gun point then you can just hand them whatever is in your pockets. Hopefully they won’t tell you to get buck nekkid.
b) Mini locks – Use these to lock your zippers shut. If you’re traveling on a budget then chances are you’ll be sharing rooms with other travelers. Most travelers you meet will be cool. Others you’ll want to kick in the junk. And then there’s the SOBs who will take your stuff. The mini lock is the first line of defense against this. This way you’ll know no one rooted through your bags.
c) Exomesh – Your back pack ain’t going nowhere with the exomesh deployed. Exomesh is basically a wire net that you wrap around your luggage and secure it to something that does move. If someone wants to steel my back pack then they gotta saw through the radiator first.
Pacsafe is a company that sells exomesh and secure travel gear in general.
d) Travelers checks – Travelers check can be your emergency back up if you should happen to lose all your money and credit cards. If you’re staying in one place for some time, then keep your travelers checks stashed there. The beauty about travelers checks is even if you lose them, you can call up the bank that issued them and get them replaced.