A Travellerspoint blog

OUCH!!! That Hurt - A Lot!!!

First-aid kits: To be ignored or not to be ignored. That is the question.

Know Safety... No Inury, No Safety... Know Injury Photo by hilarywh

Know Safety... No Inury, No Safety... Know Injury Photo by hilarywh


Welcome to the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. To find the rules of the game, please check the link to your left or the revised General Talk thread.

None of us expect to be injured while on our adventures. But, I can attest to the fact they happen.

Though this question was quite a simple one, I was surprised at the lack of responses considering how many members actually do travel. Injuries, from cuts and scraps to broken bones do happen to even the most cautious among us. Maybe it's just me or that my former employment encompassed several years in the medical field. None of us expect to be injured while on our adventures. But, I can attest to the fact they happen. (Think being hit in the chin by a dive boat's ladder, tossed a good 10 feet out as a 5 foot swell hit and trying to clear my head enough to find the boat for my ride back to the shore. Then, there's always the torn facial artery from a rafting accident going over a set of falls - person in front of me hit me with the back of her head. Walked around aimlessly for several hours after being knocked 'senseless'. We both blame the waterfalls.)

HK - Salt bath Photo by Sam I Am

HK - Salt bath Photo by Sam I Am


Anyway, many of us wear our scars as 'war wounds' of our experiences - but are first aid kits not something we should consider as an essential no matter how we travel? So, I asked the following:

QUESTION

What is in your medical/first-aid kit? Well, first of all, do you carry a first-aid kit? If so, what's in it? Are there some uncommon items that have proven useful?

Rebecca Branshaw (bex76)

I'm quite slack when it comes to taking a first- aid kit. I always take plasters and normally some loperamide/immodium (depending on where I'm travelling to) but that's about it. I might consider taking some antibiotics with me, again depending on where I'm going.

mcphersonsammy

What's in my first aid kit are basic medicines for basic and common ailments like headache, colds, cough, hyperacidity, and gastrointestinal ailments. If I have other ailments or other health concerns, I bring medicines for them, too. I also bring with me alcohol, band aid/bandage, cotton swabs, and other stuff that could help heal or relieve minor wounds.

Nikki Leigh (Rraven)

We always bring a basic first aid kit, mostly a walking/hikers one...

We always bring a basic first aid kit, mostly a walking/hikers one - so plasters, cooling gels, bandages etc because we're 'walking' disasters (sorry for the pun ) with our feet. Other then that, its just the usual headache/fever tablets and anti bite creams, nothing too special and most of the time the only thing used is the antibite creams - mosquitos can be pesky.

Allen Parker (allenparker)

Your first aid kit should be accessible and portable. I used to carry the below said items:
- Bandages/band-aids of different sizes
- Gauze
- Small roll of tape, enough to tape a skinned knee and a little more
- Small tube of antibacterial gel
- Antifungal cream
- Insect repellent
- Thermometer
- Antiseptic

Abby D. (aboo10)

We have kids, so most importantly we carry children's paracetamol plus a syringe. Next up we carry antiseptic cream, band aids (preferably with pictures of Lightning McQueen or Dora) and bandages.

Because being sick parents is no fun at all, we also carry adult paracetamol, and usually something a bit stronger like Nurofen Plus (or Panadeine Forte) and Immodium (or similar).

Sunscreen, insect repellent and hand sanitizer, of course.

jeanie99

I have two two kits.

I have two two kits. One for tape, bandages, plasters of various sizes, ear plugs, seasickness bands, scissors. The 2nd for Imodium, dehydration powders, sea sickness tablets, headache tablets, thermometer, antihistamine cream for bites and Vaseline.
In addition, dependent on where I travel, Malarone for malaria, supplements, omega 3, glucosamine, vit D, insect repellent, and safe hands.

Gretchen L. Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)

Our kit contains some odd things since we dive and snorkel. We carry the basics of ibuprofen, band-aids, antiseptic scrub, antibiotic cream, antihistamines (capsules and cream), decongestants and the other wound/insect bite related items. I also take along anti-gas gel capsules, a small container of generic Metamucil/Benefiber (works for both constipation and diarrhea), a small ear wax removal solution kit (lost my hearing completely after a couple of dives once), tweezers, saline eye drops, an OTC 'pink eye' treatment (works well with styes or other inflammations of the eyelids), and a small container of aloe vera gel for sunburn. I take a small sewing kit too in case a button falls off or something is torn. But, I also look at it as a way to close a wound until medical help can be reached. (Don't recommend it to everyone but it's one of my precautionary items - surgical background.)

I also take my prescription medications and a copy of those prescriptions but, they go in my carry-on bag or my purse. Being my age and a diver, I get a doctor's letter of health if I plan to dive during my journeys. (Learned my lesson there... At 45, the dive center's consent form had several health questions. I answered honestly - should have lied. Took 2 days to get a letter of health faxed from my doc. I'm now 58 and don't leave home with out that letter if diving is involved. I do mark no to all the questions (bad me) but also hand the dive center my letter.)

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WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS!! If you have an idea for a TU entry, please send an e-mail to unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Include your subject, a short description of the material you would like to cover and a request to be added as an author. If possible, send a short sample of your entry. If things don't pick up soon, our Editors are all going to go traveling themselves and I'll never find them again. Please keep them busy so I know where they are... Just a thought...
PS: The TP Foundation earns $5.00 from every published submission.

Posted by Isadora 11:26 Comments (1)

Me?? Travel??

Or, scared shitless in Seattle...

Wyoming's lonely roads Photo by Utrecht

Wyoming's lonely roads Photo by Utrecht


Welcome to the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. To find the rules of the game, please check the link to your left or the revised General Talk thread.

There comes a time in most people's lives when they decide they want to explore something more than their own back yards or the apartment building's hallways. They visit the neighbor's back yard and think, "Hey, this is new and pretty cool. Where else can I go?" Many have watched National Geographic programs, seen vacation advertisements, peered into the travel agency's windows at the posters - all dreaming about an adventure. For some, this is where the dream ends. For others, these things open up a whole new 'back yard' just begging for a visitor to enjoy its offerings. But... (There's always a 'but'.)

At some point, anyone willing to discover a new playground also encounters a brick wall or two. These walls have things like 'the jitters', 'anxiety' and 'fear' scrawled across them. How intimidating is that?! Just when you think you're ready that blob of gray matter in your skull whispers (or sometimes screams), "I don't know... It's pretty scary out there... There could be monsters hiding under those hostel's beds... Maybe you should stay home." You may also feel as though you're all alone when dealing with these issues. Sound familiar? It does to me as I've been there before. Some things still give me the jitters (such as very steep mountains with very narrow roads and no guard rails within miles around - simple thing I know, but still scares me).

HK - Scared Budda Photo by robandem

HK - Scared Budda Photo by robandem


Anyway, the following question asked members for their advice for anyone who is anxious or jittery about traveling. I'm sure their replies won't be too surprising.

QUESTION

How do you deal with the 'first time jitters' of traveling? The General Talk forum sees a number of these questions. (We've just received a thank you for the help our members have given to another member who was reticent about travel a few years ago.) So, go for it - what are your thoughts on how to handle travel for the first time or even dealing with uncharted territory?

mcphersonsammy

First time jitters... wow. First off, I go crazy researching about the place, where to go, what to eat, how to get to the places to visit. Even to the last minute, I research and verify everything especially if it's my first time to visit the place. Then I go crazy (really, I go crazy) preparing everything. I make a checklist of all the things I need. I check it everyday... what I already packed and what I still need to pack/buy. Lastly, I check my budget. I keep on doing that little accounting thing I do. I don't want to run short on cash while traveling so I make sure I really have MORE THAN ENOUGH money.

Scott Tyler (madpoet)

Get on the plane, make sure your tray is in the upright position, and enjoy your trip!

Take it slow. Don't feel that, just because you are in China, for example, you have to eat Chinese food everyday. It's OK to go to McDonald's once in awhile. It's OK to stay home one day of the week and just read or watch TV at your hotel/hostel. Stay in touch with folks back home. And if you are travelling alone, try to befriend other travellers and/or locals that you can travel with and hang out with. That will make your trip more memorable and less lonely.
On the other hand, first-time travel is like swimming: sometimes you just have to jump in. After you've done some basic planning, just go. Get on the plane, make sure your tray is in the upright position, and enjoy your trip!

Caroline (Supafemale)

Realise that the scariest thing is making the decision to go...after that - it's not so scary! :)

Niels1303

Somehow I only imagined the worse things that could happen to me.

I remember the first time I travelled alone, I was also pretty scared. Somehow I only imagined the worse things that could happen to me. But luckily since more than 90% of the fears we have in life never come true and I experienced so many beautiful moments and met so many wonderful people while travelling alone, may fears quickly faded away. :) It is a process that take some time but the more you´ll travel, the more confident you´ll be and the more you´ll get addicted to it. ;)
Have a wonderful trip and don´t worry too much!

ipapa

Scary... Travelling alone is awesome. I think it would be like an adventure. Someday I might even try it.

Tina Wayland (tway)

For my first solo trip, I picked a country where I knew the language and where the culture was--although different--at least familiar to me. I also planned the basics well: flight and hotel were booked far ahead. Then I got a good guide, read it, followed it a little, and then just went with my gut.
I left really excited more than nervous. I think the nerves came beforehand. The only thing you really have to do is do it! The difference between people who travel and people who don't is that the former just get up and go.

Holly Clark (soupatrvlr)

...I made a concerted effort to get comfortable doing things by myself.

When I decided to travel around the world by myself, I started by researching everywhere I wanted to go. On top of that, I started doing things alone at home...going out to dinner, out to the movies, striking up conversations with strangers, saying hello with a smile to everyone I met...and in the city, they think you want something from them for just saying hi! But I made a concerted effort to get comfortable doing things by myself. Yeah, I was slightly terrified when I first left, but got over that rather quickly. I also made sure that no matter where I was going, I had a guide book with me to fall back on. Sometimes I used it, sometimes I didn't. When you're alone, you meet the most people, meet the most locals, and the flexibility lets you do whatever YOU want!

Quan Zhang (Q')

It might be a good trip, it might be a bad trip. You'll never know until it happens. Rather than worrying about it, I'd rather concentrate on getting there.....

George Nolly (gnolly)

For your first solo trip, be sure to go somewhere you know the language.

For your first solo trip, be sure to go somewhere you know the language. Check the State Department website (http://www.state.gov/) if you're going to a foreign country, and have phone numbers you can call if you have any problems. My advice: go someplace safe (hint: it ain't Mexico!) for your first few trips, until you feel comfortable globetrotting.
Enjoy the adventure!

Mr Custard

Don't worry just go with the flow everything will be fine.

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WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS!! If you have an idea for a TU entry, please send an e-mail to unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Include your subject, a short description of the material you would like to cover and a request to be added as an author. If possible, send a short sample of your entry. If things don't pick up soon, our Editors are all going to go traveling themselves and I'll never find them again. Please keep them busy so I know where they are... Just a thought...
PS: The TP Foundation earns $5.00 from every published submission.

Posted by Isadora 07:25 Comments (1)

Beware of Darkness - Cell Phones

Take care, beware and don't take it were they should not go.

Public phone? Photo by beerman

Public phone? Photo by beerman


Welcome to the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. To find the rules of the game, please check the link to your left (or above depending on how this aligns in the end) or the revised General Talk thread.

This particular TU question addresses the use of cell phones while traveling. On your mark. Get set. Let's go!

QUESTION

Cell phones, SIM cards, calling plans, minute cards, roaming charges and all of the things that accompany "phoning home" (or anywhere else) can be confusing to many travelers. What is the best way for someone to stay connected without getting a $3000 cell phone bill? (Oops, there went the funds for that trip to the next destination.)

Katherine Drop (Wonkerer)

My opinion, don't use your phone. Take it along for emergencies if you like, but that’s it. There are tons of options for communicating via computer and you can likely find a solution that suits you. Skype and Gmail Chat offer good options for allowing you to call directly to phones or computers. If you want to make a real phone call, purchase a phone "card" locally. They may have high surcharges (aka you use 20 "minutes" of those you have to start a call) but you know up front what you are paying. Traveling with a phone card is not a bad idea, but you will generally get the best rates if you buy it where you are using it.

If you are traveling somewhere for an extended period it may be worth buying a cheap phone there. Just do your research. Be sure to take into account things like charges for incoming and outgoing calls, long distance, and roaming, as these can vary greatly from country to country.
Also, get creative. Due to the charge setup in Ireland, my friends and I would “missed call” each other when we were ready to meet back up, costing us nothing.

Peter Daams (Peter)

Things are changing so fast at the moment, that how I imagine my next trip to be is totally different to my last one. I would fully intend to rely on my iPhone a lot.

I'd be using Skype as much as possible to avoid any phone costs and I'd be looking at getting a local SIM card. Always been a fan of that anyway. I'd also consider buying a global type sim card before I go though to have all that worked out in advance. Depends on where I'm headed I guess. I've had quite a few trips where I've spent too much time looking around for SIM cards when really I should have just been enjoying the sights Ok, it's actually a pretty funny memory trying to negotiate SIM card in Russia, but other than that, it's usually just a drag.

Tina Wayland (tway)

Don't lend your phone to your husband. That'll save you tons!

Don't lend your phone to your husband. That'll save you tons!

I'm semi-old-fashioned and send a text home every few days. Then I get a few texts back and the whole thing costs me a few dollars. When we went to South Africa, I'd turn my phone on every few days, check for new texts, send a few off home, and shut the phone off again. It took just a few minutes and meant I didn't have to keep charging the phone as we went along.

Kris Kalav (beerman)

I don't have a cell phone, iPad, iPhone, smartphone... Just an antique Dell laptop and 2 tin cans with string tied between them.

Boy, this is a toughie... I tend to not stay connected while away. I don't have a cell phone, iPad, iPhone, smartphone... Just an antique Dell laptop and 2 tin cans with string tied between them. Makes it kind of difficult if I'm overseas - different countries tend to have different tin can frequencies.

Ultimately, I'll use email, though that's pretty slow for getting responses. Skype could work better. Public telephones work for me, though they can be a bit expensive. If I were to move into the 20th century and buy a mobile, I would buy a SIM card for wherever I was. Hard to fit a SIM into the string between the tin cans though.....

Stay disconnected, that's my advice.

Nikki Leigh (Rraven)

I made the mistake a few years ago of taking my phone with me while I was away without adjusting the package I was on, this did indeed mean a large bill and a cut off service in the end.

If you do insist on taking your phone, many people can't part with it, then its always best to check what other network packages are available. For example, some networks have roaming internet for 2 euro a day which is a large discount, also your phone can be handy for free wi fi locations to log in and check your email.

In general, since my original error and expense, I now keep a cheap phone ( think bucket and out of date) for travelling, its sim free so I can buy sim cards in new locations. Many have deals where, if the sim is for example 10 or 20 euro, then you get half that back in call credit when you register the number. This is normally my solution if I really do need a phone and the other person has no skype or regular internet connections.
Otherwise, I keep in touch via blogs and other social media.

Zindy Noertamtomo (zags)

I always take my cell phone with me. Can't leave home without it.

Depends on the situation - e.g. if I will be staying for a pretty long time (say, more than a week) or if I'll be using it a lot, then I'll find a local SIM card. Most cell phones in my country are sold separate from the SIM card so I can change the card freely.

Today mobile Internet is getting cheaper so I might find a local SIM card with good Internet package/plan which I'll use to get in touch with home via instant messaging such as YM/GTalk and Facebook Otherwise I'll use an Internet cafe. Or, I might find cell phone rental. Will compare between buying a local SIM card. But if my trip will just be a few days, I'll just send text messages home using SMS. A few days won't hurt...(so far that I experienced).

Katie (Katie2209)

I'm planning on going travelling January, 2012. I was advised to take a crappy old phone, that I wouldn't mind losing/damaging, with me for emergencies and an ipod touch (its virtually the same as an iphone without the phone part). You can download a skype app. for free calls which seemed like a good idea to me!

Kate Kendall (katekendall)

Staying connected is extremely important to me while I'm on the road – especially since I'm often working and travelling. I take my unlocked iPhone 4 with me everywhere and get a pay-as-you-go micro-sim from of the more competitive carriers in whichever country I'm in. I tend to rely a lot on Google Maps so getting a data-focused package works best. I then use Viber, WhatsApp and Skype to make calls or text messages. Although, due to varying time zones, I tend to communicate mostly through social media platforms rather than making voice calls. I use Twitter for short form messages (like SMS), Instagram for photo sharing and Facebook for finding old friends. I used to do international roaming with my home carrier but after having a horrifying bill from a few weeks in Fiji and New Zealand, am scarred for life. Do not turn your data roaming on, ever!

But having said all this, as we live such digitally-connected existences - one of the reasons we should travel is to disconnect. To feel alone and free.

But having said all this, as we live such digitally-connected existences - one of the reasons we should travel is to disconnect. To feel alone and free. I've had a rewarding few experiences of late where the WiFi's been down and I've had no bars of reception on my phone. A rare peace.

Gretchen Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)

After reading all of these submissions, the consensus is - take a phone along, deal with local SIM cards and generally turn it off to enjoy your travels.

Beerman lied about the cell phone. We have one. I use minute cards and it's for emergencies only. I do not take it out of country. It sits in a drawer, turned off, and waits for me to find it again once a week. I'm the dinosaur as I've done 99% of my traveling without modern technology by my side. I remember having to use public phones - try to find one of those these days... (Ooohhh, we found one in New York! See above photo.)

We took a trip recently. I was getting random voice mails dated from 2009 and not even meant for me. (I've had the phone number since 2006.) Between my best friend playing with the phone and Beerman using it to make calls, somehow the ring tone and vibrate functions were put on mute. I had 20 people all committed to a dinner one night (Beerman's birthday bash) and was surprised no one had sent a text or left a voice mail or called to verify the details. Lo and behold - they had. I just didn't get them until 2 weeks ago. (Did I mention dinosaur?!) Needless to say, all but 1 person showed up regardless of the situation. All in all, the phone is not your true connection.

Yes, take it along. But, sometimes 'being off the grid' isn't a bad thing. Use it wisely, not just for everything. Instead, enjoy your adventure. That's what travel is all about - seriously.

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WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS!! If you have an idea for a TU entry, please send an e-mail to unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Include your subject, a short description of the material you would like to cover and a request to be added as an author. If possible, send a short sample of your entry. If things don't pick up soon, our Editors are all going to go traveling themselves and I'll never find them again. Please keep them busy so I know where they are... Just a thought...
PS: The TP Foundation earns $5.00 from every published submission.

Posted by Isadora 10:17 Comments (1)

Let The Stars Be Your Guide

Travel Unravelled Q&A Series: GUIDEBOOKS

Popular Guidebooks Photo courtesy of ExperiencePlus.com

Popular Guidebooks Photo courtesy of ExperiencePlus.com


Welcome again to the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. I am dispensing with the numbering system for these topics. Yes, there is a reason. Previously, particular questions did not receive enough replies to post a blog entry. This was due to having a set time limit and members having to send PMs instead of posting in the Q&A threads posted in the General Talk Forum. The rules of the game have changed. (For more details, please check the above link or the revised General Talk thread.)

These particular TU questions address the issues of guidebooks. So, without further ado:

QUESTIONS

Frequently, people ask how travelers research their trips. Do they use a guidebook? If so, which one is the most preferred? Or, is the internet a better way to go about things? Is it a mix of both? Do they use a guidebook while traveling?

Michael Burm (Utrecht)

While doing research for a trip, it surely is not guidebook versus internet. They can be used pretty nicely together. For some issues, the internet of course is the best way to go. Booking the best plane tickets or car rental deals is definately something you should do online. If you want to book accommodation before travelling (or even during travelling), websites like Trip Advisor or specific hotel booking sites have far more better deals and more choice compared to what you find in guidebooks. I still use a guidebook to read a bit about interesting routes, cities, places, parks and other sights. But purely as a way to decide which route I want to do and what I want to (and can!) do and see in a certain amount of time. But then again, I also use Google (Earth and Maps) to see what I can expect somewhere. On the other hand, during travelling I only use a guidebook and/or road atlas (in case of travelling by car), and internet (besides maybe booking a hotel during very busy periods) is mostly a no-go! After all, I am not at home or work, but on the road!

Heather Robb (Purdy)

After reading through a guidebook, l can feel the excitement of visiting a new city or country mounting!

Guidebooks l have found essential in the past - they are a great way of preparing prior to a trip and making a note of the key sights you want to visit - some that are not always on the beaten track. They also help build anticipation. After reading through a guidebook, l can feel the excitement of visiting a new city or country mounting!

As to a preferance for which, generally for a country where l will be visiting more than one area, Rough Guides & Lonely Planet are ususally the ones l pick off the shelf in the book shop. However, if its a city break and time is limited, l like to use DK Top Ten Guides. They often have maps and transport guides included which have been essential.

Whilst in the country/city - again the guidebook becomes a bible - great for tracking down accomodation that has been pre booked - honest opinions of where to stay, great for tours to book onto or where to go and eat.

So - guidebooks love them - and l will be buying a Berlin Top Ten guide pretty soon because we are going on an adventure for the first time in a very long time!

Travellerspoint Travel Guide Screenshot by Gretchen Wilson-Kalav

Travellerspoint Travel Guide Screenshot by Gretchen Wilson-Kalav


Scott Knudsen (ScottK)

For researching on what Hostels to stay at, what restaurants to eat at, and what tour operators to use I mainly use the Trip Advisor website. If the ratings are poor on this site, check to see what dates they where rated at. Sometimes the companies make improvements and all the latest ratings will be positive. There is also lots of good information on the Lonely Planet website.

There are of course websites dedicated to each country, that can give lots of good information on what to see, but their opinions are not un-biased.
Guidebooks can also be helpful, but are quickly dated. I still like reading them, and it is much easier to get an idea on what to see in the country from a book, rather than having to navigate through countless webpages. I bring the book with me, in case I need any last minute info. To choose a guidebook (or any book) I read the book reviews on the Amazon website.

Before I go, I print out a list for each area of places to stay, where to eat, and what to see. That way I am not fumbling around with guidebooks and brochures when I get there.

A bit off the original question, but in Peru the iPeru tourist bureau was extremely friendly and helpful. You could leave your luggage at their offices while you walked around checking out where to stay and what to do, and then come back and ask for reports on those companies. it would be great if every country had people this helpful.

If you research your lodgings beforehand you can find some that are extremely helpful with telling you what to do and where to go.

Johnny (Daawgon)

A guidebook such as Lonely Planet is great for people who don't have the time or energy to do independent research, but the fact is that the info on the printed page is considerably out of date (even if hot off the press). For those of us with plenty of energy and time, the internet is a far more accurate way to go. From my experience, these two sources are outstanding:
SE Asia - Travelfish
Turkey - Turkey Travel Planner

flutterby7

Each guidebook has it's own feel to it, and as a traveller, it's a good idea to find something that works for you.

The internet provides more accurate and up-to-date information, and can provide information about more off-the-beaten track destinations much more readily than guidebooks. It's also a way of obtaining direct feedback from fellow travellers that can be critical in the planning process. That being said, when you're on the road, it's much easier to get quick information from a book, and saves a lot of aggravation in a pinch. They often also include maps and phrases in the local language, which, while not ideal, are better than nothing at all when first arriving in a new destination (and don't change much over time!). For these reasons, I prefer to combine the two approaches.

As far as which guidebook is "best" I would say it's an individual choice. I've used the LP guides and I know others who have used the Let's Go guides. I think it's less about which is better and more about what books target what you want to do/see. Each guidebook has it's own feel to it, and as a traveller, it's a good idea to find something that works for you.

Gretchen Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)

When we travel, we use the internet as our main research tool. We definitely use it for booking flights, accommodations and renting vehicles. If we are traveling to a new destination out of country, then we try to take a guidebook along too. As mentioned by others, the guides are rarely up to date so they definitely are not accurate on several levels. But, as also mentioned, most do include maps and we use those to mark our routes as we go exploring. We'll discuss where we have been each day while having our nightly dinners. Then - with trusty highlighters in hand - we gleefully retrace our 'steps' on the maps. (In assorted colors to denote different days.) So far, the Lonely Planet guides have been our preferred option.

We do take along a spiral notebook to use as a journal for recording our thoughts, destination descriptions and just general comments. We have found having a small guidebook in hand allows us to jot down notes in the margins, which inevitably help to jog our memories at the end of each day or every few days for use in the journal. I have also found the guides (containing the notes in the margins and highlighted routes) to be quite useful when answering inquiries as we've updated the information through our own personal experiences. Though, being absolute book junkies - we just like having the guides we've used on our journeys to add to our collection. (Those and any stray seashells that follow us home.)

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Editor's Comment: All links made to the various (outside) guidebooks and websites have been done solely for informational purposes as they were part of the participant's responses to the questions. No promotional considerations have been given.

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For more information about the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series, please see: Travel Unravelled Q&A Sessions Unleashed. Please join in on the discussions!

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ps: When planning your next big adventure, or even a short weekend get-away, please consider using the Travellerspoint Travel Guide as part of your research too. It is written by TP members and the information is updated continuously. It's just one more tool that may help expand your horizons. Happy Travels!

Posted by Isadora 11:25 Comments (1)

Travelers Checks: Don't Leave Home Without Them - Or Maybe..

Travel Unravelled Q&A Series 4: MONEY!

Notes Photo by Patchanon Changkachit

Notes Photo by Patchanon Changkachit


Welcome to installment five of the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. This particular TU question deals with money as questions abound on how to handle one's finances while traveling. So:

QUESTION:

Money. Everyone wants to know the best way to handle money on the road. Whether it is for a week or a year, what are the best options? Cash, traveler's cheques, debit cards, credit cards? What have you found to be the best solution?

Michael Scepaniak (hispanic)

I suggest going with either a VISA TravelMoney card or a CapitalOne credit card.The VISA TravelMoney card is basically a pre-paid debit card. It's a safe option, but charging (refilling) the card periodically can be a pain. Unless things have changed, you can only add money to it a certain number of times. Another drawback is the foreign transaction fees, which can really add up.
Getting a CapitalOne credit card may be a better option, which I plan to try on my next trip. Simply put, they don't charge any international transaction fees. Of course, you have to apply for it and be approved.
Actually, I think getting both might be best. Get a CapitalOne credit card and write down the phone number. Make sure the credit limit is high enough to cover your travel expenses. Get a VISA TravelMoney card and put a few hundred bucks on it. Use the CapitalOne as your primary card. If it gets stolen, call the phone number immediately and cancel it. You can then use your VISA TravelMoney card as a backup.

Michael Burm (Utrecht)

Well, in general I would say that a mix of cash and plastic (debit and credit cards) is the best way to go. This certainly applies to at least 75% of the countries in the world. It's more plastic than cash though. In most countries you can pay for the bigger stuff (hotels, car rental etc) with a credit card (you need it when you want to rent a car!), and with a debit card you can withdraw money from ATM's at a better rate (with a credit card you usually pay a hefty fee, changing cash into local currency gives lower exchange rates). But again: this is the general/average rule.

There are, however countries where cash is still the way to go and your cards don't even work at all.

There are, however countries where cash is still the way to go and your cards don't even work at all. Countries like Iran, Myanmar and Cuba are examples of (certain) restrictions. In those cases, bring enough cash (US dollars or Euros are the way to go) and try to have a wide range of notes, from small bills up to the 100-dollar bills. The latter might give you a better exchange rate, although this is not always the case. Whatever the outcome: do some research on the internet or guidebook first!

Nikki Leigh (Rraven)

I used to always swear by travellers cheques as a majority but not any more. They are not accepted everywhere and even now i still have some from a trip in 2007, its great as a savings scheme for the next trip but not the handiest option if you're caught short....
Now I take a combination of it all. I carry about 30% of my money in cheques, have 30% prepaid into my credit cards (to avoid interest charges etc.) and then the rest would be by my main account debit card excluding a small amount in cash which is normally the equivalent of 5 days living/ travel expenses. I always keep back 10% of my savings for the trip on another account and leave that card with my father. If I need it, get caught out at some stage by being robbed, under budgeted, etc., then he has the card to either send to me, or to withdraw the money and wire it to me via Western Union.
By having it split over different resources, and spread across my person, if something is missing or if I'm in a place where a certain method is unfeasible then I am covered. I'm a firm believer in not putting all my eggs in one basket.

isatou

For me I take cash and a prepaid card.
Cash obvious, a dollar bill or euro note goes a long way in remote areas. Prepaid card that I can top up here in UK if anything happens I only use what is on the card. If I have to book anything abroad on the internet there are not bank details attached. Also you leave a 2nd card here and someone can top it up for you in case of emergencies.
Or set up an account with Western Union, set up a standing order at home and have funds paid into the account, like direct debit standing order. Buy as much as possible in advance, ie: coach passes, train passes, hostels etc.

Nepal 7 Photo by Ingebjørg

Nepal 7 Photo by Ingebjørg

Kris Kalav (beerman)

I've found that the best way to handle money is with your hands. Occasionally I've picked up the odd bit of change with my toes, but normally people like it when you use your hands. Okay, all seriousness aside, it really depends on where you travel. Cash is generally king everywhere, but I've found in larger cities it's easier to use credit cards. All major cities can easily accept them, though it's best if you're not in your own country to check beforehand with the credit card company to make sure you don't accrue huge fees. In more rural areas, where credit card machines may not be at hand, cash is always easier. Restaurants, pubs, small shops love cash, especially for tipping purposes. A word of caution: Never pull out large wads of cash, you make yourself a target for thieves. If you have lots of cash on hand, split it up into different pockets in your clothes and/or backpack. Thieves generally want to get away with your cash quickly, so if you must hand it over, best to pull out of one pocket and tell them that's all you have. It doesn't always work, but oftentimes it does, and your travels can continue with some peace of mind. Debit cards can work well with ATM's as well, but again, check with your company about fees. I found out the hard way that Central America doesn't readily accept Travelers Checks, even at banks, so I would forgo that option.

Gretchen Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)

We have dispensed with the use of traveler's checks completely since encountering massive problems in (the above mentioned) Central America. Panama to be exact. Depending on the country, as others have mentioned, they will not be accepted even by more upscale establishments and hotels. Our bank switched from American Express to Visa travelers checks. American Express had cornered the market in Panama so our checks were not accepted by the 12-15 banks we frantically visited upon our return to Panama City. Probably a bit of poor planning on our behalf as we traveled to rural areas, but we'd never experienced this problem previously. When we next traveled to Ireland, we used cash and credit cards only.

Again, as stated above, check with the bank about credit card fees and notify them you will be using the card out of country.

Again, as stated above, check with the bank about credit card fees and notify them you will be using the card out of country. A purchase was denied by one of our bank cards because the card had been used in several places around Ireland. The bank that did accept the transaction actually called me to see if my card had been stolen. Between those two trips, valuable lessons were learned.

Oh, and I encountered the same problem at a gas station while on a road trip here at home. I used a card at a chain station in Kentucky. Hours later, I tried to use it again for gas at another one of their stations in Illinois. Declined!

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For more information about the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series see: Travel Unravelled Q&A Sessions Unleashed. Please join in on the discussions!

Posted by Isadora 12:00 Comments (3)

A Mocha Latte, A Muffin and Some WiFi, Please.

Travel Unravelled Q&A Series 3: Computer Yes - Computer No?

Notre cyber cafe/our internet cafe Photo by Gearoid and Claire

Notre cyber cafe/our internet cafe Photo by Gearoid and Claire

Welcome to installment three of the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. This particular TU question deals with computers as questions about traveling with or without them come up frequently. So:

The Question

Do you recommend traveling with a computer or leaving it at home?

Criteria: Travel time is 3 months and visiting any 3 countries of your own choice.

Heather Robb (Purdy)

Computer - NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

I'm on holiday to visit new countries, have new experiences, taste new foods, meet new people - not sit on a computer.

l go to work Monday to Friday and sit in front of a computer. l come home, log on and check the sites l want to check. l log on at weekends too - so, why would l want to go on holiday, which l do to relax and enjoy myself and sit on a computer? I'm on holiday to visit new countries, have new experiences, taste new foods, meet new people - not sit on a computer.

If l need to check email or contact home, hotels and hostels have internet access. l can do what l need to do on my mobile, if needed. A computer is an additional worry and weight to carry with you - in my opinion. So what if l'm on a 12 hour flight - plug in the MP3 player, read a real book, or sleep! Ok, l want to write a blog or keep a journal - might not be in real time but l take a journal note book with me and keep a daily diary. Through security, lap tops are a pain having to be checked out, additional insurance, and what if it gets nicked?

So in my opinion - computer says NO!!

Email in Gopane Photo by Lilibellil

Email in Gopane Photo by Lilibellil

Sam Daams (Sam I Am)

Personally, I can't imagine not travelling with a computer, but I also make my living by running a website, and that requires a certain amount of 'always online' mentality. I have, on shorter trips, decided to leave my computer at home just to not have any kind of distractions; fantastic!! But I guess more and more the question is "what is a computer?". More and more phones have all the same features you'd require from a computer for travelling purposes and I think most people would take their phones with them on trips.

Gretchen Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)

At one point in time, I didn't have a computer with which I could travel. A big Mac G4 tower and monitors were way over the weight limit without including my 2,000 pounds of luggage at airport check-ins. So, no to taking a computer anywhere. Since that time, I started out slow with our first laptop and only taking it when we'd visit our friend in Florida. We could 'hack' into his broadband to check TP and upload photos. We now have 2 laptops - PC and Mac - and for the most part they both follow us around.

All in all - short trips - no computer but long trips, worth the consideration.

Given the 3-month, 3-country criteria, I believe we would bring both computers so we wouldn't have to share. (I'm PC illiterate while Beerman is lacking in Mac skills.) Sort of like Sam, I make my living by working for a website - the computer would be a necessity. I do not own a cell phone that would work as a replacement device which makes the computer that much more important. All in all - short trips - no computer but long trips, worth the consideration. Though, internet cafe computers and online data/photo storage capabilities do negate the need for your own. Just be vigilant about your passwords and personal information in those situations.

Spider Solitaire

Spider Solitaire


Kris Kalav (beerman)

Well, lugging along a 20 kg desktop, 10 kg monitor, keyboard, and mouse.... Hmm.... I'll say no. Now, if you're talking laptop or smartphone, sure, why not. They take up far less space, and are much lighter, and you can do virtually all the same things as you would on your desktop. Call me crazy, but I tend to travel heavy. But I would happily bring along a laptop (no smartphone yet) on any three-month holiday I would plan. It wouldn't matter if I had internet access, I could still document what I wanted, upload pics of my trip, etc., and then update my blog when I had a good connection. Even in third world countries, they would marvel at my antique Dell laptop, no doubt asking how I manage to even play solitaire on it. Laugh I would, while beating a game of 4-deck Spider Solitaire and bragging to the village elders. I could at least show the locals pics of my other adventures as a way to strike up a good conversation. As long as I had an electrical outlet, I could do what I wanted on my laptop. And if all else fails, a trusty #2 pencil and pad of paper would suffice.

Nikki Leigh (Rraven)

For me travelling with a computer is a no unless it is necessary for work, many countries have decent internet access & cafes when it is needed. The extra bulk/weight in the back pack is not worth it.

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For more information about the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series see: Travel Unravelled Q&A Sessions Unleashed. Please join in on the discussions!

Posted by Isadora 13:31 Comments (27)

Underwear? Check. Passport? Check. Hair Straighteners? No!

Travel Unravelled's Q&A Series #2 - Travel Stuff

A Swiss Army Knife with an altimeter Photo by bryceb

A Swiss Army Knife with an altimeter Photo by bryceb

Welcome to the second installment of the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series. We have increased our number of respondents - which is a good thing! So, we're up to five but, everyone has great advise and worthy of taking note! I (well, Beerman really) especially likes the coffee pot as not every hotel room supplies one and coffee is important - as is rope. That is handy to tie down the caffeine-deficient traveler until the coffee is brewed. Just sayin'...

The Question

What one or two items do you take along that most travelers would not necessarily consider when organizing their pack? Please include why.

boating ropes Photo by Leah Acason

boating ropes Photo by Leah Acason


Nikki Leigh (Rraven)

...handy as a belt, shoe laces and looping around doors as a make shift lock.

The item I always find handy is rope/string........ mainly for the obvious of tying things together, making washing lines when needed, when knotted in various ways you can make a bag. Also handy as a belt, shoe laces and looping around doors as a make shift lock. (We stayed somewhere that was a bit dodgy before but had run out of options. The door could not be locked so we tied rope from the door handle to the leg of the bed. When someone tried to enter the room the bed was jolted, made a noise and we woke up. And, it scared away whomever it was.)

african hair straightener...wooden handle and metal comb heated in coals Photo by BCholewa

african hair straightener...wooden handle and metal comb heated in coals Photo by BCholewa


Heather Robb (Purdy)

When l first read the question l was tempted to go all girly and put hair straighteners. But, l've travelled without them previously and survived!!

  • Copies of paperwork - correspondence, visa information, passport docs etc. - l've had occasion to have to produce them at borders and passport control previously. I was told by the agents that without them l would likely have been politely asked to about turn and head on home.
  • Baby wipes or hand sanitizer - so useful when there is no running water. You can at least have a bit of a freshen up or, if you are in surroundings which are, let's say, not as hygienic as you are normally used to - they can be invaluable to say the least!

coffee Photo by Vanessa Stashinski

coffee Photo by Vanessa Stashinski


Peter Daams (Peter)

We pretty much always take our own coffee plunger (French Press) with us. We have a stainless steel one, so there's no glass breakage. Having the ability to make our own coffee while travelling is golden. Particularly when travelling in areas where the coffee is just too weak or generally badly brewed.

Gertrude at Breakfast Photo by Gretchen Wilson-Kalav

Gertrude at Breakfast Photo by Gretchen Wilson-Kalav


Kris Kalav (beerman)

And in a real pinch - such as being stuck in the desert with no water...

The two items I rarely travel without are Ziploc bags, in assorted sizes, and stick matches. Stick matches, because you never know when you'll need to light something on fire - whether it's to keep warm, smoke, or cook a meal in the wilderness. Ziploc bags, in assorted sizes, because they are extraordinarily handy at keeping something isolated from the rest of your stuff. It could be a wet item of clothing, a leftover from a restaurant (or something you cooked in the wilderness). In my case, seashells, which tend to get a bit aromatic. If not kept separate from the clothing in my bags... Eeewww - stinky clothes! (See above photo - wet bag on the chair.) They also work nicely to keeping items dry, like a camera, matches, mobile phone, or maps. They keep lotions and such from leaking all over your luggage/backpack contents!!! And in a real pinch - such as being stuck in the desert with no water - you can dig a small, deep hole in the sand, place an open bag in the bottom of the hole face up, cover the hole with the bag, secure it around the edges with more sand, place a small pebble or rock on it, and by morning the condensation should provide enough water to keep you alive for that day, assuming you haven't used the bag for leftover wilderness-cooked foodstuffs.

battle wound Photo by Kerryn O'Connor

battle wound Photo by Kerryn O'Connor


Gretchen Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)

Beerman stole my Ziploc bag recommendation... But, since we travel together everywhere we go (most of the time), he can have that one. And, he's the one who remembers to pack the matches. Matches good! (We both collect shells to satisfy my seashell obsession. I'm glad he remembers to bring extra Ziploc bags since I've been known to bring 16kg of them - seashells - back in a carry-on. Freaked out the TSA guy when the bag went through the x-ray machine. He couldn't figure out what was in there. Gee, open it and find out!)

I never travel without rubber bands (known as elastics in some countries). They are great for tying back your hair, keeping your chargers and other other miscellaneous cables tidy and securing those non-Ziploc bags should the occasion arise. (Never know when you'll be cooking a meal in the wilderness and have leftovers...)

I also take along a small package of band-aids in assorted sizes. I'm a klutz. I have scraped myself on coral encrusted piers, tripped over my own feet scraping my knees and cut myself with my airline boarding pass. Band-aids are a good thing. I keep one small packet in my purse (for those boarding pass incidences), one in our carry-on (in case I cut myself a lot with my boarding pass and run out of the purse stockpile) and in our checked luggage for those sea coral encounters.

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For more information about the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series, please see: Travel Unravelled Q&A Sessions Unleashed. Please join in on the discussions!

Posted by Isadora 12:14 Comments (3)

Speak Up! I Can't Hear You!

Travel Unravelled's Q&A Series #1 - Travel Advice

Elefant ved vandhul. Photo by vickisoren

Elefant ved vandhul. Photo by vickisoren

In an attempt to bring more information to travelers, Travel Unravelled has begun the Q&A series. This is where TP members are given a particular question, a certain number of days to answer and the results posted here in the TU blog. The following are the replies we received to question #1. Okay, there were only two and my own will round it up to three. It's a start. Not everything comes to life immediately. Hey, hope spring eternal! ;)

The Question

What one piece of advice would you give the first-time traveler and why?

Sam Daams (Sam I Am)

Don't be afraid not to plan everything in advance; part of the beauty of travelling is being outside your comfort zone and learning to deal with that!

The maximum word count for a reply was 200 words. Sam summed it up in just 27, but he's correct - comfort zones rarely create a travel-related learning experience. Just look at the poor elephant having to deal with a crowded Namibian pub.

Shoes Hangin' on Fence. Photo by ontarions

Shoes Hangin' on Fence. Photo by ontarions

Kris Kalav (beerman)

There are so many pieces of advice for the first time traveler, it's like a giant puzzle - which piece is the most important? I'll go with this: Try to learn at least a little (more is better) about the culture of the places you're going to visit. A little knowledge of language, customs, and food can make a trip so much more enjoyable, and potentially make you friends that will last a lifetime. Knowing how the locals go about their business can also allay many travel anxieties and help prevent you from ordering a plate full of macerated paint chips at your new favorite restaurant, which would certainly give you intestinal anxiety. Customs vary so broadly around the world and generally differ from your home that learning something of your intended destination can potentially save your life. (I learned, while driving in Mexico, that seven honks of a car horn - da da da da da....da da, is considered extremely rude and might get your teeth punched in!!!) And brush your teeth, that always helps, but that's a second piece of advice.

Elephant Handshake. Photo by FiColes

Elephant Handshake. Photo by FiColes

Gretchen Wilson-Kalav (Isadora)

I find my piece of advise playing off another TU blog entry - Let The Milk of Human Kindness Flow - but sometimes, things are worth repeating. Remember, as you walk out your front door for places known, or unknown, you are a guest. Seriously, unless it's your own back yard - you ARE the guest and should conduct yourselves as such. (Yes, I know I sound like someone's mom.)

Too often I have seen people, whether "traveller or tourist" (topic for another day), forget the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That rule is meant to remind us to be kind. Not to be one more jerk because the guy in line behind you decided to be an asshole when you didn't move fast enough. That person has not earned your respect. The people in the places you have chosen to visit have probably not been the same as the guy in line in their treatment of you. They may have different customs, language barriers or whatever that throw us off guard. Patience and acceptance are key to leaving a good impression with the "outside" world. You are blessed with the opportunity to travel. Pay that back with kindness and appreciation.

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For more information about the Travel Unravelled Q&A Series, please see: Travel Unravelled Q&A Sessions Unleashed. Please join in on the discussions!

Posted by Isadora 13:42 Comments (2)

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