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Advice For The Independent World Traveler


1) A must read! For extended travel we strongly suggest the book: "The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World" by Edward Hasbrouck.

2) Decide on regions instead of countries! It is critical to choose a regional base from which to plan "mini-adventures". Bangkok and Johannesburg served us well as begin and end points. Focus your planning energy on purchasing airfare to and from your "base" and deal with local transportation and flights when you arrive in the area. Developing some familiarity with your base city will increase your confidence and reduce hassles when problems arise. Obtaining visas can be done while enjoying the sites of your base city.

3) Travel light! You must plan on buy clothes appropriate for local climates along the way. Remember that in the tropics cotton is king. Although they dry quickly poly blends trap heat and don't absorb sweat like cotton. You will over pack. Donating unneeded clothes to a local Red Cross or Red Crescent is a nice option and they can easily be found in countries where donations are most needed. Consider beginning a trip in Bangkok. Khao San Road has an unlimited supply of inexpensive travel gear for an entire expedition. Having light packs will provide you with the agility needed to move around quickly.

4) Beware of cab drivers! Have a supply of small denomination currency and exact change prepared before arriving at your stop. Get change before leaving the cab. Visually inspect the seats as you get out. Drivers will always stall to see if you get out without taking your change. If you're in a hurry to get somewhere agree on a flat rate (usually at a premium) and watch how well the driver knows the city and how quick he can get you to your destination. Being on the meter may save you a dollar or two but you might sit in traffic for an unnecessary amount of time.

5) Security! Day packs scream "Tourist". In dodgy areas blend in by carrying items in a canvas shoulder bag or plastic shopping bag instead. Never allow a purse to hang street side and don't walk too close to the roadway in cities. Two member teams of thieves on motorcycles are notorious for snatching purses as they drive by. Even if you are lost walk briskly with confidence and people will get out of your way and not hassle you. When checking maps back away from the street and put your back against a wall or go sit down in a hotel lobby or cafe so you can focus your attention on the map. Don't make a bad situation worse. Tell police you cannot give them your passport because it does not belong to you. It belongs to your government and you will be more than happy to take them to the consulate to seek permission.

6) Know where you are staying! Obtain a business card from your hotel/hostel to provide cab drivers for hassle free return trips to your hotel especially important if you don't speak the local language. When checking luggage in for a flight write an address of any upscale hotel from your guidebook on the tab. Do not write your home address! It'll be easier to retrieve baggage in case of a separation if it's in the same country as you are.

7) Prepare for theft! Conceal stashes of cash throughout your belongings. Credit cars and ATM cards should never be stored in a wallet you carry all the time. Have emergency contact info in an email sent to yourself. In high risk areas use a hanging neck wallet as an ankle holster for your passports, credit cards, and money. The string part ties neatly below your knee and the string won't slip over the bulge in your calf. In dodgy areas carry a throw-down wallet with some money in it to quickly appease muggers.

8) Track you budget! On extended length trips you will be surprised at how fast your money disappears. Make a budget and track your progress against it. Make adjustments to spending to get back on budget. A daily expense diary also allows you to keep track of the sights you see.

9) Must haves! EARPLUGS for overnight trains, bus trips, heavy rain on tin roofing and snorers in guest houses. Ever try taking a nap on a bus in Thailand? FIRST AID KIT as medicines on the road can be hard to obtain, of questionable quality or outright counterfeits. Your own MOSQUITO NET especially in malaria endemic areas. Got Roaches? Slap on your padded EYE SHADES and sleep with the lights on. Don't forget the bathroom light, if there is one. Turn lamps on their sides and lay them on the floor. TRAVEL CUBES inside your backpack are a real help to keep clean clothes separated from dirty ones, a necessity in the tropics. POSTCARDS of your hometown and photos of your family. They really help break the ice when chatting with locals. Just point to yourself and the postcard and let the picture fill in the gaps.

10) Have small gifts to give! Postcards from home. cosmetics samples for girls. Baseball cards for boys. Ink pens with logos on them. Magazines from airplanes. A gift need not be expensive. They're a way of saying "hello, I like you" not a redistribution of wealth. Small gifts will ignite a smile and can overcome resistance to pose for photos.

11) Read our "What is it REALLY like traveling for an extended period of time?" story. It has a list of questions we were asked by our friends, family and strangers who heard of our travels and our answers.





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