6 Tips for Paranoid Travelers
By Brad Kadinski
As fun as international travel may be there are always obstacles and hidden dangers. Some of them may hit the unsuspecting tourist by total surprise and can get you in alot of trouble when you are out of your familiar environment. But most can be avoided with the proper preparation.
Passport & IDs
The proper document can save your life - or at least keep you out of trouble. Always carry your passport with you when traveling and make sure it is still valid at least 6 months by the time you intend to leave the country you visit. Always keep some type of backup id - in case your passport gets lost or stolen. This could be a personal ID cards (drivers licenses don't count much in most countries) or an official xerox of your passport. Never put your passport in any bag or suitcase, always keep it somewhere on your body (a body bag is the best thing here - although it might feel ridiculous)
Money and Credit Cards
Always take multiple sources of foreign currency with you and distribute them in several places - on your body, in a bag, one in the suitcase. A source of foreign currency could be and international credit card, traveler checks, cash in local currency or cash in USD. Always be prepared that one or more of these things won't work, or won't work in certain places at certain times of the day or days of the week. Sometimes ATMs - that you usually depend on for obtaining local currency are turned off at night, or for some unknown reason won't accept your card. (Always know your PIN - but never ever write it down anywhere). If you are afraid of forgetting it, then try to hide it somewhere in your cell phone in a ways that some other person would never find it (hidden as a phone number with one or more digits in front of it that make it look like a phone number)
Some countries limit the amount of local currency that you can take into the country - or even take out of the country. Usually you should try to bring an equivalent of 100 USD in local currency with you - and if you can't bring 100 USD in small notes with you. However, your first option should always be to get money from an ATM, since the exchange rate is much better than when exchanging cash.
The taxi driver is a predator and you're the prey! The friendlier they are the more they try to rip you off. Always insist to be brought directly to your hotel - no extra trips - or "special deals". Don't expect them to accept credit cards or traveler checks. In most countries cash is still king, particularly with taxi drivers. Try to get the more expensive cabs in the first row of an airport - not the cheaper ones in the second. At least on the first day until you know your way around. Most taxi drivers will offer you to take you around the next day or so. Pretend you are interested in asking for their business card, but say that right now you just want to get to your hotel. When they see, you have a general interest, they won't rip you off that much. If - for some reason they expect to never see you again, they will try to extract the most out of you. If possible take a prepaid cab, if this is not an option - watch out that they don't turn off the taximeter, and they demand local currency - not USD.
When traveling with children, try to bring their birth certificate with you. In some countries - if you are a woman - you are not permitted to embark with your own children without a written permission from the father. (This is to prevent kidnapping and child abuse). So please know the regulations of the country you are visiting before you travel.
Always be prepared that some of your luggage will get lost. This is nothing special - it happens all the time. Usually you get your bags within 24 hours. Just be prepared to spend a night in a hotel with just what you have with you on the airplane. So take with you the most essential things for 24 hours - just don't include any knife or razor blade. Consider the weather you expect in the region you are visiting. Another point to know about lost luggage is that when your luggage gets delivered on another flight than you were on it has to go through customs without you being able to answer any questions. (All lone bags get opened by customs - no exceptions). So don't include any items that are somehow suspicious (self-made packages, unlabeled bottles). Not all drinks or sweets that you take with you are known in all countries. If they don't know what it is they"ll open it and maybe taste it.
The Emergency Info Paper
Prepare a very small piece of paper and put the most relevant info on it that you cannot memorize. This should include your hotel address, the phone number of a contact person in that country. The phone number of your credit card company and your credit card number (not the PIN). Fold this piece of paper and put it in a very tight pocket of your pants (Jeans usually have one on the right side). This is in case your wallet gets stolen that you can at least call your credit card company and notify them of that instance and to call anybody you know in the country.
About The Author
Brad Kadinski writes for several travel magazines and sites.
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