Before my disastrous trip to Brazil was cut short earlier this year, I was scouring over the travel blogosphere reading various packing lists. While I ended up packing a lot of useful gear, I ended up overpacking and regretted it. I was hauling a huge suitcase alongside a backpack and large laptop bag between accomodation options. There were times when I wanted to easily be able to carry all my stuff but couldn’t, and this was just for a week’s stay in a single city (Albeit shuffling between three different accomodation options.) As such, from my experience in overpacking I’ve created the following packing list.
This packing list is designed for a 18-30 year old male travelling alone for a longer term trip. If you have a travel companion, then you’re going to be able to share some of the load, and probably could get by with carrying less. The clothing choices are versatile, and work in a variety of climates. As a caveat, this is based on reading multiple travel lists and my own observations. It’s yet to be tested out, so likely will be adjusted in the future. Pack according for your needs and adjust this list to your preference, but it’s a good base for any future long term travel. I’ve included some possible other travel gear suggestions further down in the Other Possible Items section.
While I have included links to many of my recommended suggestions, you really don’t have to spend a huge amount on travel gear. Many of the items marked as being “Travel Specific” are items with use cases so infrequent, you wonder why they bother even producing them..
There are only four things I recommend splurging a bit of money on:
-A Good Jacket
In addition to the Packing list, I’ve also included some helpful travel advice on Money, Health, Communication & Flight & Travel Booking, and a list of online resources and recommendations for longer term travel which you can find further down in the post.
MY TRAVEL PACKING LIST
BAGS & ORGANIZATION
For Checked baggage, my preferred method is three main bags
– A Main Piece of Luggage
– A Day Pack
– A Small Tech Bag that fits inside your luggage
For plane travel, I divide the baggage in the following ways:
– Anything you can’t afford to lose
– All Electronics & Documents
– A spare set of underwear, socks & t-shirt if your baggage ends up going missing.
– Your clothing
– Your toiletries & restricted items (Knives, Aerosols etc)
– Any Gifts & Miscellaneous Items
CARRY ON VS CHECKED
There are essentially two choices you have when deciding on a main baggage: Will you opt to take everything in carry on, and comply with the Airlines measly restrictions, or will you choose a larger (45L plus) piece of luggage and check it. Most professional Digital Nomads & minimalists opt for taking everything in carry on, also known as “One Bag Travel.” This will involve buying and disposing of a lot of miscellaneous items on the road, and investing in high quality minimalist clothing and gear.
The greatest advantage of having everything in carry on is flexibility. You don’t have to wait around longer at the airport to check in your baggage when flying, and you can book cheap one way flights at short notice without paying luggage fees – which can be particularly exorbitant on budget airlines. It feels liberating not being tied down by your posessions, and being able to simply pick them all up whenever you want. Of course, you will be travelling as a true minimalist this way. It way seem difficult to do so, but some people do manage to travel with no luggage at all.
The Disadvantages are chiefly how impractical it is. Airlines make extra money from baggage fees, and in recent years have been making it as difficult as possible to travel carry on only. In addition to the size limit of a 45 Litre Bag Capacity, the Weight limit can be as low as 7kgs. These limits force any potential “one bag” traveller to travel as a true minimalist, foregoing purchasing any souvenirs or luxury items – and packing only the bare essentials. Then there are the item restrictions, which can sting even harder. You cannot carry any aeorosols, or sharp objects, or liquids over 100mls in volume (unless you have supporting documentation from your GP.), and all medicines have to be packaged to meet Airline requirements.
The advantages of Checked Luggage compensate for the disadvantages of One Bag Travel. The restrictions are far less lenient – you can take regular toiletries and medicines, and items that are sharper than a cheese knife. You can take enough clothing to prepare you for both climate conditions. The weight limit is increased from 7kgs to at least 20kgs on all airlines I’m aware of (As of November 2017, even RyanAir provides 20kgs checked baggage with their £25 baggage fee), and any size limits won’t exceed anything resembling a standard suitcase. Additionally, having a larger bag that exceeds carry on limits provides you with room for expansion. If there is gear you need to take for more challenging climate conditions, you will be able to pack this in addition to your regular travel gear. There are very few restrictions when it comes to train or ferry travel, so if you are travelling overland the Air Travel limits will be less of a concern.
The disadvantages are that the lifeless creatures known as baggage handlers will be given your posessions, and if their dark master wills it, they will sacrifice your luggage to LosPropyrti – the travel god of broken dreams and sick bags. Yes, there is always the potential – however remote it may be, that your baggage will be lost, and a higher likelihood that it will be damaged. You will even pay for this privilege on budget airlines, with baggage fees. As mentioned before, never check any item you are not prepared to lose.
Certainly for shorter breaks, One Bag Travel is possible – and I would suggest everyone gives it a try at some point. Being in a foreign country and having all your posessions in a small backpack – not having to go straight to the hotel, or wait around at the luggage carousel will feel incredibly freeing. For longer term travel I would not recommend it, owever, the ethos of Travel Minimalism is something to aspire to – checked baggage or otherwise.
This is my preferred option. Whether you are opting for a check in bag, or any bag in general, there are a few things to pay attention to. Firstly, don’t skimp on your most important travel companion. Get luggage from a reputable brand, preferably that comes with a decent warranty. Ensure that your luggage has lockable zippers (i.e the zippers can join together and have enough of a gap to fit a padlock through). You should also look at bags that are Weather Resistant and Durable – Adventure Proof baggage in other words. The other consideration is size. While large suitcases typically come with 100 litres or more of storage capacity, something within the 60-80 litre range should be more than enough storage for most people. Most carryable luggage (backpacks & hybrid bags) will max out around 80 litres, as anything more will likely cause back damage.
My recommendations for Luggage Picks are those that are carryable. The goal for your luggage should be for it be “Carryable” rather than “Carry on”. That is, in the event of an emergency or spontaneous mountain hike, or any event that your travels throw at you – you should be able to take your gear on your back and embrace the challenge. Due to the demand for versatile travel gear, in recent years there have been a wave of hybrid bags released – that can adapt to comfortable urban travel, as well as rough terrain off the beaten track.
Below are some recommendations for Checked Luggage:
Also known as a “Wheeled Backpack” this category really is the best of both worlds. You can use these as durable suitcases for the majority of the time, but they also convert on demand into a backpack when required. In general, wheeled luggage is ideal for urban environments, while a backpack is better for getting off the beaten path. To have both options in one piece of luggage is fantastic versatility. It’s great having the ability to be able to carry everything on your back, and not be reliant on having to take a taxi to haul your gear around. When travelling in countries with lesser infrastructure, or in the event of an emergency – to be able to haul your gear on your back just like a backpack may even be the salvation of your trip.
There are some drawbacks however. You do look a little ridiculous carrying such a large pack on your back, but the versatility more than makes up for it. I also wouldn’t suggest taking these for long hikes given the weight of the bags – you are better off with a dedicated backpack for hiking. The wheels add extra weight, and these typically are a little heavier than a similar sized rolling suitcase or duffle bag, but for most people’s travel style, do believe these are the best travel bags you can opt for.
Osprey Sojourn – My Luggage Pick
I believe this is the perfect travel pack, and it’s my latest travel gear acquisition. I purchased the 80 litre model, but this is almost overkill. For more minimalist travel, the 60 litre pack will suit most people – and fit all your gear. It functions just like a suitcase – the bag folds flat, and allows you to easily access and pack your gear. It’s not as rectangular as a normal suitcase though – it’s a little convex in its form, but given the cavernous interior you can easily fit all your gear. The bag has internal and external compression straps, allowing you to reduce the bulge of your gear expanding outwards, but it’s clear that the bag is designed to expand a lot. Unlike a suitcase, where the form factor allows little expansion, the main compartment has softer ballistic nylon that can expand and contract to whatever you’re storing in it.
The bag features heavy duty wheels that can go through dirt and cracked pavements with ease, and comes with Osprey’s Lifetime warranty.It only takes thirty seconds to go from suitcase mode to backpack mode. The backpack straps, hip straps and mesh padding emerge from the rear compartment, and simply need to be clipped into place on the attachment points on the bag. In addition, you can attach several Osprey Daypacks onto the back of the bag via the daisy chain attachment points. You can adjust the position of the straps up and down via the rear velcro, and adjust the fit of the straps as you would on any other backpack. It’s amazing how comfortable this feels on your back, given that you are basically hauling a suitcase. Their “Trampoline Padding” provides your back with comfort, while the hip belt transfers weight off your back. While I’ve yet to test it on a trip, I’m confident I picked the right choice in a travel bag.
The Osprey Meridian & Osprey Ozone are two other hybrid models, but I tried both on in store and didn’t think much of them. While they work fine as rolling bags, they both lack the padding that the Sojourn has to make them comfortable when worn as backpacks.
The Deuter Helion is another high end backpack-suitcase hybrid, made by the well renowned German outdoors brand. It’s very similar to the Osprey Sojourn, also offering a lifetime warranty, and the foam padding looks like it will provide plenty of comfort in backpack mode. The Deuter Helion comes in 80L or 60L configurations.
The Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley is lighter than the Osprey Sojourn, and still offers a full 70 Litres of storage space
It’s hard to beat the venerable backpack. Everyone has seen backpackers walking around in tourist destinations, with their hiking backpacks and tin cans and assorted entrails hanging off their carabiners. However there are more “Travel Friendly” backpacks than the hiking variety popular with backpackers. True Travel Backpacks are Front Loading, rather than top loading – so they fold flat like suitcases and are easy to pack. While a hiking backpack is definitely worth considering if your only travel plans are adventure travel, the following suggestions are better backpacks in most other circumstances – and will even serve you well when hiking with their mesh padding and hip straps for weight distribution:
The Osprey Farpoint 70L: is a great pick for a large travel backpack. It folds flat for packing items like in suitcase. Weighing only 1.3kgs, it’s a lightweight backpack that will hold all your stuff and still feel comfortable on hikes. The straps can be zipped and hidden, making it look something like a duffle bag, and it comes with a detatchable daypack and lifetime warranty. The larger version of the Osprey Porter is also worth considering.
The Deuter Transit is a fantastic, stylish travel backpack. Made from a ultra lightweight fabric, it comes with a shoulder strap to wear as a shoulder bag at the airport. It comes with a detachable daypack and lifetime warranty. The Deuter Traveller is another model worth considering.
The Macpac Gemini Aztec is a great travel backpack from the New Zealand brand. It comes with a weatherproof canvas and a detachable daypack – providing 60 litres storage in the main pack, and 15 in the daypack.
I’ve always viewed the regular duffle bag as a sort of compromise. They’re a suitcase for people who don’t want a suitcase, and a rugged bag for those who don’t want a backpack – but without the straps or wheels that make transporting those two options more practical. I wouldn’t recommend a conventional duffle bag for anything other than short trips away. However, recently there have been a more versatile range of duffle bags – offering additional carry options than just picking up the bag by its handles. The “Rolling Duffle” bags provide wheelability and function much like a sturdy suitcase, while other multi-carry options let you use them as backpacks or shoulder bags – albeit without the same padding or back support.
The Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled comes in 40L, 70L or 120L configurations, and can be carried as a regular duffle or wheeled using the extensible handle. The bag is made from durable ripstop nylon that has greater weather resistance than regular duffle bags, and comes with Patagonia’s lifetime warranty. The non wheeled Patagonia Black Hole Duffle bag is also worth looking at. Made of the same weatherproof materials, it offers backpack straps or a shoulder bag for carrying options.
The Macpac Scout Wheeled Duffel is the Patagonia’s doppelganger. Similar Weatherproof material and quality construction.
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior is a Wheeled Duffle with 91 Litres of storage space. The straps on the outside make it easy to secure equipment to the bag. Eagle Creek also have several other rolling Duffles worth looking at.
The Osprey Transporter is a verstile duffle bag that comes with removable straps to let it be worn as a shoulder bag, and even as a backpack. The Backpack mode offers a sternum strap for additional support, and compression straps help to secure the contents. It comes in configurations between 40L to a whopping 130L. As with all Osprey products, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
The North Face Base Camp is another great Duffle bag with a Backpack mode. The largest configuration comes with 95 litres of storage. For those who like their luggage personalized, there are more colour choices than nearly any other Duffle bag, and the internal mesh compartment offers a bit of extra space for organization. Built with a water resistant fabric, it also comes with compression straps to secure the load inside, and a lifetime warranty. It’s also Outdoor Gear Lab’s top pick for a duffle bag.
The Suitcase still remains the most popular luggage option on the planet, and not without reason. It’s certainly fit for purpose for how the majority of people travel – only staying in a single location, and used as a makeshift wardrobe that sits on the floor. If you’re staying at a resort, or with family and do not need to transport your bag frequently, there is nothing wrong with a suitcase. The one key advantage the suitcase has over all other bags is its form factor. The rectangular shape and cavernous interior is still the easiest way to pack things. The size and ease of fitting things inside means that overpacking comes naturally, as we have a compulsion to make use of all available space, even when we don’t need to. Samsonite, High Sierra, & Victorinox all produce good quality mid range suitcases. If price is no object, Briggs & Riley, & Rimowa are two of the highest quality brands you can choose. Due to their ubiquity, there is a huge range of specialty suitcases available – from ride on suitcases for children, to even Robot Suitcases which follow you around.
Personally I wouldn’t advise travelling with a conventional suitcase. For a long term travel options, its inflexibility becomes more of a hindrance. While most of the time you will find yourself wheeling your bag between destinations, when encountering poor infrastructure or flights of stairs, you are going to loathe your suitcase. When venturing out of the comforts of urban tarmac, the wheels will wear out. Rolling Duffle bags & Backpack-Suitcase hybrids offer alternative carry options in addition to having durable wheels and materials for ease of transport.
While not precisely a suitcase, if you are unwilling to compromise on the size of a large suitcase, but are wanting a more durable piece of wheeled luggage, you could look at the 130 Litre Osprey Shuttle. The Wheels on this model (the same as those on the Osprey Sojourn) are designed to take a real beating, and can go over unsealed roads where other suitcases would struggle.
CARRY ON MAIN BAG
If you are taking everything in a single bag, then you’re going to want a versatile piece of luggage. You need a backpack, but you need to be able to easily access and organize all your gear, and not have to rummage for things around on the inside. There are “Wheelable” options here, but it’s pointless for carry on luggage. You need to save every bit of weight you can get, and wheels will add too much. From reading various reviews and recommendations, the following suggested models seem to be the best options. Most of these are quite pricey, but if it’s the only piece of luggage you own, then you ought to pick a good one. Osprey, GoRuck, Tom Bihn & Patagonia all offer lifetime warrranties on their products.
As mentioned previously, going “Carry On Only” comes with real restrictions – not only in terms of weight, but also in the types of items you can carry. Personally I would advise against this, but there is no reason why you can’t check in a carry on compliant bag. For travel minimalists who still want to take toiletries, food, medicines and sharp objects – you may end up only wanting to take this bag as a checked option, and keep your valuables in your daypack on the plane. 45 Litres is plenty of space for clothes, and certainly for ease of moving around this size of bag may just suit. Even for those who tend to overpack, these bags are great for weekends away or short domestic trips. Below are some great carry on compliant luggage options;
This is a “soft side suitcase” that can be carried as a shoulder bag or backpack. When not used as a backpack, the straps simply hide away. There is also the Black Hole variant, which offers greater water resistance.
One of the few combined Duffle Bag & Backpack hybrids -It can also be ordered with a shoulder strap to use as a shoulder bag. Compared to a conventional duffle bag, the Aeronaut has far more storage compartments. There’s plenty of space in the interior, but you also have two side compartments for additional organization. However, compared to other bags on this list, it’s lacking a laptop compartment and is less compartmentalized in general. It will suit people who organize the internal space themselves, rather than have the bag do the work for them.
Minaal is a recent startup founded by two Kiwis, who launched this bag on Kickstarter. It’s marketed towards the digital nomad types, and features a laptop compartment, fold flat packing and a integrated rain cover.
A smart looking carry on bag, that looks similar to the Minaal at a fraction of the price. The Litehaul works as a backpack or shoulder bag, and has a separate laptop compartment, fold-flat packing and is alltogether smartly organized.
A brand from my hometown of Christchurch, Alchemy Equipment make a range of good looking, high end outdoors gear that’s all made in New Zealand. The AEL008 carry on bag is possibly the best looking bag on this list. It is a convertable bag that can be carried as both a backpack or shoulder bag – with the straps hiding away when not in use. Featuring water resistant materials and a fold-flat main compartment, this is a high quality travel bag that will suit you well.
This American brand has won plenty of accolades for its carry on backpack. Unlike some of the other options, this really does look like a suitcase you carry on your back. It comes with plenty of smart organization, including a hip belt for carrying larger loads. However, the latest variation cannot stow away the backpack straps, which isn’t ideal for Airport security. Nevertheless, this has rave reviews and was designed for Digital Nomad types.
This looks a lot like the Patagonia & Tortuga options, at a more affordable price. It’s another backpack/shoulder bag hybrid
One of the best value options for a good quality carry on bag. This is a travel backpack with comfortable mesh padding, and one huge compartment for storing all your stuff. It also features compression straps to help secure the gear inside, and the backpack straps can be hidden to make it into a duffle-esque bag.
The most expensive and durable option in this list. GoRuck produces Military Spec backpacks designed to take a real beating. These and other military spec bags are popular in the survivalist community, knowing that their bags are prepared for the apocalypse. Each GORUCK backpack is hand built in the US, and the company frequently runs “Ruck Off” endurance challenges where owners each compete to ruin their expensive backpacks. The GR3 features fold-flat packing and internal organizers, side handles, a hip strap and a “Bomb Proof Laptop Compartment.” The GoRuck GR2 is five litres smaller, with extra colour choices and slightly more affordable. The brand also sells smaller daypacks such as the GR1, and plenty of accessories and attachments for their bags
This is your everyday backpack. You want something within the 20-30 Litre range, preferably with good compartments & organization that attaches to your main pack. While some people may prefer taking a messenger bag, you really can’t beat a backpack for extended comfort and back support. If you plan on doing any hiking or want to eliminate taking a tech bag to fit your laptop within, you may want a larger daypack in the 30 litre range- but most of the time you will just be wandering round in the city and carrying your essentials inside.
Generally a backpack from an Outdoor brand is a good first port of call. While Arcteryx, Patagonia, The North Face & other outdoor brands all make good backpacks, for value and quality I would suggest Osprey. They offer a lifetime warranty on all their products. I have the Osprey Flare which is a nice 22L pack. The back padding is incredibly comfortable, and has plenty of pockets and dividers, including a Laptop compartment (but I personally wouldn’t put one in without a sleeve). For walking around town or for day trips, as well as a bag to take on the plane, this is a good option at an affordable price
I’ve become a little enamoured with backpacks recently, especially the hybrid style that work as both backpacks and messenger bags. If Outdoor brands aren’t your thing, take a look at the following
Timbuk2 – An American brand with a reputation for quality and stylish urban bags – both their messenger bags and backpacks come with a lifetime warranty. Their custom bags are even made in San Francisco. The hybrid Timbuk2 Ace & Timbuk2 Division would both make great daypacks.
Herschel Supply Co – Alongside Fjällräven’s hipster tote bag, these are the other backpacks you’ve probably seen popping up everywhere. They’re well priced and some of the most stylish looking around.
Mission Workshop – A company that has developed a cult following with its bags. Mission Workshop make completely waterproof bags designed for cyclists and commuters, all made in the United States.
Aer – Something of a Kickstarter success story: Aer are based in San Francisco and make award winning urban and travel bags.
Frost River – If you want to imagine the kind of backpacks that Victorian explorers or Indiana Jones would wear, then have a look at Frost River’s range of products. The bags are all handmade in the United States from quality waxed canvas. My current dream backpack is their Voyageur Backpack Brief
Wolffepack – A British company making bags with a very cool gimmick. When you want to access the contents of the bag, you simply push a button, and the backpack swings round on strong cords to the front – giving you hands free access to your stuff. To return the backpack to, well…being a backpack, you just push the button again and it swings around behind. For the security conscious, this is a great feature.There are a large range of designs and all with the same clever feature – from urban bags, to photography bags and snowsport bags.
Trakke – Waxed Canvas backpacks with a rugged outdoor look, all handmade in Scotland.
Topo Designs – A brand from Colorado with designs inspired by classic Mountaineering aesthetics, all made in the USA.
A bag for all your Electronics. Rather than a bulky Laptop bag, a lightweight Laptop Sleeve or small brief with enough storage space is ideal. You should be able to fit this bag in your main luggage when you’re not flying or using its contents.
Some possible options include:
– Cocoon Laptop Sleeves: They Come with an Inbuilt GRID-IT organizer for storing your cables
– Lacdo Laptop Sleeve – Water repellent and shockproof.
PACKING CUBES x4
I saw these on just about every packing list in the blogosphere, and questioned why anyone would bother buying what amounted to cheap plastic clothes containers, but it’s only after using them that you realise how useful they are. Instead of having clothes in your bag strewn around and disorganized, all your clothes stay in the one place. You can compartmentalize your luggage, just as you do your chest of drawers at home. The best way to reduce space is to ROLL your clothes, rather than folding them. I have used and recommend the Kathmandu ones as they’re made from recycled materials, but Eagle Creek & Shacke Packs offerings are also highly rated. You may want to take several different sizes, depending on how large your main luggage is.
TOILETRY BAG & OTHER ORGANIZERS
For a Hanging Toiletry Bag with multiple compartments, look at the Eagle Creek Wallaby, The Origami Tuo, eBags Portage Toiletry Kit, Vetelli Hanging Toiletry Bag. Jagurds Hanging Toiletry Bag, Expert Travel Premium Hanging Toiletry Bag, B&C Travel Cosmetic Bag, Macpac Fold Out Washbag, Seabreeze Hanging Toiletry Bag, Hokeeper Waterproof Hanging Toiletry Bag & Neatpack Hanging Toiletry Bag
For a more conventional Toiletry bag, look at the Vetelli Leather Toiletry Bag, Arcteryx Index Toiletries Bag, IQTravels Dopp Kit, Briggs & Riley Toiletry Kit, A Custom Toiletry Bag on Etsy & The Alpine Swiss Hudson
While Packing Cubes & A Toiletry bag are all that is necessary for oganizing your bag, there are numerous other travel organizers you can choose from for specific purposes. If you are taking dress shirts and want to minimize wrinkles, consider the Eagle Creek Garment Folder or BagSmart Packing Folder. The Tom Bihn Travel Tray is a means of keeping your bedside table organized while shuffling from room to room.
For those wanting to maximize space, Compression Sacks function like Vaccuum bags without the need for the Vaccuum. Finally, the Arcteryx Index Range function as carryable packing cubes – ideal for taking a spare set of clothes on the plane in.
TO RECAP: YOUR TOTAL LUGGAGE & ORGANIZATION
– Main Checked Bag (Recommended Choice: Osprey Sojourn)
– A Day pack (Recommended Choice: Osprey Flare)
– Tech/Laptop Bag
– Packing Cubes x4
– Toiletries Bag & Any Other Organizers.
CARRY ON ITEMS
– Passport: The most important item of all.’
– Smartphone: This is my personal alarm clock, web browser, GPS, notepad, music player and camera. Many people could ditch the laptop or tablet and just travel with their smartphone. If you do want to extend the functionality of your Smartphone, having a wired means of transferring files off without having to use a computer can be useful. Androids can get a wired USB drive connector and use a regular drive. For iOS you can get something like the ibridge which is a combined lightning & USB Adapter. To use your Smartphone overseas, you will need to ensure that it is Unlocked and a GSM model. If you are already on a phone contract, you will need to check with your phone carrier for using it overseas – as it will be locked to the existing carrier. Almost all modern Smartphones are GSM compatible, other than those on select US carriers like Verizon.
It’s inconvenient taking your dedicated Camera out a lot of the time around the city, but your phone is always in your pocket ready to take pictures. There are a slew of helpful travel apps: XE for currency conversion, Google Translate & Phrasebook apps for translation, Airbnb, HotelsCombined & Agoda for booking accomodation , Rome2Rio, Kayak & Skyscanner for booking flights. The most important feature aside from the camera and notepad, is for maps and navigation. In any city with a metro system like London, Paris & Hong Kong, I’ve always saved the metro map to my image gallery on my phone to make getting around easily. Navigation Apps like Google Maps & Sygic are useful, especially Sygic, which has just about the whole world available for offline download (for a modest fee). This can be invaluable if you have limited internet access (Here WeGo is another offline alternative). For those hiking frequently Gaia GPS allows you to download topographic maps, providing you with a dedicated handheld GPS device when hiking. Some other good apps are listed here.
I’ve used both Android and iPhone models. I won’t try to convert you if you’re already subscribed to one of the particular religions, but I would advise against buying the cheapest Android phones, or any phone with low internal storage capacity as they perform poorly. 32GB plus internal storage is ideal. You don’t need to spend a fortune – top phone models will depreciate significantly after two years on the market, and Xiaomi and other Chinese Android brands are high spec phones at affordable prices .Make sure to also have a good shock absorbing case – both Lifeproof and Spigen make good models. You don’t want this breaking mid trip, given how much you rely on it. Also ensure FindMyiPhone, Find My Device or Prey is set up, to track your phone in the event of loss or theft. If your iPhone ends up in the hands of some Mexican Cartel then this probably won’t do you any good, but for petty thefts or simply if you lost it you may be able to get it back. Use iCloud & Google Sync to backup your Phones contacts- I also manually back them up to a CSV file every so often. I also recommend Evernote for keeping all your notes synced. Advice on 3G/Data & Communication options when travelling are listed further down.
– Wallet & Debit/Credit Cards: I really dislike the current trend of minimizing wallets. I want to be able to fit my change, receipts and easily access my Card & ID. God knows how people get by with those carbon fibre money clips. Make sure to keep this in your front pocket rather than your rear for security purposes. For Advice on Credit Cards & Managing Finances when travelling, see the MONEY section further in the post.
– A Watch: It’s inadvisable to take any expensive watches as they are prime targest for thieves. You can buy a good quality entry level watch from a brand like Seiko, Casio or Olympic for under $200. Preferably you will want one with adequate water resistance and which won’t break at the slightest damage. There are a range of expensive travel specific watches, generally marketed towards pilots or jetsetting businessmen. The most pricey are the Mechanical World Time Watches, which can show the time in 24 times zones simultaneously. These use an outer ring system with the names of 24 different cities throughout the various timezones, that makes a full rotation once a day – The main watch hands will point to the current time in your location, and the times displayed in the city that the outer ring has rotated to. However these are all designer watches that cost thousands.
A slightly more affordable and more functional range of travel watches are solar powered GPS watches – which at the push of a button can automatically adjust the watch hands via satellite to the local time. The Seiko Astron, Citizen Satellite Wave, & G-Shock Gravitymaster range all reside in this category.
– Neck Wallet/Neck Pouch: I think everyone can agree that fanny packs are terribly embarrassing and make you stick out as a tourist from miles away, but rest assured there is a slightly less ridiculous looking alternative. A Neck wallet is a little pouch that hangs around your neck like an oversized necklace. You can hide them under your shirt, and they’re ideal for keeping your passport protected as well as holding any boarding passes, credit cards or anything else you need on you for the flight. They’re also ideal for hiding your cards/cash in crowded environments. This model from Kathmandu should work well, although the RFID protection may not be necessary.
Some people may prefer using a Travel wallet, as most of the time your neck pouch and the passport residing inside it will be hidden inside your daypack anyways, but the added security benefit of having this on your body when required is a bonus. Make sure to divide your essentials: Keep your main credit cards inside your wallet, but keep a backup credit card and your Passport in the Neck Wallet – that way, unlike if you’re only taking a travel wallet, losing your wallet will not mean losing everything.
– Basic Stationary (Notepad + Pens): Keep a few disposable pens in your daypack, or choose a higher quality option. The Fisher Space Pen & Rite In The Rain pens are popular with travellers as they use pressurized cartridges, allowing them to work in extreme climates where other pens won’t function. Moleskine, Rhodia, & Rite In The Rain are all good brands for Notebooks, but just take something to write in. Also take a Sharpie for marking items.
– Glasses (If required):
– Sunglasses: Some people suggest to never bother with expensive sunglasses, but you should at least get a well performing, polarized pair. They don’t have to be some designer brand, but the junk shop $5 sunglasses are not even worth bothering with. I bought some Polaroid aviators a few years ago before a Ski trip and they’ve served me well. Provided you keep them in a case, and they’re always in your day bag, then you’re unlikely to lose them. For a great value Polarized pair, have a look at Gamma Ray Sunglasses.
– Kindle &/or Book – I miss the old Kindle Keyboard, but the newer touch screen models are still good e-readers. The eighth generation Kindle E-Reader comes with 4gb storage and glare free reading, while those who really want to splurge can look at the Kindle Oasis which offers 32gb storage and waterproofing at a hefty price tag. You can buy millions of books in the Kindle store, including exclusively published ebooks (a new ebook is reportedly published every five minutes). You can also use Project Gutenberg to legally download all the classic novels you want for free. Other more questionable ways of obtaining e-books exist, as you might have expected, but I’m not going to endorse them. There are also Sony & Kobo models of e-readers, but Amazon has the best store for buying e-books, and it’s exclusive to Kindle. If you go the physical route, you won’t be carrying more than one or two books at a time, and you’ll need to give them away unless you want to ship your books home.
– In-ear Headphones x2 – One pair of noise isolating in-ear headphones + one cheap backup pair. My preferred brand is Sennheiser, and just about anything they put out is good. A lot of travellers are fans of the Bose Quietcomfort range since the Noise Isolation is incredible for work and travel, but whether you opt for high end headphones or otherwise, just remember to take them.
– Jaybird Bluetooth headphones – These are my favourite running headphones. They are noise isolating, sweat resistant and give great sound, and can even double as a pair of earplugs. A pair of compact bluetooth headphones is ideal if you want to navigate with GPS on foot as well. The latest model is the X3. There are other alternatives, but I’ve found nothing beats the Jaybirds for running or workouts.
– Packable tote bag: A small tote bag that folds up for shopping trips is great to use when travelling, and can be always kept in the bottom of your day bag. It’s also ideal as a small beach bag. I never usually bother with canvas shopping bags at home, but it’s helpful to have something for the groceries or just to hold extra purchases while out shopping. This cheap one from Eagle Creek looks good, but of course there are more Expensive options.
– Spare T Shirt, Underwear or Pair of Socks: It’s handy to have these in your day bag.
– Snacks & Gum/Mints: Keep for the flight or any excursions out. I find it’s always helpful to have something to chew on for the take off and landing.
-Lock(s): There is no point ever locking your checked luggage on a flight. You’re supposed to use TSA approved locks, but what’s the point in locking it if they’re going to open it up anyways? The baggage handlers & customs agents have the right to break it open, and will likely damage any real valuables inside – which is why you should always keep them in your carry on. However, it’s worth having a lock to protect your electronics & valuables – when you leave your accomodation, as well as when flying with them in carry on or whenever your bag is out of sight.
I recommend the PacSafe Cable Lock. You can lock your baggage through the zippers like a normal lock, but the cable extends, so you can tie it your bag to furniture or other stationary objects for extra security. Just don’t ever forget the combination, as these things are seriously tough to break into.
Alternatively, a small bike lock will probably work for securing the bag to an object, but you will need a separate padlock or combination lock for locking the zippers. For any conventional padlocks or bike locks, make sure you have two sets of keys and keep them in two places. For the Security conscious, you may also want to consider a Portable Door Lock or a Portable safe (Safego & Pacsafe are two brands). A Portable Safe is especially handy for large amounts of cash and your prized posessions in the developing world.
Always take these in your carry on.
– Document Folder/Bag: You can buy plastic document folders at stationary shops that work fine. Alternatively you can purchase more expensive waterproof document bags, or opt for a Leather folio or compendium if you want to be fancy.
– Printed Copy of Passport
– Travel Insurance Certificate
– Trip Itinerary
– Essential Contact Details (Family, Bank/Credit Card Issuer, Local Police, Travel agents etc).
– Accomodation Details: I recommend printing these out, or at least writing down the name of the hotel + booking number if you can’t access your emails.
– International Driving Permit & Printed Copy of Drivers License (If Driving)
– Certificate Of Vaccinations & Doctors Prescription (If Required)
TO GO IN TECH COMPARTMENT/BAG
Ensure that you take this onto the plane with your day bag.
– Laptop/Tablet & Charger: Personally I would never travel without a Laptop, but you may be able to substitute an iOS or Android tablet for a laptop if all your doing is web browsing.If you opt for an iPad or similar tablet then be aware of the limitations of the device: iPads (yes, even the “Pro”) in particular cannot easily accept USB or SD media, and so uploading your holiday photos may prove a hassle.
The ideal travel laptop is an Ultrabook like the Macbook Air, Asus Zenbook & Dell XPS 13, or a 2 in 1 hybrid like the Surface Pro or Surface Book – If you want both a tablet and a laptop combined. These are all lightweight quality devices with long battery life. I’m particularly enamoured by the Surface Book, but the price is a little beyond my reach at the moment. All of these devices aren’t particularly cheap, but from my experience, much like with Smartphones, the cheapest Laptops around aren’t worth bothering with.
– DSLR/Point & Shoot Camera & Charger: Even if you’re not much of a Photographer, it’s going to take better pictures and probably better videos than your smartphone. While Real Travellers™ may advise not bringing any camera at all, years from now you’ll regret not taking any photos. Canon & Nikon are the two biggest brands in entry level DSLRs, but The Pentax K70 & Sony A68 are other lesser known alternatives. I use a Canon 700D and the standard 18-55mm lens kit. I’d happily recommend it as a travel camera, but I would like to upgrade the lens. It’s ideal to have a Zoom/Telephoto Lens for travel, but all the cheaper Telephoto Lenses have a narrow field of view. The most versatile combinations of Wide Angle and Zoom Lenses, such as the “Superzoom” Canon EF-S 18-200mm and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L can cost as much as the camera, but if you’re only taking one DSLR lens for travel, this is the type you want. The Nikon D5, Sony A9 and EOS 1D X Mark II are the expensive flagship DSLRs of each brand.
There’s plenty of choice for a travel camera outside of DSLRs. Mirrorless cameras like the Sony Alpha A6000 offer Professional looking photography in a more compact form factor than a DSLR, while still offering interchangable lenses. For something even lighter, The Canon Powershot and Panasonic LUMIX range offer great photography from point and shoot cameras. Digital Rangefinder Cameras like the Fujifilm X100F & expensive Leica M9 provide DSLR quality photos in a point and shoot body. Normally I just put my DSLR straight in my day bag, but you may want to bring a small camera bag as well. Make sure to take a high capacity SD card(s) and consider taking a backup battery with you as well. Some other gear suggestions for more professional photography are listed further down.
– GoPro & Accessories: The GoPro itself is tiny, and will be your main adventure camera. While certain Smartphones tout their Waterproof credentials, none will be as Durable as a GoPro. This article has some tips on using one for travel, and this article details some common beginner mistakes to avoid. Consider taking a remote , Headstrap or Tripod/Selfie Stick to easily take photos of yourself as well. There are other more affordable “Action Cameras” but none have the accessory range of the GoPRO. I have linked the official accessories, but there are cheaper third party accessories as well.
– Powerbank (Mobile Charger): A must have backup device if your phone or any other usb rechargable device is running low. Make sure to get one that’s at least 10,000 mAh (Miliampere hour. Yes that’s right, I can use a search engine) to get more than a single charge on your phone, but not one that’s more than 27,027 mAh such as some of the industrial models as you won’t be able to fly with it. I personally recommend this model from Promate, as it has Micro USB + Lightning cables integrated. Also consider a Solar Powered Variant, if you’re doing any hiking. If you want to charge your Laptop & AC Powered Devices, look at the ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet. It comes just under the maximum flight battery restrictions, but features an AC Port for powering or charging your conventional electronics.
– Glasses Cleaner & Cleaning Cloths: For cleaning screens and camera and glasses lenses.
– International Power Adapter: Provided you have multi/variable voltage electronics (Look for 100-240V on the plug), you do not need voltage converters. All you need is an International Adapter that allows your plug to fit into the power sockets. This model by SKROSS is the one I use, and works in almost every plug socket.
– Country Specific Travel Adapter: Certain countries like Switzerland, South Africa, Israel, & Brazil can have near proprietary adapters which some international adapters will not work with. Additionally, due to the size of most International Adapters, they can be a bulky or difficult fit in certain plug sockets. A visual guide to required adapters around the world can be found here.
This Adapter Set from Ceptics covers every plug point in the world (except Thailand’s type O, which is compatible with type C, and is so uncommon in Thailand that there don’t even appear to be travel adapters made for it), but make sure to take an extra adapter to wherever you’re going as a backup option. Finding a Power Adapter in your destination can be a major hassle.
– Variable Voltage Multiplug (Powerstrip): If there’s only one power point in your room, then you’re going to want this. Don’t take one that’s too bulky, four plug points is more than enough. Ensure that this is multi/variable voltage as well (any good multiplug will be), otherwise even if your electronics are multi voltage you’ll fry them. This has the bonus ability of extending the plug point, and working as a minor extension cord as well. Belkin & Orico both sell good quality models with inbuilt USB chargers.
– Mouse and mousepad: Bring a lightweight mouse and small cloth mousepad for any serious computer work.
– USB Hub: I always take one of these.
– SD + Micro SD usb reader: Ideally every laptop should have an SD reader built in, but if not you’ll need this. For Micro SD cards it’s handy to have a micro SD to SD adapter as well (these normally come included with any you purchase)
– USB Charger x 2 : Murphys law dictates there’s going to more than one flat device at any time, and these are your “Phone chargers” so be prepared. You will be able to find a replacement for these just about anywhere. However, if it goes missing and you still have the USB cables – you can charge your phone via the USB port in a hotel TV.
– Micro USB Cables X2: For Android Phones & nearly every usb chargeable device.
– Lightning Cables X2: Omit these if you’re on Android, and take another Micro USB instead. You’ll still want both for iPhone, as all your other USB Powered electronics use Micro USB. Don’t worry if you lose them, as you will be able to find these anywhere.
– External Hard Drive: I would advise actually keeping this separate from your Laptop somewhere in your main bag, so that even if your laptop was stolen you would still have this. Additionally, this is to back up files already on your laptop. Moving them to an External Hard Drive without keeping them on your computer is useless. It’s not a backup if the data is all still in one place, it’s a screw up. I use a LaCie external drive when travelling, which is billed as an ultra durable shockproof variant. The most compact and best performing devices are the new Portable External SSD drives, but they’re not cheap.
– USB Car Charger: In case of spontaneous road trips.
– USB Drive & Spare SD card(s)/Micro SD Card(s): These are useful for printing photos/documents on the road, as well as necessary backups if you lose your main storage on your camera.
CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
The key to travel clothing is having things that are comfortable, versatile, stylish & practical. Take one weeks worth of clothing that can work in a variety of climates. Jeans/Pants + Shirt/T-Shirt is the de facto male uniform of most of the world. As a white westerner, regardless of what you wear you’re going to stick out in Africa, Asia, & Latin America, but you can probably get by in the US & Europe without looking like too much of a tourist. You want all your clothing to be machine washable and preferably to be wrinkle resistant so not to require ironing. T-shirts work in any climate, provided you have the appropriate layering over top. You will be doing your laundry at least once a week. If you’re an ultra minimalist probably more, but the below list will get you through a weeks worth of wear. For Travel minimalists and those who simply loathe doing the laundry, there is a trend towards packing technical and performance fabrics which require less washing like Merino Wool.
Layering is really the key word for Travel Clothing. What I assumed was basic knowledge is apparently revolutionary travel advice on the blogosphere. Your base layer is your T-Shirt/Shirt (and any thermal underlayers), while your Mid-Layer will be a Hoodie/Jersey/Fleece Jacket, and your Outer Layers are your Down Jacket & Rain jacket. As climate conditions change, adjust the layers accordingly. In Winter you’ll want a T-Shirt and Warm Midlayer, plus a down jacket and waterproof jacket as outerlayers. In summer you only want Jeans + T Shirts, plus a lightweight Midlayer. Layers shouldn’t be bulky. Your jerseys shouldn’t be ultra thick knitted types, as you won’t be able to fit an outerlayer on top for additional weather protection. The idea behind layering is also to get outfits that pair together with a minimal number of items, so you should be fairly conservative with your choice of colours.
In most places you’re travelling to, even in places where the climate conditions can be especially harsh – people just wear normal looking clothes. A pair of zip-off waterproof pants will mark you as a tourist from a million miles away. Ask yourself if you would wear what you’re taking for your travels back home, because the chances are that you will start to loathe the “travel clothing” that makes you feel uncomfortable. Unless you’re travelling in the absolute extremities of the earth, you don’t need specialist gear. You also don’t need to take too many of the most easily replaceable items.T-Shirts, Shirts & Socks can be found everywhere, but good quality jackets and footwear may be harder to find. It’s worth spending more on good quality jackets and shoes – as you’ll be wearing the same pairs day in and out, but most other items can be bought on the cheap or taken straight from your wardrobe.
– Casual Leather Shoes (Everyday + Formal): These work well as comfortable everyday shoes, and can be cleaned up for a night out. You can go for day walks in them, and if you require extra durability, there are many waterproof models available. These should pair well with any jeans or trousers – the only thing they won’t work with are shorts.Any Brown/Tan Oxford or Chukka style shoes should fit the bill well. Some brands to look at are: Timberland, Hush Puppies, Clarks & Dr Martens. VivoBareFoot also sell highly compactable lightweight weatherproof leather shoes as well. If you need to tidy them up, then just give them a polish.
– Stylish Running Shoes (Everyday + Running)
OR Trail Running Shoes (Running + Hiking):
Two choices here, both consisting of running shoes, but either choice hinges on what your travel style is. If your travel style doesn’t involve much in the way of hiking or adventure activities then go for a Stylish running shoe. Most short walks and other sporting activities can be done with these, and you can pair them with casual shorts. Generally a black running shoe will be the most subtle. Look at the Nike Free RN & Pegasus series for good looking running shoes in a sneaker like package. You can even design your own on the Nike website. The Asics GEL-KENUN & Various Adidas Models are also worth considering. Trail Running shoes are ultra versatile shoes that can be used for hiking, running, adventure sports and for just walking around town. Many models like these Adidas ones & this Asics model have GORE-TEX waterproofing. These are the kind of shoes that can take a real beating, and are much more compact than hefty hiking boots. The only disadvantage is that their durability comes at the expense of style, but if you’re not too fashion conscious then these will suit you.
– Flip Flops/Sandals: These are primarily your beach or holiday shoes. While Chacos, Birkenstock & Teva are all designed to be comfortable and durable brands for walking longer distances, you really don’t need to spend that much here. Everyone in New Zealand & Australia should already have a pair lying round. A cheap pair of Havaianas or Quicksilver flips flops will work fine at the beach. On an unrelated note – Flip Flops are called “Jandals” in New Zealand, which is a portmanteau of Japanese Sandals. The Australians quite embarrassingly call them Thongs. Thongs! Next time you see an Australian man when travelling, ask him if he has his thongs on him. Hahahahaha…Ahem.
– Socks x 7 – Merino socks from Smartwool or Icebreaker are preferred by a lot of travellers, but the main thing is getting comfortable pairs that ideally will each last you two days of wear. Anything marketed as business socks are usually comfortable. My latest find is Darn Tough Socks, which are both durable and comfortable and offer just about the cheapest lifetime warranty of any product on the market. These are one item that you’ll inevitably end up losing, so just buy more. As per the rest of the list, just bring enough for a week.
– Sports socks x2 – Two pairs of sports socks for running.
– Warm Woolen socks x 2 – You may wish to adjust the quantity if you’re in a winter location for long periods. This couple even opts to layer their socks in the coldest weather – putting the woolen socks over their regular socks.
– Hankerchiefs x 2: No tissues? No worries. Also useful as a tourniquet.
– Gloves x 1 – A lightweight woolen pair for winter use. For skiing + hiking, you may want to get a truly waterproof pair though.
– Underwear x 4 (Ex officio): What do you mean only four pairs of underwear? Are you some kind of filthy travel slob? That may be true, but it doesn’t invalidate how good this underwear is. Somebody should tell the Mormons, because ExOfficio is the real magic underwear. I saw this brand of underwear on just about every single travel packing list, but after jumping on the bandwagon I can see why. They’re about $30 NZD a pair from Amazon, but you get your money’s worth. I’ve already thrown out most of my old cotton underwear and just use ExOfficio. They produce both mens and womens underwear in all commonly worn styles.
The key quality of the underwear is that it’s AntiMicrobial & breathable, so it’s designed not to smell. It also dries quickly, so you could even use them as swimming shorts in a pinch. You could probably get through the week with only three pairs, but you won’t want to bother with any other underwear after trying these. Believe the hype – they really are this good.
– T Shirts x 5 (Inc 1 for sportswear): A lot of minimalist travellers opt for pricey Merino T-Shirts produced by brands like Icebreaker, Mons Royale, Outlier, Unbound, & Wool & Prince which can reportedly go for nearly a week without washing, but provided your t-shirts are comfortable, versatile and breathable, then having to switch to a new top every third day isn’t exactly the end of the world.
Anything from a Sportswear or Outdoor brand like The North Face, Nike, Patagonia, Icebreaker, Adidas, Quicksilver, Kathmandu etc is generally going to be a good choice, and everyone already has their favourite t-shirt, so there’s no point spending too much here. For a more durable option than Cotton, a Cotton-Polyester blend like this one from The North Face will work well.
For running and for the beach you want at least one top that’s roomy enough to easily throw over, even if your body is covered with moisture. Four T-shirts should last you a week for normal usage, but take at least one more spare for Exercise, Beachwear & Bedwear. These are probably the easiest items to replace on the road, so don’t bother taking too many. A wrinkle resistant plaid or outdoors shirt can be susbtituted for one or more of the t-shirts if you prefer.
– Polo Shirt x 1: For something nicer to wear in spring & summer.
– Dress Shirt x 2: Just take one or two for the times you want to dress up. I would suggest one short sleeve and one long sleeve to handle all climate conditions. If you need more, then you can buy them on the road. Given the demand for versatile Dress Shirts, there are some expensive options available. Wool & Prince make odour resistant Merino dress shirts which don’t wrinkle. Bluffworks is soon releasing the Meridian Dress Shirt which is a more conventional looking dress shirt that should last multiple days without any wrinkles. Threadsmiths create water and stain resistant shirts, and there are a number of other companies like Twillory & Brooks Brothers that make non-iron dress shirts. If you’re taking the conventional kind, you’ll probably have to find a hotel or laundry place to iron them, or pack a travel steamer.
– Dark Navy Jeans x 1: Ultra versatile and last for days without needing to be washed. There are no greater “Travel Pants” than Jeans.
–Chinos x 2– Nice Chinos work as dress pants as well as comfortable everyday pants. You can comfortably take two of them, as they take up very little space in your bag. One darker & one lighter Tan/Khaki pair is ideal for pairing outfits. Reportedly the ones from Bluffworks are well reviewed, but I’m yet to try them. For another travel specific option, Makers & Riders ‘Wool Jeans’ are a pair of Merino Pants that dry quickly and offer good weather resistance. With Chinos & Jeans you have three pairs of everyday pants, which will be all you need for a week.
– Water Resistant Outdoor Pants x 1 : The only other pair of pants required. These durable pants can be used for running, hiking and snow sports. It’s particularly for the latter that these are important, as anyone who has been to a ski field in jeans will testify. A pair of Polyester Tracksuit pants will be water resistant, but you’re better off going for a pair of outdoor pants for hiking. The Prana Zion is very popular with Hikers, and should be a comfortable, water resistant outdoor pair of pants. The Alchemy Equipment Stretch Tech Chino also looks like another quite stylish water resistant pair. All Outdoor brands make this style of pants.
– Belt(s) I’m a fan of the Tarocash range, but everyone has their preference. You may want to take a spare belt, as it’s not a fun thing going to a shop to replace if it breaks.
– Shorts x 2 – I can get through a New Zealand summer fine with a pair of jeans, but in the hottest climates, and in beach environments you’re going to want shorts. Get a versatile pair or two of shorts that look good. A black or Khaki pair generally will pair with more outfits. Reportedly these water resistant pairs from Patagonia: Here, Here & Here can work as swimming shorts as well. Additionally these Quicksilver ones do too.
– Swimming Shorts x1– All that’s really required for Swimwear is a pair of Togs/Swimming Shorts. If you’re concerned about Sun protection for extended swim sessions, Quicksilver have good looking rash vests that can pass as t-shirts. If you are Surfing or Scuba Diving frequently, then you will need to pack a wetsuit, but for the average traveller this is excessive.
– Running Shorts: A nice looking pair can even work as casual everyday shorts in warmer climates. The Rahul Shorts are good quick drying ones from Kathmandu, but Nike, Adidas and the usual sportswear brands all have good ones.
– Woolen Jersey/Sweater or Fleece Jacket – This is your main Winter midlayer. A good, lightweight woolen jersey or Fleece Jacket goes with shirts or t-shirts, and can be layered with your Down Jacket overtop. Icebreaker sell a range of Merino Jerseys, but cheaper Merino options are available in any clothes shop. For the aspiring Drug Dealer, ScotteVest sell a Fleece Travel Jacket with 21 pockets..
– Lightweight Hoodie: A lightweight hoodie is a versatile casual midlayer, that you can wear nearly all year round. While I haven’t jumped onto the Merino Bandwagon entirely, a merino hoodiesis worth the investment for a piece of clothing you’ll be wearing all the time. You’ll hardly ever have to wash them, they don’t stink, and they’re breathable and lightweight enough to be good for summer or winter. I highly recommend The Icebreaker Shifter ( If it’s out of stock, have a look at some other Merino Hoodies here.) It’s light and breathable enough to use even in summer, and you can even use it with a shirt and look fairly stylish.
– Down Jacket: This will be your go-to travel jacket, so choose a good one. For a long time I went years without using a down jacket as I disliked how bulky and stuffy some of them were, but the Exmoor Jacket from Kathmandu is nice and lightweight. It’s actually synthetic rather than down, so weighs less and is more breathable. This synthetic form is actually more comfortable on warm days than a regular down jacket too. Having said that, not all Down Jackets are bulky and restricted to purely winter wear. Some other lightweight options to consider are: The Mont-Bell Plasma, The North Face Thermoball, The Macpac Uber Light Down Jacket, The Arcteryx Cerium, The Patagonia Nano Puff or Patagonia Down Sweater, and the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. Every Outdoor brand makes them, so go into a shop and try the one you like the most.
– Waterproof Soft Shell Rain Jacket: This is your lightweight rain jacket to be worn on any rainy days, as well as to provide additional weather protection in colder climates. While Down Jackets are all typically water resistant, in the event of a serious downpour they will not keep you dry. Hence why you need a “Shell” jacket to go over top. In Winter, this should go over top of your Down Jacket & Midlayer to provide you with both warmth and Waterproofing, while during downpours during warmer seasons you may just have a t-shirt on underneath. Waterproof shells are made by all outdoor companies, much like Down Jackets. The best ones use waterproof performance fabrics, most commonly GORE-TEX, but also eVent, Pertex and others. These offer breathability as well as serious water protection and pack down into a tiny pocket, so you will always have room for them.
For an Affordable GORE-TEX option, The Kathmandu Bealey is a good choice, as is the Outdoor Research Foray. For those hiking in monsoons or wanting extreme waterproof protection, the Arc’Teryx Beta AR is about as high end a rain jacket as you can get. A highly reviewed Pertex option, which will offer more breathability in warmer climates is the Outdoor Research Helium II. However, in warmer Monsoon climates, no Waterproof Jacket will be as breathable as just using an Umbrella. The locals in South East Asia all use Ponchos or Umbrellas when it starts to pour, and you may just want to follow their approach. Also be aware that these jakets have a Waterproof Repellent finish that will wear down over an extended period of time. The jacket will remain waterproof, but the water will cling to the jacket and be less breathable if not re-treated.
– Bomber/Harrington Jacket For the days you want to dress up a little more, you’re going to want a stylish looking jacket. Bomber (or Harrington) jackets are relatively light weight and can be paired with a dress shirt & jeans or chinos for an evening out. They are much more versatile than a Sports Jacket or Blazer, and just about every Mens Fashion label will sell one – Typically made from Nylon/Cotton or Polyester. A Denim or Leather jacket is another option to consider, but I think the Bomber/Harrington is the most versatile choice for dressing up, and the bulk of them are easily washable and pack down to a smaller size in your bag.
– Beanie/Flat Cap: A winter hat for cooler climates.
– Cap/Sunhat: A Summer hat for Warmer climates. I have never been a hat person, but if travelling in warm climates you will need one for protection from the elements. Make sure to take one that’s “Crushable” so you can throw it in your bag without ruining the hat.
– Scarf: I would recommend a woolen scarf for colder climates, but there are two other more versatile alternatives worth considering in addition to a winter scarf. The Shemagh scarf is worn in desert regions and can be considered something of a multi-climate scarf, providing protection from dust, sand, snow and the sun. It can be worn as a balaclava, or traditional scarf, and has a huge number of uses. The Wool buff is a Multifunctional Merino “Tubular accessory” which can be used not only as a scarf, but as a headband, beanie and all other manner of headwear.
– Lightweight Towel: For travel you want something that drys quickly, and can function as both a bath towel and a beach towel. Cotton towels are considered no-no’s for travel as they smell and don’t dry quickly enough. The general trend seems to be towards Microfibre, which is a quick drying fabric. Packtowl are one of the more popular brands for these, but I dislike how they feel on the skin. Dock & Bay make compact sand-resistant Microfibre beach towels, which would be ideal for anyone travelling to South East Asia or The Pacific. An alternative to Microfibre is linen towels, which are quick to dry but reportedly feel far nicer on the skin. The Seagale Linen Travel Towel & Outlier Grid, (which Snarky Nomad raves about) are two good options, but cheaper versions can be found elsewhere. If space isn’t at a premium, then just pack a small beach towel.
This is where Carry On Travel can become a serious pain. While there are lists devoted to carry-on toiletries, it comes with additional hassle. Any medication or medicine has to be specially packed to meet airline restrictions, and there are no Aerosols or Sprays permitted over 100mls. Do you like the sound of a bar of Cologne or Shampoo? Neither do I.
These all go in the aformentioned toiletries bag:
– Philips Electric Shaver & Charger: Beards are a hassle to maintain, so I always just go clean shaven.
– Nail Clippers
– Spray Deodorant x2: Also functions as an air freshener of last resort.
– Cologne: Take a compact bottle for nights out.
– Mini Shampoo & Body Wash: Just take smaller bottles for ease of carrying.
– Bar of Soap: A bar of laundry soap in particular is useful for removing stains. You may also want to consider one of these stain pens.
– Wet Wipes/Toilet Paper When visiting the developing world, take a small roll in your daybag alongside some soap or hand sanitizer. When nature calls you may find that civilization is lacking, so it pays to be prepared.
– Small hand sanitiser travel bottle x 2: Public bathrooms in the developing world are not pretty. This or soap should be used before treating any wounds.
– Waterproof Bandages/Band Aids
– Crepe (Pressure) Bandages: For treating any serious wounds, these come in rolls. For additional pressure you can also use your scarf/hankerchief as a torniquet. Also consider a QuickClot sponge to stop bleeding.
– Medical Gauze: For cleaning wounds. Think of it as a medical paper towel – it soaks up the blood.
– Antiseptic Cream/Bepanthen (General All Purpose Ointment): Apply to any wounds/cuts.
– Antiseptic Or Saline Solution (Cleaning Wounds) : Get some Antiseptic wipes or a small liquid one like Betadine for treating more serious wounds.
– Paracetamol/Ibuprofen (Panadol/Neurofen) : It pays to have this in your carry on as well. For nights with minimal sleep and when headaches arrive.
– DEET or Picardin Insect Repellent: The stronger insect repellent needed for tropical climates.
– Sunblock: For easy application, I prefer the spray models. For hot climates, ensure you pick one with a high SPF rating (50+). Often those marketed for children actually offer better protection than those for adults.
– Aloe Vera For Sunburn
– Tissues (Pocket Sized Pack)
– Condoms/Birth Control
– Voltaren/Anti Inflammatory Gel: For muscle pains.
– Anthisan/ Antihistamine Cream: For any minor insect bites/allergic reactions/rashes
– Oral Rehydration Salts (Developing World Only – For Dehydration): For any serious sickness such as Diarrhoea or Gastroenteritis, your body will quickly become dehydrated. You can get these in small sachets from a Pharmacy – Enerlyte is one brand.
– Imodium/Loperamide (Developing World Only – For Diarrhoea): This is a “stopper” that reduces the symptoms of Diarrhoea. It should be taken when diarrhoea is inconvenient, such as when you have a flight the next day, but it doesn’t not treat the infection, only the symptoms.
– Ciprofloxacin (Developing World Only – Antibiotics): For any serious sicknesses or injuries, particularly serious food poisoning. Get these at a Travel Doctor.
– Neck Pillow It’s the classic Aeroplane accessory, but the traditional variants are a bulky inconvenience every other time you’re not flying. To save space you want a pillow that can compact down to at least half its size in your bag. There are inflatable options, but I wouldn’t suggest this unless your only concern is saving space. The most comfortable Neck Pillows are all made using memory foam, which is much more comfortable than any inflatable model.
This version from Travelrest is a memory foam model which compresses down into 1/4 of its size, and fits inside an included stuff sack. The Travelrest model still follows the U shaped design of most Neck Pillows, so while it saves space on the flight, it isn’t as versatile as a normal pillow. The Coop Home Goods Travel Pillow is a better choice for a more versatile travel pillow. It’s a conventional shaped memory foam pillow, but compresses down into a tiny stuff sack. Whether you’re flying, camping or sleeping in cheap accomodation, this is the style of pillow to go for. Therm-A-Rest, Compact Technologies & Plixio also make similar variants.
– Swiss Army Knife/Multitool: There really is only one brand to consider when it comes to Swiss Army Knives, and that’s Victorinox. Their Knives are fantastic – even their Kitchen Knives are great too. I’ve been carrying one on my Keychain for a while now, and I wouldn’t go without it now. Get a model with a Knife, Screw Driver, Scissors & bottle opener, but don’t bother with their cumbersome knives with excessive features. They just make finding the blades all the more difficult. It goes without saying that this is not carry on friendly, but they do make a Knifeless Knife called the Jetsetter, which will at least give you a cool looking pair of scissors and a bottle opener.
If you want more functionality than a Swiss Army Knife, take a look at the Leatherman MultiTools. These come with Pliers, Wire Cutters, Various Screw Driver heads and all sorts of useful tools packed into a single device.
– Bic Lighter: Zippos and other butane lighters are restricted for carry on travel, but Bic Lighers are allowed on any Plane. Because Because Bics are sealed (i.e. non refillable) they don’t leak fluid. You can leave them in your bag for years.
– FireSteel: It’s handy to have another means of starting fires.
– Umbrella: A compact umbrella is ideal for rainy days around town.
– Ziplock Bags & Plastic Bin Liners; Take a few of these as Rubbish and storage bags.
– Reusable Water Bottle: To save on buying water in The Developed World, just fill up at the tap before you go out. While you can always re-use a disposable mineral water bottle you buy at your destination, it’s better for the environment and for convenience’s sake to just take one with you. In Developing countries you will need to buy water, but you can always use your water bottle as a container for something else. For all the space it takes up, you might as well bring one with you. For those wanting an Ultra Compact option, the Vapur bottle folds down to nearly nothing, so will always fit in your pack. For a more bulkier option but an all around great water bottle, I highly recommend Avex Water Bottles as they never spill. The top auto shuts by itself, and they’re a sturdy and well built water bottle to boot. I’ve always preferred plastic bottles to the stainless steel ones, as they seem to leave a metallic taste.
– Clearfile for putting travel mementos in: A clearfile is an easy way of keeping all your ticket stubs, spare currency and printed mementos in one place. One with twenty pockets or so can fit a remarkable amount of paper. You can buy specific travel stub books, but a clearfile is a cheap way of keeping your travel mementos in one place.
– Earplugs: You may never think you need these until you find yourself in some nightmarish hotel where the windows don’t shut, or in an apartment with a baby crying all night. Noise will be your constant travel companion, and you might as well be prepared for it. You may also want to consider a Sleeping Mask as well.
– Duct Tape – Hole in your luggage? Clothing falling apart? Annoying light blinking in the hotel room? Duct tape is your friend.
– Carabiners & Bungee Carabiners– These are handy for attaching things to your main pack. The Bungee Carabiners (another model here) in particular, are useful for attaching items onto your luggage/backpack. For attaching bags to suitcase handles, I recommend the Bag Bungee.
– Pack of Cards: A lightweight icebreaker for meeting new people. My favourite game is President (also known as Scum), which can be learned in five minutes.
– Emergency Stash of $100 USD: Keep this somewhere in your luggage.
– Luggage Scale: Get a lightweight digital model, preferably one that charges over USB like this. I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with the manual ones. Of course, if you really underpack then thsis shouldn’t be necesssary at all.
– Scrubba Wash Bag: This is your portable laundry machine on the road. Rather than washing your clothes in a dirty sink with a sink plug, which was the main method of backpackers for years, this acts like an old fashioned wash board. It has internal abrasive modules, which rub against the clothes to get the suds out. No, you won’t be able to wash tons of clothes at once, but you’re packing light, remember? You will only be able to wash a few items at a time, but it shouldn’t take more than two washes to get through the weeks laundry. The cost of laundry, much like the cost of food at hotels can be exorbitant. While Laundromats are common in some regions, you can’t rely on them in much of the world, leaving the only washing machines at your disposal being the overpriced ones in hotels. There is a serious cost for convenience at many destinations, but don’t be a sucker and come prepared.
– Travel Clothes Line: When I saw one of these in an Outdoors shop, I had no idea how this worked, and neither did the staff. “Where are the pegs?” I asked. The answer – well, you don’t even need them. These are braided clothes lines, so your clothing snaps underneath each fold to be held sturdily. Most of these attach by suction cups onto windows, but don’t bother with those models, you want a more sturdy means of attaching the clothes line. The Rick Steves Travel Clothes Line is one to consider, and has velcro attachments to hang it around most surfaces. The Flex-O-Line has flexible grips that stretch around many surfaces. Another Versatile choice is this Bungee Clothes Line, which comes with little carabiner style hooks to clip it round many surfaces.
– Laundry Bag: Get a cheap drawstring bag, or use a packing cell for this purpose. You don’t want your clean clothes getting bundled in with your dirty ones.
– Laundry Detergent/Liquid: Just take a tiny amount for the first few washes. A good minmalist alternative to taking a whole bottle is using liquid Laundry Capsules which each contain enough liquid for a single wash. The Scrubba reviews advise not using too much detergent though, as you will need several rinses to get it out. You can also buy concentrated travel detergent , or use Castille Soap, which many travellers tout as a miracle cleaning product. With these items, you have your laundry sorted on the road.
– Pocket Blanket: These compact blankets fold out into a fullsized seating space for the beach, but are also useful for Picnics or just sitting anywhere outdoors. There’s a whole range available, with those produced by Matador, Bearz , Praktikal & Tescat all highly rated.
– Sleeping Bag Liner: These are essentially portable bedsheets that compact down into a tiny little pouch. Most outdoors companies make them. They were originally designed for providing extra comfort and insulation inside a sleeping bag, but double as a clean sheet you can use anywhere. Many hostels and cheaper accomodation providers actually ban sleeping bags due to fears of bed bug infestations, and for most places a sleeping bag isn’t required. All you really need is a sheet.
– Headlamp: A Headlamp is more useful than a torch, especially for adventure activities. The Petzl Tikka is a compact headlamp, that works with AA Batteries or Petzl’s own USB Rechargable battery .There are multiple lighting modes, including strobe and red light Petzl also sell a cool Noctilight Case, which turns your headlamp into a lantern.You may also want to consider a tactical style torch as a backup and impromptou weapon, and for emergency lighting the LuminAid Packlight Nova is an affordable solar powered lantern that compacts to a tiny size.
OTHER POSSIBLE ITEMS TO PACK
Again I would repeat that there is no “One Size fits all” packing list. The above list is designed to be focused on the essentials, and trying to be more minimalistic. Depending on your hobbies, gender and personal requirements, you will likely want to adjust the above list with some of the items listed below. The old adage “Take half the clothes and twice the money” still rings true though. Yes it may be difficult to find your favourite clothing brand, but you will be able to find a lot of stuff on the road. Expect to lose or break a few items if you’re travelling for an extended length. Your most important purchase is your plane ticket after all.
Provided you keep your clothing & Souvenirs to a minimum, you will probably have space for one or two luxury items or creature comforts. We all have hobbies and passions: Perhaps you’re an avid birdwatcher, or photographer, or Tennis player, or Cacti Enthusiast (do these exist?) – The point is, if there’s an item you can bring that will let you fulfil your passion, then bring it. There’s no point making a trip miserable for the sake of minimalism. You should however be able to adapt to life without the comforts of home, and not be taking items that you don’t see yourself using frequently – other than any travel drugs/medicine.
Below are some other ideas for gear to bring:
Additional Winter Gear
– A Coat My normal winter layer is some kind of Pea Coat but these are bulky items for travel. Still, if you have months in the cold then it may be worth the extra weight + baggage space as an alternative to using a down jacket. There are more practical coats produced by some performance companies – albeit at a higher price than regular coats. The Nau Transporter is more compact and offers better water resistance than most other coats. The Kathmandu Plateau Coat is a Merino Coat with a water repellent finish, but with more bulk than the Nau model. The Mission Workshop Bridgeman is another water resistant technical peacoat. The Swandri Lambton is a “Merino Blend” woolen waterproof jacket with a coat like appearance. The Alchemy Equipment AEM057 is a water and wind resistant performance coat, made from impressive technical fabrics. All of these offer better weather resistance and durability than an average woolen coat.
– Winter Climbing/Mountaineering Gear: For those attempting any Snowy Hikes & Climbs, a Heavy Duty Jacket and Snow Shoe Chains may be required. Climbing Poles, Heavy Duty Boots, Waterproof Gloves, Ice Picks, Goggles, Helmets and other mountaineering gear is best to be rented, or purchased and discarded. All gear for Skiing and Snowsports can be rented.
– Winter Baselayers may be required for the coldest climates. While a T Shirt + Fleece Jacket + Down Jacket + Soft Shell Rain Jacket should cover most climate conditions, you may want to consider a thermal base layer or underlayer such as the Icebreaker Oasis Base Layer or Smartwool Merino 250, Likewise a pair of Long Johns such as The North Face Expedition Tights or Smartwool Merino 250 Bottom will prove useful in the coldest climates.
– Bath Robe & Slippers: These are luxuries in your pack, and most travellers should be able to adapt to life without them. However, there are more travel friendly options: Most lightweight Bathrobes are uncomfortable Microfibre offerings, but Hammacher Schlemmer’s Travel Robe is lightweight, compactable and reportedly very comfortable. Baksana make some lightweight unisex bathrobes that may also suit. You can purchase specialty travel slippers, (a cheaper option here) or for a more functional pair of slippers, consider the Allbirds shoes. Pyjamas should never be required – Both men & women can manage by sleeping in a top & underwear.
Business & Work Travel Specifics
If you’re a business traveller or those working the road, then you will want to adjust the above packing list. Don’t bother with a suit unless you’re only travelling somewhere for a wedding or conference – you will need a specialty suit bag, and have to deal with the hassle of dry cleaning and lugging a suitcase around. For a long term Business Traveller or Digital Nomad – Dress Pant Chinos, A Blazer, A Shirt & tie & Leather Shoes will make you look as respectable as you will ever need to be. In the hotel elevator in Chile, I was asked if I was in the country on business after returning from a meal out in my dress shirt and pants, so it at least passed the test in Latin America.
– Blazer/Sports Jacket/Sports Coat & Tie: If you’re going somewhere nicer then you may want a blazer or sports jacket as well, however this will probably bit excessive for the average traveller. Nevertheless, there are more versatile options. Rather than Tweed models or conventional sports jackets, a lightweight linen or cotton blazer (Or Linen/Cotton Blend like this model from Ben Sherman) typically is more versatile and can be paired with t-shirts and other casual layers, and will pack down more compactly in your luggage. A unstructured knitted Blazer is also another good option for a smart casual look. For a more conventional but also versatile “Travel Blazer”, this model from Bluffworks is machine washable and wrinkle resistant.
– Good Looking Laptop/Business Brief : Skip the advice on going lightweight with the Laptop bag, and get a good looking one that doubles as a briefcase.
– Stationary: Take a small pencil case with basic stationary. You may also want to consider a compenium or folio for organizing your papers and keeping business cards in.
– Travel Steamer: If you’re taking dress shirts, then you’re likely going to want to bring one of these. Bizzarrely, there seem to be very few Dual Voltage Options out there. Most of the “Travel Steamers” marketed don’t even work in half the world, and will likely overheat or blow a fuse. The Con-Air Travel Smart & TepoInn Handheld Garment Steamer are two highly rated options on Amazon, that will actually work when travelling around the world. For a more conventional means of ironing clothes, the PurSteam Travel Iron will work in conjunction with an Ironing Mat.
– Garment Holder: To keep your shirts wrinkle free.
– Computer Accessories: You may need Dongles for Projectors, Ethernet Ports etc.
– Mobile Scanner or Printer: While a lot of business travellers will simply use the computer facilities at a hotel, for working on the road it may be more convenient to bring your own device. Mobile Scanners offer full quality compact scanning in a portable body. Doxie & Brother both make two highly rated options. Unless you absolutely require print functionality, a Mobile Scanner should be all you need. However, there are mobile printers available that come with rechargable batteries, and that will fit inside a large briefcase. The Canon Pixma ip110 is one model. There are also multifunction options that offer printing + scanning. The smallest in the world is the Primera Trio, but it will not work for printing from smartphones or tablets, and requires proprietary ink cartridges that you’re unlikely to find anywhere. The best all in one option that can be taken on your travels is the HP Officejet 250 – which will just squeeze inside a large briefcase. However, I would not advise bringing any of the above unless you know that you will require them.
Unless you’re staying for an extended period of time, and need print + scan functionality, then these will be unnecessary weight in your pack. With a Smartphone & the Office Lens App, you can create decent PDF scans on the road.
Extra Photography Gear
If you are a hobbyist or professional photographer, then you’re going to want to bring much more gear than was included in the packing list. I’m just an amateur, but if you’re a professional then always take the tools of your trade. Here are some other photographic accessories to consider:
– Extra Lenses: Any Photographer worth their salt will be carrying round multiple lenses – typically at least a wide angle, a telephoto, and a macro lens. Here are lists of good beginner lenses for Canon & Nikon. A list of high end lenses for both brands is available here.
– A Tripod: Any serious Landscape photographer is going to want to bring a Tripod, and thankfully there are a range of travel tripods available which offer full size features in a compact body. The Mefoto Travel Tripod has rave reviews on Amazon, and can fit inside a backpack. The Manfrotto Befree is another compact offering featuring a Carbon Fibre Construction and weighs just over 1kg. The Joby Gorillapod line of tripods for DSLR cameras has flexible legs that can be wrapped around nearly any surface. The Gorillapod Focus will suit as a small or backup tripod for your camera.
– Camera Remote: A wireless remote for your camera is ideal for triggering shots from a tripod, or just doing selfies the old fashion way. The Nikon ML-3 & Canon RC-6 are two offerings for each of the major brands. A good guide for taking solo photos can be found here.
– Camera Strap or Clip: For ease of accessing your Camera. Black Rapid & Peak Design both make good straps that fit multiple camera models. Also look at the Peak Design Capture Clip which will let you attach your Camera onto your Backpack, Jacket or any other surface you mount it on.
– Good Quality Camera Bag: My current approach has been stuffing my Camera straight into my daypack, but if you’re out and about shooting a lot of photos or carrying multiple lenses, then a dedicated bag will be worth bringing along. The Evecase Shoulder Pouch and Manfrotto National Geographic Camera Satchel are good compact cases that will fit a camera and another lens. The ONA Bowery & Billingham Hadley Digital are higher end alternatives. For photographers lugging multiple lenses and additional equipment around everywhere, Lowepro, Manfrotto and F-Stop produce dedicated Camera Backpacks, which will hold every conceivable piece of camera accessory imaginable, and there are plenty of cheaper camera backpacks on Amazon which are designed for photography.
– SD Card Case: To protect your footage.
– Smartphone Camera Gimbal: If you’re wanting to use your Smartphone to capture video footage as a DSLR replacement, look at a Camera Gimbal like the DJI Osmo.These devices stabilize the image on your phone, as well as providing an external microphone, additional camera panning, + movement like a professional video camera. It also doubles as a high tech selfie stick. The GoPro Karma Grip provides similar Gimbal support for the Gopro.
– A Microphone: DSLR’s can capture high quality video, but the inbuilt microphone in them is rubbish The Sennheiser shotgun microphone lets you turn your DSLR into a proper video camera.
– A Drone: Hold on, aren’t these incredibly bulky items? Not necessarily. With the increasing demand for Drones for travellers, there have been a greater range of folding drones produced. These are compact drones that can fit in a backpack. The DJI Mavic Pro is the most powerful compact drone – “The size of a hearty Italian sandwich and the weight of a thick novel.” It’s able to shoot 4K video, and rivals the full size Phantom range in terms of features – but in terms of image quality the Phantom still comes out on top. It’s also very expensive, but if you’re wanting to show off your trip on Youtube or Instagram with ease, it’s the best option. Another high end folding drone that rivals the DJI Mavic Pro is the GoPro Karma. It’s a slightly more affordable option, as it doesn’t come with a camera – You attach your GoPro to it to take footage.
For cheaper compact Drones, the DJI Spark is a less capable but more budget friendly compact option. There are other more affordable variants such as these models from Drocon and Altair Arial which you attach a GoPro to – far cheaper than the GoPro Karma, and providing quality camera footage at a budget price. You could also look at some even cheaper models , but the flight time and video quality won’t be particularly impressive. Be aware of any restrictions when flying, the most obvious being airspace restrictions. Smartphone Apps like Hover can help you in seeing any no fly zones.
Camping & Outdoors Gear
For anyone wanting to go camping or on extended hikes, you will need to bring some specific outdoors gear. Below are some things to consider, but they are not “Must Brings” for the average traveller:
– Sleeping Pad: Your self inflatable Portable Travel Bed. Nowadays Campers don’t have to use bulky and uncomfortable foam pads. Some good options are listed here.
– Lightweight Sleeping Bag: The second component to your bed. Some good options for traditional sleeping bags are listed here. While pricey, a more versatile sleeping bag is the quilt variety like the Enlightened Equipment Revelation – which can be used as either a traditional sleeping bag, or a down duvet.
– Hammock or tent: There are some good ultralight options like the Big Agnes Copper Sur. I was quite surprised to learn that there are now zero setup pop-up tents, but these are come packed down too bulky for travel.
– Heavy Duty Knife or Hatchet: The Higher end Leatherman Multitool Blades should work for the outdoors, but you may want to consider something more heavy duty like the Gerber Strongarm. Be aware of any restrictions before checking this.
– Emergency Blanket
– Emergency Whistle
– Collapsible Water Container
– Foldable Chair: The Helinox Chair One is just about the lightest you can get.
– Cooking & Dining Equipment: Including a Plastic bowl/plate, Cutlery, Portable Stove & Gas, & A Cooking Knife. Don’t forget your pre-packaged freeze dried trail meals. Mmmm, Bon Appétit! For other inspiration, have a look at some survivalist packing guides. And don’t forget the kitchen sink.
– Bluetooth Speaker/Radio: While a lot of people exclusively listen to music through headphones nowadays – when alone, I usually prefer to listen to music out loud. If you want better sound quality than your device’s inbuilt speakers, The Logitech Ultimate Ears bluetooth speakers are a good option for an affordable and compact speaker. Many of them are Waterproof, they offer good battery life and they’re very durable for travel. Bose, Sony and most other Audio brands also sell Bluetooth speakers nowadays, but for value and durability the Logitech is a good option.
One thing I love to do when overseas is listening to the radio. It’s great hearing the local channels, and it’s helpful for immersing yourself in the local language. My old Galaxy Note came with an FM radio built into it, but fewer phones seem to have this functionality nowadays. For the best of both worlds, The Geneva Sound System Model XS not only works as a great blueooth or AUX speaker, but also as a proper FM radio and a bedside alarm clock. It fills a niche that very few other bluetooth speakers manage to do. I can personally recommend the device as I bought it earlier this year: The sound quality is really fantastic for such a compact speaker. The only annoying thing is that doesn’t charge over USB, and the battery life isn’t as stellar as the Logitech. It’s a little pricey, but I managed to get it on special. The Geneva Touring S is their newer model, sans the Alarm Clock features, but with better battery life.
– Water Filtration/Sterilization Device: I wouldn’t recommend bringing this unless you’re travelling a lot in the developing world or frequently going hiking. Bottled water costs one or two dollars in the developing world, and you can drink tap water in Europe & North America. For the Developed world, take a lightweight reusable water bottle and fill up at your room to save on water costs. I took a Lifestraw to Chile, but never needed it as the tap water is safe to drink without filtering, even if it didn’t taste all that good. The Lifestraw didn’t fit in most store purchased water bottles, and was just a mess trying to drink out of a cup with. I also found it gave a nasty chemical taste to the water, was unweildy to use and really is only useful as an emergency survival tool. So, few marks for the Lifestraw, although it is very compact and affordable. They sell an all in one bottle, which may be better, but I’m not particularly impressed with their standalone option. For a straw like option, The Sawyer Mini, is rated better, and comes with a cute little pouch.
If you are interested in a Water Filtration/Sterilization Device, then there are a multitude of other options. They generally come in three types: Self Contained Filtration (Comes with a bottle), UV Sterilation, and Filtration Pump Device, which you will need a bottle/container to pump the water into. There are two other methods, but I don’t believe they’re ideal for travellers. Hikers often use a Gravity Filtration system like the Platypus Gravityworks , which are ideal for filling water storage containers and filtering up to 8L at the one time, for cooking and bathing etc. However these are a too cumbersome for the average traveller, unless you’re frequently hiking. In addition to Gravity Filtration, there are also tablet and chemical treatments you can use, but I don’t see these ideal as a long term option. Good luck finding water treatment tablets in Mongolia.
For an all in one option, The Grayl Ultralight looks an ideal, easy to use system with great reviews. It functions like a French press, where you press down on the dirty water in the bottle, and the filter at the top will ideally, after said pressing, provide you with clean drinking water. However, some users have reported that the filter clogs and becomes hard to press, so I would be a little wary of buying this. It also only has a recommended lifetime of 150 Litres before they recommend changing the filter, which you will get through in a few months if you’re travelling long term. A Better looking (And more expensive) option is the Lifesaver Bottle . The filters last for an impressive 4000L, making it a better long term option than The Grayl. Each of these claim to filter out 99.99% of viruses and bacteria, so hopefully you won’t be affected by the 0.1%.
Another option of Water Treatment is is using UV Light Sterilization. These options sterilize the water, but do not purify it. The difference isn’t purely semantic. A filtration method filters out the dirt and grime from the water as well as bacteria, so even if you use water from dirty streams or rockpools, you will be left with clean water. A UV sterilizer will not remove the dirt or grime, and will not function if there are too many impurities in the water. It’s really designed for sterilizing bacteria in suspect tap water, or waters from clean flowing streams, which will cover the needs of most travellers. In fact it will not actually remove anything at all from the water. The bacteria in the water still remains, but it will be sterilized and allow the water to be drinkable. It’s similar to the result you get when boiling water. One of the most popular methods is The Steripen. This will render 1L of clear water drinkable within 90 seconds, and the lamp lasts for 8000L, which is an impressive lifespan. These are easily rechargable over USB as well, so you never need to worry about replacement filters. For an All in One Bottle, the Camelbak All Clear Purifier Bottle is well reviewed, and does the same job as the Steripen. These UV solutions will suit most travellers, but are less versatile than filtration. Also, unlike some filter methods, the taste of the water still remains the same. If Guatemalan tap water tastes awful, which I highly suspect it does, then even after treatment you’re not going to want to drink it.
Finally the last Travel Filter option is the Pump method. These are not self contained units, so you will need to bring a water bottle or container to filter your water into. The best affordable option is the Survivor Filter Pro,. It is compact, and has an impressive lifetime. It’s also rated to 0.01 microns, which means the filter is so fine that it basically gets rid of everything in the water. Like The Grayl and other self contained filters, it claims to remove 99.99% of Bacteria, and like all other Microfilters, he carbon filter needs to be replaced – for this model at 2000L. Another Pump option worth considering is the Kataydn Vario. The Ultimate of all Pump options however, is the MSR Guardian. Coming in at a princely sum of $350 USD, it’s a lot to pay. Unless you are working on an Aid mission overseas, or living in the forest with no running water, this is probably not worth the investment. However, it appears to be the best of the market. The Filter claims to never clog, as it self cleans its filter, and filters 2.5L of water every minute, so can easily fill large water containers. It is military tested, and claims to be freeze proof and drop proof. If you want the best of the best, this is it, and it will likely last you a lifetime, but as a travel option – well it’s a tad excessive. The Survivor Filter & LifeSaver Bottle would be my two top picks.
– Extra Drugs, Cosmetics & Medication: If you have Allergies or prescription medicine, then it goes without saying that these are must bring items. Make to sure to also bring written copies of your Prescription from your Doctor. Likewise for the ladies, your makeup and regular toiletries will be taken. Solutions for most other things such as Cold & Flu medication and Throat Lozenges can be bought at a pharmacy, but if travelling to a cold destination you may want to take these in advance. Multivitamins & Probiotics may be beneficial for your health in countries where food is of suspect quality. Be prepared to be without your favourite deodorant in many countries. Travellers report that western deodorants can be particularly difficult to find in Asia. Look at the Travel Health Guide further down for advice on additional drugs & vaccinations.
– Snorkel & Mask & Wetsuit: You’ll likely be going to some lovely tropical beaches and given the often ridiculous cost of renting equipment, you may want to take a compact set. This is the kind of item you can probably buy in your beach destination, then discard in colder weather. Don’t bother with the flippers as they take up too much space. A new compact option to consider is the Easy Snorkel , an integrated mask and tube which has rave reviews on Amazon. If you need something for coral, buy some cheap water shoes, and if you plan on doing any Scuba diving then pack a wetsuit.
– Additional Computer/Tech Accessories: One item worth considering is an External DVD Drive for a Laptop. All of the “Ultralight” Laptops nowadays come without a DVD Drive. If you want to buy pirated DVDs in Asia or for some reason actually need a CD for something, it may be worth taking. Likewise a
A Laptop Sleeve is good for extra protection inside your Tech bag/Compartment. If you are carrying a recent Macbook, there will likely be dongles required to get your Laptop working with any USB peripheral. An HDMI Cable or Chromecast may be a wise investment for those wanting to watch media on another display.A Wifi Range Extender may also be a good purchase for your laptop accomodation with flaky wifi.
– Waterproof Protection If you are taking boat rides or travelling in extra rainy conditions, you may want to consider a Dry Sack for keeping your electronics or important documents safe from the elements. You may also want to consider a rain cover for your pack. Osprey sell their own branded ones, and some others are listed here. I would never advise using your phone as an underwater camera, – the risk is too great even for those that tout themselves as being “waterproof.” While cases such as the Lifeproof range do reportedly waterproof your phone, just use your GoPro instead.
– Guide Books, Maps & Phrase Books: Guide Books are handy to have, but ask yourself how much you will use them. For a short trip, it may not even be worth bothering taking them. A good Guidebook rcan be a great travel resource, but for many destinations there’s already plenty of relevant information online for free on WikiTravel/WikiVoyage, TripAdvisor and even Rough Guides & Lonely Planets own websites. Googling “Things to do in [Name of Your Destination]” will net you with millions of search results from Travel websites and blogs. Also, nothing screams tourist like having a guidebook open in the street – other than maybe using a guide book with socks and sandals, and a fanny pack. If you’re using them, read them somewhere where you can sit down and jot down the information. I would suggest having the must dos in the guidebook written down in your phone or notepad for the day, so you’re not constantly rummaging through the guidebook. Alternatively, if you have a Smartphone or Tablet you can buy digital copies which will save space. You can also download articles from Wikivoyage to your Smartphone (iOS & Android.)
Consider a lesser used Guide Book than Lonely planet. Rough Guides are packed full of information similar to Lonely Planet, and are probably their biggest rival. DK Eyewitness & Insight Guides offer more photographs, colour maps and a more visual focused style of guidebook, which can be easier to follow than the information dense guides. Restaurant and Accomodation recommendations in these alternate guidebooks will likely be less busy than in Lonely Planet or Tripadvisor.
Likewise Translation Apps have aleviated the need for Phrase Books. The obvious Must Have is Google Translate. Nearly every potential language you will be encountering on your travels is included in the app. Google Translate is great for translating individual words or short phrases, but be aware of its limitations. It’s not a Phrasebook. Don’t expect to translate entire sentences or retell your life story to a cab driver in Buenos Aires without getting lost in Translation. The app in particular has two great features though: One, is the instant camera translation which seems like magic when it works properly. You align your phone’s camera over the text in a product, or poster, or menu, and it will translate the written text to English. Another great benefit of the app, is that you can download languages to use offline. Though in my experience, both of these features are somewhat limited without a data connection.
Codegent Translation apps (Android & iOs) however are Phrasebook replacements. They offer textual & verbal offline translations of everything you would find in any phrasebook, all organized into easy to reference categories. You can simply play the audio recordings if you need assistance, without botching the pronounciation. In addition to all the major European languages, there are options for Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Thai, Japanese and more – all with free trial versions available.
As mentioned before, Google Maps & Sygic both offer great maps for your smartphone and have essentially replaced the need for physical maps in most circumstances, but if you’re going on a road trip, I would suggest buying a physical road map as a backup. I still always collect any free tourist maps of a city or region, even if I hardly use them. They’re nice mementos.
My advice regarding both Guide Books and Phrase books would be to take them if you’re spending an extended period of time in a country, and once you’ve left dispose of them on the road. It doesn’t pay to be over reliant on the internet, or on technology in general. But for a weeks holiday, it’s probably just a waste of money.
– Mini Souvenirs/Gifts: If you’re invited to someone’s house, then it goes without saying that you must bring a gift. While most of the time Alcohol will do the trick, you can always take a couple of key chains or small souvenirs from your home country to show appreciation. If you like the idea of giving people photos, A Pocket Photo Printer for printing from your Smartphone is more versatile than a Polaroid, and can be a nice way of sharing travel mementos. HP & FujiFilm both make highly rated models.
– Sports & Fitness Equipment: While going for a run is free everywhere, there is plenty of other fitness gear available to take on your travels. A Fitbit or other activity tracker could help you to stay active on the road, as well as track the distance of your hikes. An Armband or Flipbelt is ideal for keeping your phone safe while running. A Travel Yoga Mat that folds flat in your bag can assist with in-room workouts. For more advanced workouts – The TRX Go Suspension Trainer can be set up in any room or outdoors for a full body workout. Water Weights & Kettleballs that can be filled from the tap are other options to consider. In regard to specific sports gear – for most popular sports you can hire the gear on the road. Unless you’re truly passionate about a sport, I would suggest leaving the equipment behind.
– Coffee & Tea Making Equipment: If you desperately need your coffee like my mother who walked around for half an hour in a town in the Sri Lankan highlands just to get a good cup, then you may want to take your own means of coffee you. Snarky Nomad has a good post on this. The best option seems to be a multi voltage immersion boiler for boiling the water, plus something like the Allpress or Minipresso & ground coffee (or instant coffee if you you’re not picky.) For making tea, all you need is the immersion boiler – plus a tea infuser or tea bags. While there are travel jugs available, an immersion boiler is compact and ideal, provided you keep the boiler submerged in the water during the entire duration it’s plugged in.
The immersion boiler is ideal for either tea or coffee, and even in hotels they can lack a hot water jug. America is notorious for not having any kettles ever since they threw all that good tea in the harbour, and it’s the one developed country where you can almost guarantee that your hotel room won’t have one.
You may also want a mug/container for taking your preferred beverege on the go. The Zojirushi Travel Mug is an ideal thermos flask to take your coffee on the go, and the Keepcup is a good reusable coffee cup. For longer term trips you will certainly save money by bringing your coffee with you, but if you’re in France or Italy there’s no point. Seriously, even if you’re carting your own espresso machine round Rome, The Italians will make it better. That said, even if you just plan on buying a takeaway coffee everyday, there will be places in the developing world where you won’t be able to find anything other than instant, so it pays to be prepared.
PRE TRAVEL CHECKLIST & TRAVEL ADVICE
– Know the basics of your destination: Five minutes in Wikitravel or Wikivoyage for your chosen destination give you a good overview of wherever you’re going – as will the country profile in a guidebook. You should know the basics of the climate conditions, geography, currency and a few simple phrases in the language before you go.
– Plan The Time Of Year: Are you visiting over any major holidays or events? If so, prepare for delays and increased accomodation prices. Is your beach holiday taking place over the winter or during the rainy season in the tropics? If so, be prepared to have less of a tan than you originally thought. I will never forget the taxi ride to LAX I took as a child on Thanksgiving eve. It seemed like every car in Los Angeles was out. I don’t know how many hours it took to get to the airport, but thankfully my Mother and I got on our flight back home.
– Be Flexible: Don’t over-plan, and don’t fill your days with a million and one things to do. Look at your week ahead, and note down the best things in each city, then you will have an alternative if you can’t fit in something. You won’t ever get to do everything.
– Plan for Failure/Delays: Things won’t always go to plan. There will be missed flights, trains and other hassles. Attractions will be closed due to bad weather, or strikes, or French people. Just take it in your stride.
– Make a rough Itinerary: While flexibility can be a virtue, it also pays to be prepared. If you are travelling on a return ticket, then your flight ticket is proof of your itinerary to immigration agents at the airport. While you may be asked about the purpose of your trip, a two week stay isn’t likely to raise any eyebrows – but you should at least have an answer prepared if questioned. An Itinerary is a necessity for countries which require a visa – you (or a visa/tour agency) will have to prepare one in support of your visa application. Aside from Guide Books & Travel Sites, one great resource for finding things to do on any trip is looking at the websites & brochures of tour agencies. Tour Agencies like STA Travel, GeoEx, TopDeck, & Intrepid Travel have great free guides on their websites. You can also get a realistic idea of how much time it will take to fit in the major attractions of wherever you’re going.
– Be (slightly) Spontaneous: Some of the most pleasant travel memories I have come from trying random restaurants or wandering into shops that I’d never heard of or read about in a guide book. That’s the value of exploration – and why browsing in book shops and record stores can often be more rewarding than scrolling through a phone app. Pleasant surprises can be some of the most enjoyable things we experience. Obviously you will have to plan logistics in terms of transport and accomodation, but for sightseeing you should allow yourself some time to explore. If you plan every activity, you will end up travelling like you’re on a tour. This may work for control freaks – but it will become tiring for most people. Also, it’s ever the cliché, but be open minded. Immerse yourself in the local culture, and try to pick up some of the language.
– Make sure your information is up to date: I can sympathize with the person carrying round a Guidebook they bought off Amazon for 10p from 1997, but don’t expect the information inside to be of similarly great value. Twenty years ago, Colombia & Croatia were considered risky visits due to their recent violence, while Syria was a beacon of stability in the Middle East. Things can change much quicker than we ever expect them to. Any Gear recommendations can quickly date – especially when it comes to Technology. One particularly amusing example I found recently was when reading a travel e-book published in 2008, which advised people to avoid taking an iPhone when travelling in favour of a Windows Mobile Device. I’m afraid those days are long gone now, but I applaud anyone still fighting against the tide and carrying their Palm Treo.
– Check You’ve Packed All Items: A certain blog’s packing list may come in handy (wink wink, nudge nudge).
– Check voltages on all appliances are dual/variable voltage (110 -240v): Most conventional electronic items will be, but your hair dryer (unless you have a specialty travel model) and most kitchen and cosmetic appliances will not, so don’t bring them. If you use one of these and the voltage is too high, expect a fuse to blow.
– Check all appliances are charged. Preferably most of them will be USB chargable, rather than requiring batteries. Every device I have suggested in this article has been rechargable rather than relying on conventional batteries. Keep monitoring the battery life of your devices throughout the trip – especially your camera.
– Get Travel Insurance: This may be cheaper than you think. Many Platinum Credit Cards come with travel insurance included in the price of booking the tickets with the card, but make sure to check your banks policy to confirm. For more comprehensive coverage, and for longer trips, I recommend World Nomads. They make it easy to easily add on extra coverage, so if you decide to get a cheap flight somewhere or change your travel plans, you can just add any new countries onto your existing policy. They also have 24 hour emergency phone & email assistance, so will always be reachable. While the cost of losing the odd items may be negligible, what travel insurance is really most essential for is overseas medical emergencies, which could leave you hundreds and thousands out of pocket in the worst case scenarios.
While Travel Insurance can quite literally be a lifesaver, do be aware of how the claims process works. For Medical Emergencies, the insurer will pay the cost upfront, however in most other scenarios the money will be refunded once the claim is approved, not paid upfront. If you need to get a flight home at short notice for a family emergency, then you will have to pay the full cost of the flight yourself. Likewise the cost of replacing any expensive personal items will have to be paid upfront, as well as the excess (note that the excess may be particularly high for lost items, unless you specifically pay more to add your Laptop/Camera to the policy.) The claims process can take weeks, so it’s up to you to be able to access the money. For my personal claim, it took two and half weeks to get the money refunded for a flight back to New Zealand. The team at World Nomads are great, but do ensure that you have access via Credit or liquid assets to be able to pay for any flights, accomodation or replacement items upfront. It’s also important to keep documentation for any insurance claims as well, such as flight itineraries and immigration documents. For any stolen items you will need to obtain a local police report. Make sure to look at your policy and know what’s covered before signing on the dotted line.
– Be at the Airport at least three hours before departure for any international flights: It’s really better safe than sorry. You already have hours of sitting doing next to nothing on an Aeroplane – why risk missing your flight to avoid another hour of even more nothing. You may find that you breeze through immigration, and that you are the only one in line for check in. You may also find that you have purchased the winning lottery ticket. While Airports (and Aeroplanes for that matter) often seem to be designed to be soul destroying cages to test the limits of human sanity, at least there’s coffee while you wait for it all to be over.
– Print Your Itinerary/Tickets: Do this on the road as well: Any hotel will let you print something, but there’s libraries and internet cafes if you’re in a hostel/airbnb. Certain tours & events will also require printed tickets. RyanAir and other budget airlines can charge you extra if your tickets are not printed. For all the talk made of a “Paperless world”, we simply aren’t there yet.
– Check there is Ribbon/Identifier on your luggage. Also make sure you remember the brand. Airport staff will be told “It’s a black suitcase” by just about every distraught traveller missing their luggage. Having a photo of your luggage to show baggage staff, or a luggage tag with your personal details can be helpful as well.
– Be Prepared For Airport Security: Take your belt off in advance, and have your Laptop and other items easily accessible. Once through the scanner, instead of holding up everyone at the end of the carousel – take your items in the tray to a nearby chair and sort them from there. Then return the tray once you’ve packed everything.
– If you’re unsure of anything, take a photo: If you are prone to forgetting where you parked the rental car, if you think you’ll lose an important customs document, if you’re scared of losing your valuables and need a photo for the police, if you forget the room number of your hotel – in all these situations and more, having a photo will be very helpful.
– Exchange some cash before you arrive: Typically the Airport Currency Exchange has the absolute worst rates for cash conversion, so if you need money on arrival, go to a bank/money exchange in the city before you depart. In some countries the black market/street rate will be fairer than that of the banks and official currency exchange shops – certainly this was true when I was last in Sri Lanka, but do some research before using these as they may just as likely rip you off. Most Airports will have ATMS which after adding withdrawal fees, will offer the fairest exchange rate, but I would always advise taking some cash before you arrive. Convert any leftover cash you don’t want to keep to US Dollars – many currencies in developing countries are non convertible, and be aware that you cannot convert any leftover coins.
– Notify your bank before you go that you’ll be using your debit/credit cards overseas. With online banking, it can be as simple as just writing a short message to the bank from your account panel and they’ll do this. You do not want to be without a means of accessing money.
– Check your main bag weight is under 20 kgs: Some airlines allow you up to 23, and Emirates allows a generous 30kgs, but a safe policy is being under 20. Likewise if you’re going carry on, aim for under the 10kgs mark. Good bloody luck though.
– Back Up Your Data: In the event of losing both your Phone & Laptop, you should still have your travel photos. At least once a week, make it a policy to back up your photos and videos to your computer AND external hard drive, both from your camera(s) as well as from your phone. Half an hour a week could save you losing a whole trips worth of photos. I would personally suggest keeping your hard drive away from your Laptop/Tech bag, to avoid the possibility of your Laptop being stolen and you losing both your first location for photo storage and your backup.
I would personally suggest looking at a cloud storage solution as well, in the terrible event that everything was lost. Google Photos offers free unlimited cloud photo storage (with file size restrictions for RAW files & HD video). If you have a Google Account you can start using it right away. You can set a folder on your Desktop to automatically backup all your photos, or if you’re travelling without a Laptop, you can even backup your photos straight from the phone you took them on. For Paid backup options, there is also Backblaze – For automatically backing up your entire computer, and Dropbox, Skydrive & other paid cloud storage services. Note that Cloud storage backups depend on having reliable internet access, which you won’t always have – which is why I would always advocate the first means of backup being an External Hard Drive.
If you’re not travelling with a Laptop and can’t access cloud storage, there are some options for manual photo backups. The Western Digital My Passport Wireless Hard Drive has a built in SD Card reader, so you can transfer photos from your Camera’s SD card directly to the Hard Drive without requiring a Laptop as an intermediary. For something a little fancier, the Gnarbox is designed as an all in one Laptop replacement for Photographers – allowing you to not only backup to the devices internal storage, but also edit photos through a phone app.
Aside from Photos, I would also advise backing up any other sensitive files. On both Android & iOS your phone contacts can be backed up to the cloud, so you’ll never lose your friends and families phone numbers in the event of losing your phone. I also manually export the phone contacts to a CSV file periodically. On Android it can easily be done in settings, but on iOS you need to use an app like MyContactsBackup. I also recommend using Evernote to avoid losing your ideas and writing.
– Check Visa Policy (& Travel Restrictions) For Destination: Probably the most obvious thing to do, but you might be surprised how many places do not issue visas on arrival. Even for New Zealand passport holders, some frequently visited countries like: China, South Africa, Vietnam, and Russia all require a visa to be obtained from the embassy or a tour agency prior to arrival, otherwise you’ll find your holiday is going to be cut very short (Although a Vietnamese visa can be obtained online through a visa agency).
In lieu of having to obtain a visa at an embassy, there are several countries that operate an e-visa program. This means that a visa has to be obtained in advance, but it can simply be done online for a small charge. The United States has the ESTA program for an e-visa, while India is the most populous country that operates an e-visa program. For an easy reference to see what restrictions are in place for your natioanlity, Wikipedia has an excellent list detailing the visa requirements for citizens from every nationality. Be aware that the cost of Visas in the Developing world can be quite high, and must be planned beforehand.
In addition to annoying Visa Policies, there are certain territories which cannot be entered without being on a tour. The Chinese Government restricts access to Tibet only to Authorized Tour Groups, and can shut off tourist access at will – particularly on sensitive dates like the anniversary of the March uprising. North Korea unsurprisingly requires all foreigners to be on a registered tour, who will be “minded” at all times by a government official. Likewise to obtain a tourist visa to the Former Stalinist paradise of Turkmenistan, you will have to use a registered tour agency. Saudi Arabia may be one of the most difficult countries for tourists to travel to. There are no conventional tourist visas available, unless you are a Muslim doing the Hajj. Any potential travellers will either have to be visiting family or travelling to Saudi Arabia for business purposes. Iran maintains restrictions on American, Canadian & British citizens that requires them to travel on a licensed tour. Bhutan also requires nearly all visitors to book their travel through a licensed tour operator, through a expensive and quite unusual visa process. The cost of the Visa is essentially the cost of the tour. It’s $200-250 USD per day, depending upon the season, but includes all accomodation, transportation, meals & entry fees.
There are also travel restrictions in place for Geopolitical reasons. Many Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon & Kuwait operate a boycott of Israel, so any passport holders with Israeli stamps will be denied entry (Though neighbouring Jordan & Egypt thankfully have no restrictions.) To circumvent this boycott, passengers arriving in Israel are now given an entry card instead of a stamp in their passport, but if you’re visiting the middle east it would pay to plan your visit to Israel carefully if you are wanting to travel onwards to other Arab states – especially the Palestinian territories. Likewise Azerbeijan declines entry to anyone with an Armenian entrance stamp, and Cuba still maintains heavy restrictions on travel by American citizens.
Certain African countries will require an International Certificate of Vaccination before granting entry. This also applies to the next suggestion.
– Get Any Required/Suggest Vaccinations: A list can be found in the Travel Health Guide further down. The Worldwise Vaccination Planner advises of suggested vaccinations in specific countries.
– Check your passport has at least six months validity & at least One blank page.
– Hold on to all Boarding Passes + Immigration papers for the duration of your stay: The latter can be particularly important. Several Latin American countries require your initial entry immigration document in order to leave the country. If you’re really worried about losing the immigration document, then take a photo of it.
– Have Printed Copies of Important Documentation: This includes your passport, insurance policy, itinerary & Essential phone numbers in case of an emergency (Family, Bank/Credit Card Issuer, Travel agents etc). Also Have Digital Scans On A USB/Hard Drive & In Your Email. Even if God forbid all your luggage was stolen, you would be able to access the digital documentation. Having both the digital and physical copies was invaluable for me when I had my passport stolen in Chile. In particular having a passport-compatible photo I could easily get printed made the whole process at the embassy easier. Printed Passport Compatible Photos can come in handy for visa or document applications.
– Take Some Snacks & stay hydrated: Nothing much is required, just a few muesli bars or nuts & a water bottle. If you’re going for long walks out and about it’s handy to have these in your day bag. Also on long flights, I find I can’t manage unless I have my own water.
– Be Aware of Common Travel Scams & Be Aware Of Your Surroundings: There is a good list of Travel Scams here. Don’t ever bother signing any petitions – I encountered this one with a Gypsy in Paris outside the Gare du Nord. If a stranger claims to be your “Friend”, chances are that they’re not. Be cautious of overly friendly people – While many may be genuine, others will have ulterior motives. Don’t buy any tickets off anyone who doesn’t appear to be a licensed vendor. It pays to be extra vigilant at Airports and Train Stations – never let anyone mind your bags (other than the Airline.)
Don’t flash expensive jewellery or your smartphone in public in Developing countries, and don’t carry more cash than is required. Tie your bags straps to the table at a restaurant while you’re eating. In crowded places, it may pay to put your Phone & Wallet deep inside your day pack, as these are the main targets of pickpockets and petty thieves. If you have a jacket on, you could also keep your cards hidden discreetly inside your neck pouch. In cities with a reputation for crime such as Rio De Janeiro, it may even be safer to leave the phone and credit cards at your accomodation, and take a small amount of cash and a compact camera. On Public transport in the Developing World you should be extra viligant – guard your pockets and hold onto any belongings.
Taxi Drivers are notorious for ripping tourists off – either by going a longer route, or taking tourists to shops where they get a cut of the sales. For safety, ensure that the taxi is official. In Developing countries, book from a stall inside the airport. Check online or in a guide book as to the names of legitimate taxi companies, and check that the taxis have a registration sticker in the front window. Always ensure the meter is running before you leave, and be sure to double check you have your posessions on you before getting out.
– Be Responsible: Whether you like it or not, when travelling, you are an ambassador for your country and the Western World in general. Don’t think that just because the booze is cheap and the weather is nice, that you SHOULD treat a city like a resort. Don’t litter. Don’t do drugs or sleep with prostitutes – aside from the health risks and moral and ethical objections, prostitutes will likely will be victims of sex trafficking, and your drug purchases will line the pockets of local gangs. Be aware of any unethical activities, especially those involving animals. Ask before taking pictures of individuals, and don’t spend your entire time looking at a city through a camera lens. Dress respectfully at any religious buildings and in conservative countries – shorts in particular are often frowned upon.
– Don’t bring the “Maybe’s” – If you think “I might use this” but can’t actually foresee yourself using it, then don’t bring it. We live in a globalized mass-manufactured world, and it’s likely you’ll find that little item in an overseas supermarket or shopping mall if you really need it.
– Bring Proof of Onward Travel: If you’re on a return flight then this will not be a problem. On a one way flight however, for many countries such as the UK, US, New Zealand, Peru, Brazil & Hong Kong – if you have no proof of onward travel they can decline your entry. For the sake of getting past immigration, you can purchase a temporary legitimate ticket through Best Onward Ticket, or print a fake one using http://returnflights.net/ (not advised). Alternatively if going to the UK, you can probably get a one way flight out on a budget airline for 20 pounds or so.
– Bring Proof Of Accomodation: For your arrival flight you may need to show immigration that you have proof of accomodation. Always book at least one nights accommodation before you arrive.
– Stick To A Budget: You don’t need to be extremely fastidious about this, checking before every single minor purchase, but realize how much you have for accomodation, food and other expenses – and have a rough idea of how much the exchange rate is to your home currency. Apps like XE Currency, Trailwallet & TrabeePocket can help with this.
– Be Courteous When Travelling With Others: If you’re not travelling alone, then consider the other. There are endless stories of Family Holidays ending in disaster, and friendships ruined on OE’s/Gap Years because one or more people in the group was being too selfish. These hassles can be avoided by simply being considerate. Before your trip, ask everyone what their “Must do” attraction or activity is, and then nobody should feel left out. Every group activity involves some element of compromise, but so long as you address what people really want to do from the start, you shouldn’t have any sulking or tantrums.
– Have a meeting spot/protocol for getting lost when Travelling with Others: An obvious place is your accomodation. If you end up losing someone, go back to your accomodation and wait for them. If one person gets in the metro system by mistake, meet them at the next stop.
– Have a means of Accessing Emergency Money: If worst comes to worst and you lose your Debit/Credit Card, you need to have a means of accessing money. I would recommend taking a secondary credit card hidden away deep within your luggage when not travelling, and hidden in your carry on when flying, so that if you lose your main card you’ll at least have an easy backup means of accessing money. Advice on using Western Union & Other services can be found in the Travel Money Guide further down.
Whether Pounds, or Yen, or Euros, or Dong (it still makes me giggle), money is the most important thing you’re going to need reliable access to when travelling. Thankfully in today’s connected world, and in a world where travel is becoming one of the largest industries – it is much easier now than in the past.
WITHDRAWING CASH & USING CREDIT CARDS
Visa & MasterCard maintain the largest international networks for ATMs worldwide. The Maestro & Cirrus networks are operated by MasterCard, and the Plus Network is owned by Visa. For sizing up potential ATMs, these are the labels you want to look for to determine whether your card will work. You can find all ATM locations that work on these international networks on Visa & Mastercard’s ATM locator websites. The Visa Explore & MasterCard Nearby apps can also help you to find ATMs. For those paying for international Purchases with their credit cards, the foreign exchange rate is set by the Card provider. Mastercard reportedly offers slightly better foreign exchange rates in its conversion than Visa, but both Visa and Mastercard offer fair exchange rates compared to other operators.
The costs involved in using ATMs overseas can quickly become unwelcome companions on your bank statement. The primary annoyance is the Foreign Transaction Fee (Some other similar terms used are “Currency Conversion Fee”, “foreign currency service fee” and “Offshore Service Margins”) Most Card issuers charge a fee of 2-3% for every time you use your Credit or Debit Card to make a purchase or withdraw cash in the local currency. It may not look a whole lot, but it does add up with every single purchase. Pay with cash when possible, and if you can find a bank with a low foreign transaction fee (or preferable none) then your card fees will be minimal.
The first thing to know for reducing your fees is to Always withdraw cash in the local currency. Some ATMs may offer to convert your withdrawal into your home currency – a process that is known as Dynamic Currency Conversion. While it may seem a thoughtful gesture, the exchange rates will always be worse than when withdrawing in the local currency. You may end up paying 3-10% extra on top of the transaction and Withdrawal fees. This is also true for any Credit Card Purchases in general. Some credit card terminals will show you the amount in your home currency, and ask you to accept or decline the amount. Decline the amount to ensure the transaction is processed in the local currency and will avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion.
The Withdrawal Fees (Also known as Cash Advance fees) at ATMS overseas may be the largest cost you come across. In New Zealand for Visa Debit or Credit Cards issued by ASB, the Withdrawal fee is $7.50. That’s $7.50 NZD every time you take out cash. Imagine withdrawing cash everyday at this rate – you’re looking at $52.50 spent solely on wasted withdrawal fees per week. To reduce withdrawal costs, check the withdrawal fees charged by your bank/card providers. There are some card providers overseas that have zero withdrawal fees, which I’ve listed further down. It also pays to withdraw a large amount of cash – at least $100 USD every time you use an ATM, in order to minimize the frequency of your withdrawals.
If you are withdrawing from your credit card (not your debit card), be aware that interest rates apply immediately for cash withdrawals from a credit card. While with regular purchases, the interest rates will only kick in if the debt is not paid off in full at the end of the cycle – with cash withdrawals it begins immediately, unless you have your balance paid and are not getting into any debt. Keep a positive balance on your Credit Card and leave it for flights, transportation and big consumer purchases – and leave withdrawing cash for your debit or travel card.
There will be an English language option at any ATM which supports international withdrawals, but you may have to ask Bank Staff to assist before withdrawing. In Chile, all options at the ATM were in Spanish and I was totally clueless. I had to ask for help from the bank staff, who informed me that I had to select “extranjeros” (foreigners) in order to get ATM instructions in English. Also, it may seem rather obvious, but most countries do not call them “ATMs”. Learn the local word if you have to ask for directions for one. As always be very careful using ATMs and take appropriate precautions. Never use an ATM when other people are crowded around nearby, and ensure you cover your pin with your hand. ATMs inside buildings such as airports, bank lobbies and shopping malls will typically have better security.In Certain countries where ATM fraud is common, Banks have taken additional measures to protect customers. In Brazil, pink ink is printed on bank notes that come from tampered machines. Hold onto any ATM receipts in your wallet for at least a week. Regularly check your online bank statement to avoid card fraud & mounting debt.All Banks set ATM Withdrawal Limits on cards. For example, the maximum daily ATM withdrawal limit from ASB accounts in New Zealand is $2000. Foreign Cash withdrawals will be subject to stricter limits – not only by your bank, but by the ATM owner. Assume that you cannot withdraw more than $1000 USD daily in the developed world, and $500 USD per day in developing countries. Also when withdrawing large amounts, be aware that small businesses may not accept larger bank notes (e.g The 200 Euro note).
CREDIT CARD, DEBIT CARD & TRAVEL CARD COMPARISON
It goes without saying that a Debit/Credit Card is necessary for modern travel, but when should you use each one – and how many should you take? I would recommend having three cards: One Regular Debit Card, One Regular Credit Card, & One Credit/Travel Card kept with your passport for emergencies. Due to varying support between Mastercard & Visa, you should take a combination of both of these (e.g A Visa Debit Card & A Mastercard Credit Card).My suggestion is to withdraw cash using your debit card & pay for any major expenses with a Credit Card. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly – the interest rates apply immediately on your Credit Card when withdrawing cash at an ATM. Secondly, if your card is stolen or fraudulently cloned, you are much more likely to be able to successfully dispute charges for items purchased using a Credit Card.
DEBIT/CREDIT CARD RECOMMENDATIONS
As mentioned earlier, while you should Always Withdraw in the local currency – The Credit Card fees that your card provider tacks on to every purchase and ATM withdrawal can add unwanted expense to your travels. Ideally, you want a card with minimal to no foreign transaction fees and ATM withdrawal fees – in addition to a lower interest rate and acceptable credit limit.
Some good options for foreign readers are detailed in this post. Capital One for Americans, Halifax Clarity for Brits, & 28 Degrees Mastercard for Australians all have 0% foreign transaction fees and minimal cash withdrawal fees.
For New Zealand readers, all cards charge a foreign transaction fee. However, when it comes to ATM Withdrawal fees, some banks are better than others. Canstar has reviewed a range of New Zealand Credit Cards as well. Below are rates for standard Visa Debit Cards for New Zealand Banks (The rates for Visa Credit cards are similar or identical):
Kiwibank – have a 2.5% foreign transaction fee and $6 overseas withdrawal fee on Visa Debit Cards.
BNZ – Have a 2.25% foreign transaction fee and a $7.50 overseas Withdrawal fee on Visa Debit Cards.
ANZ – Has a 2.5% foreign transaction fee and a $5 overseas withdrawal fee on Visa Debit Cards (The fee is waived on any ANZ ATMs in Australia or elsewhere)
ASB – As previously mentioned have a 2.10% foreign transaction fee and $7.50 withdrawal fee on Visa Credit cards, and Debit Cards.
TSB -Have a 2.5% foreign transaction fee and $5 overseas withdrawal fee for Visa Debit Cards.
HSBC – Has a generous 1% foreign transaction fee, and overseas withdrawal Fees between $4-6, depending on the ATM issuer ($4 for HSBC machines). By being the most widespread international bank, HSBC also offers additional benefits for expats and those who hold multiple accounts. Via online banking, you can easily transfer money between your HSBC accounts in different countries, and there is easy wire transfer functionality.
Westpac is the clear winner for ATM Withdrawal Fees however.
The 2.50% foreign transaction fee isn’t particularly impressive, but Westpac charge only $3 to use ATMs overseas as standard, and for banks that are part of the Global ATM Alliance there is no withdrawal fee. This applies not only to Westpac banks, but several common banks throughout Oceania, Europe, Africa & North America. As mentioned earlier, ATM Withdrawal fees can be one of the biggest expenses you incur when travelling – so I would suggest using Westpac for your Debit Card.
TRAVEL MONEY CARDS
These are billed as the New Travellers cheques. These Cards promise a lot – you can load in most of the common currencies throughout Europe, Asia & North America when the exchange rates are low, helping you to get favourable rates and reportedly avoid foreign transaction fees as you can load currencies of the destinations you are travelling to onto the card. If issued by your bank, then they can easily be topped up via your bank’s online banking as well. However, they can come with additional charges that can make them more of a hassle than worth bothering with. They are issued by either Mastercard or Visa, and function much like another debit card by either of these providers.These are available in every developed country, but below are some options available in New Zealand:
Mastercard Cash Passport – This is offered by ASB, ANZ, BNZ and many other banks around the world (Also branded as the Travelex Cash Passport.) The big plus is that there are zero ATM withdrawal fees overseas (though some operators may still charge their own fee), but a hefty 5.95% foreign transaction fee plus the Mastercard exchange rate (although, as with all other travel money cards, the foreign transaction fee will not apply if you one of the supported currencies loaded on the card.) For a $100 ATM Withdrawal that works out at $5.95 in fees – still cheaper than the $7.50 charged by ASB and BNZ for Visa Debit Cards. However for any significant purchases in unsupported currencies, the foreign transaction fee isn’t worth bothering with. There is a $4 charge for New Zealand ATM withdrawals, a $1 reload fee and some additional fine print to look over. The Card has a minimum load amount of $250, and a maximum load limit of $75,000.
The Kiwibank Loaded For Travel card has free transaction fees when using supported (loaded) currency, but 2.50% for currencies unsupported. It also has a $6 cash withdrawal fee, which is the worst of all the cards available. It supports 11 different currencies, and is the only Visa Travel Card option in New Zealand.
Air New Zealand Onesmart is one of the better Mastercard Travel Debit Cards in New Zealand, with only a 2.5% foreign transaction fees, and zero for supported currencies. You have three free ATM withdrawal fees per month, then $3 NZD (or equivalent) for subsequent ATM withdrawals – still cheaper than many New Zealand banks. You also have the bonus of earning Airpoints dollars like Premium Credit Cards. It costs nothing to load money onto the card, but it’s more cumbersome to use than some of the others. You have to make a bank deposit online into your Onesmart account – as it’s not issued by any NZ Bank. The card has a $1 monthly fee, $0 minimum load limit, and $20,000 maximum load limit.
Qantas Cash is the Qantas equivalent of OneSmart. You have to be a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program to qualify for it, but much like OneSmart it offers airline reward points. It is a Mastercard card with a a 2.5% foreign transaction fee for currencies that are not already loaded onto the card, and $2.50 NZD (or equivalent) for overseas ATM withdrawals, and no domestic ATM Withdrawal fees are charged. Nine different currencies are supported. There are no monthly fees unlike Onesmart, although as it is not issued by your bank, you will have to top up by either a bank transfer OR by an existing credit card (1% transaction cost). The Minimum load limit (per load) is $50 NZD and the Maximum is $20,000 NZD in a 24 hour period, or $100,000 NZD total on the card itself. It won Canstar’s award for best travel money card.
A Travel Debit Card is worth considering as a backup option or for purchasing currency when exchanging rates are low. The Qantas Cash Passport is the best option in New Zealand, with the lowest ATM withdrawal rates and minimal ongoing fees.
WESTERN UNION & EMERGENCY CASH ACCESS
If you come prepared, you should never be in a position where you have zero credit card access overseas. Seperate out your Credit/Debit Cards and keep one emeregency card hidden in a Neck Wallet with your passport. If one of your cards is stolen, contact your bank immediately. If you have online banking, you can probably freeze this from within the app – though your bank may not let you access this over insecure wifi overseas. Your bank will be able to send you a replacement card overseas, but it will take some time to arrive, so you’ll need to stay somewhere with a fixed address in order to receive the replacement card. If you are travelling in a group, then any sort of emergency can often be alleviated. But make sure that you don’t travel with only one means of accessing money.
However to solely depend on your cards is ill advised. In much of the Developing World – where ATM access is sparse, cash is still king. Credit Cards will not work in certain internationally sanctioned countries including: Cuba, Sudan, North Korea, Iran & Syria. For these countries and other countries where ATM access is limited, you may need to bring in large amounts of US Dollars. Ensure that it this kept hidden and locked at all times – and be aware of any cash restrictions (you may have to declare this at customs.) It may also be difficult to find supported ATMs in certain places, even in developed countries. Japan is one country where it can be difficult to find an ATM that recognizes international cards – Your best bet is reportedly using the ATMs in 7-11 stores, or the post office.
If worst comes to worst, there’s always Western Union for Money Transfer. This is available in nearly every country on earth, except for certain internationally sanctioned countries like North Korea and Iran (Where your Credit card is also useless.) This can be the ideal solution to tide you over until your replacement card is issued. Odds are that if your credit card works, there will also be a Western Union Branch. You can receive the money in cash in the local currency, but will need a family member or trusted person to send it to you. To receive the money you will need your passport and the tracking number that will have been issued to the payee for the currency transfer. Your travel insurance company will typically refund any emergency expenses incurred when losing your card, but the claims process may take weeks.
TRAVEL HEALTH GUIDE
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING ANY MEDICATION.
I have included drugs for Food Poisoning/Diarrhoea in the main packing list, as it’s probably the most common travel affliction. However, advice & medicine for other diseases is suggested below:
Prevention is the best cure for any problem. Take care with what you eat – Avoid unsanitary looking street food, and don’t drink ice in developing countries. Don’t be stupid in the heat & cold. Apply sunscreen, drink water frequently and wear a hat in sunny destinations, and layer up and stay warm in colder climates. There is only so much you can treat yourself. Don’t rely on the internet (or indeed this post) to self medicate. For any severe symptoms, get yourself to a Hospital.
Malaria – If you are travelling to Malaria prone areas, you may want to consider taking medication. Malaria drugs shouldn’t be required unless you are visiting rural or remote areas of countries it is found in e.g Although Malaria can be found in Thailand & Brazil, the chances of you catching it in Rio or Bangkok are negligible. 90% of malaria deaths worldwide occur in Africa, and this is the highest risk area – especially during the rainy season.
There are three main drugs available for Malaria: Lariam, Doxycycline & Malarone. Lariam is the cheapest and also contains the worse side effects. Reportedly people have experienced wild mood swings, depression and nightmares while on it. It’s also the cheapest of all medications, and the drugs you will likely find in less reputable pharmacies throughout the developing world.
Doxycycline is a better alternative, but it also can have side-effects. Notably, increased sun sensitivity and nausea. You can potentially find yourself with a higher risk of developing sunburn, so it’s advisable to cover up and apply plenty of sunscreen. The psychological side-effects are not as present, so this would be a suitable choice. It is to be taken 1-2 days before entering the infected area, and for an entire month after leaving
Malarone is considered the best Malaria drug, but it’s also the most expensive if not available on prescription. For most people there are only mild side effects such as headaches and stomach pain. It is to be taken 1-2 days before entering the infected area and for 7 days after leaving. It is recommended to take Vitamin C & Multivitamins while on Malaria medication. Also, contrary to urban legend, you cannot simply drink Gin & Tonics to prevent Malaria. While Quinine is an effective anti-malarial, the quantity that is used in commercial tonic water is miniscule compared to what was drunk in the days of the Raj.
Do not forget preventitive measures while using Anti Malarial Drugs. Wear a hat and protective clothing, and plenty of insect repllent.
If Trekking in the Jungle, treat your Clothes with Pemethrin. It will kill any mosquitoes that land on your clothing. Certain clothing brands like ExOfficio sell pre-treated clothing. I can’t imagine many travellers “roughing it” when staying in Africa. Your hotel or tour provider will carry Malaria Nets, but make use of these as well to minimise risk.
Mosquitos carry other diseases as well, notably Yellow Fever & Japanese Encephalitis, which have an effective vaccination available. Mosquitos also transmit Zika, Chikungaya & Dengue Fever for which there is no effective medication – but the diseases are less deadly.
– Altitude Sickness: If you are planning on doing any significant mountaineering, or visiting countries of high altitude like Bolivia or Nepal, take Diamox.
– Motion Sickness: Consider Trip Ease, Sea-Legs or similar products.
– Insect Bites/Stings: An Aluminum Sulfate spray like Stingose will relieve pain and symptoms in addition to your Antihistamine Cream. Any cuts/wounds should be treated with an Antiseptic like Betadine.
– Jellyfish Bites & Stings: For Box Jellyfish & Irukandji Jellyfish Stings, Use Vinegar, then get to a hospital. The Vinegar prevents any additional venom from being released from the tentacles. If you’re swimming in an area where these are known to be active, keep some Vinegar in your beach bag. Do not try to remove the Box Jellyfish tentacles, as they could release venom during the process. For Bluebottles and lesser Jellyfish, Vinegar may not help alleviate the stinging or symptoms.
– Jetlag: For treating jetlag, natural remedies like 1Above may help as well as staying hydrated on the flight. The most effective treatment is a prescription drug which releases melatonin like Circadin. These are often prescribed for Insomnia patients, and should only be taken if symptoms are severe. Some tips for naturally combating Jetlag are listed here.
– Snake Bites: Do not try catching the snake, but try to remember the colour/features for treatment. Apply a crepe (pressure) bandage over the wound and DO NOT wash the wound. Get to a hospital ASAP for Antivenom.
– Spider Bites: Clean the wound, apply ice & get to hospital for anti-venom if severe.
– Cuts/Scratches/Wounds: These can become infected quickly in tropical countries, and what would normally be just a scratch at home can turn into something far more severe. Clean your hands before treating any wounds. Flush the wound with clean water & Pick out any particles with tweezers. Clean the wound with medical Gauze & Apply Antiseptic cream, saline or a liquid antiseptic. Cover the wound with a plaster or dressing.
– Feet Care: Consider an Antifungal Foot Cream (Clotrimazole) for treating Athletes Foot & Moleskin bandages for blisters. Also consider a generic foot cream for treating cracked skin. Be aware if you are staying in hostels or shared accomodation that you can develop foot fungus -many people shower in their flip flops in hostels. Change your socks frequently.
Animal Bites/Rabies: Rabies is amongst the most dangerous diseases you can ever get, so you should take extreme care around animals. Consider any Animal Bite in developing countries a risk for rabies, and get treated immediately. Rabies is common in dogs, cats & bats throughout many countries in the developing world. If bitten, firstly clean the wound with soap, water & antiseptic, then immediately get to a hospital. Once the disease has been contracted several weeks after the bite, Rabies is fatal in 100% of cases. Once the symptoms appear (frothing at the mouth, muscle spasms) you are a dead man walking.
There is a vaccine for Rabies, but many travellers do not bother with it as: it is expensive, requires 3 separate injections over several months, and doesn’t prevent contracting rabies – You will still need to take booster doses of the Rabies Vaccine twice again after contracting the disease. What Pre-Vaccination does, is eliminate the need for expensive Rabies Immunoglobulin, making treating the disease far easier. Rabies Immunoglobulin is required IMMEDIATELY for those who haven’t been vaccinated, in addition to four or five monthly doses of the vaccine after treatment. It’s an expensive blood product which is not available in many developing countries. You will need your Travel Insurance to arrange medical evacuation if travelling to a country without a supply.
Whether going off the beaten path, or just staying at home, you should have the following vaccinations.
– Polio: One injection & one booster injection as a child, Valid for a lifetime
– MMR vaccine: Two injections as a child, Valid for a lifetime.
– Flu Vaccine: One injection required, Valid for 1 year
– Tetanus & Diptheria: One injection required, Valid for ten years.
– Hepatitis A: Two injections over 6 months, Valid for a lifetime.
– Hepatitis B: Multiple injections over several months, Valid for a lifetime.
VACCINATIONS FOR THE DEVELOPING WORLD
Check what parts of the world you are travelling to, and what diseases are common. Cholera & Typhoid, much like Hepatitis is both spread through unclean food and water. Take appropriate precautions, even if vaccinated. Some of these are not essential when travelling Others (Such as Yellow Fever) may actually be required for entry:
– Cholera: One injection, Valid up to two years
– Typhoid: One injection, Valid for up to three years.
– Meningitis: One injection, Valid for 3-5 years
– Japanese Encephalitis: Two injections, Valid for 1-2 years.
– Yellow Fever: One injection, Valid for a Lifetime. Required for entry in some parts of the world.
If you are taking any prescription painkillers or medicine, take a letter from your doctor. There was a recent case of a British national imprisoned for drug smuggling by taking the painkiller tramadol to Egypt without any documentation. Tramadol is perfectly legal in the UK, but illegal in Egypt. The NHS website is a good resource for travel health advice.
COMMUNICATION & PHONE SERVICES
We all want to stay in contact with our friends and loved ones. Nowadays it’s easier than ever. We all know about Skype, Email, & Social Media – but what about actually making phone calls?
The cheapest option for calling back home is definitely with VoIP (Voice over IP). In laymans terms this is a phone call over the internet, so there is no need to pay for any call minutes – but both devices will need to be online for the call to work. If you have an iPhone, then you have a VOIP service built in with Facetime & iMessage. You can make a Video or Audio call to any iOS device. iMessage especially can be really convenient – Despite having no sim card and using flaky hotel Wifi, I was able to message my family in Chile using iMessage. The downside is that this only works between Apple Devices. For a VoIP service covering all platforms then look at WhatsApp. With over a billion users, this is a hugely popular VoIP service. You can not only easily text or call from the App, but also send photos and other files. Viber is another less popular alternative on iOS, Android and other platforms.
However all of these are data dependent. They all require smart devices and both parties to have the App. What about calling Landlines overseas, or friends without any VoIP app? The cheapest option is using Skype Credit. While Skype is well known as a popular video calling app, you can also make regular calls through your skype account. While you still personally need to be connected to the internet to make the call, you can call any phone number in the world – landline, mobile or otherwise. Most calls only cost a few cents per minute, so even $10 credit in your account will last you for a long time. It’s an absolute bargain. The downside of Skype, is that while it’s far more flexible than other VoIP options, it still requires a data connection. You may have trouble calling over a poor Wifi connection. You may also find that people simply hang up, or you go direct to voicemail, as “No Caller ID” will be displayed on incoming calls on mobile – similar to scam calls.
3G & Data
For any VoIP calls, as well as for staying connected on the road you’re going to want a Data connection. The cheapest option will always be to buy a local sim card. The Prepaid Data Sim Card Wiki lists the best sim cards available in each country. The cost of data in much of the developing world can often be far cheaper than at home. This will also give you a local phone number you can give family and friends back home so they can stay in contact with you, and is ideal for anyone staying for a long period in an individual country.
However if you are moving between countries regularly, choosing a local sim can become impractical. It can be time consuming going to the phone shop to get a local sim set up – and even if you have done your research, you may find salespeople trying to sell you a more expensive prepaid plan than you need. While many popular travel destinations offer prepaid local sims designed for travellers, some others can make it difficult to obtain – requiring some form of local ID to purchase the sim card. While local sim cards always offer the cheapest domestic call & data rates, it should be obvious that calling back home or roaming in a nearby country with them will be exorbitantly expensive.
However, if you are travelling long term and want a consistent data connection and phone number, there are some other options.
Roaming & International Networks
It’s normally common sense to turn your data roaming off overseas on a normal phone plan, but select carriers now offer more reasonable roaming rates:
T-Mobile in the United States offers free international texting and data roaming which is a fantastic deal – but their plan should not be used for calls back home as the calling rates are terrible. Data speeds are slow and limited, but for checking emails and using internet messaging on the road this is a great deal. Sprint also offer a similar deal. Three in the UK offer a great value feel at home roaming service, which lets you use your existing minutes and data for free in over 71 destinations (with some restrictions). Data cannot be tethered- it can only be used on your phone. Receiving calls is free and calls and texts back to the UK are included from your plans minutes, but calls to non UK numbers will be charged.
Vodafone in both New Zealand & The UK offer a Global Roaming package. This lets you use your existing phone plan’s data and minutes in over seventy supported countries for a daily rate The cost is £6 per day for Vodafone Customers in the UK, and $5 per day for Vodafone Customers in New Zealand. The charge apparently kicks in automatically whenever you try to use data or make calls in the supported countries. While this certainly works out cheaper than the conventional roaming charges of other networks, it only suits for short trips away. Vodafone UK, like most other UK carriers currently offer free roaming to EU countries. The EU has abolished roaming charges, but with caveats. It’s based on a fair use policy, which can be determined by your operator. If you’re planning on using 40 gigs of mobile data everywhere from Amiens to Athens, then your operator is probably going to slap you with a hefty charge.
In addition to discounted roaming from regular carriers, there are now some truly international phone networks. Google Fi is the most impressive. It offers voice calls and 3G data in over 135+ countries and a permanent US number. On top of a $20 monthly plan, Google Fi offers a flat rate of $0.20 per minute for calling, and $10 USD per 1GB of data used in all supported countries. Calls within the United States are free. You will need a supported Android phone to use Google Fi – currently limited to the Nexus, Moto X & Pixel line. There are apparently workarounds (another guide here) where you can use the network on unsupported devices – but you will need to activate the sim card on a supported device first.
TruPhone like Google fi bills itself as a truly international phone plan. The TruPhone World Plan is available on a 12 month contract starting at £36.00 per month. At their lowest rate you get 300mb data and 600 minutes, while for £90.00 per month you will get 2GB of data and 1200 minutes of calls. Coverage for data and calls is available in 100+ countries. Most of Europe, North America and Asia is covered – but access is more sparse in the Middle East & africa. Given the high cost of this service, Google Fi is a much better option.
Lebara also offers a monthly plan covering 41 countries at affordable rates, but much of the world is not included.
International Sim Cards
These are sim cards designed for travellers which promise to reduce the cost of roaming. They all work in nearly every country on the planet, connecting to local cell providers automatically to provide you with call and data coverage. There are various different brands available, but after reviewing various providers – the following are the best four options:
WorldSim – The International Sim Card claims to reduce roaming fees by up to 85%. It comes with both a US & UK Mobile number, and has coverage in 200 countries (A list of their roaming partners can be found here). One advantage of Worldsim is that it features a Virtual number service. For $48.26 per year, you can add a phone number from your own country or any of the other supported 50 countries – and forward all calls from your existing phone number. However, it costs an additional 10p per minute to receive a call – on top of the existing call charge. Like most other international sims there are data bundles that can be purchased. The sim costs a minimum of $27 USD to purchase, with $27 credit inclusive – and can be topped up online or by calling the company.
OneSimCard – OneSimCard sell both a ‘Plus’ & ‘Data & Roam’ card. The Plus card seems to offer much better rates. You get the choice of two numbers on this card – typically a US Number, and Estonian Number, but UK & Australian customers have the choice of a domestic number. Over 200 countries are supported on the Plus plan. You can add a Personal Extra Number (PEN) from your home country, allowing you to port calls from your existing phone number. The cost of this service for New Zealand numbers is $59.88 per year, with an additional 20c per minute to receive these calls. Various discount data packages are available in addition to the prepay costs. OneSimCard costs $39.95 USD to order with $10 of balance included. The company also offers a VoIP app.
KnowRoaming – KnowRoaming offer coverage in 200+ countries and provide a US number. KnowRoaming also offer an ability to purchase an additional local number that family and home can call you on without international charges, for between $3-12 USD extra per month – but you cannot port your existing number to their international sim card. They they offer Free Unlimited Whatsapp Usage worldwide without any data charges and a generous $8 USD daily unlimited data package, in addition to other data packages. Unlike some of the other options, KnowRoaming provides an app for easy top ups – in addition to topping up through their website.
TravelSim – This International Sim card provides you with an Estonian mobile number which works in 206 different countries. Additional data bundles can be purchased divided into zones – the cheapest zone costing $19 USD for 1gb of data. The sim itself costs $20 USD.
In addition to the regular Travel Sims listed above, there are other Global Sim Cards which offer only data access such as FlexiRoam, Transatel & Gigsky. These can offer more competitive rates for data – but lose the advantage of providing you with a permanent phone number.
Comparison Of International Sim Cards
I’ve picked some common travel destinations across several continents to see the rates between these services. The Rates for all Calls & Data are the prepaid rate without any data packages (which can offer additional discounts). For Phone Calls, I will examine both the local mobile call rate as well as the cost of calling New Zealand mobiles. All prices are in US Dollars.
One Sim Card (Plus): $0.25 per mb Data, $0.39 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.39 Per Minute calling New Zealand and free to receive incoming calls.
KnowRoaming: $0.30 per mb Data, $0.29 per Minute local calls and $0.25 per minute to receive incoming calls. $0.33 Per Minute calling New Zealand, cost of receiving calls unclear (similar charge presumed).
Worldsim: $0.30 per mb Data, $0.48 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.48 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
TravelSim: $0.25 per mb Data, $0.39 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.39 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
One Sim Card (Plus): $0.25 per mb Data, $0.49 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.49 Per Minute calling New Zealand and free to receive incoming calls.
KnowRoaming: $0.15 per mb Data, $0.30 per Minute local calls and $0.15 per minute to receive incoming calls. $0.23 Per Minute calling New Zealand, cost of receiving calls unclear (similar charge presumed).
Worldsim: $0.23 per mb Data, $0.22 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.30 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
TravelSim: $0.25 per mb Data, $0.49 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.49 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
One Sim Card (Plus): $0.25 per mb Data, $0.49 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.49 Per Minute calling New Zealand and free to receive incoming calls.
KnowRoaming: $0.20 per mb Data, $0.33 per Minute local calls and $0.18 per minute to receive incoming calls. $0.26 Per Minute calling New Zealand, cost of receiving calls unclear (similar charge presumed).
Worldsim: $0.20 per mb Data, $2.51 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $2.36 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
TravelSim: $0.25 per mb Data, $0.49 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.49 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
One Sim Card (Plus): $15.00 per mb Data, $0.94 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.65 Per Minute calling New Zealand and free to receive incoming calls.
KnowRoaming: $0.15 per mb Data, $0.68 per Minute local calls and $0.35 per minute to receive incoming calls. $0.43 Per Minute calling New Zealand, cost of receiving calls unclear (similar charge presumed).
Worldsim: $0.15 per mb Data, $0.61 per Minute local calls and $0.40 per minute to receive incoming calls. $0.61 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and $0.40 per minute to receive incoming calls.
TravelSim: $15.00 per mb Data, $0.65 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.65 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
One Sim Card (Plus): $15.00 per mb Data, $0.59 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.59 Per Minute calling New Zealand and free to receive incoming calls.
KnowRoaming: $0.65 per mb Data, $0.45 per Minute local calls and $0.25 per minute to receive incoming calls. $0.33 Per Minute calling New Zealand, cost of receiving calls unclear (similar charge presumed).
Worldsim: $0.25 per mb Data, $0.57 per Minute local calls and $0.35 per minute to receive incoming calls. $0.35 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and $0.35 per minute to receive incoming calls.
TravelSim: $15.00 per mb Data, $0.59 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.59 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
One Sim Card (Plus): $0.25 per mb Data, $0.65 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.65 Per Minute calling New Zealand and free to receive incoming calls.
KnowRoaming: $0.15 per mb Data, $0.18 per Minute local calls and $0.15 per minute to receive incoming calls. $0.23 Per Minute calling New Zealand, cost of receiving calls unclear (similar charge presumed).
Worldsim: $0.15 per mb Data, $0.22 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.30 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
TravelSim: $0.25 per mb Data, $0.65 per Minute local calls and free to receive incoming calls. $0.65 Per Minute calling New Zealand, and free to receive incoming calls.
Should you get an International Sim Card?
From the above review, there are a few clear takeaways. Firstly, while most data prices remained fairly consistent, TravelSim & OneSimCard had huge spikes in the cost of data in Kenya & Fiji. Secondly, there are clearly variations in the prices for calls. Despite being a common holiday destination, Fiji had high call rates across all sim cards. WorldSim had the lowest call rate in Fiji, but had an unusual price fluctuation for calls in Colombia that no other sim card had. The only consistently low cost Travel Sim Card in prepaid data and call prices was KnowRoaming. However, annoyingly KnowRoaming charges for receiving calls in every country in the world.
If you are consideirng a Travel Sim Card, then look over the prices carefully. All of these have Voicemail Charges – typically similar to the cost to make local calls. Texts also cost money – although there really is no point in texting overseas when IM options like Whatsapp and iMessage are available. Ensure that you know the top up procedure – While KnowRoaming comes with an app to easily top up your balance, most of the other options don’t. Additionally, many require a minimum top up amount. Check the roaming rates before visiting a country to avoid any exceptional data prices. Turn mobile data off whenever it’s not being used – and use wifi as much as possible. Apps running in the background may quickly deplete your data.
Google Fi offers better prepaid rates than any of the above Travel Sim Cards, but is primarily a US monthly phone plan. You will be spending a minimum of $20 USD per month to get a US Phone number – and you will get unlimited US calls + texts in the United States. Any overseas data and phone calls made is charged on top of this. Likewise T-Mobile in the US and Three in the UK offered great data roaming rates for those already on their plans – but aren’t really worth considering unless you’re already subscribed to their networks. However, a Travel Sim Card is worth considering if you are looking at long term travel – simply to have a consistent number that family can call you on, and data access to occasionally check emails & important details in any country you visit. There are no monthly charges with a Travel Sim Card- unless you want to add a number from your home country onto the service. Going pre-paid is a better option when travelling – you can top up on demand. There’s no point paying for a monthly phone plan unless you’re going to return to using it when you arrive back home. I would recommend KnowRoaming for its call rates and data bundles, unless you really want to bring your existing phone number, then look at One Sim Card.
For frequent data use, travel sim cards are not the best choice. While you can buy prepaid data packs to save some money, or use unlimited Whatasapp on KnowRoaming – for any large use of data a local sim card will always be the cheapest option. For any extended stays in a fixed destination, make sure to get a local sim card. While you will save on calls back home using a Travel Sim Card, your first port of call should be using a VoIP service like Facetime, Skype or Whatsapp. Not only will you save money on calls, but these apps can be used without even having a sim card active.
If you are a digital nomad or travelling long term, my suggestion would be to take two phones. One as your primary phone with a permanent Travel Sim Card for calls and occasional data use, and a secondary cheap backup Android phone that functions as a 3G hotspot/travel router using a local sim (If you already have a 3G/Cellular ipad, this will also work). While you could take a Mifi device for data coverage, the tethering/hotspot functionality on a low cost Android phone will be a cheaper option, and give you a useful backup phone. For short term travel and single country visits, unless you are on one of the few favourable roaming carriers – take your main phone and buy a local sim – and give your local number to any family or friends that need to contact you.
FLIGHT & TRAVEL BOOKING
The first thing to know about booking flights, is that “cheap flights” are very much seasonal. During the summer holidays, flights will invariably be at their most expensive. Christmas is the worst time to ever book a flight, because not only is it peak summer travel period in the Southern Hemisphere – but in The Northern Hemisphere millions are travelling around Europe, Asia, & North America for Christmas.
However, if you are flexible with your dates (and even destination), you may be able to find a bargain. Bren on The Road has the best guide for booking cheap flights that I’ve found. For his booking method, he uses Skyscanner, which allows him to see when flights are at their lowest during the year. For booking longer flights, the trick is to get a one way flight your nearest major transit hub (e.g London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Sydney, Singapore, New York, Hong Kong,) during the off season, then book a separate one way ticket departing from the hub airport to your final destination. In other words, you are building a multi-leg travel ticket yourself. You will need to account for the duration of your layover between flights, so you can easily connect onto your next flight. The cheapest tickets from Hub Destinations to your final destination will likely be on budget airlines, but so long as you pay attention to the terms and baggage limits (book through the budget airline website if possible) there shouldn’t be any problems. Your return flight will be purchased in the same manner – returning to the hub, and then back to your original departure airport. In total you will likely be booking four separate tickets for a return trip.
The disadvantages of a self compiled Multi-Leg ticket are that you lose the security that a single ticket offers. You will need to manually re-check your luggage in between flights, whereas if you were booked on a single ticket the airlines will transfer your baggage to the next flight for you. While Skyscanner and flight comparison sites can be a great tool, for many budget airlines throughout the world like Ryan Air & EasyJet in Europe, JetBlue in North America, FlyDubai in the Middle East and Air Asia in East Asia, it can be better just booking directly through the Airline website (especially for adding baggage). Whether booking a multi-leg ticket or just flying on a budget airline, being flexible with your dates, and booking onward tickets from a hub destination are some of the best ways of finding cheaper flights.
Round The World Tickets & Air Passes:
For anyone planning a long term holiday, a Round The World Ticket could save you significant expenses. Airtreks are just the ticket (excuse the pun.) These guys are essentially round the world travel agents, who can make your trip come to life. Try out the on site trip planner to get an idea of the costs. The key with Round the World Tickets, is that the flights must be in one continuous direction. So from New Zealand you can fly to East Asia, Then India, Then The Middle East and Then Europe, but you can’t fly down to Kenya from London, or head back to Asia. Star Alliance also offer a Round The World ticket option that’s worth considering.
Air passes can be another alternative to Round The World Flights. They are typically issued by one of the larger Airlines servicing a particular region. If you are travelling to multiple cities within the same continent, this may be a good way of getting discounted flights. A good guide to Air passes can be found here.
FLIGHT SEARCH ENGINES
Below are some links to flight booking websites & tools. Make sure to use Incongnito/Private mode in your browser when booking:
http://www.momondo.co.nz/ – A similar alternative to Skyscanner
https://www.nz.kayak.com/explore/ – Kayak’s explore feature lets you easily see how much it costs to travel from your departure point, on a map view.
https://www.farecompare.com/maps/ – Another similar feature like Kayak’s explore.
BUS & TRAIN TRAVEL
For long term travel in Asia or Europe, why not consider rail? You don’t need to deal with annoying baggage restrictions, the view will be nicer, and you will likely be able to strike up a conversation with your fellow passengers Seat61 is the best website for all things rail travel. You can see the timetables, prices and routes for all train networks around the world. Several countries offer discount rail passes that can save you a lot of money. The Japan Rail Pass, The Amtrak Rail Pass & EU Rail Pass can offer big discounts in Japan, America and Europe. There are some great train journeys to be found throughout the world – The Trans Siberian, The Rocky Mountainer, The Ghan, & The Blue Train to name a few. In Europe and The United States you can easily book train tickets through the official route providers, while in China & India you may be better off using an online agency.
Bus travel doesn’t have the same romantic connotations as rail, but for overland travel in Latin America it may be your only option. Busbud provides an easy way of booking buses in South America, North America and Europe. In Europe, Asia & North America – intercity buses can be a much more affordable choice than rail or air travel alternatives.
Public Buses & Metro/Rapid Transit Trains are the most common forms of public transport. Most large cities with metro systems such as London & Hong Kong will have a payment card that is worth picking up for longer stays, as the price will typically be at a lower rate than the cash price. Hong Kong’s Oyster card is particularly useful as it works on buses, trains, trams and even in convenience stores. It is always worth saving a copy of the metro map online onto your phone for reference. For any form of Public Transport there are apps such as Moovit that can help you find your way around – but Google Maps usually has the details.
FERRY & CRUISE TRAVEL
Taking a ferry can be a great way of travelling short routes between the mainland and islands in Europe & Asia. In countries like Greece, Indonesia & The Philippines – ferry hopping can be one of the best ways of jumping between the hundreds of islands in each country.
In some remote destinations like The Scottish Hebrides – A ferry or private boat is your only means of getting in. http://www.ferrylines.com & https://www.aferry.com both offer comprehensive information of various ferry routes. You will find plenty of information online on regional ferries such as this guide to ferries in the Caribbean. It is always best to book a ferry with the official ferry provider.
Cruises can be one of the most economical forms of all inclusive holidays you can find. They’re essentially a moving package holiday. All meals, entertainment, food and lodging is provided in addition to your transport. I’ve only ever been on a P&O cruise – which is one of the more affordable cruise lines, but the quality of the food, entertainment and ship facilities was still excellent. If booked well in advance at cruise expos, or at the last minute when cruise lines need to fill their cabins – you can find huge savings on cruises. Cruises will always be cheaper when booked with a group, as Cruise Companies are selling cabins – not individual rooms. Cruise Sale Finder is a New Zealand based website which offers a great overview of all the major cruise lines and sales in the world. Cruise Compete is another good site for finding cruise deals.
While flights and train travel can be some of the best ways of getting between major destinations, in smaller towns and in countries with limited transport networks – travel by car can be the only option to see more remote attractions. https://www.rentalcars.com is one of many car rental search engines – but the review system here provides a good overview of who are the best and worst operators in each country. Rental Car Companies are notorious for ripping off anyone, but particularly tourists or those they can squeeze an extra dollar out of.
When picking up the car, look over the car thoroughly for any marks beforehand and ask for another car if marks are present. Check bumpers, tyres & mirrors and ensure the air conditioning and radio works. Inspect all sides of the car and take photos before and after returning the car, so you have proof if you need to contest a claim. Ensure you read the contract and check the Excess Deposit. The Rental Car company will provide you with a number to call if the car breaks down.
Most car rental companies require you to book with a credit card (not a debit card)- as they will hold a security deposit on the car. Higher surcharges often apply if you aren’t over 25, or sometimes even over 30. Discounts apply for longer rental periods. Be aware that you will likely have to return any cars to the same location, otherwise you will likely incurr large fees (this will be easily visible when searching for any rental car). The car must be returned in the same condition it was rented in, and with a full tank of petrol. Any parking or speeding fines you incurr will be billed to you by the rental car company and must be paid.
For Driving in Foreign countries you will need to obtain an International Driving Permit at your countries licensed provider, and most rental car companies will require evidence of this. GPS has made driving in foreign countries substantially easier, but you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the local road rules and road signs. I would advise bringing a backup physical road map as well.
In some developing countries, you may want to consider renting a car with a driver. You will have to pay for your driver’s accomodation costs, but this can still work out as an affordable way of seeing much of the country- and lowers the risk of you dying quite significantly.
HOTELS & ACCOMODATION
Things have changed a lot recently when it comes to booking accomodation. In the “Sharing economy” a person’s house is now a hotel. Hostels & Room Rentals will typically be the cheapest option when travelling, but in South East Asia and less developed destinations you can find affordably priced hotels. There are numerous Hotel Comparison sites on the internet. Personally I haven’t found all that much difference between them in terms of rates, but Frommers and others have reviewed them with varying results.
Some options for booking accomodation are listed below:
http://airbnb.com/ – A revolution in accomodation. Airbnb has grown to offer room or apartment/house rental options in nearly every country on the planet. Airbnb is particularly great value for long term stays – as often monthly rentals are significantly discounted. While the review system mostly filters out the poor accomodation options, you don’t have the same dependability as when it comes to hotels. If your neighbours are too noisy, or an appliance is broken, you can’t exactly pick another room. Also be aware that the service fees and any cleaning fees will add on quite a bit more to the nightly rate. Expect to pay more for your room during the booking stage than is advertised. Googling “Apartment Rental [CITY NAME]” may find you some other local sites with rooms unavailable on Airbnb.
https://www.booking.com – One of the most well known and reliable booking sites. It covers hotels, hostels, B&Bs and more. Their search functionality is one of the best in the market, as you can tailor results to be as specific as possible. Free cancellation is usually available up to 24 hours before the day of the booking. Typically rooms are reserved at the rate of the booking, and paid for at the hotel
https://www.agoda.com/ – Agoda is owned by Priceline – the same company that own booking.com. It has its own rewards program. Agoda allows you to pay the full cost of your rooms on the website before arriving, so there are no extra unwelcome charges or currency fluctuations to contest at check in. I prefer this option to simply reserving the room.http://www.hotels.com – The main alternative to Booking.com, with similar coverage of properties. Billing itself as the “obvious choice”, it has the most straightforward loyalty program of any site: Collect ten nights – get one free. After ten nights booked across any range of rooms and hotels, your next night will be free. However, not all hotels on the site are covered in the loyalty program – though those that are covered are clearly stated in the search results. If you are a regular hotel user, your loyalty will be rewarded here – especially if combined with another rewards program. Bookings are a mix of pre-payment or reservation/pay later options, depending on the hotel.
https://www.expedia.co.nz/ – Expedia has something of a mixed reputation, but it’s still worth considering. Also offering flights, car rental and all other manner of travel bookings. Much like booking.com, most properties are reserved and paid for at check in.
https://www.hotelscombined.com/ – This hotel comparison site has been getting rave reviews. No bookings are made through the website, rather it shows comparisons and redirects you to the cheapest site. Kayak is another comparison site – which is so confident it offers the cheapest prices, that it even offers to show competitors results in a pop up window.
https://www.hostelworld.com/ – For those wanting to travel on the cheap, hostel world is the best site for booking hostels.
https://www.couchsurfing.com – Possibly the most affordable accomodation option. Couchsurfing hosts kindly host travellers at no charge to sleep on a couch or makeshift bed. However it’s common courtesy to bring a gift and if staying for a longer period, to help your host with some chores. The site also has an active community and events listed throughout the cities.
If you have concerns that a deal is too good to be true, consider booking directly through the hotel website after finding any prices. There are many cases of Hotel search sites simply ignoring any liability as to overbooked rooms if issues arise. Also consider joining a loyalty program like IHG Rewards. Additionally there are flash sales websites and some other accomodation tricks which NomadWallet have detailed.
It’s worth joining a frequent flyer program, but which one should you join? Thankfully, Airlines have made the choice easier thanks to Airline Alliances. Member Airlines of each alliance operate code share routes between Airlines for cost and convenience, but the main advantage to passengers is that frequent flyer program points are redeemable on partner airlines.
There are three major airline alliances:
Star Alliance – This is the world’s largest Airline alliance with 27 members. Some of the best known members include: United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Air China & Lufthansa
Skyteam – Is the second largest Airline alliance, with 20 members. Some of the best known members include: Air France, China Southern Airlines, Korean Air, Delta Airlines & KLM.
OneWorld – Is the third largest Airline alliance, with 13 members. Some of the best known members include: British Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Japan Airlines, LATAM & Cathay Pacific.
I would suggest all travellers join a Star Alliance & OneWorld member airlines frequent flyer program. While Skyteam does have more Airlines, OneWorld members provide some of the most extensive and important route networks around the world- particularly British Airways, Qantas, and LATAM, though a SkyTeam reward program is definitely worth considering. The choice of which Airlines Frequent Flyer program you join, largely depends upon where you live and which airlines you are serviced by. The cost of joining a frequent flyer program and benefits they provide vary betwen each Airline, however all points earned can be redeemed on any partner airline in the alliance.
Emirates is one notable airline which is not a member of any Airline alliance. It does however have sixteen partner airlines who are members of existing alliances including Japan Airlines & Qantas (OneWorld), Korean Air (SkyTeam) & TAP Portugal (Star Alliance), and a number of hotels and rental companies. You can join the Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program to earn points on Emirates Flights which can then be redeemed on partner airlines. A good guide for redeeming emirates Skywards points can be found here. A guide for using Qantas Points to book Emirate Flights can be found here. In addition to joining a OneWorld (Qantas is a Great Option) and Star Alliance rewards program, I would suggest to join the Emirates Skywards program.
HOTEL REWARD CLUBS
IHG Rewards Club is the largest rewards club in the world. In just about every major city there will be something in this chain, which includes Holiday Inn, Intercontinental & Crowne Plaza. As with all loyalty programs, you are rewarded with higher membership tiers the more you use their service. There are various guides to “Point Hacking” with this program.
You can book all IHG hotels directly here. As mentioned earlier, Hotels.com & Agoda also offer rewards points, which could be used in conjunction with IHG Rewards.
AIRPORT LOUNGE ACCESS
Priority Pass is the best option for lounge access. There are over 1000 Airport lounges around the world that are supported by the program – and there will be one in nearly every major airport. For most travellers, the Standard Plus annual membership for $249 USD will be sufficient. Ten lounge visits are included in the price of membership, afterwards each visit is charged at $27 USD. For Unlimited access to Airport Lounges, look at the $399 annual Prestige membership tier. It is now frequently included with many Platinum Credit Cards.
For Business Travellers or those with long layovers, this is a great program. You can have a shower, a light meal and glass of wine, and check your emails while you wait for the next flight.However, you’ll need to ensure that your layover is in the same terminal as the Airport lounge, and there is typically a three hour maximum stay at all lounges.
A membership card is issued to all members, allowing easy access.
Another option for lounge access is if you are a frequent flyer on any member of the Oneworld or Star Alliance airline alliances (typically holding a gold or higher Airpoints membership), you may be eligible to use a partner airlines airport lounge. For an overview of Airport Lounge facilities, have a look at the Sleeping in Airports website.
If you’re on the road for a long time, chances are you’re going to want to send something back home or have something sent to you. For simply sending a postcard, charges will not be high – but for packages and larger items, you may want to look at alternatives.
For Receiving Packages, the best option is having a fixed address where you can stay while the item is being sent. However, post offices allow items to be held “Post Restante“, which gives you an address where a package can be held in advance for you. You need to know the exact details of the Post Office, but if you know where you’ll be in a weeks time, this can be an option for receiving mail. Businessmen and those who need a fixed address may want to consider a Virtual Mailbox like Travelling Mailbox or Earth Class Mail. These provide you with an address for your mail to be sent – which can then be forwarded or scanned to you.
Your experience in sending mail back home depends upon the national post service. Most Developed countries have good quality mail services, which will cost more to send items – but they will reach your destination quicker. Others may have slow and inefficient systems where your mail will be stuck in transit for months. The quickest way of sending a package home will be using a courier service like DHL. The cost will be far more than using the national post service.
Anytime Fitness is the best gym membership if you want to stay active on the road. With over 3000 locations worldwide in the US, UK, Australia, Japan, Italy, France, The Netherlands, China, India, Singapore and more. Your local membersip will work in any of the locations worldwide.
A VPN can be important for security, and for accessing websites in countries where the internet is restricted. I recently subscribed to NordVPN, which is incredibly easy to use on both PC and iOS. There are hundreds of servers all around the world, and the Quick Connect ability makes connection a breeze.
VIDEO & MUSIC STREAMING
– Netflix: There’s a lot of video streaming services, but frankly the others aren’t worth bothering with. If you have access to the US Netflix catalogue through a VPN, then you have all the entertainment you need. You can now download many episodes on the phone/tablet app to take with you on flights.
– Spotify/Apple Music: Both are good options to consider for music streaming. Consider Podcasts as well for entertainment. They’re free, and there’s one for nearly every interest you have.
TRAVEL SITES & USEFUL WEBSITES
There are an endless list of Travel Blogs and Resources, but below are some others to take a look at:
http://tripadvisor.com/ – The biggest and most popular travel site on the internet. The first port of call for reviews of restaurants, acconodation and attractions. Their forums are a great place to ask any questions.
https://nomadlist.com – A forum for Digital Nomads and perpetual travellers. Their city guides give you a good overview of where you’re visiting
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/vietnam/money-costs – Lonely Planet have a good overview of how much things will cost in every country. Additionally their Thorn Tree Forum has some good results.
https://www.flyertalk.com/ – Forum for Frequent travellers.
https://herpackinglist.com/ – Female Travel Advice
https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/ – Reviews of Outdoor gear.
https://www.switchbacktravel.com – Another great site for Outdoor Gear & Photography equipment
https://www.timeout.com/ – Local city guides. Check their calendar in major cities to see what events are on.
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/ – The UNESCO World Heritage sites are sites selected by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as being of great cultural value to humanity. They’re great places to visit on your travels.
OTHER PACKING LISTS
http://halftheclothes.com/travel-tips/rtw-packing-list/ – Minimalist Packing list
https://expertvagabond.com/travel-gear-guide/ – Quite comprehensive with Outdoor gear.
https://minimalbackpacker.com/travel-tips/packing-light-travel/ – Good minimalist packing list. Also has the same luggage suggestion as myself.
https://regevelya.com/travel-gear/ – minimalist packing list
https://www.onebag.com/checklist.html – minimalist packing list
http://tynan.com/gear2017 – minimalist packing list
I hope this post has helped you in some way, maybe it has even inspired you to travel. It took quite a long time to write this post, so I would appreciate it if you left a comment if you found it of some help. Here’s to more travel and new experiences in the new year.