Travel tips: logistics

Today in travel advice: sundry logistics of travel.

Don’t bring:

  • Traveler’s checks.  With the advent of ATMs these are rarely used any more.  And if you’re in a place without ATMs, you’ll do just as well to bring cash.

Do bring:

  • Your ATM card.  In larger cities, ATMs are everywhere.  Ask your bank if it has international partners in your destination country which will waive out-of-network ATM fees.  You should also be sure to alert your bank to your upcoming travels, as unexplained transactions occurring abroad are often tagged as fraud.  If your debit card doesn’t already have a chip, ask your bank if they can issue one for you; many ATMs require the chip to work.
  • Cash for a few weeks’ expenses, in US dollars. Dirty or torn bills, or those printed before 2009, may be rejected as counterfeit.  Your bank will exchange old bills for new ones if you explain why you need them.  Pounds and euros will also work, but the US dollar is most widely used.
  • The same credit card used to purchase your plane tickets.  Airlines will occasionally insist that the purchasing card be presented during check-in, or used to cover other charges.
  • Photocopies of your passport, driver’s license, vaccination records, health insurance, and credit/debit cards.  You’ll need them if the originals get stolen.  It’s also useful to keep copies of these online, for instance by emailing them to yourself or saving a copy in the cloud.  If you’re concerned about data security you can encrypt the file first.
  • A bicycle or motorcycle helmet, if you expect to be riding either.  Quality helmets are generally difficult to find outside of high income countries.  I have an AFX helmet similar to this one that I’ve been quite happy with.
  • A high quality, TSA-approved travel lock.  “High quality” is salient because in my experience cheap locks tend to get stuck or fall apart after fewer uses.

Do get:

  • Bedsheets or other types of cloth.  Can serve their intended function (bedsheets) in cheap hotels, or as towels, curtains, pillows, emergency slings, or sarongs.  Buy these locally rather than bringing them from home.
  • Evacuation insuranceInternationalSOS, Medex, and Travel Guard all offer international medical and evacuation services.  It’s relatively cheap for short trips, but do read the fine print carefully – evacuation services might be limited to larger cities in some countries.
  • An international driver’s permit.  If you plan on renting or purchasing a car or motorcycle this will be necessary.  AAA offers them for US residents, and there seems to be an international application as well.