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Professional Travel Tips

After losing my passport a couple of weeks ago and learning that I did not have any photocopies of it, my aunt, a travel agent and veteran traveler, thought it prudent to send me a list of the travel tips that she gives to all of her clients. I found it so useful, that I decided to post it here to share.

I hope you all find this as useful as I did!

1. Make two copies of your passport. Keep one in your luggage and one copy at home, so that someone can fax you a copy if needed. If you passport gets lost or stolen, this makes it much easier to replace.

2. Always purchase excess medical insurance. Keep the policy in your luggage and a card in your wallet with the insurance policy and phone number in case of emergency.

3. Keep any prescription drugs in your carry on luggage in the original containers. Also, keep vitamins in their original containers as well, or security may think you are trying to smuggle drugs.

4.Get a prescription from your doctor for Dukoral.  Dukoral is an oral medication taken in two doses. You take it approximately 2 weeks before travelling. It prevents traveller’s diarrhea and is good for 2 years.

5.Get a prescription for Sipro. It’s a general use antibiotic that’s good for infections and has a shelf life of 2 years.

6. Thieves have come up an electronic scanner that can scan the numbers of your passport, credit cards, and debit cards while they are still in your wallet or backpack. To prevent this, wrap your passport, credit cards, and debit cards in tin foil, and the electronic scanners will no longer be able to read them.

7. Always carry $30 USD in one-dollar bills when arriving in a new country. When you first arrive in a country and do not have the local currency, you may need to tip taxi drivers, porters etc., and US dollars are accepted around the world.

8. Take the oldest luggage you have. Expensive luggage is a target for airport and hotel employees. One of the best bags is a hockey bag on wheels. They are a lot stronger than regular luggage, and cheaper too. To further safeguard your luggage from thieves (this tip is for both men and women) buy really, really large ladies underwear (not the bikini type) and soil them with dirt or coffee and put them on top of your clothes. This will deter anyone from going further into your bag.

9. Take a first aid kit packed with pain killers, stomach remedies, a Swiss Army Knife, wipes, antibacterial hand sanitizer, cold/cough medication, bandages, a piece of folded tin foil, string, and wooden matches.

10. Carry a bandana. You can use it to keep the sun off your head, for wiping or washing things, to wrap around a cut to stop the bleeding, and, if it’s big enough, you can use it as a sling for your arm.

11. NEVER pack any valuables in your checked luggage.

12. Pack your clothes in large Ziploc bags and remove the excess air. That way, I if your luggage happens to sit outside for any period of time, your clothes will always stay dry.

13. Take an extra passport photo with you, you may need it for an emergency visa, permit, etc.

14. Reconfirm your return at least 72 hours prior to departure. Airlines have major schedule changes twice a year and often flights.

15. Make sure you have a local number where you can be reached.

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32 Responses to Professional Travel Tips

  1. Matt Gibson February 13, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    Thanks David! I may be in touch soon about a new website. How’s China treating ya?

  2. David S. Wills February 13, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    Pre-soiled underwear? Genius!

    I like the new layout, Matt. Very cool.

  3. David S. Wills February 17, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    I’m loving it, surprisingly. I didn’t expect people to be so damn friendly. I think I would’ve preferred living in Taiwan, but China is great.

  4. BlueGreen Kirk March 15, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    All great tips….i dont know about the underwear though im sure it works. I never knew they had scanners that could read through your luggage. Wow technology….good thing we have foil.

  5. Luxury family holidays March 29, 2011 at 2:50 am #

    I have been through the whole content of this blog which is very informative and knowledgeable stuff, So i would like to visit again

  6. Julia May 5, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Just a reminder to make sure you are able to take those medications (I have an allergy to Cipro — worth knowing since it is the most effective drug against problems like typhoid, and likely the first one you’ll get in a hospital!). Otherwise, a really good list!

    • Matt May 5, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

      That’s a really good point Julia. Thanks!

  7. ecothreesixty.com May 14, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    Great concise and simple list. Ideal, even for gnarled, well-seasoned travellers. Thanks

  8. Bud McGinty May 15, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    I scanned my passport to a PDF file. I keep the file in my email inbox.
    I can print it from any web browser in the world.

  9. Brendan May 16, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    Good list, mostly just common sense to me. But I have issues with #4 and #5 . As well as #7.
    I’d disagree totally with #4 and #5. Taking prescription medication when not needed is irresponsible. Not to mention dangerous. Especially the antibiotic. I’m sorry, it’s just ridiculous. I have spent many years travelling, perhaps 3 to 4 years in total (I’m 43 now) and only once have suffered from “Traveller’s Diarrhea”. Medication should only be taken when needed, not when you think something might happen. Perhaps with exception of a true prophylactic, such as Malaria or Hepatitis prevention. Certainly I would take something in your first aid kit, as mentioned in #9.
    As to #7, the US dollar is not universally accepted anymore. There are many reasons for this, but in many places this suggestion is wasted. With the availability of ATMs and international cards (i.e.-cirrus, Mastercard..etc…) it is no longer necessary to have the US dollar ready to go in your pocket. I feel this advice is about 10 to 15 years out of date. Although, I guess it can’t hurt, but there really is no occasion I can think of, were you’ll need it.

    • Matt Gibson May 16, 2011 at 11:37 am #

      I’m also not a big fan of taking prescription drugs unnecessarily. However, your case sounds like quite an exceptional one. I know few people who could say that they only had diarrhea once in four years of traveling. I’m not sure that I know many people who could even say that about time spent their home country. I guess it depends on where you travel and how you eat.

      I have to disagree with you about #7. I cannot think of any place where the help would refuse a tip given in US dollars (and I have yet to visit a country where I could not easily change or pay with USD). I believe my aunts reasoning for this is that sometimes you don’t go to the ATM right away. Or you may not know the exchange rate well enough to tip. Also, ATMs tend to give bills that are too large for tipping.

  10. Matt Gibson May 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Thanks very much Brendan. You’re right about only hearing about the bad times.

    Actually, I can’t say that I’ve been to the EU in the past decade. Most of my travel experience has been in Asia. I’m surprised to hear that Argentina, Chile, and Brazil don’t accept USD though! I’ll keep that in mind. I really want to visit Buenos Aires.

  11. Brendan May 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Hi Matt, thanks for the quick reply.
    Ok, not wanting to create an argument here, but, no, my case is not exceptional. I’ve spent many months at a time in “high risk” countries, India, Thailand, Ecuador, Peru, USA. (yes I consider USA high risk). I think you will most people visit without any problems. It just we only hear of the bad times, not the good times.

    I still stand by what I said about US dollars, from personal experience, it’s rarely accepted in any European Union country as well as Argentina, Chile and Brazil.
    It is however accepted in Peru, Colombia, Panama (of course), Costa Rica and Mexico (again, of course)

    Anyway, it’s neither here nor there.
    Best of, like the blog. Have shared the link with my page.

  12. Stu June 3, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    LOL US dollars are accepted everywhere. A little generalisation there, don’t you think?

    • Matt Gibson June 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

      Yes, I would have to agree. It is definitely a generalization–and, according to some previous comments not always a useful one. But, my aunt (and I) still carries USD everywhere she goes as a back up and still recommend that others do it as well.

  13. Lesley June 8, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    i think this is a rather old-fashioned list. the tips sound about 20 years old. but then your aunt’s probably an old-fashioned kind of girl, nothing wrong with that

  14. Matt Gibson June 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Yes, I’m sure. I’ve read about them in many places.

  15. nick June 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    “Thieves have come up an electronic scanner that can scan the numbers of your passport, credit cards, and debit cards while they are still in your wallet or backpack. To prevent this, wrap your passport, credit cards, and debit cards in tin foil, and the electronic scanners will no longer be able to read them.”

    Maybe people should also wear tinfoil hats to avoid thieves scanning their brains for PINs?

    Are you absolutely sure about your facts here?

  16. nick June 23, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    I’m sorry but I think you are in the realms of fantasy with this one. After all we would all be vulnerable every day in our own cities just going to work, not just 20 somethings backpacking, if this were true.

    In which case there would be a panic.

    And we might have heard about it on a real news broadcast, not some stoner’s blog.

  17. nick June 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    A rather intemperate response Matt.

    I was not calling you a ‘stoner’ but rather casting doubt on your sources!

    It is not down to me to support your claims about tin foil but for you to deliver evidence. That’s journalism.

    As it is I remain unconvinced by your claims of super criminals scanning cards through back packs.

    In my experience even official scanners, at train stations, in banks etc, have problems unless the card is presented ‘naked’ and close to them. The idea that some portable device could be more efficient through a backpack is at best doubtful at worst paranoid.

    Show me your sources

    N

    • Matt Gibson June 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

      You should read more carefully before you criticize.

      First, this post was written by my Aunt, a career travel agent. She does not get information from “some stoner’s blog”.

      Second, it did sound like you called me a stoner.

      Third, I already posted the link to a report in my previous comment. Like I said, you should read more carefully.

  18. nick June 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Well if you misinterpreted my ‘stoner’ comment, clearly I was at fault for being unclear.

    Your aunt may be a lovely lady but she is not an authoritative source and you should not repeat her copy without some basic checking.

    The NBC link is dated 2006. If this ‘problem’ was real I think we would have heard more about it? Is this all the support for your claim you can muster? A light news item?

    As you title this Professional Travel Tips you have a moral duty to do more than cut and paste surely.

    As it is I shall not be wrapping my wallet and passport in tinfoil any time soon and in that I will be in tune with 99.9% of regular, sane, travellers.

    • Matt Gibson June 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

      By professional travel tips, I mean travel tips from a travel professional, which my Aunt is.

      I did not need to check. I already knew of this scam when she sent me this post. It is fairly common knowledge among those who travel often.

      I gave you the proof that you asked for, yet you still insist on complaining. I suggest that you find something better to do with your time.

  19. johnny September 24, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    hey matt, i love your site but this list isn’t doing anything for me mate :S

    i’ve been on the road since 2006 through more than 60 countries and i’ve never come across this scanner malarky, and if it is widespread i still wouldn’t go to the trouble of covering everything with tinfoil! All the people i’ve traveled with, or met on the road, have never mentioned this

    To be honest matt, these tips sound like something a 60 year old women would tell a North American couple going on holiday outside their continent for the first time, not for travelers/backpackers.

    For a start – USD?? Mate, most countries don’t even have a tipping culture! As a traveler, who do u tip?! The woman serving u street food?! Also, in the 60+ countries i’ve been, if i handed someone a US dollar in 50+ of them, they’d look at me like a crackhead thinking “what am i gonna do with this?!”

    Also, for travelers a backpack wins hands down, forget anything else.

    Like i say mate, your site is great but this article is terrible :S

  20. johnny September 24, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    hey matt, i love your site but this list isn’t doing anything for me mate :S

    i’ve been on the road since 2006 through more than 60 countries and i’ve never come across this scanner malarky, and if it is widespread i still wouldn’t go to the trouble of covering everything with tinfoil! All the people i’ve traveled with, or met on the road, have never mentioned this

    To be honest matt, these tips sound like something a 60 year old women would tell a North American couple going on holiday outside their continent for the first time, not for travelers/backpackers.

    For a start – USD?? Mate, most countries don’t even have a tipping culture! As a traveler, who do u tip?! The woman serving u street food?! Also, in the 60+ countries i’ve been, if i handed someone a US dollar in 50+ of them, they’d look at me like a crackhead thinking “what am i gonna do with this?!”

    Also, for travelers a backpack wins hands down, forget anything else.

    Like i say mate, your site is great but this article is terrible :S

    • Matt September 24, 2011 at 7:03 am #

      Hi Johnny,

      First, I have to point out that these tips did come from a 60 year-old woman, as the introduction to the post says. This was not meant to be a heavily researched article, nor is it even based on my own experience. It is, as it states in the introduction, a list that my Aunt, a travel agent of 30 years, would give to all of her clients. I was simply sharing it.

      That being said, I do find that American money is very useful and always carry $100 in cash because many countries with weak or unstable currencies use it as their de facto currency and, in any event, it’s pretty much always the easiest money to change in the absence of bank machines and banks.

      You’re right, the card scanner thing is old news and was never very widespread. But, like I said, I didn’t write this. I was simply sharing it.

      I think that it would be a mistake to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You disagree with three out of fifteen tips — and two of your criticisms are, in my opinion, not exactly airtight. That means that much of the article is still useful. So, I would say that calling it terrible is a bit of an overstatement.

      You also mention that this list is not suitable for backpackers. That does not make it bad for everyone. I have never claimed to only be writing backpackers.

      That being said, I’m really glad that you enjoy the site and have been checking it out. As you can see from the above comments, you’re not the only person who took issue with this post. I may have to at least take out that thing about the tinfoil. It does seem a bit silly.

      Cheers,
      Matt

  21. will February 15, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    Re USD, a lot of places I have been will not accept them unless there in really pristine condition. After I have carried them for a few months in a belt, they are no longer acceptable.
    Re Passport copy I scan and add as attachment to an email which I save as a draft. Always have a copy if I can find an internet cafe.
    Re Scanning of wallet contents. Never heard of this happening to anyone. Don’t plan on buying any tinfoil.

  22. Andrea Savitch September 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    There is some very creative thinking in that advice and very good ideas.

  23. Frank November 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Yikes, I think the comments more entertaining than the article! I think the Dukoral a good tip, I don’t know how many travel days have been ruined by a bad belly. Is that the best thing to take? I also always do the US dollar bills and I learned long ago to stick crumply looking underwear near the top of the bag – although I don’t rub dirt, coffee, or ketchup into it – there’s a difference between having an undesirable bag and having Homeland puking into it :).
    Frank (bbqboy)

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