Credit card and money safety abroad

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Credit cards are a good way to keep track of expenses abroad. They are generally safer than carrying around cash, but their potential spending power makes them a target for scammers and thieves. A few simple precautions can cut your risk and help you have a trouble-free holiday.
When your credit card goes missing or is stolen in your home country it’s a worrying time but you probably know what to do: report the theft straight away to the police then call your bank to cancel the card and order a new one. While you wait for the new card it is likely that you have access to an alternative source of money. But what if your card is lost or stolen on holiday or just before you travel?
Credit cards are a good way to keep track of expenses abroad. They are generally safer than carrying around cash, but their potential spending power makes them a target for scammers and thieves. A few simple precautions can cut your risk and help you have a trouble-free holiday.

I’ve always thought of my credit card as my life line to home. If all else fails I feel better with the knowledge that I could ‘charge’ my way out of a city or country. So like I am sure you do I treat this piece plastic with great care.
One of the most obvious methods I use to safe guard my credit card is limiting it’s use to those times when I absolutely need to use it. Otherwise, depending on the location I am traveling, I keep it tucked way in money belt where it is far less likely to get stolen. I don’t charge purchases to a business account sso I find more practical to simply use cash.
I also leave the thick heavy wallet at home. I don’t need to carry around every single bit of plastic I own. Instead I use a Jimi and carry the essentials. This approach worked so well for me, it’s far more comfortable to carry a Jimi than a large leather wallet, that this has been my primary wallet for a couple of years. My expensive leather wallet sits at home gathering dust.
Lastly I safeguard my credit cards and wallet by keeping a small wad of cash in my pocket and at the ready at all times. I take out the cash to pay the receipt and not the wallet. It stays tucked away out of reach.
AllSafeTravels Article


Save time at airport security

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You might as well check your dignity curbside. Soon you’ll be shoeless and flustered, spilling comics across the floor as you dig your MacBook from the depths of your duffel. But take a deep breath, frequent fliers: It is possible to pass security with your ego intact.

Luckily I seldom have to brave the extreme security checks that one must go through at US airports. When I go through airport security in this part of the world one very simple tip (their #2) saves me time and frustration. I make sure that all metal objects (coins, phone, keys) are put in one pocket in my bag long before I get to security. As simple as it is, it’s amazing to see how many people dig through their pockets, slowing the flow, to find the source of the detector’s alarm.
It’s also proven to be wise to keep all like objects in your bag organized in different pouches or cubes to allow for easy and orderly inspection. An overly zealous security check at Halifax International had me spilling out all my carefully packed gadgets on the table. It took ages to get everything organized properly again.
Fly Through Airport Security – Wired How-To Wiki. Via lifehacker.


Avoiding a stomach virus while traveling

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I’ve got a house full of sick people, a wildly infectious stomach virus seems to have reeked havoc in many households with children in our area. I’ve managed to avoid getting sick for now but I always seem to wait until everyone else is ill to join in the un-pleasantries.
Living in Asia we have become accustomed to dealing with these outbreaks. We have been here so long I have no idea if it is common elsewhere. I certainly don’t remember anything like the severity of what we experience here when I was growing up in small town Canada.
If you are traveling to SE Asia on business or pleasure you might be unaware local health conditions and there is nothing worse than having either a stomach virus or food poisoning while traveling. I don’t mean to be alarmist but since I have had children I’ve become more cautious.

Perhaps you do this already, but other than staying healthy, here are a few of the practices we have to deal with this part of life here.

1) I don’t get adventurous with food. Many colleagues who travel through China are strongly advised by their employers to eat in the hotel or very expensive restaurants only. Your strict schedule cannot afford you losing opportunities due to illness. When I am traveling I love to sample all kinds of food. Especially low end cafeteria style restaurants or food from street vendors. A stomach virus can be acquired from improper handling of food by those infected as could food poisoning. I’ve suffered many times as a result but I am more cautious when I’m not the one paying for the trip. This applies when traveling with my children as well. The common advice of not drinking the water applies as well. I’ve lived here for over 10 years and I avoid it. Ask for no ice as well (not sure if this is purely an ‘old wives tale).

2) I carry a bottle of Purell or equivalent. I’m not fanatical about cleanliness in myself or my children but it’s a useful product to (possibly) kill viruses you might come in contact with your hands. Your hands are one of the primary means of infection and kids always have their hands in their mouth. Naturally soap and water is effective too. It’s not about dirt – it’s about potential a virus.

3) Buy medical grade face masks. These are a pretty common sight here in SE Asia as a means of preventing the further spread of a virus. During the SARS outbreak here it was like living in some kind of apocalyptic vision of the future – everyone was wearing them whenever they were out in public. We use them for protection in case of a known outbreak and to help prevent further infection when someone in our family gets sick. It wouldn’t hurt to take one with you if you are traveling in higher risk areas (ie. China).
This isn’t an extensive list but I hope it gives you some ideas or at least an awareness of the possibility of getting sick while traveling.

Some further reading:
What is viral gastroenteritis?
BRAT diet
What is the best way to treat diarrhea?
Sodium imbalance


Lack of Sleep and Creativity

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I didn’t sleep much last night. Our 2 yr old boy was awake most of the night with some form of gastroenteritis. The poor guy hasn’t had much luck avoiding many of the ills that affect kids his age here. He’s recovering now with his mum while I sit here at my desk trying to be somewhat productive. It’s not surprising that I am finding it difficult. My mind is a fog and I find it hard to think. I can deal with physical tasks but having to be ‘creative’ or keeping my mind focused is a real challenge.
It’s times like these when I realize just how important sleep is in keeping your mind functioning let alone thinking up anything new or creative.
Generally most of my real work is done away from the keyboard. Where it is quiet, when I am reading, walking, or where I can let my mind wander is when new ideas come.
Also, the longer and more restful sleep that I have, the more time there is for my brain to sort out the problems that I have been struggling with throughout the day.
After an afternoon nap and a good night’s sleep I am sure I will be back to normal (as I hope my son will be). Extreme reminders like this help me to realize just how important sleep is to accomplishing something worthwhile during the day. If you are traveling or deciding to work at a new location it might be smart to plan in some extra sleep so you can best take advantage that your new surroundings can provide for your productivity and your ability to be creative.
Further reading:
How to get a Good Night’s Sleep
This Is Your Brain Without Sleep
Sleep and Creativity
Achieve a Deep, Uninterrupted Sleep
The 10 O’Clock Rule
5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep
How to Remember Dreams
Photo by piXotroPic.


How to deal with long flights

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As someone who regularly has to travel 24 hours or more, I can say with some certainty that no matter what you do it’s going to feel a bit like torture. With the luxuries or first class outside mine and most peoples reach, we need to make the best of a challenging experience.

There are some strategies I use that help make the experience more pleasant.

During the flight

  • Get plenty of sleep during and before the flight. For long flights try to travel at night when you naturally feel like sleeping. Traveling is exhausting, sleep will allow your body to rejuvenate and repair itself. I don’t recommend self-medicating, but some people report some success using Melatonin to help regulate heir sleep patterns.
  • Drink plenty of fluids as you can get dehydrated quickly inside a plane. If I don’t drink I can see a noticeable difference in my skin. When we lose too much water, our bodies may become out of balance or dehydrated. Severe dehydration can even lead to death, but most often you are going to feel sluggish, irritable, weak and may suffer from headaches.
  • Do as much stretching as possible and get up and walk around whenever you can. Avoid sitting with crossed legs. This is far more convenient if you are able to snag an aisle seat. I hate stepping over people all the time.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks during the flight as they will lead to dehydration and tiredness. I cheat a bit with a cup of green tea before arrival. I also try to stick to warm drinks when I can – it’s a habit I picked up from living in Taiwan. Lastly, avoid tomato juice. Why tomato juice? It’s full of sodium. This I remembered thanks to a helpful stewardess who shook her head when I considered it as a drink choice. Rely on your stewardess, they are full of information.
  • Eat light meals during and before the flight to avoid an upset stomach. Since you are immobile during the flight it’s hard to allow proper digestion. Despite having experienced great onboard service, I always feel much worse after eating a big meal. Even the best food is relatively unappetizing. Eat light snacks, fruits and a fresh salad instead (airlines would have to work hard at getting fruit wrong). Lately I’ve taken this further with avoiding in-fight food all together. I bring some nuts to keep me satiated and just continue to drink water. I arrive hungry, but refreshed, and ready to eat whatever is offered locally.
  • Take your shoes off and wear loose socks. Your feet and ankles swell immensely on long haul flights – even with exercise. This will increase your comfort (it took a couple days to remove the ‘cuts’ from my socks after one particular flight) and reduce your chances of Deep Vein Thrombosis.

Upon arrival

  • Eat a light protein rich meal at the local time zone meal time. Make it fresh and avoid processed foods. This will help your body recover and not further stress it with greasy, hard to digest food.
  • Reset your watch. Don’t think about it, just immediately adhere to the new timezone.
  • Drink as much water as time and your patience will allow, 5 plus glasses should be your target.
  • Exercise!
  • Go to bed when everyone else in your new time zone goes to bed. It’s important to disciplined about your sleep time. You may be surprised just how fast you adjust to the new time zone.

As I find travelling light adds to my comfort, so I don’t recommend bulking up with books and magazines or carrying many devices. A decent airline will provide you with enough entertainment to get you through 3-4 hrs of idle time with a kindle or iPad helping you get through the rest. And when you land you will appreciate the reduced weight on your shoulders.

Photo via ton3vita.


How to Find Internet Cafes?

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With the popularity of the iPhone, iPod touch, Blackberry, small notebooks, and the seeming endless number of devices that now allow you to stay connected, it would seem odd to be concerned with places to read your email. Finding wifi hotspots would seem more likely. Not everyone wants to lug around a device regardless of it’s size a fact made evident by the simple fact that Internet (cyber) Café’s everywhere when you travel throughout Asia.
While it’s been a popular topic in many guidebooks the most current and thorough resources can be found on the web (and with your feet on the ground). Here’s a list of sites to lead you in the right direction:
easyInternetcafe.com has a searchable list of café’s around the world. Easy has their own chain of café’s but the database contains other businesses as well. The site includes user reviews and Google maps for many locations. It works well but some of my searches came up blank.
The Cybercafe Search Engine lists over 5,000 Internet cafes around the world, searchable by city, state, province or country.
World66 has a worldwide Internet cafe search feature.
Cybercafes.com contains a database of over 4,000 Internet cafes in countries around the world. You can search by city or country.
Internet Cafés tends to be a transient business and what is listed in one of the directories above might have long since closed. Use these as a good starting point with the knowledge that nothing beats asking someone when you arrive where you can find internet access. If you are in Thailand there seems to be one on every corner. Via Independent Traveller.


7 Reasons To Travel With One Bag

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Ian MacKenzie, writing for Brave New Traveler, explains his reasoning for traveling light by summarizing the thoughts of a variety of authors around the web on why you should travel with one bag. It’s a good list.

When planning for our 2 month trip to Southeast Asia in winter 2005, my girlfriend and I decided we would only take a single bag.
And no, this wouldn’t be a large, cumbersome backpack like the ones perpetually seen by eager backpackers around the world. We each pledged to stick with a regular size backpack, like one you would fill with schoolbooks and a lunchbox.

What works for me is the reduction of stress, being able to pick far more means of transport, and no more lost baggage. Something that has happened to my family far too many times.
More. Photo via Malias.


Travel todo and packing list

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My travel behavior has in the past been pretty simple. Shop for a hotel online – phone the hotel to book, buy the air tickets online, and pack the day of or the night before departure. I long ago bought into the one bag idea and haven’t checked a bag for years. The result of which is that I haven’t lost a bag for years (the one time I was forced to check a bag on Air Canada they promptly lost it). Other than some basic research beforehand traveling for me was more about exploring and I was never too concerned or stressed. Lately, my travel excursions have taken a different turn. I have children and I travel because I have to. There are a whole lot of other things I need to remember or think about. Either I’m getting forgetful or I have too much on my mind as I no longer trust myself to remember the things I need to take or the basics of what I need to do. What once was an adventure is now something uncomfortable or stressful (the new travel restrictions don’t help). Kids and work can do that to you. Inspired by an engineer friend of mine who plans to the T just about everything, I decided to do what I thought I never would. I created a travel todo and packing list. Lists, lists everywhere you go there are lists but in an effort to reduce stress and keep organized I created one and am offering it to you.
Consider this a draft and I will likely change over time (I’m open to suggestions as well). When time permits I might even make it look more presentable. There are a number of formats from which to choose.
Travel checklist – PDF
Travel checklist – EXCEL
Travel checklist – NUMBERS


Travel tips from EVA air

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EVA air has a nice feature for those that book online which I seemed to have missed in the past. They had an old email address which would have bounced all their incoming messages. It’s a simple feature whereby they send you an email on the date of your departure with some useful information which they organise with the labels: Before departure, Airport arrival, Onboard, and Getting to your destination.
Before departure reiterates your itinerary, gives you the the local and destination EVA contact info., the local and destination weather forecast, current exchange rate, and electrical plug type. Airport arrivals sends you off to a couple links on their site which give you detailed departure tips and your class baggage allowance. Onboard lets you know what onboard movies are playing and getting to your destination sends you off to the local tourism board.
It’s not fancy nor is it groundbreaking but it’s a nice added touch to what is already a good airline experience.
EVA airlines


Stay healthy when traveling

One of the challenges we face in trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, is what to do when traveling. How do we eat healthy when we’re limited to airport food and business dinners? How do we keep up our exercise routine when we’re on a plane most of the day or in meetings?

Link


Street Food in Bangkok

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A decade ago, when I first moved to Bangkok, a friend who had emigrated there long before me let me in on a secret: the best food in Thailand is served by street vendors and at basic mom-and-pop restaurants. To prove his point, he dragged me to Chote Chitr, tucked into a side alley and decorated with nothing but a wall calendar. I saw no foreigners, and we pored through a menu all in Thai. We sampled the specialties, and I was quickly convinced, eating the same dishes then that I would enjoy 10 years later, and dozens of times in between.
That Chote Chitr would prove a culinary revelation shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise: small places often prove to be the best eating spots in many cities. But for historical reasons Bangkok may boast the finest street food on earth. The city has long attracted migrants from across Asia, so its street cuisine, both at vendor carts and in tiny restaurants, blends many styles of cooking. Even a simple snack like murtabak mixes Malaysian-style roti pancake with curry fillings that betray Indian and Burmese spices.

Link


How to prevent lost luggage

Great tips from a veteran airline baggage handler.

When you fly, do you check in your bags? Watch out: Once that bag leaves your side, anything could happen to it. For every 1,000 bags, the typical airline mishandles 6.
Sure, the odds don’t sound too bad. But what if the dice doesn’t roll in your favor one day? What do you do if the airline loses or damages your bag? More importantly, how do you prevent your bag from becoming a statistic?

Read.


Losing your luggage

The most important advice you can take is to simply pack light and carry on your bag. It takes away one possible bit of stress from your travel experience (and you get through the airport and out the door quicker). If you can’t do that then read my notes and tips from When good bags go missing.

“You must expeditiously go to the adjacent baggage claim office and report that your bag is not on the belt,” … If you check your bag in early enough, there are times when the carrier might put it on an earlier flight, say, if the plane has weight restrictions” and security measures are met. All passengers, he said, should have an accurate description of their bags — the color, the shape, the material, the make, any identifying characteristics such as a pink and green ribbon on the handle, and of the contents.
When you get your boarding pass and check your luggage, make certain you look at the baggage tag to verify the information is correct — something most fliers never do, but should.
Don’t think you’re going to strike it rich if your bag is lost. The maximum you can receive domestically is $3,000, a figure set last February by the Transportation Department.

Most bags are lost, for various reasons, when they are not transferred from one flight to another.
Tips:

Put your name and itinerary inside your bag, maybe in a big envelope so it can be seen, suggested ATA’s Castelveter. If a baggage agent opens the bag, he’ll know immediately whose it is and where you are.
Check in early.
Do not pack fragile or valuable items – antiques, cameras, electronics, jewelry, medicines – in your checked bags.
Consider insurance. AIG Travel Guard’s coverage for a baggage and personal effects loss is $1,000. Check your own household coverage.
Ship your bag via FedEx or firms like luggageconcierge.com or luggageforward.com.

Link.