Developing countries offer travelers some of the most rewarding, meaningful, and adventurous experiences in the world. However, they also bring challenges that one is less likely to face in richer nations. We here at OIRED are experts on navigating the ins and outs of emerging states. Here is part 1 of my two-part series outlining my top 26 tips guaranteed to make your trips safer and more enjoyable!
26. Buy Tickets on Tuesday Afternoon
More specifically, 3:00 on Tuesday afternoon. According to Rick Seaney, CEO of Fare Compare, Tuesday afternoon is the best time to buy tickets, because budget airlines usually announce sales on Monday night. By 3:00 pm Tuesday, the bigger airlines will have lowered their prices to match their competitors. Don’t wait too long though; sales usually end once flights are fully booked and prices will rise faster than you can say “economy class.” (This tip goes for every traveler, not just those visiting developing countries.)
25. Pay for Lounge Access if You’re Traveling Long Distances
This assumption is based solely on personal experience, but airports in emerging countries tend to be less fancy than those in the developed world. Hence, your layovers may be far less comfortable. VIP lounges are lifesavers in this regard. Thanks to my good colleague, Kurt Richter, I was able to use his VIP status to enter the Kenya Airways lounge and take a much needed shower while in Nairobi. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take advantage of his special access to lounges on the way back because I was travelling alone. However, it is possible to buy one-day passes for exclusive entrance. Just ask! I bought access to the British Airways lounge in Nairobi for $25, and believe me, the clean bathroom, strong wifi connection, and good food was well worth it!
24. Sign up for the State Department’s Smart-Traveler Program
If you’re a U.S. citizen, it would behoove you to register your trip with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Check out the website here: https://step.state.gov/step/ The program is a free service where you can notify the relevant U.S. embassy of your upcoming trip and give pertinent details about your itinerary, locations, etc. That way, the embassy will be better able to assist you in case of an emergency. You will also receive valuable travel warnings and advisories about the country you’re visiting. The program also has a smart-phone app! If you’re not a U.S. citizen, check with your equivalent ministry to see if they offer a similar service.
Not that kind of shot! (Save those for the airplane.) Check the CDC’s website to see all of the required immunizations necessary to enter a country, and any recommended ones that will keep you in tip-top shape.
22. Make Copies of Your Passport and Other Important Items
In case your passport and important items, like your credit cards and travel visas, are stolen, having copies readily available will help you immensely. I leave copies with trusted family members at home and bring copies on hand as well. If you do bring copies with you, make sure to keep them secure. You can also upload copies to a secure cloud storage space, but internet connection may not be available everywhere.
21. Call Your Credit Card Companies and Banks Before Leaving
Make sure to call your credit card companies and banks to inform them about the trip. They may flag usage of your card as suspicious activity and deny transactions unless you inform them beforehand. I’d limit my credit card usage though.
20. Purchase Travel Insurance
Always buy travel insurance with emergency evacuation coverage! You never know when an attempted coup could close the airport and leave you stranded. Or heaven forbid, a tsunami hits your area and leaves you in desperate need of a helicopter. Make sure to read the fine print so you fully understand all of the coverage restrictions.
19. Money Belt
A great place to store your cash so that would-be pick-pocketers come up empty-handed. You may also think about buying a pair of pick-pocket proof travel pants if money belts aren’t your thing. Clothing Arts sells great pants for about $100.
Your hotel rooms may not come equipped with a built-in safe. A padlock is a godsend if you want to keep valuable items (like copies of your important documents) secure. For instance, I was able to keep my valuables safe by locking them in my wardrobe in Juba, South Sudan. Padlocks with combinations are preferable because you don’t want to deal with keys.
17. Tactical Flashlight
A handy tool in case you’re in a situation where there is very little or no lighting. Tactical flashlights can also be used as weapons. They are usually smaller than most flashlights, made of durable aluminum, and emit a much stronger beam. When choosing your flashlight, make sure it emits at least 120 lumens, which is the output necessary to temporarily blind someone. I personally carry the Mini Cree torch pictured above. It has a bezel on top that can supposedly break glass and it only cost me $5 on Amazon!
16. Pocket Knife
Like the tactical flashlight, it’s just a good tool to have. You never know when it will come in handy. Only bring one if you are checking luggage.
15. Carry an Empty Water Bottle
Sanitary water is a treasured resource in the developing world. Tap water is unsafe to ingest in many countries, so you may need to brush your teeth and wash your face with bottled water. Until you’re able to buy clean and unopened bottled water at your destination, I suggest bringing an empty water bottle that you can fill up at the gate in the United States. That way you can have clean water once you arrive. Moreover, once you buy bottled water at your final destination, make sure you hear a “click” when you open it. Make absolutely sure it’s a fresh bottle and not one that was opened and refilled.
14. Bring a Bag of Peanuts (or any type of protein) Everywhere You Go
This a great recommendation from my colleague, Miriam. Eating norms vary widely between countries, and you may not get the chance to eat full meals until much later than usual. To keep you satisfied until your next meal, always keep a bag of peanuts or some form of protein with you at all times. You need to keep your energy up!
Check out my next blog post for tips 13-1!