Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Traveling advice from friends and strangers..

I love it. Really. It's wonderful to receive advice from strangers. Tell them you are traveling to Sumatra and they give you all these little nuggets! (Or they ask you where Sumatra is ["Do you remember those really bad tsunamis a year ago?])

Here's some really good ones:
-adhere you address to your camera
-scan your passport and send it to yourself. (GENIUS)
-when flying, set up your own connecting flights. It can be cheaper.
-also, check out smaller airports, sometimes they can be significantly less expensive. (Flint vs Detroit)
-check if you need vaccinations.

These are super useful and I'm going to be collecting them as I go.

Here are some of my absolutes when traveling:
-ALWAYS bring more socks than you need if you're going to be somewhere even remotely rural.
-pack way too soon in advance. That way you have an opportunity to think about everything your bringing or forgetting
-collapsable bags are a total win if you are a souvenir fiend.
-I never bring soap. It's a treat to go buy the necessities in a foreign place. New toothpaste, new soap, new shampoo, and new packaging! (Love love love, packaging)
-If you do have to bring soap, I recommend Dr. Bronners. Mostly for ease of use. It's toothpaste, shampoo, face soap, laundry soap and dish soap in one. Seriously. Check it out. I like the almond scented one. (Best advertising ever.)

-Sleep on the plane. It's so much more pleasant than listening to Mr. Mouthbreather or Unhappy Baby crying.

That's all for now folks. I'm off to be vaccinated from Hep A, Rabies, Tuberculosis, and some other scary sounding thing I can't pronounce.


  1. Hey! I think some of those were from me!

    Yeah super important! Indonesia's voltage is 220 so you could fry your electronics if you're not careful!

    Bring itch cream and bug spray! Tropical bugs are nasty bloodsuckers, yo.

    Speaking of tropical climates, it wouldn't hurt to bring a small umbrella too. ;)

    Have a change of clothes in your carry-on. Just in case your luggage gets delayed.

    Will you be using your cellphone? Make sure to enable whatever international roaming plan your provider offers to get cheaper rates.

  3. We've got some UV water disinfector things too if you want to take one.

  4. OK, here's my foreign travel bullet points as I wrote them out for a friend who was going to China with some of his b-school classmates; they're specific to China here but could apply elsewhere with some slight modifications. Obviously, the key is knowing when it's okay to break them. Especially #1:

    * avoid street foods except in HK or with solid local advice, but DO go check out non-hotel restaurants that don't cater to Westerners, just get good advice on which ones are safe, use disposable chopsticks, and don't drink the water

    * carry the following two things everywhere and use as needed: a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a phrasebook that includes the phrases in Chinese characters (not all of them do) so you can point at them for locals who can't read Pinyin

    * if you see a large crowd suddenly forming, go the other way; if you see a bunch of cops going in one direction, go the other way; if you see an auto accident, go the other way unless you're actually a trained first responder and can help (in which case I'm not going to tell you not to because I'd ignore that advice but you're still taking a risk)

    * learn some basic phrases, even if you suck at it, and use them (foreigners who speak some Chinese are in a different category than those who don't)

    * don't ever get visibly angry, laugh things off; if locals make fun of you you can make fun of them back but be friendly about it

    * minimize the time you spend around Chinese cops, unless they're hot: http://www.deathstar.org/~jmsaul/ZhengZhouPaper016.low.jpg Seriously, don't screw with Chinese cops. And some of them wear snappy black suits and lapel pins and hang around hotel lobbies and government offices doing nothing obvious.

    * be very careful about hitting on Chinese women (not that Brian would do this, he's attached, but it carries risks for his colleagues) because they (1) may be offended (2) may be professionals (3) may be looking for a US visa and willing to fake a pregnancy to get one

    * bring a prescription for Cipro or Azithromycin with you; you shouldn't need to use it but at least it's there

    * if you get bitten by an animal, you will need to leave the country for the full rabies treatment, despite what they may tell you (the current best practice involves two drugs, only one of which is widely available in Asia)

    * Chinese safety regs are not like US safety regs; you will encounter very dangerous areas without guardrails, warning signs or markings, and when you do see guardrails or warning signs you should take them very seriously (see, e.g. http://www.deathstar.org/~jmsaul/ChinaWebGallery/images/7.DSC_0276.jpg) though they may be hard to understand

    * under no circumstances get behind the wheel of a car

  5. And special for Indonesia:

    * If you see the ocean disappear, head inland and upward to high ground as fast as you can; if you wait to take photos they may be all we have to remember you by