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We compiled this list of tips from our long travel experience and suggestions from our travelmates. Some tips may be more or less appropriate for your destination. We will send you specific suggestions for your destination after you make your reservation. These are only suggestions, not requirements! Be sure to see our list of online Travel Resources too. Please contact us if you have any questions.
Be sure to also read our list of online Travel Resources too.
Credit cards. Be sure to notify your credit card company of your travel plans or else your international credit card charges may be rejected. Most credit card companies allow you to do this online or you can call the phone number on the back of your card. Make sure to bring a credit card and not a debit card. Be sure to find out the phone number to call while you are traveling in case your card is stolen and keep this phone number and your account number with your travel documents.
Credit card foreign transaction fees. Check with your credit card issuer to find out their foreign transaction fee; many banks charge 3%! There are a few credit card issuers that do not charge this fee. Read more about these fees at CreditCards.com and do your own search on the web.
Travel Documents. Make two copies of your passport, visa, credit cards and other documents. Take one set with you to keep separate from the originals when you travel and leave one set with someone at home that could fax you copies. The copies will be handy in case the originals are lost.
Passports. Most countries require that your passport is valid for six months past your travel date. Also, make sure you have two to four blank passport pages to allow space for visas and entry and exit stamps. If possible, start your passport and visa processes several months before your travel date since most processes are only done by mail and there could be a difficulty at the passport agency. Get current passport info and forms at the US Department of State website. Fill out the emergency contact information in your passport - pencil can be used in case this needs to be updated.
Carrying Cash. If possible, leave excess cash in your hotel room safe (if there is one) and do not bring it with you if you visit crowded tourist areas. It is better to keep only a few dollars in a pocket to pull out when buying incidentals or tipping rather than rummaging through a wallet full of cash. If you must carry all your cash, divide it in two or more packets to conceal in different locations.
Currency. Many countries will accept US dollars, either outright in stores or for exchange at a bank, airport, or your hotel. It is a good idea to bring crisp bills in the new style (dated after 2000) since some places will not accept old worn bills due to counterfeiting. Smaller denominations, such as US$20, are more readily accepted. This is especially true in South America and Africa. Traveler's Cheques are sometimes hard to cash in the remote places where we travel. Use this currency converter to convert between 164 countries using the OANDA daily rate.
Luggage Limits. Be sure to check the weight, size, and quantity limits, plus the costs, for your luggage - both carry-on and checked. The best place for up-to-date and correct information is your airline's website. Don't forget to check all the airlines that you will fly. Recheck the requirements right before departure since luggage policies change often these days.
| American | United | Aerolineas | British Airways | KLM | Air France | Kenya Airways | Quantas | Alaska Air |
Lithium Batteries. According to the US Department of Transportation, you may not pack spare lithium batteries in your checked baggage. You should pack spare lithium batteries in our carry-on baggage. Read spare battery packing tips.
Walking Sticks. Although we don't use them ourselves, some of our travelmates swear by walking sticks particularly if your tour involves a bit of hiking. The collapsible style will pack better.
Knee Pads. Some of our travelmates recommend knee pads for kneeling to photograph from zodiacs and small-boats. These may also be used on land when the ground is wet, particularly during our Antarctic, Svalbard, or Alaska trips.
Binoculars. Good binoculars will really enhance your experience, especially if you will be looking at birds. Read binocular recommendations from Doug Cheeseman.
Photography. Read digital storage recommendations for your photographs from Doug Cheeseman. Cheap plastic rain sleeves allow you to take photos in the rain. Please contact Doug or Ted Cheeseman, both excellant photographers, if you have any photography questions.
Medications. Bring an adequate supply of medications for the entire trip, since we most likely will not be near a pharmacy to refill perscriptions or to buy over the counter drugs. Bring along a signed and dated letter from your physician stating any health problems and dosage of perscription medications and its generic name to provide information for medical authorities in case of emergencies. Keep all medications in their original labeled containers. Place all indispensable medications in your carry-on baggage.
Seasickness Prevention. Don't let seasickness deter you from traveling! Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.
Staying Healthy. Several weeks before you leave, visit your local travel clinic to make sure you have the correct immunizations and drugs specific to your destination. Travel clinics or doctors specializing in travel medicine are more up-to-date about destination requirements than your family doctor. Use good judgment about eating food – freshly cooked foods are usually more safe than raw or foods that have been sitting on a buffet at an improper temperature. Find out if the restaurant, hotel, or city water system chlorinates its water before you use or drink it.
Snacks. All our safaris include full delicious meals. But since we often go out in the field early in the morning and stay out late, we recommend that you bring a small snack in your pack each day. Individually packaged snack bars are especially convenient and easily pass through agricultural inspections.
Water Bottles. Bring your own water bottle to avoid using disposable water bottles.
Safe Drinking Water. The SteriPEN harnesses the brilliant power of ultraviolet light to make water safe to drink. It's the same technology used by leading bottled water manufacturers to purify water. It is compact and fits nicely in your luggage.
Leaking Lotions. To prevent bottles of suncreen or shampoo from leaking in your luggage, remove the lid, place plastic cling wrap over the open top, then replace the lid. It is also a good idea to pack these in ziplock bags.
Security of Valuables. We are very concerned about, but not responsible for, the safety of your valuables. Generally speaking, while on a guided tour, it is safe to leave equipment in the vehicle under the care of the driver, but we do not guarantee the safety of your valuables. We do recommend keeping items of significant value with you or in your hotel room safe. Some items may be covered by travel insurance, but you should check your policy carefully for limitations and restrictions. If you have expensive camera equipment, you may consider purchasing an additional insurance policy; contact your insurance agent for information.
General Safety. Leave jewelry at home. Dress conservatively and try to blend in. Keep expensive camera gear hidden while in cities and crowded tourist places. Use the hotel room safe. Use transportation from official pickup points at transportation hubs and airports.
Hotel Room Safe. If your hotel room has a safe – use it for your cash, credit cards, travel documents and even some camera equipment! These safes are secure and easy to use. Don't hesitate to ask for help if you are unsure how it works. Locked suitcases are easy to break into or to just carry out of your room, so they don't provide a safe place for your valuables.
Luggage. We recommend a medium or large sized soft-sided duffel with or without wheels. Even though now popular, large, hard cased (old "Samsonite style") luggage is unwieldy and does not fit well in taxis, transport vans, and safari vehicles.
Protect your Gear from the Elements. Plastic bags of varying sizes come in handy to protect your gear from wind and rain. Ziplock one-gallon freezer bags have all kinds of uses. Large plastic bags (sturdy ones such as kitchen compactor bags) are convenient to throw over your camera while it is on the tripod. Cheap plastic rain sleeves slip over your camera and allow you to take photos in the rain. Please also bring a way to secure these plastics from blowing away in the wind! For ocean-going trips and expeditions consider buying a dry-bag to protect your gear from the elements.
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Updated in August 2012