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! Please contact us if you have any questions.
Be sure to also read our list of online Travel Resources too.
View the plain text version of these travel tips, great for printing!
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 or scan them and save it on your smart phone. 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 U.S. Department of State website. Fill out the emergency contact information in your passport - pencil can be used in case this needs to be updated.
Passport and Visa Service. Sometimes it is not possible to get your visa in person or mail directly from the issuing agency so you will have to use a service. Recommended by some of our travelers, CBIT and Travel Visa Pro will get the necessary visa for you for a fee.
Contact List. Make a list of all important contact information for your credit card (account number and phone), neighbor, relatives, pet sitter, airline, etc. Bring a couple copies with you or make sure this information is stored on your smart phone.
Password protection. Enable password protection of your electronic devices such as laptop, smart phone, book readers (ex. Kindle) while traveling so they will be protected in case they are lost or stolen.
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 U.S. 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 not readily accepted anymore, so we advise against bringing them. 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.
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Lithium Batteries. According to the U.S. 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 Pad(s). Many of our travelmates recommend knee pads for kneeling to photograph while on land and also from zodiacs and other small boats. They may be particularly helpful on land when the ground is wet.
Binoculars. Good binoculars will really enhance your experience, especially if you will be looking at birds. Read binocular recommendations from Doug Cheeseman.
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. Please list your medications and health concerns on your Reservation and Release form when you sign-up for a trip.
Immunizations. The best website to check for immunzation recommendations for your destination is the Travelers' Health section of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Yellow Fever Certificate. After receiving a Yellow Fever vaccine, you should receive a signed and stamped International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP, sometimes called the "yellow card"), which you should bring with you on your trips (this conveniently fits in your passport). Some countries require all travelers to show proof of yellow fever vaccination before they can enter the country. Other countries require proof of vaccination only if travelers have been in a risk area, so if you are visiting multiple countries, the order of travel may be important. Proof of vaccination is not valid until 10 days after you get the vaccine, so plan to get the vaccine early if you need it.
Seasickness Prevention. Don't let seasickness deter you from traveling! Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.
Staying Healthy. More than a month before you leave, visit your local travel clinic to make sure you have the correct immunizations and drugs specific to your destination (note that some immunizations, such as Hepatitus A, require boosters at specific intervals to be effective so these need to be started early). 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.
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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.
Empty your wallet. Remove all unnecessary items from your wallet like Social Security card, bills with addresses, credit cards you won't use, driver's license (if you aren't going to rent a car), and checkbook.
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 and taxi stands 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 do not provide a safe place for your valuables.
Internet Access. Don't access financial accounts on unsecured networks while you are traveling.
Luggage. We recommend a medium or large sized soft-sided duffel with or without wheels. Even though they are now popular, large, hard cased 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 a dry-bag to protect your gear from the elements is one of your most important items to bring.
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Updated in September 2013