- Your passport and/or driver's license
- flight tickets and travel itinerary
- a calendar showing where you specifically are on what day for the entire trip
- a list of your hotels with local phone numbers and country codes
- a list of any medications and extra prescription scripts that can be faxed to a pharmacy or hospital in case you lose important meds or they are stolen
- health insurance cards with local & toll free stateside telephone numbers of the insurance company
- check to be sure that your insurance will cover overseas medical emergencies and get it in writing
Protecting your valuables on the trip - Consider having two debit cards. Leave one at home with a friend or relative. If yours gets lost or stolen, you can have the friend send you the duplicate via FedEx overnight to your hotel.
Beware of groups of people that look like they all know each other. Gypsies and thieves tend to congregate in groups and use the group to distract and steal from unsuspecting people, especially women traveling solo.
Money belts aren't always the best place to stash cash. The thieves know about them, and how to slip under your garments quickly, to get them. Consider your bra as the place to stash some loose cash. While I am not a bra expert, I know that you can sew a piece of material, on three sides, into the bra and attach a small sew-on snap at the open side. This makes a good place to stash larger bills.
Consider the size of your purse or bag and what you carry in it. Assuming you have your cash tucked away, examine what else you carry in your bag that you really need. Take a minimalist approach to what you carry in your purse as in less is better and lighter. Depending on the temperatures where you are traveling, consider a day pack that you wear on your back. In places where it is hot, a day pack gets uncomfortable since they tend not to breathe and cause your back to get sweaty. But there are day bags now that are a little larger than a fanny pack and you can carry it on your back. They are comfortable and make a great place for the camera and other necessities like moist towelettes. If traveling in the summer, also consider packing Off! Familycare Insect Repellent VI Towelettes. These towelettes repel mosquitoes that may carry West Nile virus and provide protection from biting flies, ticks, gnats, no-see-ums and chiggers.
Leave the jewelry at home. I have a nice Timex Indiglo. It looks expensive but upon close inspection, you can see the Timex brand on the dial. It also lights up at night allowing me to see what time it is without turning on the light.
Leaving the hotel on business or pleasure - Get directions to where you are going. Get them from more than one person since hearing the directions more than once reinforces the route in your mind. Ask the people at the hotel for landmarks that will give you a direction sense. "That big church is on the north side of town. The river is south." When you leave the hotel, walk with a purpose. Even if you get lost, don't give the impression that you do not know where you are or where you are going.
Traveling at night - Carry a light of some kind when moving about when it is dark. I would strongly consider a headlamp. It allows you to keep your hands and arms free and when you turn your head, the light beam will follow your head allowing you to light up the direction you are going.
Keeping men away from you - if you are single, consider wearing a wedding ring. In some cultures, women who wear a wedding ring are strictly "off limits". Be careful about how you dress. Try to notice and follow how the local women dress. A shirt or top that shows your belly may be off limits and offensive to locals and might be an unsuspecting invitation for men. In Islamic countries, wear something on your head - a scarf or other head gear that is appropriate - ALWAYS. Avoid all prolonged eye contact with men as it is an invitation to have them flirt with you. You need to be aware of where the men are in your surroundings and keep your eye on them so there are no surprises.
Going out for dinner or drinks away from the hotel - be aware of date rape drugs. Do a search on Google for date rape drugs and read up on what they are, what they look like and how they work and what to do if you are assaulted or raped.
If you are raped, go to the nearest hospital. Do not shower or douche before going to the hospital since this may remove evidence. Do not go to the local police station first as the best place to go is the hospital so that evidence can be collected. They will usually file a police report, depending on the location.
If you are being touched or felt up in a crowd, know how to scream "Leave me alone!" or "Go away!" or "Call the Police!" in the local language. Run like hell. This is a good reason not to go out on the town with heels. Consider buying and carrying pepper spray to protect yourself in case you are assaulted.
Until next time, let me know what is on your mind, and how you are doing, O.K.?
Jim Fortune - Bella Budget Travel Guy