Going on a round the world trip. Am I starting out right?
December 10, 2009 6:30 PM   Subscribe

[TravelFilter] I'm leaving the country next week, with no return ticket. I'll be starting off in Thailand (Bangkok), with a basic itinerary including other countries in Southeast Asia, Australia, and (eventually) Europe. I feel mostly prepared. But I'm curious as to what I'm forgetting? Your help is appreciated.

I plan on being gone for at least a year, maybe more depending upon my funds. I've read the other appropriate posts on AMF, also various other blogs, guidebooks, etc. I'm feeling pretty prepared, but I get the feeling that there is something that I am forgetting but I can't quite put my finger on it. Any suggestions as to things that you forgot to do before you left, or wished you had taken care of, would be greatly appreciated. Also, any particular tips for this kind of travel are also appreciated. I apologize if this is too ChatFilter-y.

I have:

- good walking shoes
- a good backpack (packed well, only about a week's worth of clothes)
- my shots
- a decent first aid kit
- passport
- travelers checks, American dollars, Visa card, Mastercard, and 2 checking accounts
- notified all of my credit card companies and banks that I will be using their cards overseas
- a flash drive with Portable Firefox, saved passwords, photocopies of passport, social security card, credit cards, etc (any apps that you have found useful in your travels would be appreciated)
- an unlocked iPhone

I have not:
- gotten travel insurance (any suggestions on companies?)
- gotten a Thai visa (but it doesn't seem like it would really be that beneficial to get it before I get there)
posted by sacrifix to Travel & Transportation (45 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Travelers checks, American dollars, Visa card, Mastercard, and 2 checking accounts
You'll want to keep these things in more than one place. Especially the two credit cards.

a flash drive with Portable Firefox, saved passwords, photocopies of passport....
Only one? Flash drives don't like being dropped in water or run over by jeeps. Take a second one with a copy of everything, and alternate.

The rest of your prep sounds very smart and thorough.

And I am very, very jealous.
posted by rokusan at 6:37 PM on December 10, 2009

Have you thought about taking a netbook? It'll come in handy when you can find a wireless connection but no computer and they're very light. It's just the first thing that came to my mind. I loved having it while I was staying in hostels around Tokyo.
posted by kthxbi at 6:46 PM on December 10, 2009

A former classmate of mine is several months into a similar trip, and has been keeping a blog of his experiences - I just found out he's been writing a series of entries on tips for long-range extended travel ('how to sleep on a bus' etc.) and there's probably an idea or several in the archives for things to start you off on a good foot.
posted by heyforfour at 6:53 PM on December 10, 2009

There is almost nothing for daily life that you need to take that you can't buy in Asia, Australia etc. That said, I would take the following:

Extra multi-purpose antibiotics for giving away in poorer countries such as Burma, Laos, Cambodia etc. Really, this is a good thing to do. However you can buy some over the counter from a reputable pharmacy in Bangkok.

A printed pic or two of your family and home. For showing locals you make friends with.

Head torch.

Paper copies of your insurance, passport, etc. Take one copy with you, leave one copy at home with family member, friend etc. There will be times when you need access to the info but can't open your flash drive.

The receipts for your travellers cheques and copies of their numbers etc. Many countries won't cash the cheques unless you have the receipts.

Spare glasses prescription if you wear glasses.

If you don't have some in your kit, try and pick up some tea-tree cream as this is the best topical product for cuts, scrapes etc.

I am a fan of water filters such as this one. It's healthier (you know the water is clean), much better for the environment, and cheaper in the long run to filter your own water rather than just buying bottles - especially in Asia.

Get your Asian and Australian visas on the run. Although, if you have time, I would get the Australian working holiday visa in the States as there are limits on how many are issued each year.

I haven't used this insurer myself, but it has good reviews from Lonely Planet and the cost is reasonable. World Nomad. Note: the policies are for an intial six months but can be renewed online. Some travel insurances cannot be renewed without returning home.

Bon voyage!
posted by Kerasia at 7:01 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm a pretty minimalist traveler. If anything, that sounds like too much stuff to me. I usually carry no more than four changes of clothes. Wash clothes in the sink every night and that will be plenty. Bring more underwear than outerwear. Only bring clothes suitable for your first destination if you will be there a while. In the case of Thailand, that means only warm-weather clothes. Be aware that wearing long pants is more culturally appropriate than wearing shorts. No need for a complicated first aid kit unless you will be traveling in very rural areas. You can buy whatever you need (including prescription medicine) from any pharmacy. Only pack your bag about two thirds full, so you have room for stuff you buy along the way. Buy a prepaid sim card as soon as you arrive in each country. Always have a pen and notebook handy. Carry your money and valuables on your person (money belt is good), never leave in your bag. Don't take anything that would be heartbreaking to lose. Don't make too many plans, just go.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 7:06 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Download eReader or Stanza and download as many ebooks as possible into your iphone. Buy a universal charger. I went overseas for a year in the pre-ebook days and dearly missed having regular access to English-language reading material.
posted by JoannaC at 7:08 PM on December 10, 2009

lose the iphone and get a cheap unlocked gsm phone...
posted by dawdle at 7:24 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second the head torch and the antibiotics. You never know when you are going to fall prey to a stomach bug or something that makes you ill, and particuarly in SE Asia, you will be glad to have something on hand, instead of having to stumble around to a pharmacy. The head torch is key for reading in bed at night and doing other things in the dark.

Have fun!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:33 PM on December 10, 2009

Type up relevant info (eg passport number, visa details if you have any, etc) into an email & mail it to your own hotmail / gmail etc account - just in case you lose your stuff.

Is somebody collecting your mail? You might also want to ask them to open any particularly official-looking stuff & email you the details if it's anything important.

Do you have any regular payments coming out of your credit card or bank account? You might like to review those & see if any need to be shut off (eg no point paying for internet connection if you're not around to use it. You might also have insurance payments that are affected; that kind of thing).

I've had problems overseas with six-digit PINs. If you have anything more than four digits on your cards, I'd strongly suggest changing down to four.

If you are carrying any medicine that isn't over-the-counter, bring your prescriptions with you.

In general, be aware that some countries require proof of onward travel before they'll issue you with a visa. You don't want to be turned around at an airport & put back on the plane.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:39 PM on December 10, 2009

I assume you saw my question on things to take to SEA?
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:44 PM on December 10, 2009

Hand sanitizer gel is your friend.

Also, a Leatherman or similar multitool will get plenty of use.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 8:09 PM on December 10, 2009

I did/am currently doing the same thing as you, but right off the bat:

> Extra multi-purpose antibiotics for giving away in poorer countries such as Burma, Laos, Cambodia etc. Really, this is a good thing to do.

Are you insane? This is an awful idea. Educated Westerners can't figure out when and when not to use antibiotics, if you start handing them out to poor communities in Burma they're going to take them the next time somebody gets a headache. Give away money and school supplies, sure, but unless you're a doctor stay the hell away from charity drugs.

You've got a pretty good handle on the whole thing - you'll never get rid of that "I'm forgetting something feeling," but don't worry about it. Everywhere you will go will have everything you need. Maybe you can't get a new laptop battery or a decent burger, but you'll never be stuck without food, water, clothing, toiletries, or other essentials (the exception being perscription drugs, but even those are easier to find than you think). Still:

For Thailand, nah, don't bother with a visa. You'll get thirty days at the airport and if you need more it's not a big deal to leave the country. You don't need proof of onward travel or a bank statement either - they claim you do but nobody ever checks.

I would second getting a Netbook. Laptops can be a pain to travel with and it might get stolen, but in the end that's hardly any different than not having it at all. Internet cafes are everywhere, but so is wireless and having your own computer makes things a lot more comfortable. Also, you'll want to share your photos occasionally, and that's really, really difficult on the ancient computers a lot of internet cafes have.

Keep a blog!

I'm using these dudes for insurance. No complaints yet, but I've never actually filed a claim.

Stuff that'll make your life easier:
- Just enough OTC drugs/supplies to make you feel better until you get to a pharmacy.
- One bottle of Cipro in case you come down with very sudden bacterial food poisoning
- Podcasts on your iPod
- A ton of extra passport photos
- Pens, everywhere, in every pocket
- Wikitravel.org + Google maps
- On preview, yeah, a Leatherman Wave and hand sanitizer

Stuff people will tell you to bring that is nonsense:
- Water filters. You'll never need them, you might not be able to replace them and bottled water is just fine. In Thailand they even have reverse-osmosis machines that let you refill them.
- Headlamp. Unless you're a spelunker a keychain LED will be way, way more convenient.
- A big floppy hat for the sun. You'll look like a douche.
- Travelers Checks. Nobody's used these for five years and they are an enormous pain in the ass. Bring a debit card and a backup - international ATMs are pretty much everywhere (though yeah, get a four-digit PIN).

Good luck! Feel free to email me if you have any more questions. There's a lot to get your head around, but you'll figure it out as you go along.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:27 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Earplugs are a must if you're sleeping in hostels or on buses.

Flashlight (a head lamp might be handy, even)

It takes a few days to get some visas (Vietnam for example). Once you have an idea of where you'll be and when, you might want to figure out where you're going to get the Visas for the next destination and get an idea for how long it might take. Local holidays have a habit of falling on the perfect day, so you end up waiting 5 days for a Visa instead of 1.

I'd consider throwing the contents of your flash drive on Dropbox or the like, so you can make a new copy if need be. Somewhere secure to store photos of your passport, and other important information might be good. It isn't always easy to contact people when they're several timezones away. I think I'd rather keep things online then on a flash drive that could get stolen or lost. Make sure you encrypt anything important.

Unless it's small, I'd consider ditching the first aid kit. Or maybe you'll be doing a lot of hiking on your own, and it'll come in handy - but the less you carry the better. Pay the extra money for some quick drying shirts and underwear and the like, and just wash in the sink as often as possible.

Notebook + pen is good advice.

A fellow traveller suggested keeping extra memory cards in your money belt. Seemed smart to me. Burn DVD/CDs of pictures and mail them home often. Or store them on Flickr or something, if you don't take so many that you end up spending hours in the internet cafe uploading them.

Speaking of shirts - I brought a bunch of t-shirts with me when I did this. Realized that button down short sleeve shirts breathe better, kept me cooler, and could be "dressed up" if need be. If you miss t-shirts you can get them very cheap in SEA.

You can get Cipro and other drugs over the counter in SEA. Probably not in Australia. Probably for cheaper than home. You won't be the first to get sick overseas.

Like others said, unless you're tied to a specific brand, it's pretty hard to not be able to get something you need elsewhere (although earplugs were surprisingly tough to find).

There's lots to see in Southern China - keep it in mind.

Have fun!
posted by backwards guitar at 8:34 PM on December 10, 2009

- A big floppy hat for the sun. You'll look like a douche.

Disagree strongly, except with the bit about looking like a douche. But fashion comes second compared with the midday sun beating down on your unprotected head. At times, a hat is a lifesaver, almost literally.

But you can work that out for yourself & buy one there if you feel you need it.

Thai visa at the airport is a rubber-stamp affair for citizens of developed countries, at least.

Not exactly within the scope of your question, but Burma is all kinds of awesome as a place to visit, if your politics allow it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:43 PM on December 10, 2009

- a good backpack (packed well, only about a week's worth of clothes)
I would have gone for a duffel bag with rolls and a tiny backpack for daily use.

- a decent first aid kit
Likely an overkill. Some bandages and an antibiotic cream will do.

- passport
Second passport can come in handy. Drivers license etc.

- travelers checks, American dollars, Visa card, Mastercard, and 2 checking accounts
Traveler checks are outdated and horrendous expensive. Keep them only for an emergency.
Make sure your CC work abroad:
Practical Traveler - For Americans, Plastic Buys Less Abroad

- a flash drive with Portable Firefox, saved passwords, photocopies of passport, social
I always travel with my subnote. Including speakerphones for VOIP, Flip camera etc.

- an unlocked iPhone
Is the iPhone a Quadband phone? How do you charge is? Do you need an adapter? Leave it at home in exchange for a quadband phone.

Medicine, sunscreen (highest factor), Shampoo, Ziploc bags, 2 locks, towel, pocket knife, travel guide (I only carry it in the electronic version), tiny flashlight (but cell phone can be used as a substitute in some cases), travel hut, money belt, sun glasses, anti-mosquito lotion etc.

Be sure you don't get problems when arriving with a one-way ticket. Some countries insists that you have an outgoing ticket (see Brazil for example).
posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:46 PM on December 10, 2009

subnote = netbook
posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:49 PM on December 10, 2009

1) Did you think of a way to deal with your taxes?
2) gotten a Thai visa (but it doesn't seem like it would really be that beneficial to get it before I get there)

Well, if you are a US citizen, you don't need one if you are staying in Thailand less than 30 days (not to exceed 90 days in any six-month period).
posted by whatzit at 8:52 PM on December 10, 2009

You could get a power of attorney form filled out in case something happens to you and you want someone else to be able to make decisions about your health and finances.

I would put anti-spyware software on the flash drive -- something so that you can defend against and track down the junk that random cafe PCs put on it. Is there a way to password-protect the drive or its files in case someone else accesses it?

Email your important files to yourself so that you can access them from anywhere with Internet.

Make sure you get travel insurance that covers extreme sports activities if you're into that, since it's not always included in the standard package. Make sure they will pay to bring your body back home or fly your loved ones to you if you're alive, if you want that service. Know how your treatment works -- can you go anywhere, or does it have to be an approved facility? And do you pay and get reimbursed, or is it covered right away? I don't know a ton, but have gathered that plans may differ in these respects.

Maybe an International Student Identity Card or the under-25 equivalent, if you fit into one of those categories. They come with some kind of insurance, too, and a voicemail service. There might not be time to get it before you leave.

If your iPhone doesn't have a camera and music, I would find a way to bring those. + extra memory for the camera.

Bring copies of all that passport and credit card stuff, and store it somewhere other than the originals.

Cool stuff to give people, like postcards from your hometown.

From my understanding this is the time to start contacting people from couchsurfing if you plan on doing that.

Is your passport current? And, I don't know, sometimes I bring my driver's license. I don't know why. That may not be smart.

Do you need any other fancy travel stuff, like a travel clothesline or a moneybelt or travel locks?

Your Lonely Planet guide! Haha. Some basic phrases, at least in Thai, to get you started?

When you get to Bangkok they will make your visa out while you watch...

Have fun!
posted by ramenopres at 8:52 PM on December 10, 2009

Also, an adapter for your electronics. This is something you could probably buy once you're in the country.

Do you have something to entertain you during the flight?
posted by ramenopres at 8:55 PM on December 10, 2009

The thing I appreciated the most of my South East Asia trip which hasn't been mentioned was my quick dry towel (aka packlite). Nobody wants to drag a soggy towel around with them. Mine was big enough to be a beach blanket but with maybe 1/3 the bulk, and would dry during the day.

The second most important thing was Imodium. I never ended up needing it, but I met this French guy who was shitting himself to tears and after I gave him my Imodium he came up and hugged me the next day. Bring 2-4 tablets knowing you can get more later.

Third, sunscreen (buy it there, cheaper), and a folding hat to protect your noggin. When I went I had something with a brim, but not an ugly tilly hat, now I'd go with something like the Outdoor Research Radar Pocket Cap. Take a slow boat on the Mekong and you'll really get to know the sun intimately.

Oh, have a bit of gravol for any boat trips you do. High speed catamaran = puke-athon! Same thing when I'd go diving.

P.S. Whenever you take a Thai touring bus, wear pants and a coat 'cause they crank up the A/C to the point of freezing.
posted by furtive at 8:56 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

You will definitely want a pair of sandals. You can buy a pair of flip flops literally anywhere in Thailand for a few cents, but I think it's smart to have a good pair with some support (like Chacos) because there will be many, many times in SE Asia, when you will not want to be wearing closed shoes - it's just too humid.

Also, when you get to BKK, pick up a sarong. You can use it as an excellent towel - it will dry super-quickly - a sheet, a makeshift carry-all, something to sit on when you have a long wait at a train station.
posted by lunasol at 9:05 PM on December 10, 2009

Read up on Australian customs. They are merciless when it comes to confiscating plant or animal products. Post anything they might seize before you enter Australia.
posted by kjs4 at 9:08 PM on December 10, 2009

That was meant to contain this link.
posted by kjs4 at 9:09 PM on December 10, 2009

> Extra multi-purpose antibiotics for giving away in poorer countries such as Burma, Laos, Cambodia etc. Really, this is a good thing to do.

>>Are you insane? This is an awful idea. Educated Westerners can't figure out when and when not to use antibiotics, if you start handing them out to poor communities in Burma they're going to take them the next time somebody gets a headache. Give away money and school supplies, sure, but unless you're a doctor stay the hell away from charity drugs.

borkingchikapa, you don't know what you are talking about. Educated community leaders who know the proper use of antibiotics begged me for them to so they could give them to the woman who'd just had a traumatic tear during birth, the old man with the ulcerated leg, the young boy with an awful eye infection. Headaches? They use a tincture of opium for them, if anything. It's the useful, disease alleviating drugs they don't have access to that are very necessary. Please don't jump to conclusions so quickly.
posted by Kerasia at 9:33 PM on December 10, 2009

I won't point anything out beyond Malaria pills if you go into the SE Asia highlands. You'll find out what you you're missing when you wish you had it, at which point you will go buy it in the next large city. Since your packing list is pretty short, I get the impression you're already comfortable traveling light. Your feeling of forgetting something is pre-travel excitement.

I don't have recommendations for travel insurance companies but I do recommend getting it. It's primarily for that $100k bill when you have to get airlifted out of Laos after you snap your femur.

I just completed a one year backpacking trip myself. I loved it so much that I'll probably head out again in a few years for something similar. Check my flickr stream in my profile if you want a preview of your trip.
posted by MillMan at 9:33 PM on December 10, 2009

I believe you are flying? A very large percentage of the items suggested so far will be available in every airport, anyway. So don't carry too much.
posted by rokusan at 9:33 PM on December 10, 2009

Please don't jump to conclusions so quickly.

Uh, okay, but "Give out some antibiotics if community leaders ask you because they have patients who need them," is an entirely different piece of advice from "[Carry] extra multi-purpose antibiotics for giving away in poorer countries[.]"
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:36 PM on December 10, 2009

A lot will depend on where you are going. If you go off the beaten track like I do, many things will be useful that would be supernumerary if you are only travelling the major tourist routes. Such as...
Stuff people will tell you to bring that is nonsense:
- Water filters. You'll never need them, you might not be able to replace them and bottled water is just fine.

Yeah, that's right. Dump more plastic in third world landfills. That's what they are for, aren't they?

MSR water filters (and the like) need cleaning, not replacement and do 60,000 liters before their cartridges need replacing. At $1 a bottle for water x 3+ bottles per day, you only need to be in Asia for 10 weeks before a water filter becomes more economical.
posted by Kerasia at 9:42 PM on December 10, 2009

Maybe an International Student Identity Card or the under-25 equivalent, if you fit into one of those categories.

And if you don't, you can always get a fake one made up in Bangkok. They won't always be accepted, but - er - somebody I know got into every single Egyptian site for half price using one of the Khao San Road counterfeits*.

Also: if you plan to hire a scooter or motorbike anywhere (quite common, eg on Thai islands etc) you should get yourself an international drivers' licence before you leave - the cops like nothing better than pulling tourists over & extorting "fines" for riding without a licence.

Not sure what your system is, but in Australia I got an international licence by paying a nominal fee at our local motorists' association. I already had a motorbike licence though; not sure if you are legal to ride a motorbike, or if you could fool the police with a car-only international licence.

* Pro Tip: if you're going to Turkey at all, a "Go 25" card (ie <2>
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:47 PM on December 10, 2009

stupid html error - go25 = less than 26yo. Got me in free, at all historical sites in Turkey. Student cards only attracted half price. Go figure.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:50 PM on December 10, 2009

-Inflatable neck pillow for sleeping on airplanes and busses. Yes, I pooh-poohed them for years. And then I tried one.
-Insect repellent (buy here if you want serious DEET)
-Flip-flops (buy there) and a sarong to sleep in
-I swear by my silk sheet (silk charmeuse from Dharma Trading by the yard)
-2nding those quick-dry towels. I use the hand size for wringing out my hair and my sarong for the rest. One of those nylon net scrunchies for a washing,
-Small combination padlocks for your bag and a larger one for the door
-A lump of plasticine for a make-shift sink plug for doing laundry

Cheaper to get passport photos (for visas) in BKK
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:52 PM on December 10, 2009

-a small bottle of liquid soap is better than a bar of soap if you moving from place to place
-a bandana works as a headband/dust cloth/face wipe/handkerchief/totebag/beachmat cinch, & belt
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:29 PM on December 10, 2009

I'm currently in Thailand and second the recommendations for bringing a pair of sandals. You'll need to take your shoes off to visit many sites, and it's just polite to remove them in other cases.

Random additional thoughts:

- A week's worth of clothes is probably more than you need. I've been traveling for 5 weeks so far (Australia and Thailand) and have worn the same poly-cotton button-down shirt almost every day, washing it out each night. It's dry the next morning. If I'm really tired, I don't wash the main shirt and wear a second shirt the next day. The two other shirts I brought just take up space. I also have two pairs of pants (one on me, one in the bag), one pair of shoes, one pair of sandals, three pairs of socks, and four pairs of lightweight underwear, and I haven't needed anything else. I used a similar wardrobe in Europe, with the addition of two silk undershirts and a thin jacket, because it was cooler there.

- I also vote for a quick-dry towel. After washing your shirt in the sink (or bidet!), roll it up in the towel for a final wring. It will dry a lot quicker. I also travel with an inflatable hanger and a disk-shaped sink stopper. I use bar soap for sink laundry.

- Consider getting medical evacuation insurance for the less developed countries, like Laos. I got International SOS coverage, which appealed to me because they also have a medical hotline you can call for advice if you develop something and aren't sure if it's serious.

- You'll need to get a visa in advance for Australia, unless the place you get your tickets from gets one for you. You can get one online--I did it using my laptop at the airport in the US, hours before I got on the plane. Use the official Australian site (easy to find) and pay about $25. The visa for Thailand is no big deal, just a stamp when you show up.

- Use the iPhone as a second, backup flash drive. I use an app called Air Sharing to transfer files from my Mac to my iPhone before I go.

- I have a super-bright keychain light that I keep in my pocket. It lights up entire paths at night. I also brought a clip-on book light. Both together take up less space than the headlamp that I left at home.

- If you like to read, consider getting a Bebook or other ebook reader. I'm glad I brought mine.

- I'm also glad I brought a neti pot. It gives happy relief from airplane-nose and pollution. I started to get a sore throat a couple of times and I immediately got to work with the pot and haven't gotten sick. I bought a thin plastic pot at a mainstream US pharmacy that came with several packets of solution, though I could have just packed some salt and baking soda.

- I agree that a water filter would be useful. Not only will you reduce waste, you'll spend less time going to the 7-11.

- For the hat, consider getting one in Australia. They know how to do sun hats, and you can get one that looks halfway decent.

- The traveler's checks might not be very useful, at least in Australia. I was told by Australians that they're a pain to accept. In Australia, Europe, and Thailand, I get cash from the abundant ATMs.

- If your iPhone charger is the same as the one that came with my first-gen iPhone, it will also charge other USB devices, such as a Bebook. You'll need a simple plug converter (not transformer) for Australia and a different converter for Europe. No converter needed in Thailand.

- Australian carry-on rules are strict. If you put everything into one backpack, it could exceed the maximum allowable weight for one carry-on piece (7 kg), and you could also struggle on public transport with one heavy bag. I split my stuff into one slim backpack/book bag and one small rolling duffel or shoulder bag. I usually check the duffel because it's slightly over weight, but I've also carried it on with no problems. However, I'm carrying a laptop and some other electronics (partly a business trip) so you might not run into weight trouble.

- Camera: last time, I traveled using just my iPhone camera but for this trip bought a real but still very small camera. I'm greatly enjoying the ability to zoom and the sharper focus.

Travel apps:

- Tripit. I use both the online version and the iPhone app and won't travel without it. The iPhone app displays your data even when there's no internet connection.

- Unit Convert or a similar currency converter.

- Pack TM for planning what to bring and what bag or pocket to put it in

- Language apps, like iPoodThai for basic Thai words and phrases
posted by PatoPata at 11:03 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

A printout of the "American passport" Wikipedia page, which lists all the countries which do/do not require a visa for Americans to enter, sorted geographically. Here's the map.
posted by mdonley at 11:29 PM on December 10, 2009

- I agree that a water filter would be useful. Not only will you reduce waste, you'll spend less time going to the 7-11.
Excellent point, PatoPata. There are few things worse than waking in the middle of a hot Asian night with a raging thirst brought on by cheap local alcohol and realising there is no drinkable water in the room even though there are taps. It's actually painful.

But with a water filter, you can filter the tap water and have cleaner water than the unregulated bottling plant delivers to the shop that is half a mile away, which may or may not be open by the time you've struggled, thirstily to get there.
posted by Kerasia at 12:55 AM on December 11, 2009

As well as the flash drive, I'd upload all your important documentation (or scans of it) to Dropbox or some other online storage service.

Have a great time!
posted by stenoboy at 4:57 AM on December 11, 2009

I am all for packing light. Very rarely will you realise you don't have something essential that you can't get where you are. Very frequently will you feel frustrated at having to drag around heaps of heavy stuff that you don't use often.

That being said, one thing that hasn't been mentioned is on of those sleeping bag sheet things. I don't know what they're called, but it's like a separate tube shaped sheet that goes inside your sleeping bag to keep it a bit cleaner if you're using it a lot. Mine is silk. I have never taken a sleeping bag travelling, but I have ended up in a few less than clean hotels/youth hostels and have been really glad I could have that against my skin instead of slightly icky sheets.
posted by Emilyisnow at 5:04 AM on December 11, 2009

What they said :)

If you need them, buy malaria pills there, you can get doxycycline (for example) much cheaper at any pharmacist in Bangkok. That's the one most effective in northern Thailand but unfortunately there are so many drug-resistant strains it's a bit pot luck.

If you wear glasses, don't bother bringing your prescription, they can measure your existing lenses with a machine. Glasses are a very good buy in Bangkok (at least compared to the UK); I got some frameless ones there for £35 (USD55) which went under a London bus within a few days of getting home.

Quick dry towels are great. The lump of plasticine sink idea is also a good one (but you can get a similar effect with a couple of socks)

This is the travel guide you need.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 5:05 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Did you get Hepatitis AB&C shots? Do you have a xerox of your passport and cards?

I also vote for traveling light. I didn't start to really travel until I checked my backpack at Bankok train station. Being able to jump onto a train or local bus with just a shoulder bag (containing a couple changes of light clothes), felt so free. No more "excuse me, pardon me", always worrying if my bag was safe or standing around to guard it before it was stowed with the other luggage.

I basically washed and wore the same microfibre dress shirt for a month (that was in 1988 and I still have the shirt). Clothes are cheap in SE Asia. Leave as much behind as you can.

*****Oh! A facecloth and a bar of soap in a ziplock is great for long overnight train/ airplane rides. You can lock yourself in the john for a few minutes, strip down and wash your pits, feet and stinky bits. Then you go back to your seat feeling awesome and relaxed.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:43 AM on December 11, 2009


Sometimes visas can take a long time to process, unfortunately this doesn't help you now as you've waited a bit too long, but once you get to a place you will sit for a while, see if you can get some of them taken care of. You don't want to try go somewhere and find out you can't. Getting your visas, particularly multiple entry visas ahead of time even if you don't end up using them is a huge help and helps you stay flexible (hmm, do I want to go to Berlin via Beijing or Istanbul?)
posted by Pollomacho at 7:36 AM on December 11, 2009

as per Twinbrook8, bug spray with DEET.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:47 AM on December 11, 2009

bring a towel/facecloth

and it sounds like you've already got the right idea but I can't stress enough, the less you bring, the better (esp with clothes.) You will be able to find almost anything you need there.

Oh and if you want a Lonely Planet/etc guide book (and I do rec getting one, though not following it too hard,) just wait till you get there and buy a bootleg for like 1/10th the price.

and you're going to want a better camera than the iphone.

posted by saul wright at 9:30 AM on December 11, 2009

Another use for the iPhone: buy Lonely Planet guidebooks online, buying only the chapters you need. They're PDFs. Put them on the phone using something like Air Share or another document-viewing app.
posted by PatoPata at 6:39 PM on December 11, 2009

I kinda preferred buying bottled water over using a filter. Yes, it's somewhat more wasteful, but it'd dirt cheap and even the locals do it. I also second doiheartwentyone's book recommendation, use that, and when on the bus borrow someone's lonely planet, then avoid like hell anything it recommends in there.

Don't bring a sleeping bag, it's dead weight, either buy a sheet in BKK or bring one with you, I had one with ties on the side so it could function as a sleeping bag. You won't need more than that.

Also 2nding getting a solid pair of sandals, I rarely wore my hiking shoes.

Also, bring some candy that you can bring kids or give to the guy sitting next to you on the bus. There was little/no begging in Thailand and Laos when I was there, but in Cambodia I was begged constantly, so I either gave candy, or picked up a dozen bananas at the market and gave those out.
posted by furtive at 9:52 PM on December 11, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all!
posted by sacrifix at 12:35 PM on December 12, 2009

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