Are you thinking about backpacking around Mexico but heard the horror stories? Did you read about robberies, hostage situations, and abductions of American travelers in Mexico? Do you want to make sure you have a safe, positive experience while traveling abroad?
Here’s some advice from me to you…
Pick ANY destination in the world OTHER than Mexico.
I had a horrific life-changing experience a few years ago in Mexico that took the travel bug out of me for a while. I’d share the story with you privately if you ever wanted, but I’m not going to tell you about it right now.
If, however, you’re intent on road-tripping, backpacking, or spending a significant amount of time in Mexico, here’s some helpful advice on how to have a safe experience. A lot of the advice I’m going to share with you below is applicable for traveling to any foreign country.
Adventure Paul Foreign Travel Tips
- Create separate bank accounts for your travels. Give access to a family member or loved one in the U.S.A. so that he or she can deposit or withdraw on your behalf. Only put enough money in that account for travel expenses and emergencies. Carry a credit card (preferably AMEX) and a few travelers checks which are also protected. Carry NO other forms of payment. As far as your other checking or savings accounts, you don’t need the actual debit/credit cards to transfer money to and from accounts. You don’t want someone knowing how many actual accounts you have from the contents of your wallet.
- Photocopy your Passport, Drivers License, Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and Travelers Checks and leave a copy with two people: Your Travel Partner and Someone in the U.S. These are things that you need on your trip but could potentially lose. It could be helpful to have a backup of the information. Make sure to photocopy the front and back of your cards.
- Save your bank and credit card company’s toll free number in your Contacts list. The number to call for Lost or Stolen Cards is usually on the BACK of the card, which doesn’t do you any good if the card is not in your possession. Although it’s not the most difficult information to get, saving the number will expedite the process of notifying your banks if your cards go missing.
- Take the absolute bare minimum. Everything you might need, you can buy when you get there. Lay out only the essentials, then pack half that. Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Pack everything you want, then carry your backpack around for a full day before you leave and see how you like it. When you’re traveling, there’s one rule: Stuff Sucks. Carry as little of it as possible. Once I went on a trip where I didn’t even bring a backpack. I packed everything I needed into a Travel Vest and took only the clothes on my back.
- Password protect all your electronics that contain personal information like your phone, laptop, or tablet. Set the devices so that if passwords cannot be guessed after multiple attempts, the data is erased. Also, you won’t need a laptop AND a tablet. Only take one.
- Cloud compute everything (especially if you take the previous advice). DropBox has a new power user plan.. 500GB / year plus History Recovery for $539/year. If you’re not like me (and have 430Gigs of data to backup), you can get away with a $60/year unlimited backup plan from Mozy or Carbonite.
- Have a failproof plan with your travel partner (if you have one) for each new area you visit. A good rule of thumb is to pick the tallest building in each city. If you forget to set a landmark, always go with the tallest building in each city as the backup plan. The purpose of this landmark is so if you ever get separated to the point that you can’t get a hold of each other, go to the pre-determined landmark (or tallest building) and wait there until the other person arrives. THIS ADVICE IS REALLY IMPORTANT. Make sure to read this paragraph again and really understand why it’s so important. Imagine a few scenarios where it could come in handy. I created the rule from a real life experience!
- Backup the photographs on your camera throughout the trip. This way, if something was to happen to your camera along the way, you won’t lose your memories from the entire trip.
- Trust your gut! You might not speak the native language of where you’re traveling, but 90% of communication isn’t in what we say. Pay attention to tone, body language like eye contact, and trust yourself if you’re uncomfortable with the situation you are in.
- Be skeptical! There’s a fine line between being trusting and open to new experiences and being gullible. Even though I said to carry as little as possible, save room and pack a little extra skepticism. It just might save your life.
Any questions? Ask me in the comments section below. Please also share any helpful travel tips you have that I might have missed.