Monthly Archives: October 2017

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Best Travel Insurance: Backpackers

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A few years ago, I spent a few months in Phuket. I was walking around Patong one evening, heading to one of my favorite restaurants. To get there, I’d have to walk by Patong Hospital. Every night I’d walk by. One night I wasn’t feeling that great and wandered into the hospital to get looked at. As I approached the door, I had to make my way through a large group of fellow travelers with various injuries, broken bones, concussions and bleeding wounds. It was the same scene inside, injured foreigners scattered all over the emergency room. It looked like a train accident had just happened.

I went over to one girl with her arm in a sling and asked her what was going on. I was amazed to find out that nearly all these casualties were the result of travelers renting scooters they may or may not know how to ride, and bombing around. Many after drinking. I tell you this story because while I was there talking to the injured waiting to be seen, I overheard several of them say they had no travel insurance. I didn’t know this till that night, but evidently this happens frequently enough to fill an emergency room on a weeknight. For a group that concerns itself with being frugal on the road, I find the concept of insurance being too expensive counterintuitive. You never know what you’ll need it for. Here’s some good options for travel insurance for backpackers.

 

Seven Corners: Round Trip

These guys offer several different type of coverage from your basics to covering action sports enthusiasts. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll stick to the basics. This company’s Round Trip plan includes five types of coverage:

Medical – $75,000

Evacuation – $350,000

Lost/Stolen Items – $1000

Trip Interruption – $1,000

Travel Delay (12 hrs) – $500

This one seems to be the best for medical emergencies.

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Travel Insured International

Another good option for those who want good medical coverage, Travel Insured’s Worldwide Trip Protector. The coverage isn’t as high for medical as the Seven Corners Plan, but if you’re going into the bush or the mountains, this plans higher evac coverage is a factor.

Medical – $50,000

Evacuation – $500,000

Lost/Stolen Items – $1,000

Trip Interruption – $500

Travel Delay (6 hrs) – $1,000

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Travel Guard

For those of you more concerned with lost luggage, things turning up missing, or street toughs absconding with your valuables, the Adventure Traveler plan from Travel Guard is a good way to go as it offers a high limit on these things. The evacuation limit is comparable to Travel Insured Worldwide Trip plan, while the medical coverage is on the lower end of the spectrum, so do your research before deciding on a plan.

Medical – $25,000

Evacuation – $500,000

Lost/Stolen Items – $2,500

Trip Interruption – $750

Travel Delay (5 hrs) – $1,500

 

This is another one of those times I recommend doing some research. Take your time on this one to make sure you get the best plan for your style of travel.

 

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The World’s Epic Train Journeys

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I love long train journeys. They are a tangible window to the past. Even on modern trains, more often than not, you’re traveling routes that stretch back to very beginning of rail travel itself. Whether you’re in the UK riding the very routes the first trains did, transporting raw ore to foundries at the outset of the Industrial Revolution, or in America, on the very same iron that connected the nation.

Along with time traveling back to the dawn of the Modern Age, the railways that crisscrossed the world back then carried us through the Victorian Era, the British Empire and straight into the 21st century. These are some of the world’s epic train journeys.

Vivek Express: India

Traversing the entire country from the northeast city of Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari at India’s southernmost tip, the Vivek Express is the longest journey by train in India. Moving along at 32 miles per hour, the 2,633 mile adventure, with its 57 stops, is scheduled to take around four days, though if you’ve ever traveled by rail in India, you know it’ll get there when it arrives.

Trans-Siberian Railway: Moscow to Vladivostok

This famous rail journey crosses most of Russia and several time zones while passing through Siberia. On the way you see Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake and the Ural Mountains. The six day passage on board the Rossiya covers 5,753 miles. The route from Moscow to Vladivostok is the longest train journey in the world.

Empire Builder: Chicago to Seattle

One of the longest and most scenic train crossings in America, the Empire Builder is Amtrak’s northernmost route. Empire Builder passes through much of the same wilderness traversed by explorers Lewis and Clark. You’ll see the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, cross the Dakota plains into Montana’s Big Sky country, then onto the Cascade Mountains. The tracks up north cut through some of the most remote wilderness in the country. Word has it the fall is the best time to make the journey. The 46 hour transit has the reputation of experiencing delays during the winter months, so plan accordingly.

Orient Express: Paris to Istanbul

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Arguably the most famous train in the world, thanks to Agatha Christie, The Orient Express, which began service in 1883, is not that different now than it was back then. The private company that runs the Express, now called Belmond Ltd. acquired many of the original 1920s and 1930s era cars and restored them to their former opulence. Take the same route that ran from 1889-1914 as the Victorian Era aristocracy did. If you love historic trains, you must ride the Orient Express.

Pride of Africa: Capetown to Dar es Salaam

Any trip through Africa is going to be epic, trust me, but now hop on an elegant Victorian Era train and ride the very same rails left behind by the British Empire and there simply are no words. These are the kind of journey’s I like to read about while I’m in the middle of them. When the sun goes down, you can retire to your cabin, sit back in the chair next to the window and, like the agents of the Empire did 100 years ago, bust out the Kindle. This truly epic train journey passes through some of the most awe inspiring terrain on the planet. Over 15 days you’ll see Victoria Falls, the Great Rift Valley and all the wildlife of sub Saharan Africa. This is how you do the Dark Continent. Make it happen.

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Everyday Travel Advice

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Whether you’re getting ready to head out, or you’re already out on the road, you’re not going to think of every little thing. Some travel hacks you may not have heard of. Some things you just haven’t experienced yet. Some of these, I’m sure you’ll agree, are more critical than others, but all will save you some headaches, or other types of discomfort.

 

Charge tech using TV USB ports

If the batteries in your laptop, phone, kindle or other electronics are dying, and all the outlets in the place are taken, look around for a flat panel TV. Nowadays, they almost always have at least one USB port somewhere. They’re usually on the one side or on the back. Most people won’t think of this so…

Get the best seat on plane

Do you prefer the window seat? Aisle seat? Want more leg room? Some may not know this, but when you go to buy your airline tickets, you can choose your seat. How can you find out what’s what on the different planes? seatguru.com is where to go to sort out your seating preferences.

Packet of tissues/wet wipes

If this isn’t something you’ve already made a habit of, then pay attention. Someday you’ll thank me for this. If you’re traveling anywhere in the 3rd world you can be sure of two things: at some point, you’re going to experience “gastrointestinal issues.” If you’re away from your hotel when it strikes, you’ve got problems. Most public bathrooms throughout the developing world do not have toilet paper or paper towels. So, pick up some of those little packets of tissues and keep them on you at all times. Also, the second as your tummy starts to feel weird, immediately start looking for the nearest acceptable bathroom and find it “before the clock runs out.” Trust me on this one.

Back up photos every day

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There’s no reason to lose any photos to crappy SIM cards falling apart, or losing your camera. When you get back to your hotel every night back up all your files. Every night.

Bank cards

Redundancy is key with essential gear, and I can think of few things as important as your bank cards. I recommend having a minimum of two cards at all times. You could forget it at a bar, leave it in a machine by mistake or get mugged. Having two or three cards, you’ll always have funds. Transfer cash from one to the other and voilà, no break in the action. Order a replacement as soon as you know you can’t get it back and have it sent to your hotel.