First, before I get into the rest of what I’ve got sorted out this week for my trip, the itinerary has changed for Darién. The Remote Year staff reached out to everyone who has been accepted to Darién to notify us of the change earlier this week, citing safety concerns about Turkey and Bolivia. The new itinerary is below:
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Belgrade, Serbia
- London, UK
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Rabat, Morocco
- Valencia, Spain
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Bogotá, Colombia
- Medellin, Colombia
- Lima, Peru
- Córdoba, Argentina
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
Preparing to Travel
When I left you last week I was still figuring out insurance, waiting on my US Passport to be sent to me from renewal, and considering my options for some other essential items for travel.
Remote Year provided some guidance around which Travel Insurance to choose, based on that guidance and some indepedent research I’ve chosen the HCC Atlas Travel Medical Plan. This insurance will cost me about $600 for coverage over the course of the trip.
Regarding insuring my cameras, I’m now a member of NANPA. I discussed with my provider for homeowner’s insurance what my coverage looks like and while it would cover me while traveling, the coverage would only get part of the electronics I’m taking and had a hefty $2000 deductible. I’m going to buy a compact telephoto lens before sending off my insurance application, but am planning to purchaase RAND photography insurance through NANPA. The premium costs about $350 per annum to cover $10k worth of gear, so well worth it in my mind.
Since we are no longer traveling to Turkey or Bolivia, I no longer have to worry about applying for any visas along the way. I do however still need to pay my reciprocity fee for Argentina which is $160 USD but covers me for entry for 10 years. Good reason to go back to Argentina too once its been paid.
I received my luggage and I’m very impressed with both pieces. In particular, I bought TrekPak dividers for my Pelican Storm IM2500 instead of using the Pelican dividers that typically come with it. I can honestly say the TrekPak setup is super slick and I’m really liking it. Holds everything in place firmly, appears to be pretty durable, and fits the case perfectly.
I’ve received my new US Passport as of today in the mail. I wasn’t expecting it until early April, but I guess I lucked out and they were able to process faster than their original estimates. I’ve now applied for Global Entry using the fee reimbursement benefit of my American Express Platinum. I’m awaiting a date to do my in person interview, which luckily is available here in town at the airport. I’m planning to take my camera gear with me and see if I can do a two-for-one that day and get the CBP to fill my Form 4457 while I’m at it.
I’m supposed to do a follow-up with my primary care physician on Monday, and will get referred to a travel clinic to complete the vaccinations from there. Hopefully should have them all completed by the end of next week, then I’m good for 10 years.
One of the vaccines that is consistently recommended by the CDC but not required for entry in South America is the Malaria vaccine. I know many people either due to the military or indepedent travel that have received the vaccine, and without fail they all say the experience of being vaccinated against Malaria seems worse than getting Malaria and being treated for it. With that in mind, the alternative recommendation from the CDC is to wear Permethrin embedded clothing. With that in mind, I picked up BugsAway gear from Ex Officio. This stuff is specifically made for travel. Grabbed socks, a hat, pants, and long sleeve shirts from that line. Hopefully it proves sufficient and I don’t catch Malaria, because I’m not going to take that vaccine.
Electrical Power While Traveling
So one thing I hadn’t thought of until today was what I’m going to do about electrical power while traveling. Luckily, I have some prior experience with this vicariously through helping international travelers out when I used to work help desk many moons ago. The gist is that there’s three types of devices that can help you use electricity in a foreign country:
Plug Adapter - This creates a 1:1 adaptation so requires anything used with it to have dual-current or switching power supplies (says 110-240V on the label) which is most electronics
Converter - Steps down voltage from 240V to 110V, but does so without any other correction. Use for short times only, hair dryers and razors are a good use for this.
Transformer - Steps down voltage from 240V to 110V, but does so while correcting for other factors. Can be used for longer times, and is safe for non-dual voltage electronics.
In my case, everything I plan to take with me is dual voltage, so does not need a converter/transformer, just plug adapters. Unfortunately, there’s lots of competing products out there and most of them are crap. I did a ton of research and came up with three that seemed decent. Considering their generally low cost, I bought all three, figuring if one dies I’ve got two more to rely on.
- This device is really quite neat. In addition to an all-in-one plug adapter, it also includes USB charging, and a Wi-Fi router. The Wi-Fi router can act in bridge mode with hotel Wi-Fi to let you put multiple devices while paying only once, can provide Wi-Fi from a wired Ethernet port at the hotel, or can connect a wired Ethernet device to the hotel Wi-Fi. Pretty nifty.
- This was one of the most highly rated of the all-in-one adapters from several sources of research. It also includes the highest amperage USB charger of the bunch, which should make charging devices like my ebook reader, smartwatch, and phone very quick.
- There’s not many adapters that are grounded, and of those, this one was the highest rated by several sources of research. It also includes USB charging. Since it’s grounded on both sides, it provides me an opportunity to use a travel surge protector to plug more items in.
I’m a little less paranoid about my camera gear being stolen during the course of the trip because of the insurance. That said, it’s still a huge hassle if things get stolen not to mention the customs question for the replacements. With that in mind I picked up a few items from Pacsafe based on several recommendations. In particular I grabbed the following:
- Coversafe X-75 Anti-Theft Neck Pouch
- This is for everyday use as my wallet, preventing pick-pocketing and strap cutters.
- Carrysafe 150 Camera Sling
- Similar in function to a Blackrapid strap, but adds locking snaps to link it to the stud in your camera and stainless steel cables running through the strap to prevent cut n runs.
- Pouchsafe PX15 Packable Day Pack
- The idea here is to have something to put my camera/sling into along with anything else I might be carrying around (sunglasses, water bottle, et al) and having some additional security against pack slashers and strap cutters.
In addition, I bought some Dynotags and attached them to my luggage. This provides me a potential luggage recovery mechanism if my luggage is lost or stolen. Through the Dynotag, I’m offering a $500 USD cash reward for the return of my luggage.
I will follow-up on this post with one sometime during the week of March 25th, as my new laptop will be arriving and I need to do a write-up on OpSec (Operational Security), thanks Kathy for mentioning that. I’m definitely open to suggestions anyone has for me regarding steps I can take to be more secure on my trip. My primary security concerns are theft of valuables (wallet, cameras, electronics) and state security services/customs seizing my laptop(s). Beyond that, I don’t consider any of the countries I’m visting to be unsafe in a way that concerns me.
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