Yesterday my lovely mother took me on a handful of errands that made me remember all the annoyances about travelling. I’ve already had vaccinations but that was more exciting than irritating (even though yellow fever put my arm out of comiss for a week). On the list: international drivers license, hiking shoes, money belt, insurance, youth card, hostel card, phone plan, bank, camera shopping (k, that’s a little exciting).
So this post is more so an FYI for anybody travelling that may not have a hyper-organized Mom to sort out their procrastination problems for them.
International license cost: $25. Get it at the CAA. They need 2 photos, you can take them there or bring your own. It’s a cardboard pamphlet good for a year. You CAN get it under a GDL license. Initially they didn’t want to grant it to me, but because Alberta’s system is different, but you just need to follow the same conditions while overseas. Is it worth it to get it? who knows, but it’s 25 bucks that could make or break me getting a job as a pizza delivery driver.
Hiking shoes …because I learned my lesson about trekking in runners on the Inca trail. We went to Mountain Equipment Co-op (Mec) because my mom found a bunch of shoes on sale. Obviously I ended up buying the only ones that weren’t on sale. I ended up getting light trail shoes. Yes, I might climb Kilimanjaro…but I think they might not even be legit enough for that endeavour. I want them for carrying my life on my back for two years, walking through rural areas, and on light hikes (as they imply). I definitely want to hit trails while I’m there…but my post marathon runners lead to serious pain climbing Inca in 2010, so I bit the bullet. Things you may want to research: whether or not you want goretex (water resistance), what you want the bottom of your shoe made of, weight, breathability. One thing I can say is you want to try these suckers on. I would have for sure gotten a different pair if I shopped online, but with such rigid soles you need to know it fits. I ended up getting Merrells w/out goretex because it minimizes breathability…I’m too much of a princess to hike in the rain, and will be in hot climates. I got vinyl soles that grip way better than the others I tried on, and are still very flexible like a runner.
Money Belt Also MEC… they’re nerdy and inconvenient but necessary. I won’t go in to the detail I did about shoes but I will say they have lines now that have wires in the belt so thieves cant cut it off, special pockets where people cant scan your cards (tap and go is a bitch!) through your belt, and water resistant if you’re sweating (hot climates)…but also keep in mind breathability.
Insurance Get it from the Travel Cuts/The Adventure Travel Company. Hands down the best plan. It’s cheapest, you can chose what level of coverage, you can pay less if you’re not going to the USA, you can book up to 18 months (Most max out at 1 year), whatever you don’t use you can be refunded for, you can extend over phone while away (others require you to be there in person). It’s through RBC but trust me you can’t get close to their rates in branch, at CAA, or anywhere else!
Youth Card its an ISIC card for anybody under 26 not in school…pretty much the same benefits: discounts on hostels, buses, and museums around the world. Valid for 12 months so get it right before you leave (same as the drivers). It’s also another form of photo ID…they also need a drivers license sized photo for the card. For $20 bucks, it’s another form of ID…and you’ll make it back quickly. In Peru I used my ISIC card once to waive a $25 museum fee. I didn’t get the hostel card…its $35 and only works at certain hostels, slash you can work at most hostels for a few hours a day for free accommodation so I didn’t think it was worth it.
Phone…As much as I’m ‘getting away’ I still want to be able to talk to my friends and organize skype times. Also, if I’m planning on working I’ll need a number. So Telus is a bunch of bozos…essentially I will tell you this, pay 50 bucks, get your phone unlocked if it isn’t already and find somebody to take over your plan if you have one. Then get a cheapo plan wherever you go…pop in the new SIM card and you’re done. Telus tried to sell me on an international plan that would be close to 100 per month plus my charges for texts, data, and phone. I want to keep my phone while I’m away because it can connect to wifi, there are also global phones you can get that cost 20-50 cents a minute but they’re 1999 nokia styles.
Bank So here’s the deal. If you are going to work anywhere you need to open your own bank account in country with new credit cards etc. In Aus if you don’t do it within the first 6 weeks it becomes a bit of a train wreck. If you were to use your foreign credit cards you’re going to lose money on every transaction you make because of the exchange. That’s about as far as I got with that…oh, and if your card expires while away you can change your address and get your new card sent to you on your travels (if you have an address). I also recommend putting money on your card ahead of time if you are going to south america as they have VISA and Mastercard ATMs more than regular ones. The catch, if you simply take out money as a debit you will pay interest on it immediately. Also, if you’re doing S.Am. (Peru specifically, but other travellers said it was the same elsewhere) get a Mastercard…it’s accepted 2:1 over visa.
I’ll get to cameras another time as I’ve been typing for what seems like ages already…If you have questions on any of this feel free to comment =)