A dozen tips for independent travelers

During my backpacking trip through Africa, there were so many moments when I though to myself, I’ve gotta remember this for the next time I travel.

Like most independent travelers headed for developing countries (independent = travelers who aren’t with a group and figure out accommodation and other details as they go), I knew to bring a money belt, invest in a pair of durable shoes and abide by simple food rules: boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it. But I learned a few more tricks along the way, ones you can use for your next travel adventure.

My tips for independent travelers:

Mom shows us how easy it is to use a stand-alone net.

1. Love your mozzie net. If you need a mosquito net, buy one that includes poles and sets up like a tent. (I use this Skeeter Defeater from Long Road Travel Supplies.) Hangable nets are useless when there’s nowhere to hang them.

2. Learn to Skype. Skype, a free service that allows you to make calls over the Internet, is the cheapest way to call home.  The drawback: for it to work well, you need a solid Internet connection, which can be hard to find in some developing countries. If you plan to Skype often, you may want to bring your own headset.

3. Be your own office assistant. Create sticky labels with addresses of anyone who deserves to get a postcard. You won’t have to carry an address book, and you’ll know you sent all required postcards when the labels are gone.

4. Buy visas along the way. It takes a little planning, but buying a visa in the country adjacent to where you’re going is usually cheaper than buying it from home and requires less paperwork. Just make sure there’s an embassy for country #2 in country #1, lest you get stuck without one. Also remember to ask about multi-country visas, which also can save you money.

5. Cipro for the sicko. Convince your doctor to prescribe several doses of Cipro, or Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic that treats bacterial infections — pretty much anything that forces you to spend your entire day squatting over the toilet. Since travelers often suffer from stomach bugs in developing countries, it’s smart to have this drug handy. Bring Bacitracin ointment, too, and use it; even small cuts become easily infected when you’re not at home.

6. Make room for music. Ditch something in your pack so you can bring lightweight, portable speakers for your iPod. You’ll use them at hostels, on the beach, everywhere you want to share your music with others.

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