Author Archives: joshuadbest

Travel Tip: Foreign Currency

I had several questions regarding money after my last post, and so I wanted to give a little more insight on the topic of dealing with money while in foreign countries.  First of all, working in the local currency can be a bit difficult, especially if you are trying to convert to your native currency while bargaining with an antsy vendor.  To avoid spending to much, or a stressful interaction, I try to travel with a currency converter cheat sheet, it is much easier to look down at a piece of paper then to have to do mental math and then translate it to a foreign language.  This is one that I had while traveling around Peru:

US Dollar to Peruvian Sol Cheat Sheet

US Dollar to Peruvian Sol Cheat Sheet

Also you should look into the cities you are traveling to, and see if ATM’s are easy to come by.  In most places I have been there are ATM’s available, including a four day boat ride up the Amazon to a floating market.  If ATM’s are readily available then you should carry only small bills and a few larger ones.  Keep in mind that many places no longer accept travelers checks or give you a big hassle for them.  Many stores accept credit cards, just be sure to tell your provider you will be traveling outside the country and also check your account activity regularly to ensure that no one stole your credit card  info.  Have fun and go explore.

-JDB

Travel Essentials, Part III: Josh

Keeping with this week’s theme of travel essentials I immediately knew that I needed to write about pockets, specifically zipper pockets.  While traveling anywhere, doing anything, your pockets can be your best friend or your worst enemy. They can give you peace of mind, or make you paranoid beyond belief. The trick is getting the right pocket. I always travel with an amazing pair of REI adventure pants that has six pockets, four of which zip.

Adventure Pants

I have found that when I wear pants that have zippered pockets I feel much more comfortable that I will not be a victim of the always present pickpocket. When my pockets are exposed I am always on much higher guard and it can ruin a fun experience in a crowded market place.

A crowded Market in Shanghai, China

A crowded Market in Shanghai, China

Using your pockets in a smart way is also helpful to avoid a terrible day if you do encounter a person with sticky fingers. Many people wear money belts or something under their shirts, that is a great way to keep things safe, but it is also a bit conspicuous and I always felt funny going up my shirt for some cash. Instead I always divide what cash or credit cards I have between all my pockets. That way, you always have a pocket that did not get picked. I also try to separate out my bills for two reasons; one it feels odd pulling out 100 dollars when you just bartered a price from 20 to ten dollars, and second, you are showing anyone who is watching, “Look I have a lot of cash!” Most places have a plethora of ATM’s so you really don’t need to carry much cash on you anyway. Now go explore.

-JDB

Prepare to be a tourist

The picture below was taken on the steps of the Ganges river in Varanasi, India.  This is one of the most sacred Hindu rivers and the people in the picture are partaking in spiritual cleansing.

Spiritual bathing on the steps of the Ganges River, Varanasi, India

Spiritual bathing on the steps of the Ganges River, Varanasi, India

Sunrise is the most holy part of the day and you would expect to see something like this if you have never been to the steps of the Ganges, at least that was my understanding.

Sunrise on the Ganges River, Varanasi, India

Sunrise on the Ganges River, Varanasi, India

In reality it was like this.

Tourist boats floating down the Ganges River, Varanasi, India

Tourist boats floating down the Ganges River, Varanasi, India

I was able to get all of the classic photos of the Ganges but the third photo is closest to what it was really like. The others were taken as one tourist boat left the frame and just before another came into it.

When anyone dreams of traveling or visiting exotic locations rarely do people visualize thousands of tourists, lines and photo-op areas, but this is the reality in many of the places that are popular to visit in any country.  I have traveled with people that are taken aback by this fact and they tend to stop enjoying the experience because they are forced to share it with so many people.  But if you want to go to famous site, then you have to be ready to be one of many.  Being one of many tourists can also make you feel a little odd being there.  Along the Ganges for example we were watching people go about their daily lives, and very personal spiritual moments, almost as if they were on display, but that is the topic of a future post.

Moral of the story, if you are ready to accept that fact that you will not be the only one enjoying the sights and sounds around you then you will have a much more enjoyable and eye opening experience.  Just because other people are there with you, don’t let that take away from a life changing moment.

-JDB