By Nick O’Neill
What do you need?
The three things you need to travel are: money, passport, ticket.
These items are your crown jewels. Keep them in your money belt at all times. Sleep with the money belt under your pillow, or with it on. When you take a shower, use a safety pin to fasten the belt to your towel. Keep your other valuables, e.g. camera, with you at all times, or put them in the hotel safe. If you plan to let other people, that is tourists or locals, in your room overnight make sure you put your money belt and valuables in the hotel safe before they arrive.
How do you carry them?
Okay, money first. Seeing as how money is the most valuable thing you will be taking with you, it is really important to protect it at all costs.
My suggestion is that you take traveller’s checks, preferably American Express. Traveller’s checks come with a receipt, so if you lose them you go to the nearest office and they will refund them (unlike cash). If you are travelling with a friend, swap your receipts so that if one of you loses everything, you will still be able to get a refund. You will need a police report, but once you have it you’re fine.
I like Amex because they have offices in many countries of the world. In many places, such as the Philippines, the only place that you can rely on is American Express. On several occasions I’ve needed money to be sent to me, and you can do this easily and affordably through the Amex office. When you pick up your money you can get it in either US dollars, local currency or traveller’s checks.
Carrying an Amex card is also a good idea, in case you happen to run out of cash and need a ticket home (something that has happened to me on more than one occasion). One exception to this is Europe, where they will skin you if you attempt to use traveller’s checks. In Europe they have EuroCard or Visa.
The most widely accepted currency in the world is U.S. dollars. Try cashing anything else in Bali on a Sunday – no way! The most easily exchanged bill is $100. The world loves these. I’ve even cashed them at a shack in the Himalayas! My advice would be to carry three US$100 bills in your money belt, just in case.
When you arrive in a new place, cash up to about US$50 worth of local money. Put half of it in your money belt and the rest in your pocket; that way you will have enough local cash handy and never have to reach into your money belt in public.
If you are changing money with anyone other than a bank, ALWAYS count your money straightaway, and in front of the person who has given it to you. There are a dozen ways to work a sleight-of-hand trick, and tourists are the best targets. In India, carpet shops often offer a better rate than the bank, but you have to be aware.
Before you leave home, make sure your passport is valid for several years. If not, apply for a new one. Keep this in your money belt at all times. As long as you can help it, do not let other people hang onto your passport.
Your ticket should allow you flexibility with time. I once got a return ticket from London to Bombay that was good for a year, which meant I could come back straightaway, or anytime during the year.
Round-the-world (RTW) tickets are a popular and affordable way to cover a lot of turf. These tickets start at about US$1,500 and are good for a year. What generally happens is two airlines each cover half of the globe, for example Cathay Pacific and United.
Some of these tickets insist you book the dates in advance; however, some let you leave them open. You usually get get one free "change" per stop. There is a basic traveller’s trail leading around the world, and when this coincides with busy travel hubs, the prices will come down. For example, the cheapest RTW ticket might go something like this: Los Angeles – Honolulu – Fiji – Sydney – Bangkok – Nepal – London – New York – Los Angeles.
If that’s your cuppa tea, you’re set. Remember that you can arrange other things, such as flying into Sydney but flying out of Perth, giving you the opportunity of discovering Aussie culture (has it been discovered yet?).
The more "equator hopping" you do, the more the price goes up. If you want to go a route like this: London – Rio de Janeiro – Los Angeles – Anchorage – Sydney – Beijing – Bali – Moscow – Johannesburg – London, then make sure Daddy is paying!