Tips : Bicycling
Adventure Travel Tips
Here are ninety seven adventure travel trips. Here you will
find useful help in planning and what to expect on your next adventure
CHOOSING THE TRIP THAT IS RIGHT
Understand what adventure travel really is
Adventure travel is an active, unique exploration of an
exotic or remote destination with a small group of like-minded people, guided
by full-time professional leaders. The typical object of your exploration is a
beautiful landscape, unusual wildlife, or an intriguing foreign culture-often
all three. You'll probably travel by foot, safari jeep, or dugout canoe and
over rough roads or trails in all kinds of weather. Exceptional physical
fitness usually isn't necessary; you can enjoy some adventure trips at a
fitness level only a notch or two above that of a couch potato. But you'll
almost certainly get sweaty, dusty, and tired at times, and you won't be eating
much beef bourguignon.
TIP 2: Don't
panic at the idea of camping
Accommodations on adventure trips range from two-person
tents to small rustic inns to luxurious lodges. If you've never slept outdoors
before, or if your previous camping experience wasn't much fun, remember that
adventure-travel camping is ordinarily much easier than the usual
do-it-yourself, backpack-style camping. Tented safaris in Africa can be
downright luxurious, with huge stand-up tents, real beds, and hot showers. Even
on more rugged camping-style trips, porters or pack animals usually carry the
camp gear, your tent is often set up for you, and the camp staff does all the
cooking and cleaning up. But if camping just isn't your cup of tea, there are
plenty of trips that offer lodges, rustic inns, houseboats, or local
TIP 3: First
pick a destination.
vast number of adventure trips to choose from can be a bit bewildering. To
narrow down the choices to a manageable number, decide early what part of the
world you want to visit. If you're new at adventure travel and not quite sure
where you want to go, pick a trip that has a track record of broad appeal over
the years. Instead of, say, hang gliding with cannibals in Irian Jaya, stick to
the classics: a safari in East Africa, a trek in the Himalayas, or a visit to
the Amazonian rain forest.
Decide how much physical challenge you want.
There's an adventure trip for virtually every level of
physical fitness, from Woody Allen's to Arnold Schwartzenegger's. Companies
usually rate their trips as easy, moderate, or demanding. Study the trip
ratings carefully; different companies use different rating criteria, based on
physical activity, altitude, and terrain.
include African safaris and cultural/nature-oriented trips, where hikes are
optional and the camping, if any, is in a luxurious style. Rougher overland
trips with long driving days and more optional hiking might be rated
"easy/moderate." A full-fledged "moderate" trip often entails at least four or
five days of camping and four to six hours of hiking per day over
not-too-difficult terrain at altitudes below 15,000 feet. A "demanding" trek
typically involves longer days, steeper terrain, and altitudes up to 19,000
feet. To enjoy a demanding trip, you should have made exercise a regular part
of your life. Even on a demanding trek, however, you usually won't be carrying
anything more than a light daypack.
activities may be rated differently. For example, river-rafting trips are rated
not by their physical demands (you just hang on) but by the difficulty of the
most severe rapid. Class II and III rapids shouldn't scare anybody, but Class
IV demand great confidence in your guides. Class V commercial trips are rare
and require extensive rafting experience.
trips in protected waters are physically easy but usually include camping, and
they are generally rated moderate. Backpacking trips are more demanding than
treks because you'll be carrying a heavy pack. Mountaineering trips, involving
of ropes, ice axes, and high altitudes, call for the highest fitness level of
Decide how much variety you want.
Some people prefer to stay in one area so they can get
to know it intimately, while others like to sample a wide variety of places and
activities. Overseas Adventure Travel offers both kinds of trips: you can spend
three weeks exploring one corner of Nepal; or you can go to Borneo and climb a
mountain, hike in the jungle, watch orangutans and sea turtles, explore caves,
go snorkeling and sea kayaking, and snooze on the beach-staying at a range of
places, from a luxurious seaside resort to a jungle lean-to.
Decide on your price range.
At minimum, you'll probably spend about $2000,
including airfare, for a ten-day trip. Longer trips to destinations like Asia
or Africa cost $3,000-$6,000, including airfare. Truly exotic
adventures-climbing a mountain in Antarctica, for example, or touring Africa by
flying boat-can cost up to $20,000 or more.
TIP 7: Shop
adventure-travel companies and request detailed daily itineraries for trips
that interest you. For similar trips by different companies, compare trip
routing and accommodations. Be sure to ask about potential extra costs like
internal airfares, national-park fees, ore pre- and post-trip hotels and meals.
Is there a surcharge for small groups? For travelers without tent-mates? Is
discounted airfare available? This information will give you a feel for the
level of service each company provides.
Compare cancellation policies.
Because of the more complicated logistics of planning
adventure trips, deposit/cancellation policies are sometimes stringent. Is the
Initial deposit refundable? Are interim payments required? (On most Overseas
Adventure Travel trips, the deposit is fully refundable up to 61 days before
departure,. and there are no interim payments). When is full payment required?
What refunds, if any, apply if you cancel after that?
TIP 9: Talk
to people who've already taken the trip.
Ask each company for a list of previous customers on
the trip you're looking at. The long-distance phone bills will pay for
themselves many times over in unbiased word-of-mouth information.
Check out the trip leader.
The most important single factor on adventure journeys
is the trip leader, who simultaneously fills the role of guide, interpreter,
teacher, mother hen, drill sergeant, and group psychologist. A great leader can
be an American expatriate or a well-qualified local citizen, but he or she
should be a year-round resident of the country or region and speak both English
and the local language well.
TIP 11: Ask
about responsible travel practices.
We're hearing more and more about the effects of
tourism on the environment and traditional culture. Many outfitters talk about
"eco-tourism." Ask what it means on the trip you're considering. Will you get
information on local customs and locally appropriate dress? On an ocean trip,
is refuse dumped overboard or carried back to port? On a camping trip, how do
the staff handle trash and garbage? On a mountain trek, are the porters
provided with warm clothing? Let companies know that these concerns are
important to you.
Check your passport.
International convention says that passports must be
valid for at least six months after the date of entry into a country and should
contain a full blank page for the visa of each country to be visited. Don't put
your passport in your check-in baggage for flights.
Check visas requirements.
Unlike many European nations, countries visited by
adventure travelers often require visitors to obtain a visa before arrival.
Your travel company often will provide you with visa application forms, which
you then send to the appropriate embassy or consulate. For some countries or
areas, such as Tibet (governed by China), it's best to let a specialized visa
service do the work for a modest fee. One of the best is Zierer Visa Service at
TIP 14: Make
photocopies of important documents.
Passport, visa's, tickets, credit cards, traveler's
checks, drug prescriptions, and other critical documents should be photocopied,
and the copies carried separately.
TIP 15: Read
your pre-departure information carefully.
Adventure travel usually requires more advance
preparation than you may be accustomed to. Your trip organizer should send you
a detailed pre-departure info pack with advice on on visas, inoculations,
special clothing, medical tips, local customs, and the like. It's not just
fluff. Let it be your bible and study it carefully.
Check to see if your regular health insurance policy covers illness or injury
If not, a
short-term policy for the duration of the trip will provide peace of mind.
(Overseas Adventure Travel offers one of the most comprehensive insurance
policies offered by the travel industry at a low group rate).
Consider medical evacuation insurance.
An illness or accident in a remote area may require a
very expensive helicopter evacuation. (An emergency airlift out of the Everest
area in Nepal, for example, costs about $8000). Your travel company may offer
Learn the World Wildlife Fund's guidelines on importing wild-animal
In keeping with
the spirit of ethical, responsible travel, you should not plan to bring back
ivory, marine-mammal products, furs, coral, tortoise shells, reptile skins,
feathers, and certain other wildlife products, For specifics, call the public
information office of the World Wildlife Fund at 202-293-4800 and ask for the
"Buyer Beware" booklet. And bear in mind that the U.S. and most foreign
countries have laws banning the import or export of most of these
FIT FOR THE ROAD: FITNESS AND HEALTH CONCERNS
TIP 19: Get
requirements vary greatly according to the trip, and you should follow the
guidelines in the pre-trip information that your travel company supplies. But
at a minimum, you should exercise at least 20 minutes, three times a week, for
two months before departure. Walking or jogging is ideal, but an exercise
bicycle or treadmill is a reasonable alternative. For hiking or trekking trips,
stretch your walks to a couple of hours and spend extra time walking up hills,
or join a health club and use the stairs machine. Wear your daypack (see Tip
33), and fill it with 10-15 pounds to simulate a typical load on the
exercise idea is the roll-up, or crunch, which strengthens the stomach muscles
and thereby reduces the risk of back problems. Lie on your back, with feet flat
on the floor and knees angled at 90 degrees. Then, with hands behind the head,
raise your torso as far as you can. Repeat until you feel a good "burn" in your
stomach muscles (it won't take long).
TIP 20: If
you haven't had a dental checkup recently, get one before you
A toothache caused
by a cavity or a lost filling can turn into a painful ordeal when you're a
five-day walk from the nearest town.
Thoroughly break in your hiking or walking shoes.
Many first-time adventure travelers buy new hiking
boots for the trip. You must walk a minimum of 20 miles in them, up and down
hills, before departure. This should be enough to get over the initial break-in
blisters and to ensure that they fit properly. Wear your new boots or shoes
during your get-in-shape hikes (see Tip 19).
TIP 22: If
you wear contact lenses, consider disposables.
Removing and replacing contact lenses every day on a
camping trip can be a very annoying chore. Extended-wear lenses can be worn
overnight, which cuts back on the hassle factor. Disposables are even better
for adventure travelers because you need not carry along cleaning or storage
paraphernalia. Disposables have the additional advantage of being very cheap;
it's no big deal if you lose one. All contact lens wearers, however, should be
careful at high altitudes. The lower oxygen level can affect the cornea as well
as the lungs. If you see hazy rings or halos around bright lights, take out the
lenses for a while so that the corneas can reoxygenate themselves.
TIP 23: For
advice on inoculations, consider visiting a travel clinic or a physician
specializing in travel.
Your family doctor probably isn't up to date on the
various strains of malaria or on whether you really need a yellow-fever shot
for Tanzania. Travel specialists should have the latest scoop from the Centers
for Disease Control. You may also call the CDC International Travelers Hotline
(404-332-4559) for computerized briefing. You may also have information faxed
TIP 24: If
you're traveling to a malaria-prone area, make sure to take the proper malaria
malaria preventive is the cheap, well-proven drug chloroquine, a derivative of
quinine. Unfortunately, the most dangerous strain of malaria parasite has
become chloroquine-resistant. The CDC currently recommends mefloquin (trade
name Lariam) for this strain. Both pills are taken weekly (veteran travelers
traditionally pick Sunday as malaria-pill day) and should be started one or two
weeks before departure.
Which drug you
should take depends on where you're going; most malarious parts of Asia,
Africa, and South America have the chloroquine-resistant strain. And in a few
parts of Thailand, mefloquine resistance has developed, necessitating use of
the antibiotic doxycycline. Check with your physician, travel company, or the
CDC for current recommendations and possible side effects and
TIP 25: Take
along medications for travelers' diarrhea.
With the right precautions, many travelers can avoid
diarrhea entirely - see our advice in Tips 75, 76, and 77. If these don't work
100 percent, Pepto Bismol tablets are usually very effective. But if symptoms,
persist, switch to the prescription antibiotic Cipro. In some situations, you
can seek temporary relief with Immodium. (Don't continue use for more than two
days if blood is present, and avoid taking Lomotil.) Always check with your
doctor for side effects and contraindications.
TIP 26: If
you'll be traveling at high elevations, learn about altitude sickness and take
along the prescription drug Diamox.
Altitude sickness often strikes travelers who venture
above 8,000 feet, and it affects almost everyone who goes higher than 14,000
feet. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and a general feeling of malaise; some
people compare altitude sickness to a bad hangover. More severe but rare
altitude problems include pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) and cerebral
edema (a swelling of the brain that can lead to confusion, hallucinations, and
The key to
avoiding altitude sickness is gradual, well-planned ascent, which allows the
body time to acclimatize. Diamox may be taken prophylactically or for the
relief of symptoms that appear in spite of a gradual ascent, but it must not be
used to push beyond safe limits.
RIGHT STUFF: HOW AND WHAT TO PACK
Instead of a suitcase, carry a big, soft, rugged duffel
There aren't many
bellhops on an adventure trip. Your bag will be in for some rough treatment
strapped to a yak, tossed onto the roof of a jeep, squashed by tie-down ropes,
or pelted by spray in the bottom of a dugout canoe.
Make sure that
it's pliable enough to easily be handled by porters, who may lash two or three
duffels into their own large packs. Pack duffels within duffels.
zipper duffels can be neatly nested within the giant main bag. Sort the smaller
bags roughly according to function: one for everyday stuff, one for
cold-weather gear, etc. Cotton "city" clothes can be wrapped in plastic
shopping bags within their duffel. Books, maps, notebooks, etc., can be stored
in Ziploc bags, inside their own smaller nylon duffel.
TIP 28: Pack
On safari or on the
trail, you want life to be as simple as possible, and you'll best accomplish
this by packing less stuff. If the clothing list your travel company provides
seems impossibly skimpy, don't worry. Almost all first-time adventure travelers
quickly realize they've brought too much. Fashion doesn't count much out on the
trail, and modern outdoor clothing is so versatile that one garment can perform
a variety of functions. So don't take more than the packing list advises; if
you do, you and the porters will have to lug that much more around.
TIP 29: Plan
to dress conservatively.
Traditional societies often have old-fashioned
standards of dress, especially for women. Inappropriate clothing may not only
offend your hosts, but cause you embarrassment as well. Your travel company
will advise you about dress customs for your particular destination, but in
general, men should always wear shirts and, usually, long pants. For women,
it's ordinarily best to avoid shorts, tight-fitting or revealing dresses, and
Women should consider making their primary travel garment a long, loose
women travelers to developing countries and remote areas adhere to the local
style of women's dress. A mid-calf, loose, comfortable skirt is the best way to
identify yourself as a woman. A skirt is actually easier and more comfortable,
even for hiking. In hot weather, a skirt is cooler than pants; in cold weather,
you can wear long underwear underneath and stay just as warm.
Also you may be
far from toilet facilities. If there are no bushes or rocks nearby, it's easier
to make a discreetly modest "pit stop" with the tent-like cover of a long
TIP 31: Keep
take-along trash to a minimum.
This not only lightens and simplifies your pack; it is
environmentally responsible, too. Throw out film boxes and take new clothing
out of its package. Pack a couple of bandannas instead of a dozen packs of
Bring along a medium-size day pack.
The right size is about 1,500 to 2,000 cubic inches,
and it should have hip straps and several compartments. Use it on the airplane,
as a carry-on bag for all your indispensable items (documents, toiletries,
valuables, clothes to wear in case your checked luggage is lost or delayed,
etc). It has the decided advantage of being easy to carry on long walks down
airport corridors. Once you arrive and the trip begins, use it to carry all the
things you'll need during the day-water bottle, snacks, camera, extra clothing.
Your main duffel bag depends will most likely be inaccessible.
As you select
clothing for a cool or cold-weather destination, your mantra should be: "Layers
are good, cotton is bad."
Your choice of
travel clothes obviously depends on your destination, but the general strategy
is to dress in layers that can be quickly removed or replaced as the
temperature and your activity level vary. The best basic combination: is an
inner layer of polyester long underwear, such as Polartec, or Capilene, that
will wick away perspiration; one or two middle layers of fleece, Polartec, or
other quick-drying, warm-when-wet synthetic fabric (wool is okay, too); and an
outer shell that is windproof and waterproof, preferable a breathable fabric
such as Gore-Tex. Cotton (including jeans) should be avoided; it becomes
instantly soggy from sweat or rain, loses virtually all of its insulating
abilities, and takes forever to dry out.
If you're going
on safari in East Africa, cotton is fine. But avoid white. You'll find it
impossible to keep white clothing clean because of the dust. Khaki color is
light enough to reflect the sun, but dark enough not to show the
Bring along small toys to help break the ice with local kids and
glove, for example, is entertaining and lets you point out where you live.
Frisbees, wiffle balls, hacky sacks, magic tricks, finger puppets, and wind-up
toys also enchant local kids. Avoid electronic doodads like Gameboys, however,
whose high-tech allure will mesmerize the kids. The toys are supposed to open
up communication, not close it off. At the end of the trip, you can give the
toys to your guide or porter for his own children.
TIP 34: Slip
in some snapshots of your family, house, and hometown.
These are great icebreakers. Take along a
Polaroid camera this allows you to present locals with instant pictures of
themselves. If you have an artistic bent, take along a small sketch pad or
TIP 35: If
you'll be camping, take along a Therm-a-Rest inflatable air
devices have in the past few years revolutionized sleeping on the ground, and
are now virtually standard equipment among veteran campers. The reason is
simple: they are much more comfortable than the old-style foam pads.
Therm-a-Rests are self-inflating, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and
are durable. They're available at most outdoor stores and mail-order
TIP 36: Take
along a generous supply of Ziploc plastic bags.
They are invaluable for storing items that must stay
dry, for isolating wet and/or dirty clothes, and for organizing luggage. For
the compulsive organizer, the sorting possibilities are endless: emergency
pills-Immodium, Diamox, etc.-in one bag, daily vitamin pills in another. Or
socks in one bag, underwear in another. A bag just for spare batteries. These
see-through bags make it easy to locate items.
TIP 37: Take
along a batch of trail mix.
Here's a recipe for an extraordinary tasty high-carbo
concoction that provides instant energy and staying power along the trail.
Simply mix dry-roasted peanuts and chocolate-covered raisins.
Remember the heavy-duty anti-sunburn gear for high-altitude
Severe sunburn is
possible at high elevations, because the thin air lets through more ultraviolet
radiation. At only 7,000 feet, UV radiation is about 35 percent more intense
than at sea level. At 15,000 feet, it is nearly twice as intense. And many
adventure-travel destinations are in tropical latitudes, where the sun is
higher in the sky than Americans are accustomed to. This intensifies UV
radiation even more. Large areas of snow or water, which reflect UV rays,
increase exposure still more. Be sure to take along a wide-brimmed hat,
UV-blocking sunglasses with side panels ("glacier glasses"), and lots of
sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher).
TIP 39: For
men only: On a camping trip, take along a wide-mouth plastic water-bottle to
pee in during the night.
Assuming you have an understanding tent-mate, this will
save a possibly bone-chilling midnight trip to the toilet tent. Be sure to mark
the bottle clearly with a skull and crossbones ore other warning symbol so that
you (or someone else) won't mistakenly fill it with drinking water.
along skin moisturizer, even if you don't normally use it.
High altitudes, dry air, and hot sun can
combine to really dry out skin.
TIP 41: Take
along a mini-tape recorder.
Audio memories-children giggling, porters singing
around the campfire, the hubbub of a marketplace, the roar of a lion-can be
more fun than photographs. And local kids are astonished and delighted to hear
their own voices talking back to them.
Bring a pair of compact lightweight binoculars.
Even if you're not a bird-watcher, you'll get a whole
new perspective on your trip. In addition to the obvious benefits for a safari
or animal-oriented trip, it's fun to watch the snow blow off the summit of a
25,999-foot Himalayan peak, check out the porters' progress behind you, or just
people-watch from afar. A 9x25 model is a good compromise among magnification,
lightgathering power, weight, and size.
TIP 43: If
photography is a major goal of your trip, bring along a spare
You simply can't
count on being able to repair or replace a malfunctioning camera on an
adventure trip. A good combination would be a high-quality single-lens reflex
(SLR) camera as your primary equipment and a small, lightweight automatic
point-and-shoot camera as a backup. But don't bring a huge assortment of camera
bodies, lenses and tripods; you'll find all that equipment a burden to carry
and disruptive to operate. In fact, you may find, to your surprise, that you
end up preferring the small, unobtrusive point-and-shoot to the fancy
TIP 44: For
wildlife photography, use a 70-210 mm zoom lens.
Your best shots usually develop very suddenly and you
won't want to be changing lenses constantly. Lenses longer than 210 mm are
rarely necessary and difficult to hold still without a tripod, which you'll
rarely have time to set up.
TIP 45: Take
extra batteries for your camera
Cold weather takes a heavy toll on camera batteries,
and you may be a week's walk from the nearest replacement.
TIP 46: Put
a haze or sky filter on your camera lens.
In addition to improving the picture quality slightly,
the filter will protect the lens from dirt, moisture, and dings. This is
particularly important in Africa, where conditions are sometimes very dusty and
where often you'll be scrambling madly for your camera after sighting
TIP 47: Buy
a lead-lined storage bag for your film.
Despite those reassuring signs, airport X-ray machines
can damage film, particularly machines at small remote airports that may have
old equipment. Even security people in "advanced" nations, like England, have
been known to refuse to hand-check films and cameras, putting them through the
X-ray machines despite pleas to the contrary.
JUST BEFORE YOU GO
Arrange your flight schedule to minimize jet lag.
If your traveling eastbound, schedule your arrival for
morning, destination time. Westbound, shoot for a late afternoon arrival. This
will help your body's internal clock get "in sync" more quickly.
TIP 49: Hold
off on exchanging dollars for insider foreign currency.
The exchange rate is almost always better
overseas than at U.S. banks, which take hefty commissions and don't like to
trade in small amounts. Traveler's checks are safer than cash, but sometimes
command a lower exchange rate.
Budget for tips to your trip leader, guides, and porters.
Like waiters and ski instructors, adventure
travel company field staff traditionally rely on tips for a portion of their
income. The amount is strictly up to you, but if you feel the staff did a good
job, 5 percent of your land cost is a good ballpark figure. Keep in mind that
what appears to be a trivial amount of money to you can be a big help to a
local staff member. On treks, local guides and porters also appreciate surplus
items of clothing, like T-shirts, fleece jackets, boots, and baseball
TIP 51: Get
used to the idea that you will be out of touch with the rest of the
Where you're going,
there probably won't be telephones. If there are phones, they probably won't
work. If they do, it will be 3 a.m. at home when you want to call.
TIP 52: If
you're bring more than 30 rolls of film, pack them into separate
countries, customs inspectors who find large quantities of film in your luggage
may assume you are a professional photographer and demand extra fees or
TIP 53: If
you're susceptible to ear problems from rapid pressure changes during airline
flights, take an antihistamine pill an hour before your plane takes
This should open up
your eustachian tubes and make it easier to equalize pressure around your
eardrum. If your ear begins to hurt on the way up, while the pressure is
decreasing, try swallowing repeatedly or better yet, have a good yawn. If you
feel pain on the way down, as pressure is increasing, hold your nose and try
blowing gently. This will help equalize the pressure on the eardrum. Swallowing
and yawning also help to decrease the pressure.
WORLD TEMPERATURE TABLE
gives the average daily minimum and maximum temperatures during each month in
fifteen adventure-travel destinations around the world. Maximum temperatures
usually occur in early afternoon, and minimum temperatures just before sunrise.
These are shade temperatures; you'll feel warmer in direct sunlight and colder
when it's windy. Most of these averages were recorded at moderate altitudes;
temperatures will be distinctly lower high in the mountains.
|Prince George, Canadian
|San Jose, Costa
|Seymour Is, Galapagos
|Da Nang, Vietnam
|Graham Land, Antarctica
TIP 54: Make
sure your baggage is properly tagged at the check-in
are not always familiar with the three-letter airport codes for exotic
third-world destinations, and it's easy to confuse them. If you're flying to
Delhi (DEL), your bags just might end up in Denis Island, South Carolina
TIP 55: Walk
around the plane to reduce travel fatigue.
The Boeing 747, the plane used on most long-distance
international routes, has two aisles, which means you can do laps without
disturbing other passengers or looking too foolish. If you walk the full
distance from nose to tail and back, you'll cover about 400 feet per lap, 13
laps per mile. Be sure to wait until the flight attendants finish their duties
and the aisles are clear of meal and drink carts.
TIP 56: Do
in-seat exercises as well.
Move your head back and forth, then side to side, to
relieve neck muscle tension. To relax facial muscles, repeatedly make grotesque
faces. Shrug your shoulders expansively. Sit up tall and contract your
buttocks, hold, relax, then repeat several times. Wiggle your toes and raise
your heels up and down ten times. Spread your fingers out wide, then make a
fist. All of this fills the time, helps you sleep, and will make you feel more
rested and relaxed at the destination.
JET-LAG BUSTERS: HOW TO RESET YOUR BIOLOGICAL
TIP 57: Set
your watch to the destination time as soon as you get on the
This will get you
thinking on destination time and serve as a reference for the following
anti-jet-lag steps, which should be performed on a precise schedule.
in-flight naps for nighttime at your destination. Your body's daily circadian
rhythm is controlled by the hormone melatonin, whose release is triggered by
darkness perceived by the retina. The idea is to start the new dark-light cycle
as soon as possible. When it's night at your destination, try to keep your eyes
closed, or wear a sleep mask, to keep outside daylight from shining into the
eyes. At the very least, stay as quiet as possible during this period, and keep
socializing to a minimum. Conversely, when it's daytime at your destination,
try to stay awake and gab nonstop with your fellow passengers.
TIP 58: Eat
If possible, eat a
high-protein meal (steak, chicken, eggs, yogurt, tofu) when it's breakfast time
at your destination. This helps reset the body clock. Likewise, when it's
dinner time at your destination, eat a high carbohydrate meal (pasta, bread,
rice, potatoes, pastries). This may require you to order special meals in
advance, bring along your own food, or tap all your reserves of charm on the
ARRIVAL/SURVIVAL: STAGING THE CITY
Protect your valuables in transit.
In crowded, theft-prone areas like airports and train
stations, keep your bags in sight at all times. Store valuable documents
including your passport and your main cash supply in a money belt or neck pouch
under your clothes. (Keep some cash handy in pockets so you won't have to go
rummaging into the pouch constantly.) In particularly risky places, carry your
backpack in front of you; thieves have been known to slit open backpacks with a
razor blade and remove the contents while the victim walks along, entirely
Avoid exchanging money on the black market.
Dealing in the currency black market is a tricky
ethical question. In most cases you'll be breaking the law, as well as
contributing to the balance-of-payment problems that plague so many
underdeveloped countries. Currency black markets vary wildly from country to
country. In some places (Kenya for example), the discount is trivial and the
risk of a slight-of-hand rip-off is high. It's not worth the bother or risk at
TIP 61: Hang
on to your currency exchange receipts.
Countries with active black markets sometimes have
strict regulations requiring you to exchange a certain daily minimum at
official rates. Clearing customs on the way out, you may be asked to show
official exchange receipts.
TIP 62: If
you're a woman, buy a local wrap or sarong when you arrive.
In many developing countries, the local women
use beautiful multi-colored pieces of cloth wrap for dresses, skirts, sarongs,
and headpieces, as well as for carrying babies and food. In addition to being
very useful around camp, after a shower, for sitting around a campfire, as
ground cloth for an impromptu picnic, or just to wear while hiking , the cloth
serves as a cultural bridge. Local people will appreciate that you are adopting
their traditional dress.
TIP 63: If
you don't know, just ask.
Wherever you go, people are pleased if you inquire
about how things should be done. You don't want to risk being inadvertently
rude, so just ask! Your group leader is your primary etiquette source, but
hotel desk staff and managers are also excellent local cultural
Don't make phone calls through your hotel switchboard.
Hotel surcharges can be outrageous, up to double or
triple the cost of the call. Instead, find out your long-distance company's
international access codes for a direct linkup. Simply ask the hotel operator
for a local outside line and call your long-distance company's international
access code. Or find the public telephone office in your staging
Learn tipping procedures.
On most adventure trips, your group leader will take
care of tips for hotel and jungle lodge staff, waiters are included at meals,
and luggage handlers at the airport and hotel. Don't short-circuit the system
by giving individual tips; this can be disruptive. Of course, for a particular
favor or service performed by a hotel employee, you are free to tip
individually for that.
WHAT YOU CAME FOR: THE TRIP ITSELF
TIP 66: Be
extravagantly friendly with your guides and porters.
Don't let a language barrier stop you. Ask
them to teach you a few words, Learn their names. Gesticulate wildly. Make
visual jokes. Buy them drinks. The idea is to break down the cultural and
hierarchical barriers and really get to know these people. If you succeed, you
may find to your surprise that the highlight of your trip was not a mountain or
an animal, but a person.
TIP 67: Ask
your trip leader about the local religious customs.
You don't need to learn every ritual, but a
basic knowledge and respect for the most important religious customs will
assure that you don't unwittingly offend your hosts. In Tibet and Nepal, for
example, you should always walk around Buddhist shrines or structures
clockwise, keeping them on your right. If you sit down to rest, pointing the
soles of your feet at anyone is taboo. It works both ways; you shouldn't be
offended if a Tibetan passerby sticks out her tongue at you; she is merely
giving you a traditional friendly greeting designed to demonstrate that she is
not a follower of Lang Darma, an evil ninth-century anti-Buddhist king who
reputedly has a black tongue.
TIP 68: Keep
fine, but you'll find that a written record of your thoughts and feelings, will
bring a knowing smile years from now. Adventure travel, because it removes you
so completely from normal everyday life, invariably stimulates contemplation
and triggers unaccustomed musings. Should I quit my boring job? Does it really
matter who wins the Super Bowl? Am I really ready to settle down and get
married? And does this guy Buddha really hold the secret of life and death?
Write these thoughts down. Years from now, you'll be amazed at what went on in
Maintain your normal hygiene routines.
Resist the temptation to play Neanderthal man (or
woman) in the wilderness; your trek-mates will appreciate it, and you'll feel a
lot better. Maybe you can't take a shower on a two-week trek or plug in your
hair dryer or Water Pick. But you can brush and floss your teeth daily, take
sponge baths, and wash your hair regularly. (Just ask the camp staff to heat
you up a potful of hot water.) If there's a river nearby, so much the better.
And don't forget to use biodegradable soap.
Drink, drink, drink.
Dehydration, which can make you more susceptible to
fatigue, illness, and altitude ailments, is a common problem among adventure
travelers. It starts with the extremely dry cabin air of your long airplane
trip. Tropical and desert climates, exertion, and high altitude only make
matters worse. Drinking enough water is especially important at altitudes above
10,000 feet, where dehydration can greatly exacerbate the symptoms of altitude
sickness. So keep a bottle of drinking water with you at all times, and try to
drink even when you're not thirsty. (By the time you feel thirsty, you're
already well on the way to dehydration..) Check the color of your urine; it
should be almost clear. If it's a bright yellow, you need to drink
TIP 71: But
don't drink the tap water
In most cases, tap water in the lodges and hotels of
developing nations is not safe to drink. Sometimes hotel rooms have pitchers of
water set out that are supposedly okay to drink. To be on the safe side,
though, drink and brush your teeth only with water that is bottled (make sure
you uncap it yourself; some unscrupulous restaurants fill bottles with tap
water) or treated with iodine. Water filters are only partially effective as
they do not remove viruses such as hepatitis. But they help get rid of the
taste of iodine-treated water.
Avoid ice; it's
almost certainly made from tap water. Tea, coffee, and bottled drinks like soda
and beer are generally safe to drink.
Food: Cook it, peel it, or forget it.
On treks and safaris, you shouldn't have to worry about
the camp food. Responsible adventure-travel companies train their cooking
staffs in modern sanitary methods. But local food, especially from street
vendors and markets, is another story. Make sure that any meat or fish has been
well cooked. Avoid lettuce and raw vegetables, which may have been washed with
tap water. Eat only fruit that you peel yourself, and touch it as little as
possible. Make sure that custard-type desserts have been properly refrigerated
or are freshly made. Eat only street vendor-food that has been well cooked and
is still hot or that can be peeled.
TIP 73: Wash
your hands frequently.
Even if your food is properly prepared, remember that
the general environment in developing countries is not as sanitary. Wash your
hands or use a disposable towelette before every meal and after going to the
bathroom. On treks and safaris, you'll probably be provided with a disinfectant
soap to wash your hands with before meals.
TIP 74: If
you feel ill, inform your trip leader immediately.
If you think the problem is food-related, he or she
will need to know right away. Certain kinds of more serious illness, like
malaria and severe altitude symptoms, also require prompt attention. Don't try
to tough it out; it's important your leader be aware of any physical problems
as soon as possible.
TIP 75: Get
areas especially, get in the habit of rising before dawn to watch the sky
lighten and the sun come up. People who have not experienced high-altitude
mountain sunrises are invariably bowled over by these extraordinary visual
feasts. Dawn is also when local people start their day; shopkeepers opening up,
farmers on their way to the marketplace.
TIP 76: On a
trek or hike, walk comfortably at your own pace.
Don't worry if you can't keep up with the sprinters in
the group or if you just prefer to sightsee or putter along the way. Treks are
typically arranged to allow, or even encourage dawdling; the trip leader
usually brings up the rear to keep an eye out for stragglers. Pace yourself and
conserve energy early. In the long run, you'll get to camp sooner and feel
TIP 77: When
hiking uphill, shorten your step.
Don't try to maintain your normal walking speed uphill.
But instead of slowing your stride, "gear down" like a truck and take shorter
steps while maintaining the same rhythm. Put your heel down first, rolling
forward to the toe.
TIP 78: For
the long or steep uphills, try the "mountaineer's step."
This energy-saving style of walking has long
been used by high-altitude mountaineers. Who need to conserve every bit of
energy. Step slowly and rhythmically, pausing briefly after each step to allow
your rear knee to straighten completely and move over center. This lets the
thigh muscle relax briefly while the leg bones take over the load during the
TIP 79: On a
cold-weather trek, keep your sweater inside your sleeping bag at
One of the little
luxuries of trekking life, right up there with being awakened in the morning by
a steaming cup of tea handed in through the tent flap, is getting into warm
Resist the urge to give out money, candy, pens, and other trinkets to local
It may seem
tempting at first; the kids can be devilishly charming. But in the long run, it
is a culturally destructive practice that creates a subservient "begging
mentality" in an otherwise proud culture and perpetuates a shallow and
stereotyped relationship between tourists and locals. One can already see
evidence of this in some areas; groups of kids shouting "Pen!" often greet
trekkers in Asia.
practical reasons to avoid this practice as well. Pens create jealousy among
children who don't have them. Candy contributes to tooth decay in areas that
saw virtually none ten years ago and have no dentists. Balloons can spread
respiratory infections, and children have been known to choke on them. So play
with the kids, talk to them, show them your stuff, do sleight-of-hand magic
tricks for them. But don't give them things.
TIP 81: If
you want to help the local people financially, contribute to
The idea is
to support the community at large, not particular individuals within it. On the
local level, ask your guide about schools, hospitals, health clinics,
orphanages, or cultural and environmental groups to whom you might contribute.
(A gift of $20, for example, to a rural health clinic in Nepal can have a major
impact). Give a box of pens to the local schoolmaster, not the individual
children, so that he can hand them out in a way that won't stir up greed and
Don't take pictures of the locals without their permission.
They may be shy or have real fears about being
photographed. You can often earn their trust by showing them your camera,
letting them look through the viewfinder, or even letting them snap a picture
of you first. Keep in mind that the lack of a photo doesn't make the experience
TIP 83: Take
your photos during early morning and late afternoon.
Low, slanting sunlight brings out the shadows
and details in all kinds of scenic shots. Professional photographers don't even
think about shooting after 10 a.m. or before 4 p.m. They particularly like the
light right around sunrise and sunset, which bathes the subject in a soft
TIP 84: On
an adventure cruise, don't forget your rubbers.
On trips to places like Antarctica and the Galapagos,
which can only be reached by ship, you'll be going ashore in small inflatable
boats. Sometimes you may have to play Gen. MacArthur and splash onto the beach.
Above-the-calf rubber boots, will keep your feet dry and warm, particularly in
Antarctica, where the water temperature is around 29 degrees.
TIP 85: If
there's rough water, wear a Scopolamine skin patch to combat
thumbnail-size prescription skin patches, worn behind the ear, are extremely
effective for most people. The accompanying drowsiness and a dry-mouth feeling
are a small price to pay for relief from a malady that can ruin a trip very
quickly. Remember to apply the patches at least two hours before your ship
ventures into rough water.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: THE NATURE TRIPS
TIP 86: On a
wildlife trip, don't wear perfume or cologne
Animals can sometimes detect unusual scents literally
miles away under the right wind conditions. Animals in popular game-viewing
areas are probably accustomed to diesel fumes by now, but a whiff of Obsession
just might spook them.
TIP 87: The
world's fastest tripod
a small beanbag you can instantly place on the edge of your safari vehicle's
sunroof. Besides being very fast to set up, the "tripod" cuts motor vibration
and puts the camera at eye level. You'll find it at pro camera
TIP 88: For
wildlife photography, remember to turn off the autoflash.
If your camera is controlling the flash, it
may trigger one unexpectedly. This can startle animals, causing you to lose
further shots and making you extremely unpopular among your
TIP 89: Keep
a species list.
a small notebook and record the kinds of animals and birds you see on the
TIP 90: Wear
you blend into the scenery, the closer you'll get to the animals. But don't
wear Rambo-style camouflage clothing; the local people will probably think
you're a soldier or a guerrilla and in either case avoid you like the
Think carefully before buying antiques.
Counterfeits are common and very difficult for the
average buyer to spot. Even if the antique is genuine, the seller might have
obtained it illegally, many countries have restrictions on the removal of
cultural artifacts, and you may have it confiscated at the airport. But on a
more philosophical level, think about whether it's right to remove genuine
historical artifacts from their country of origin. In the past, many temples
and archaeological sites have been looted buy unscrupulous art dealers, who
sell them to foreigners. An unsuspecting antique buyer may unwittingly
encourage this behavior by contributing to the profits of the
TIP 92: Pool
your tips for the trip leader and staff.
This encourages the staff to work for the good of
everyone in the group, not just certain individuals. Traditionally, tips are
given when you say good-bye. For example, a group will usually pass the hat for
the trekking staff and porters on the last night of the trek and present it to
them the next morning as they leave. Likewise for the trip leader, usually at
the "last supper" farewell group meal. Remember that tipping is an individual
decision. It's entirely up to you how much to put in the hat.
TIP 93: Send
yourself a postcard home.
Just before getting on the plane back to the U.S., send
yourself a postcard from your last exotic destination. Global mail service
being what it is, the card usually takes a few weeks to get back home. By then,
you're back in the normal routine of job and family, and the sudden arrival of
a brightly colored postcard from a faraway country is always a delightful
reminder of your trip.
Beware of duty-free shops.
Most do not offer any real bargains. A few exceptions:
cameras and jewelry at Schiphol Airport, and jewelry in Tel Aviv. Duty-free
shops in Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Rio de Janeiro are good.
Bring home as little local currency as possible.
You'll probably get stuck with it; U.S. banks don't
really like to deal in foreign currency, and they often have poor exchange
rates and high minimum amounts.
TIP 96: Fill
out your travel company's post-trip questionnaire.
Be candid. Report the lows as well as the highs.
Overseas Adventure Travel has learned that thoughtful comments from trip
participants are the best form of quality control, and pays very close
attention to feedback from its travelers.
TIP 97: Give
adventure travelers return home deeply touched by the people and places they've
seen, and are inspired to support them. Among the many international cultural
and environmental agencies very deserving of your support are:
- Save The
Wildlife Foundation (202-265-8394)
Himalayan Foundation (415-434-1111)
- International Campaign for Tibet
OFF YOU GO!
Virtually anyone can enjoy an adventure-travel trip.
Age hardly matters; 65 year olds climb Kilimanjaro, and 75 year olds have the
time of their lives on safari. Physical fitness and athletic prowess hardly
matter; there are adventure trips for virtually every level.
But some things
do matter; your spirit of adventure, your flexible attitude, your sense of
humor. Not everything goes according to plan on an adventure trip. Are you the
kind of person who cheerfully takes in stride, or even relishes, the inevitable
delays and frustrations of off-the-beaten-path travel in a third-world country?
Can you shrug off minor hardships like a blister or a rainstorm or a less than
sparkling bathroom? If so, you've probably got the spirit of adventure that
makes this kind of travel so exhilarating.