Thursday, 8 January 2015

Digital Nomad - Check List

So you are going to travel and live abroad, perhaps trade Forex, and you are not sure what to bring and want to plan ahead?

  1. Passport - Make sure you have plenty of pages and time left.  6 months before expiry it will not be accepted.  You can get it done abroad but that might take a month, during which time you cannot travel anywhere.  Be sure to have a photocopy of your passport and digital scan saved online somewhere along with other id.
  2. Visa - Always check the visa situation, it varies based on your nationality.  There are Visa On Arrivals, Visa Exempt (On Arrival), and Visas you can apply for in advance at an embassy in your home country or another country you are visiting.  It is important to know how long you can stay and how it affects your travel plans.  Too many Visa Exempt Stamps can be frowned upon. And once you leave the country, your visa is void so if you are planning on doing a quick getaway for a weekend make sure you know how it affects your current visa. 

    For Visa On Arrival (VOA) you may be asked for US$ and exact change.  With no ATM or Currency Exchange in sight.  Be prepared.    US$ is still king in most South East Asian countries when dealing with the government because their local currency is not considered stable or trustworthy.
  3. Money - I try to have at least a little bit of money in the local currency but often just exchange at the airport or once downtown.  Depending how much money you are going to exchange it can be a big difference.  For short trips I just exchange at the airport of the country I am going to.  Longer trips, which require more cash, I shop for the best rate.  You can use your bank card too but it will cost you like $5 ever time, so take out big sums, plus you get a lousy exchange rate but it's safer than carrying a lot of money.  Be sure to use ATMs at banks or shopping malls, and not some hole in the wall place and check the card reader to make sure it's secure in place and cover your pin.  You don't want to be a card skimming victim.

    Also be advised that some countries may ask you to show funds, in cash.  I personally haven't been asked but I don't look like a poor back packer.  On the flip side, overdressing may give suspicion that you are working in the country. 
  4. Internet - The first stop after I arrive is to get a local sim card for my smartphone with an internet plan.  I have never paid more than $10 for a couple weeks.  Sometimes as little as $5 for a month with 4GB data.  Of course I also make sure my accommodation has internet.  However for short term stays the wifi can be spotty so I have my phone as a backup and can tether the connection and share it with my laptop if I have to.  Make sure your phone is unlocked or just get it unlocked when you arrive, it's usually very cheap in South East Asia.
  5. Accommodation -   This for me is the toughest one.  For long term stays I must have certain comforts, be away from crowds, good location, but quiet neighbourhood.  For short stays the location should be walking distance from transportation.  If you intend to stay longer then get a guesthouse for 3 to 5 days and extend it if you have to, until you find a long term stay.  The longer you stay, the better the deal.  And paying your entire stay of several months or year in advance gets you a better deal too, however I find it gives me less control and leverage, and I don't want any drama if the landlord disappears.
  6. Be Flexible - It's best to have a rough plan with rough travel dates. I typically just book my next trip, in and out of the country and keep my options open when I arrive, booking only a few days in a city in the event I don't like it.  Bus, Train, and Air Fare is usually very cheap when you arrive so you can travel within a country on short notice.
  7. Transportation - Personally I like to get around without tuk tuks or taxis.  Either on foot or in big cities by subway.  My favorite is motorbike.  They are cheap to rent (and buy), cheap to maintain, good on gas, and so much quicker and easier to get around.  Make sure you have an international drivers license and inquire about the local laws.  Without the proper license you will be held responsible for any accidents even I you are not at fault.
  8. Insurance - Travel and Accident Insurance is a worthwhile investment.  Be sure you are covered, at least with basics in the event of a serious accident. 
  9. Immunization - I am somewhat skeptical of immunizations but you should inform yourself several months before your trip on what's required.
  10. Medication - Pharmacies are available everywhere so I just have some aspirin or vitamins for travelling to boost my immune system, but honestly I just eat a lot of fruit these days.  If you have any prescriptions make sure you stock up and inquire abroad as soon as you arrive.
  11. Food - Most food is safe, just use common sense.  Ease into streetfood if it's your first time.  Eat where there are a lot of people and keep an eye on food preparation.  "medicinal" alcohol is a good idea too sometimes.  
  12. Laundry - Often quite inexpensive, I prefer to do my own, it's quicker and without hassles.
  13. Clothes - It's often best to come with as little as possible and to travel light.  Shoes, underwear, and socks are the only items most travelers have a difficult time finding because of quality and size.
  14. Local Language - The funny thing is that if you don't speak the local language fluently, nobody cares or understands you anyway when you try and learn.