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Caravan Guatemala winter 2013

New York City, New...
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17 posts
47 reviews
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Caravan Guatemala winter 2013

ANYONE GOING ON CARAVAN FEB 2013???? Any info that might be of help...safety, clothing, food, hotels???

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
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10,992 posts
327 reviews
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1. Re: Caravan Guatemala winter 2013

Below are some of my best bits of advice on money, safety, packing, and health/safety. My photo collections are here; all my recommendations are embedded there in the blog and travelogue links on the main pages:

flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

Happy trails!

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For money I take US cash in small bills and enough local currency to get me started which I save from previous trips or order online and pick up at my bank. I also take American Express travelers checks for back up (and for places that allow me to pay that way), then use ATMs as I go; in my experience you get the cash in the local currency and the exchange rate is decent. There are fees involved but that's just a travel expense along with many others; some banks charge more than others. I check out the forums ahead and avoid ATMs in areas with a history of problems.

I only go out with the amount of money I need, sometimes in a 'throw down' wallet with a few expired cards and the day's cash. If I am transitioning from 1 place to another I keep my passport, cash, cards, etc. under my clothes.

Remember to notify your bank and card company you'll be using the cards on foreign shores - where and when - and also find out before you hand over your card if there will be an additional fee for charge card use - sometimes 5% or more. I email myself a scan of the travelers check numbers and our main passport pages and pack a copy of them with me, too. I also go to www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates and make tiny cheat sheets with the conversion rates for each country to keep handy. Happy trails!

____________________________________________

Sometimes I travel alone, sometimes with one or more of my kids and/or my husband, sometimes with a group in tow. I don't feel overly paranoid but have never had a problem and would like to keep it that way.

Here are my concessions to safety when I travel in Central America:

:: I avoid the big cities as much as possible

:: I don't "party"

:: Where recommended I take specific transportation (ex: Hedman Alas in Honduras, avoid chicken buses on the mountain runs in Guatemala, take taxis after dark)

:: I know where I am and where I'm headed and make major transitions with plenty of daylight left

:: I don't wear jewelry (not even my wedding band) and try not to flash camera equipment or money around

:: Some trips I carry a “throw down wallet” with an expired card or 2 and the day’s cash in it

:: I keep important documents and cash under my clothes (except what I need for shopping, buses, etc. for that time period) and keep close watch on my things, especially in crowded places and when I’m tired

:: I ask locals about safety in an area - evenings, hiking, etc.

:: I travel really light so I don't feel vulnerable getting my bag off and on buses, shuttles, etc.

:: I continue to build skills in Spanish

______________________________

PACKING LIGHT TIPS

Here's a Rick Steves quote I like:

The importance of packing light cannot be overemphasized, but, for your own good, I'll try. You'll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags: "Every year I pack heavier." The measure of a good traveler is how light she travels. You can't travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two.

Here's a great resource:

www.onebag.com

Here's the packing suggestions I have for people who are traveling in my groups to CA:

fileden.com/files/…20NOTES.pdf

Here's my standard CA packing list - #14 in the FAQ thread of the Thorntree forum:

www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa…

I reserve shorts and sundresses for beachy areas, rafting, etc. to be respectful culturally but lots of tourists wear them - ok as long as they aren't so daring they attract attention. Happy trails!

_____________________________________

:: I tend to follow the advice of the CDC for the country/ies I’m visiting:

wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.htm

:: At least be sure you're up to date on routine vaccines like diphtheria/tetanus and measles/mumps/rubella; many adults in the US aren't and some of those illnesses are horrible and still prevalent in developing countries. In my opinion everyone should have Hep A, too.

:: Keep the bugs from biting by wearing long sleeves/pants during buggy times (usually dusk and dawn), using effective, safe repellent (I like Ultrathon and Sawyer's Controlled Release deet products). You can also buy clothes preloaded with permethrin or buy the sprays and do it yourself; even a bandana is handy this way. I've read that any sort of oil will keep sand flies at bay but we haven't had much problem with them in our travels (pray for a steady breeze!) so can't speak about that personally.

:: I only drink bottled water, never tap (unless I purify it or boil it), even on my toothbrush

:: I wash my hands every chance I get and carry hand sanitizer with me.

:: I avoid fruit I haven't peeled myself unless I trust the preparer (no bags of yummy-looking cut up mangos from street vendors, but usually I've felt ok in homestays)

:: I avoid lettuce

:: I only eat street food if it's selling quickly and really hot; most careful folks would say avoid it

:: I take shelf stable probiotics on the road; the one I prefer is here:

iherb.com/Jarrow-Formulas-Jarrow-Dophilus-EP…

:: I take a papain and bromelain digestive enzyme capsule just before or after high protein meals to speed digestion; I don't have a preferred brand but here's a link to some information:

associatedcontent.com/article/…

:: When I have a touch of diarrhea, I take 2 or 3 cayenne capsules and repeat every few hours - usually kicks it

:: I carry imodium or the like but rarely need it; it shouldn't be used if you're REALLY sick as it keeps the bad bugs in your system longer (can be really dangerous)

:: I get a prescription filled for the antibiotic Ciproflaxin to carry along in case one of us gets REALLY sick (powerful stuff not to be taken lightly) ; it's usually available without a prescription in CA.

2. Re: Caravan Guatemala winter 2013

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