Since I’ve stepped out of the bubble, that was of my mother country the U.S. of A, and began traveling more, I have learned that other countries have different systems than we do and some things that I consider essential in life are not really essential to everyone else in the world. So I have compiled a list of essential things, that I pack when I travel to other countries so that I stay comfortable abroad. This list does not include obvious things: passport, camera, everyday clothes, shoes, etc… and these items are in no particular order. Also, these are things within my control, hard beds and different manners than you’re used to, you learn to deal with.
- Universal adaptor– I purchased a 500W converter off of Amazon that I use in Qatar. It is a step up/down voltage transformer that converts voltages from 110/120 volts up to 220/240 volts or from 220/240 volts down to 110/120 volts. This way when I bring small electronic devices from America I can just plug it into the converter. I learned this the hard way my first year there as I blew out many electronics by directly plugging them into Qatar’s outlets without knowing anything about voltage converting. With this converter I can also bring electronics purchased in Qatar to American whenever I go back. But this converter is not ideal for traveling as it is rather clumpy and heavy. So I also have a few small adaptors that I take when I travel. One is bound to work where ever I go. They say universal adaptors work everywhere, but that hasn’t been the case for me, so I keep my small bag of gadgets in my travel bag. You can get adaptors in every country you travel to and some cases the hotels will allow you to borrow, rent or purchase one from them if they don’t already have them in the rooms. You can also simply buy your own from Amazon, they’re inexpensive.
- Face Cloth– Okay, so some people will probably find this one petty but most of the countries I have traveled to outside of U.S.A do not have wash cloths and when I ask for them, people often look at me confused or hand me a hand towel. They are not one in the same. Face cloths are smaller and are used to wash your body in small spots at a time. Hand towels are too big, heavy and hold too much water. I mean what do they wash with, their hands?
- Debit Card and emergency credit cards– Debit cards work just about everywhere and when you use the ATM it gives you money in your host country’s currency. This is usually cheaper and more convenient than exchanging money. Sometimes exchange booths do not have the currency you need or they suggest you exchange one currency for another more acceptable currency for the country you’re visiting. They charge a fee too. A credit card is useful in case of emergencies. Try to have a credit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees. Credit cards are also more efficient in getting you your money back in case of fraud. Just ensure that you alert your bank that you will be out of the country so that you don’t get blocked when trying to use it. Here is a list of some credit cards that don’t charge international transaction fees: Capital One Venture, Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum card from American Express, Bank of America Premium Rewards. Also Visa and Mastercard are the two credit cards accepted worldwide. You cannot use American Express everywhere.
- A zippered small crossbody handbag- It is harder for bad people to steal your belongings when they are in a bag over your shoulder and secured in front of you rather than carrying your money and passport in your pocket or even in a fanny pack that can be easily unlatched in the back and snatched before you know it. I purchased a Guess crossbody for $30 from an outlet and a cute little bag for 1.5 USD from the Naka market in Phuket Thailand.
- A large scarf or similar and easily transportable pants– All countries are not as liberal as the U.S. you can’t just wear whatever you want. When traveling it is important to be respectful of the country’s culture and religion. Neglecting this could, in the minor stage, attract unwanted attention, stares or glares, in the major stage, land you in jail or cause you to be deported. To visit certain historical or religious sites you have to cover your body. If you have on revealing clothing, you may be given a cover up or you will be asked to purchase something to cover your skin. It is more convenient to just bring your own things. A scarf also helps to mask unpleasant smells; put a couple dabs of your favorite scent on it and wrap it around the lower parts of your face. In places where pollution is bad, a scarf can help reduce the amount of toxins you inhale.
- Baby wipes or sanitizer and tissue– Bathrooms look different all over the world, but they all have some where for your excretions to go, even if it is just a hole in the ground but what is different is hygiene, sanitation, water and the availability of products to clean yourself afterwards. In some countries, you are charged to use the bathroom and many don’t have tissue or running water. While in Egypt, teenage girls were hustling, selling tiny strips of tissue outside of the bathrooms. For me, baby wipes are a must have because I can knock out two birds at a time, cleaning my hands and cleaning my bum. But you can carry sanitizer for your hands, if you prefer, and tissue to clean yourself.
- Room spray and bug repellant– If you are sensitive to smells like me than definitely take a refreshing room spray with you while traveling. If you are sharing a room with someone, definitely take some room spray with you in the bathroom. If you are prone to bug bites take some bug repellant along with you. Bug repellant can also save your life as many diseases are transmitted by insects.
- Ear plugs- Some hotels have very thin walls, if you can sleep through your neighbors partying or engaging in lustful affairs into the wee hours of the night, great, if you can’t invest in some good ear plugs and not the Styrofoam ones. And if you’re sharing a room, your roommate may snore so ear plugs are very handy. My sister purchased some really good ones for me from Rite-Aid. She cuts the ends down and removes the string and they are miracle workers. Thanks Michele.
- Portable phone charger– These are a life saver and are pretty affordable, enough said.
- Travel Apps– There are so many apps available now but they are super useful. Four kinds of apps to consider when traveling are those that give directions and help you get around, those that give suggestions on food and food delivery, those that provide translation and those that keep you connected with your loved ones. Sometimes hotels have contracts with taxis and those taxis over charge. By finding out which lift applications are available in your host country you can save a lot of money. By finding out which map applications are usable in your host country you can save a lot of time. Food applications are my favorite especially since I’m vegan and it’s difficult to find vegan food everywhere. Translation applications save you stress and who has time for stress when you’re traveling. The most important kind of app is the one that helps to keep you connected without costing roaming fees. Some of them even allow you to video chat. Applications I’ve used in the past but do not work in every country: The Happy Cow (find vegan and vegetarian options), Uber (take me to this restaurant on a budget), Google Maps (I’m lost, help me get back to my hotel before my food gets cold), Google Translate (I don’t know what you’re saying, I just need some hot sauce to go on this spinach), WhatsApp (Jennifer what was the name of that restaurant again, that had those dairy free brownies)
These are the essentials I don’t leave home without while traveling but there are many more things to consider like your medical card, medicines (research if your medication is acceptable to take with you to your destination, not all medicines are allowed in all countries), travel insurance, etc…
I’d love to hear from my readers, what are your travel essentials?