We’ve all dragged things on holiday with us only to never use them. I’ve spent months and months travelling around the world. Here are a few things that might seem like a good idea but you REALLY don’t need.
1. Money Belt
Money belts are a useful depository for your valuables while they are in your bag but that’s about it.
Most articles will tell you that a money belt is essential, especially for those really dangerous places like Africa, and South America. A belt might be useful for some, but, in a whole year of travelling, including through Africa and South America, we didn’t use ours once.
There are some discreet belts with tiny pockets that you can fit hardly anything into. The vast majority are fairly big and bulky. Wearing a money belt will often make you stand out, unless you’re wearing thick layers of clothing. They are often conspicuous and that can make you even more of a target.
We usually kept our passports in our daysack, which was always with us or locked up.
In our wallets we would often take just one bank card and whatever cash we needed. That way, we wouldn’t lose too much, if we got robbed or lost it.
It’s always a good idea to have a stash of cash in your big bags, as well as in one of your day bag, just in case your cards go walkabout.
2. Jewellery/Scarfs/Sarongs/Beach Bags
Don’t bother packing these to take with you. You can buy all these in all tourist destinations. In the process, you’ll also be buying souvenirs, and supporting the local population so don’t take them with you.
3. Travellers Cheques
This will probably be obvious to most people, but trust me, you don’t need these!
If somewhere doesn’t have many ATM machines that you can use, e.g. Burma, chances are that Travellers Cheques won’t be acceptable either. Even where they are accepted, you are likely to have to pay a hefty commission to convert them into cash, sometimes 20-40%!
Some countries, like Brazil, do have limits on how much you can withdraw on a daily basis, but it’s usually enough for you to get buy. Other places have a limit on how much money you can take out of a machine in one go, but will allow you to make up multiple withdrawals.
I was extremely naive and didn’t understand how Travellers Cheques worked. After hardly any sleep over three days, I panicked at the prospect of travelling for months around Africa with thousands of dollars in our bags, (our trip kitty was about $10,000…). Hardly any of that cash would have been insured so I opted for Travellers Cheques. Little did I know that you had to pay a hefty commission to convert them into cash, and they had been banned in most countries in Africa because of widespread fraud… Given that we had to hand over a certain amount of US dollars at the beginning of each overland trip, this caused a lot of stress! Thankfully we had an awesome Dragoman trip leader, Steve White, who worked with us and we managed to cash them in Zimbabwe – where it turns out, anything goes, and you only have to pay 1% commission! So for anyone like me, stupid enough to take out Travellers Cheques for an African trip, get thee to Zimbabwe my friend!
Click here for a list of the things you definitely do need, and things that might be useful depending on what you’re planning on doing.